ASIET chairperson Max Lane and Angela Luvera from Resistance addressed the crowd. “After nearly 25 years of struggling for independence, the East Timorese people are now being forced to struggle for their oil and gas reserves because a greedy Australian government continues to prioritise the profits of the corporate tyrants over the needs of ordinary people. We won't stand by and let this happen”, declared Lane.
In Darwin, activists asked residents where they would draw the Timor Gap seabed boundary between East Timor and Australia — along the current boundary (agreed to between the Suharto dictatorship and the federal Labor government in 1989) that is unfair to East Timor or a boundary that is equidistant between East Timor and Australia, according to international law?
The vast majority of people approached were unaware that the current boundary was the result of the Australian government's shameful acceptance of Indonesia's brutal 1975 invasion of East Timor. They overwhelmingly backed a boundary equidistant between East Timor and Australia.
Speakers in front of the department of mines and energy highlighted the immoral stand taken by every Australian government since 1989 and insisted that the oil and gas resources rightfully belong to the people of East Timor. Ruth Ratcliffe from Resistance, pointing to the hypocrisy of the Northern Territory government's mandatory jailing of people guilty of property offences, accused the Australian government and oil companies of “receiving stolen goods”.
Maria Edith da Costa Gusmao, a representative of the Socialist Party of Timor, said that unless elected representatives of the East Timorese people led the negotiations for a new seabed boundary, an outcome in the interests of the East Timorese people is unlikely.
Nick Soudakoff, from the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP), stated that if the Australian government was really interested in supporting the development of East Timor's economy, it would not haggle over changes worth a few million dollars. Soudakoff said the real goal of the Australian government and its big business allies is to create an East Timor that is dependent on Australian aid and is a reliable source of superprofits for Australian and other corporations.
In Melbourne, reports Matthew Rich, 25 people attended a lively speakout in the Bourke Street Mall. Many passers-by stopped to hear the speakers, sign a petition and take away information about the Timor oil campaign.
Melbourne ASIET is to collaborate with the local branch of Fretilin on the Timor oil for the Timorese campaign. A forum to discuss the deepening political crisis in Indonesia will take place at RMIT on March 1.
In Perth, ASIET organised actions at Murdoch University and outside the Wesley Church in the city on February 21.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), through its general secretary Grahame McCulloch, issued a statement of support for ASIET's national day of action on February 21. McCulloch said the union supported the protests in line with its “strong commitment to the development of a just, equitable, democratic and sovereign East Timor”.
“Now that Indonesian troops have withdrawn from East Timor, and now that the prospect of independence is an immediate reality, the campaign for justice for the East Timorese people has entered a new phase”, noted McCulloch. “ ... Although mainstream Australian politicians now bask warmly in the glow of support for East Timorese independence ... the real contemporary test of their political commitment to East Timor's future is the extent to which they will support substantial direct economic aid to East Timor and full East Timorese sovereignty over important economic resources which can underpin rising living standards and the capacity to develop social infrastructure.”
McCulloch continued: “These needs are highlighted by the unjust (even rapacious) terms of the Timor Gap Treaty ... It is clear that the terms of this treaty must be revised ... The plain truth is on any proper reading of the seabed boundaries, East Timor should be entitled to 90% of the gas and oil royalties associated with exploration in the Timor Sea area. Clearly, the boundary should be set along the median line rather than the edge of the continental shelf. A proper application of international law could yield as much as $5 billion for a fledging independent East Timorese government ... As one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and having been previously complicit in the Indonesian takeover of East Timor, Australia has an obligation to scrap the treaty and to increase direct aid.”
Contact ASIET on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on its Timor oil for the Timorese campaign or visit http://www.asiet.org.au.
BD: TIMOR OIL - A collection of recent Reports, Position statements, Petitions, Articles and News