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Press Releases - 20 September 2004 >> 

Protest to mark 5th anniversary of interfet deployment

Protest outside Timor Sea talks between Australian and East Timorese governments. Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, Canberra.

Demonstrators from around Australia will assemble at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as the East Timorese and Australian government negotiate on the Timor Sea.

The 20th of September, 2004 marks the fifth anniversary of the arrival of Australian armed forces leading a multinational peacekeeping force (INTERFET) to East Timor. Over the last five years, thousands of Australians served in East Timor – restoring order, providing security, protecting East Timor's borders and helping in the transition to independence.

On this anniversary, East Timorese and Australian government officials will be meeting in Canberra to begin the second round of talks to negotiate the disputed area of the Timor Sea which has oil and gas deposits to the tune of US$30 billion.

‘Five years later, these efforts – and the spirit that drove Australians to intervene to help East Timor – are being undermined by Australian government policies on the Timor Sea,' said Dan Nicholson of the Timor Sea Justice Campaign.

‘Since 1999, the Australia government has taken more in disputed revenues from fields closer to East Timor than to Australia than it has given in combined civilian and military aid' continued Nicholson. ‘Australia has taken around US$ 2 billion in disputed revenues – or US$1 million every day since InterFET landed five years ago.'

InterFET veteran, Chip Henriss-Anderssen, who was Major on the Headquarters of the 3rd Brigade and a military media officer, has been moved to speak out: ‘I just feel like we were played for chumps. We went there, did all this good work and we thought it really was for a good cause. We didn't do it so our government could illegally profit at the expense of the East Timorese. That makes me angry'.

The East Timorese government has asked to negotiate in accordance with international law. Australia has responded by withdrawing from the international arbitrating bodies including the International Court of Justice (ICJ), refusing to commit to meetings more than twice a year, and continuing to unilaterally exploit oil and gas fields in the disputed areas of the Timor Sea.

The Timor Sea Justice Campaign demands:

• that the Australian government set boundaries with East Timor in accordance with current international law principles

• that Australia stop unilaterally exploiting disputed resources and place disputed revenues in a trust fund.

Media Contacts:

Dan Nicholson 0409 328 289 –
Chip Henriss-Anderssen 0408 180 760