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"If the ... 'creative solution' [90% to East Timor and 10% to Australia] was followed, out of the likely available US$40 billion 'government take' from Greater Sunrise, East Timor would get US$36 billion. Instead from what your good friend Alexander 'Lord" Downer has leaked to Australian media the East Timor government /people will get 18% of say US$40bn which is US$7.2 bn, plus a 'generous offer' of $2-5 bn (A$ or US$ not clear), a total of say $10-12bn for giving up its legal maritime boundary entitlements. This is barely one third of what East Timor should be expecting and is entitled to in our view under international law. ONE bloody THIRD!... East Timor being ripped off by US$24 billion plus?" Rob Wesley-Smith, activist, Australians For a Free East Timor (AFFET) & member, Timor Sea Justice Coalition (TSJC) - Darwin (Northern Territory, Australia)

This page last updated 5 Apr 2005


Open Letter to Jose Ramos Horta


Rob Wesley-Smith

3rd May 2005


Dear Maun Jose


It was you who first brought me into the just struggle for human rights for East Timor including independence via a meeting in Darwin in 1974, and we have shared a lot, for better or for worser.  Of course due to a large measure of success you are now a Nobel laureate, and foreign affairs minister of the government of a notionally independent East Timor, and I am still a little Aussie bleeder.

But is East Timor really independent when we see its craven behaviour towards Indonesia over Human Rights, and towards Australia over loss of maritime boundaries and entitlement to its Timor Sea revenues?  Should activists now give up their support or only do in detail what the first and very inexperienced East Timor government wants?  If we see looming gross economic and territorial injustice should we remain silent before this is set in stone?  Are we only to be outspoken in your support in all matters?  [That said I acknowledge that Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri may yet be 'holding the fort' on these negotiations]

In your media release 29th April 2005 'Talks on Timor Sea make unprecedented progress' you said:   Dr Ramos-Horta also thanked and expressed appreciation for the vast amount of international support Timor-Leste had received on this issue. He noted, however, that some comments made by parties outside this process did not reflect the approach being taken by both governments.

Yes, supporters are outside the process due to the refusal by the East Timor Government to keep us even slightly informed.  We know the issues, we know we have several times been asked to fight for a just outcome on these matters, but we don't receive any real information. Timorese academics Dionísio Babo Soares and Francisco da Costa Monteiro in Timor Post, 30 April 2005 point out 'there has not been any formal declaration from Timor-Leste on this matter, but from the media report, etc, government seems to entertain this proposal.  This 'creative solution' will prejudice Timor-Leste's national interest if it does not involve amendments ....'

You, Maun Jose, stated above 'some comments by some parties outside the process did not reflect the approach taken by both governments'. Well how do we know since no information is made available?  Despite you saying the talks on Timor Sea made unprecedented progress, you don't indicate anything substantial except to say "Timor-Leste proposed a creative solution which may involve a resource sharing arrangement in lieu of hastily attempting to resolve the complex and sensitive issues involved in agreeing to a permanent maritime boundary".

After being forced to sign the Timor Sea Treaty in order to get revenue flowing from Bayu Undan, it was activists who proposed trying to find 'creative solutions', however not such that sold East Timor short.  We proposed, for example, expanding the jpda to the west and the east to the point where it was most likely maritime boundaries would be established under UNCLOS, probably first proposed in that form by the late Andrew NcNaughtan.  But as I argue the starting point for the consequent split of financial returns should be the existing precedent within jpda of 90% to East Timor and 10% to Australia.  (Actually why Australia should get anything is beyond comprehension unless East Timor gets 10% of Australian resources south of the median line.   This just goes to prove again the negotiations are between very unequal parties).

If the above 'creative solution' was followed, out of the likely available US$40 billion 'government take' from Greater Sunrise, East Timor would get US$36 billion.   Instead from what your good friend Alexander 'Lord" Downer has leaked to Australian media the East Timor government/people will get 18% of say US$40bn which is US$7.2 bn, plus a 'generous offer' of $2-5 bn (A$ or US$ not clear), a total of say $10-12bn for giving up its legal maritime boundary entitlements.  This is barely one third of what East Timor should be expecting and is entitled to in our view under international law.  ONE bloody THIRD!

