ETAN protests Australia Prime Minister John Howard’s DC Visit

July 18, 2005

PM Howard Hands Off East Timor's OilAustralian Prime Minister John Howard was met by more than just praise and accolades during his recent visit to Washington, DC. While media tycoon Rupert Murdoch toasted Howard at an exclusive business leaders’ dinner held in his honor on July 18 at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, protesters outside decried his bullying of East Timor over maritime petroleum resources.

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) staged an attention-grabbing demonstration outside the Chamber of Commerce as executives, diplomats, and Mr. Howard entered the building for the invitation-only event. The guests were treated to loud cries of “End Australia's Occupation of the Timor Sea!”, “Unfair, Unjust and Unlawful!” and, as Mr. Howard attempted to slip in unnoticed, “STOP! THIEF!” Protesters withstood Washington’s hundred-degree summer heat, some wearing suits and ties and John Howard masks. These costumed activists raised their own toast - champaign flutes filled with East Timor’s oil (which tasted much like prune juice) - mocking the Australian government’s theft since 1999 of more than $1.2 billion in revenue from extracted oil and gas under the Timor Sea. One protester offered “a toast to calling thievery generosity!”

Other slogans, shouted toward dinner invitees through a megaphone, included “Respect East Timor’s Independence” and “What's Generous about Returning Stolen Property?” Chants highlighted the Australian government’s coercion of the world's newest nation to forgo its rights to their resources and maritime territory. A large East Timorese flag and colorful banners and posters emphasized these points.

News reports indicate that the two countries will soon sign an agreement that would put off a maritime boundary agreement for as long as 50 years and would split 50/50 royalties from the lucrative Greater Sunrise field (most or all of which would belong to Timor if the boundary were drawn according to current international legal principles). This unfair “compromise” would deny Timor billions of dollars and impinge upon its sovereignty. After withdrawing from international mediation and arbitrations mechanisms, Australia has been able to utilize its far greater political and economic power to browbeat Timor into this agreement.

Journalists present for the event included the demonstration in their coverage of Howard’s Washington visit. ETAN did two Australian radio interviews at the scene and distributed leaflets to passers-by to educate them about the maritime boundary issue. Several protesters chased down the number two man at the State Department, Deputy Secretary Robert Zoellick, eventually enticing him to take a flyer. Hundreds of rush-hour drivers witnessed the protesters’ vibrant signs and loud chants. Impossible to ignore was ETAN’s message for Prime Minister Howard, “Don't Steal Timor's Future.”

For more information see http://www.etan.org/issues/tsea.htm.

Links to media coverage

"PM Howard" takes Timor's oilETAN interviewed during protest.
  
Australia hands-off Timor's oilAustralia: Respect East Timor's Independence.


Media Advisory

For Immediate Release

Contact: Karen Orenstein, 202-544-6911

Protest to Urge Fair Deal for East Timor

Colorful Demonstration Planned at Invite-Only Dinner for Australia's Prime Minister Howard

On Monday, July 18, 2005, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) will picket Australia's Prime Minister John Howard to urge a fair deal for East Timor in maritime boundary and resource negotiations.

Where: US Chamber of Commerce, 1615 H St. NW (closest metro - Farragut West on the orange/blue line)

When: Monday, July 18, 6:20 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

What: Protesters at the invitation-only dinner honoring John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia, will sport pictures of John Howard, make “champagne toasts,” and carry signs and other visual props.

Why: Since East Timor's independence referendum in 1999, the Australian government has taken some $1.2 billion in petroleum revenue from one of the world's poorest countries. Australia is occupying seabed territory with vast petroleum resources that would belong to East Timor under international law. Under Prime Minister Howard's leadership, the Australian government is bullying the world's newest nation to forgo its rights to these resources and maritime territory. Recent news reports indicate that the two countries will soon sign an agreement that would put off a maritime boundary agreement for as long as 50 years and would split 50/50 royalties from the lucrative Greater Sunrise field (most or all of which would belong to Timor if the boundary were drawn according to current international legal principles). This unfair “compromise” would deny Timor billions of dollars and impinge upon its sovereignty. After withdrawing from international mediation and arbitration mechanisms, Australia has been able to utilize its far greater political and economic power to browbeat Timor into this agreement.

"Greed should not take priority over law and justice!" said Karen Orenstein of ETAN. "John Howard should be ashamed to portray the theft of East Timor's only significant natural resource as an act of generosity."

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see also Reported Australia/Timor-Leste Oil Deal "Cheats" East Timorese, Says ETAN