Statement to the Development Partners Meeting
As we did at the last meeting, La’o Hamutuk joins the civil society of Timor Leste in welcoming you to our country and we thank you for your continuing support for the development of Timor Leste. We would like to use this opportunity to say a few words to our government, and also to express some thoughts for our development partners to consider.
La’o Hamutuk, The East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis, is an East Timorese NGO which has monitored and analyzed the reconstruction and development process in our country since 2000, with a particular focus on international institutions.
First, we would like to express our unhappiness with the process through which the government selected La’o Hamutuk as the sole representative for local NGOs. Although we have reluctantly accepted this selection, we think it would be better in the future for the government to work with the NGO Forum to enable NGOs to select their own representative in a transparent and democratic process. Although we have consulted with other NGOs in preparing this presentation, the views expressed are the responsibility of La’o Hamutuk alone.
As you know, Timor Leste’s government faces a budget shortfall in the years 2005-2007. We ask our Development Partners to continue and extend your budgetary support through the Transition Support Program. We hope you will share our vision that this support is not simply a gift from your generous taxpayers, but rather one way for the international community to compensate the people of Timor Leste for allowing Indonesia’s criminal and brutal occupation of our country to continue for 24 years.
Our democratically-elected government is the best institution to make decisions about how to spend public money in Timor Leste. We encourage development partners to review your bilateral and multilateral aid projects and plans, and to ensure that they conform with the National Development Plan and the current priorities of the government.
Timor Leste’s Resource Entitlement
The future economic independence of Timor Leste relies on this nation’s ability to utilize the natural resources in our territory in an ecologically responsible and sustainable way. This is the only way this country can meet the basic needs of our people without indefinite dependency on the generosity of our Development Partners. It is also intrinsic to our national sovereignty, for which so many struggled and gave their lives.
Timor Leste faces a budget shortfall for the years 2005-2007, since the international consultants who guided our national planning process did not anticipate likely delays in Bayu-Undan. That project is now behind schedule, as we now know is common for large petroleum developments around the world. We encourage our Development Partners to provide additional budgetary support to make up for this mistake, and not to force us to go into debt at the beginning of our nationhood.
In the medium- and long-term, the economic stability of Timor Leste requires that we receive full legal entitlement to our resources. We continue to be discouraged by Australia’s eagerness to steal our oil and gas, as symbolized by the rapid depletion of the Laminaria-Corallina oil field. This field would belong to Timor Leste under UNCLOS principles, but Australia has received approximately one billion U.S. dollars from it since 1999, making Timor Leste the largest foreign contributor to Australia’s national budget.
At the long-delayed first round of pre-negotiations three weeks ago Australia once again made it clear that they will resist an expeditious and fair settlement of our maritime boundaries. Our territorial limits cannot be constrained by agreements between other nations while we were under colonial or military occupation, nor by interim agreements to ensure that petroleum developments continue.
We ask our Development Partners to support the government of RDTL in urging Australia to:
1. Seriously and quickly negotiate a fair maritime boundary according to current international legal principles;
2. Rejoin legal processes for impartial resolution of maritime boundary disputes that cannot be settled by negotiation;
3. Stop exploitation, exploration, and the signing of new contracts for areas closer to the coastline of Timor Leste than to Australia, including Laminaria-Corallina, Buffalo, and areas NT/P65 (formerly NT02-1) and NT03-3.
4. Place any revenues the Australian government has received from these disputed areas in escrow, for future apportionment between Australia and Timor when the boundary has been settled;
5. Respect Timor Leste as a sovereign nation and equal negotiating partner, entitled to full rights and protections under international law, rather than taking unfair advantage of this nation’s size, inexperience and difficult economic situation.
We disagree with the World Bank’s recommendation to end subsidies for Electricidade de Timor Leste (EDTL). Electricity is essential to the economic development of Timor Leste. Although we agree that most people should pay for their electric use, nobody should be deprived of a basic level of service (lights and fans) for lack of money. Coercive billing practices, like pre-paid meters, hurt the very poor and have little effect on those who can afford to pay unsubsidized rates, such as businesses and middle-class people.
The majority of Timor-Leste’s people are victims of crimes against humanity committed in this country between 1975 and 1999. We hope the Development Partners will listen to our demand that the architects and perpetrators of these crimes be held accountable.
United Nations and Indonesian investigating commissions in 2000 recommended the establishment of an international tribunal if other processes prove ineffective, so we now ask the international community to make good on that promise. Both the Jakarta ad hoc tribunal and the UN-sponsored Special Panels and Serious Crimes Unit have been unwilling and/or unable to end impunity. More than three quarters of those indicted by the Serious Crimes Unit are receiving sanctuary in Indonesia.
We urge the international community not to run away from the process it initiated, but to use all available mechanisms, including economic and political pressure, to compel Indonesia to cooperate. If there is international political will to end the impotence of the Special Panels and Serious Crimes Unit, we encourage continued support for the Dili Serious Crimes process after UNMISET ends.
But since the processes thus far in Jakarta and Dili have not been able to bring the principal perpetrators to trial, we also reiterate our call for an international tribunal to try perpetrators of serious crimes during the Indonesian occupation of Timor-Leste. These crimes not only transgressed basic human rights and universal laws, but defied many United Nations resolutions. From May to October 1999, they brazenly violated the 5 May agreement between Indonesia, Portugal and the Secretary-General.
The international responsibility for justice has not yet been fulfilled. We urge Timor Leste’s Development Partners to be forthcoming not only with economic support, but also to accept the political responsibilities of this partnership, without with Timor Leste’s difficult birth and peace may be short-lived.
Over the next two years, Timor Leste will face difficult financial times. Our country needs the good will of our Development Partners to get through this period, so that we can emerge as a stable, self-sufficient nation. La’o Hamutuk encourages you to continue to support Timor Leste as you have done since 1999, so we can finally complete our struggle for true independence.