Why then do you speak so enthusiastically of the negotiating process, which as far as I know you are not a part of, and the likely outcomes? Why the emphasis on bilateral relations and 'the role played by my good friend and counterpart' Lord Downer.  Downer, to most observers, has played the role of thug and bully, and we have seen some transcripts on Crikey.com to support this even in his personal dealings;  and we note his constant bleating of 'after all we have done for them' - is that a sentiment you agree with?   'I am pleased that our friendship and goodwill has prevailed despite having differences at times', you concluded, prevailed how and with what result?  East Timor being ripped off by US$24 billion plus?

I suspect you didn't like my PR "Horta Fantasies and McFarlane Mendacities".  There I noted that your not uncommon prediction of negotiations resolution was unlikely given how far apart the parties were or should be. So far, just,  I'm vindicated. 

You said 'afterwards hundreds of million will flow', which I challenged.   Note that as a result of your PR the Australian media have burst into print, but again only really with Downer's PR spin. 
'Australia and East Timor's settlement of the long-running dispute over maritime boundaries and the sharing of oil and gas revenue from the Timor Sea is not itself enough for Woodside to begin planning for the $6.6 billion development of the Greater Sunrise gas project'.

In The Age 2nd May: 'Woodside, project operator for Sunrise, said on the weekend that while it welcomed the agreement on major issues between the two governments, announced on Friday by Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, progress on the stalled project would "ultimately depend on the ability to secure gas customers".
'The company noted that a final agreement between the governments would require ratification by their parliaments. "We would also require legal and fiscal certainty before proceeding", Woodside said. ... Sunrise would be unlikely to make it to the starting stalls until the second half of the next decade'.  That is, Sunrise would not even begin to get started until after 2015, with first oil and gas on that scenario unlikely to flow until after 2020.

Thus your earlier spin that resolution is near and 'afterwards hundreds of million will flow' is not supported unless 'afterwards' means 15-20 years.  The present contention that agreement will 'unlock the enormous hydrocarbon potential of this region' is a complete nonsense given  (a) the above re Sunrise  (b) Bayu Undan is already happening and the petroleum dollars are already flowing into East Timor coffers, at a higher rate than predicted as oil prices are so high, but lower than might have been negotiated if all went at it optimum for East Timor, so the region oil and gas is already 'unlocked'.  The long term control mechanisms for that money needs to be tightened.

The East Timor government has asked Australian activists to change the attitude to these matters of the Australian people and Government. With a Howard-compliant media this has been hard, but change is occurring.  It was harmed by the show of mateship with your good friend Lord Downer before the last election.  Our campaign has been greatly boosted by the formation of the Timor Sea Justice Campaigns initially in Melbourne, and by the applied expertise and financial resources of Ian Melrose.  Your government is by all accounts finalising an agreement for one third of its potential well before these Aussie efforts have had a chance to meet their potential.
And for NO GOOD REASON - East Timor will get all it needs for the next 20+ years from Bayu Undan revenues.

I would rather put productive energies towards continuing the campaigns for justice, but with either silence or smug satisfaction for East Timor government spokespeople one cannot help but point out the unnecessary dangers ahead.  We cannot mind-read.  I also know that Timorese civil society shares this view.  And Ms Kirsty Sword Gusmao, who last week spoke at a women's conference in Melbourne, said the people who had fought so bravely for independence should not be made to beg for financial autonomy. "East Timor should not be forced into the position of beggar," she said. "It's not befitting of a country and a nation of people who fought so bravely.
"I think it's really important for the country as a whole to have that sense of dignity that as a sovereign nation we're able to stand on our own two feet, at least in the long term".  We agree.


Maun Wes


Rob Wesley-Smith

Activist, Australians For a Free East Timor - Darwin (Northern Territory, Australia)

Member, Timor Sea Justice Coalition - Darwin (Northern Territory, Australia)
Home: http://www.TimorSeaJustice.org

Phone: 61 8 89832113
Mobile: 0419 807175
Email:
rwesley@ozemail.com.au



See also:

26 Mar 2005 McKee: How much is Sunrise really worth?:
The True Value of a Timor Sea Gas Resource
http://www.pcug.org.au/~wildwood/05mar26mckee.html

Timor Sea Talks between Timor-Leste & Australia:
Dili, East Timor 26th 27th & 28th of April, 2005
http://www.pcug.org.au/~wildwood/talks.html




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