Home > South-East Asia >> East Timor

East Timor News Digest 4 – April 1-30, 2017

Timor Sea dispute Political parties & elections Health & education Graft & corruption Social security & unemployment Police & law enforcement International solidarity Foreign affairs & trade Tourism & hospitality Mining & energy Fishing & maritime affairs Colonial period & World War II Analysis & opinion

Timor Sea dispute

Timor oil deal may open door for Darwin refinery

NT News - April 12, 2017

Darwin will be used as a logistic hub for a Queensland company which has signed a landmark onshore oil and gas deal in East Timor. The deal may also open the door for Darwin to establish an oil refinery.

Timor Resources Holdings has secured a 50 per cent interest in two onshore blocks, as part of a production sharing contract with Autoridade Nacional do Petroleo e Minerais, a government authority of East Timor.

It will commence operations transporting equipment and senior management through Darwin in the next few months. It is the first time in more than 40 years that an independent company has secured such rights.

Timor Resources managing director Suellen Osborne said successful exploration discovery in East Timor, located 475km north of Darwin, could open much bigger opportunities.

"We are searching for oil and if we are successful then the real question in the next couple of years is do we refine in Darwin or send it to Singapore," she said.

"For that to occur Darwin will need to have a refinery. The East Timorese government has done baseline geoscience on what is there already.

"We already know that back in 2000 when the United Nations was drilling for water a number of the wells turned to oil so there is an expectation of success."

Timor resources will spend a minimum of $60 million on exploration during the next three years. This may increase to $150 million to bring production online depending on results.

Under the agreement, the company will work closely with the Timorese Government to explore 200,000ha.

Timor Resources' general manager of exploration Mike Bucknill said: "We know there is oil in the area - the question now is how much? More than 60 oil seeps have been identified in the PSC area, and Blocks A and C encompass 2000 square kilometres."

Timor Resources chairman, and Nepean founder, David Fuller said his team had been in discussions with the national oil company for more than six months.

"An investment of this size is always an enormous challenge. But beyond the potential economic benefits, this is a chance to really make a difference in people's lives," he said.

Source: http://www.ntnews.com.au/business/timor-oil-deal-may-open-door-for-darwin-refinery/news-story/05f33597cec38aa2721ad6286817a047?nk=1dae07f231e3eed8bcda9c2eaf56b2f1-1492005149

Political parties & elections

Xi sends congratulatory message to new Timor-Leste president

Xinhua - April 6, 2017

Beijing – Chinese President Xi Jinping has sent a congratulatory message to Francisco Guterres, also known as Lu-Olo, on being elected president of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.

In the message sent Monday, Xi said that as friendly neighboring countries, China and Timor-Leste have witnessed substantial progress in the development of bilateral relations since the two countries forged diplomatic ties 15 years ago.

China and Timor-Leste have set a good example for a relationship between a big and small nation based on equality and mutual benefit, he said.

"I attach great importance to the China-Timo-Leste relations and am willing to work with you to cement the traditional friendship and deepen pragmatic cooperation between the two countries, so as to lift China-Timor-Leste comprehensive cooperative partnership featuring good-neighborly relations, mutual trust and mutual benefit to a new level," said Xi in the message.

The Chinese president expressed hope that the people of Timor-Leste will continue to see achievements in their national development drive under Lu-Olo's leadership.

Source: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-04/06/c_136188107.htm

Health & education

KOICA provides $6.4 million for mass drug distribution program

Dili Weekly - April 27, 2017

Paulina Quintao – The Ministry of Health has received $6.4 million in funding from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) to implement a mass drug distribution program across the country from 2016-2021 to tackle lymphatic filariasis.

The General Cooperation Director of Ministry of Health, Narcisio Fernandes, said neglected tropical diseases such as leprosy, lymphatic filariasis and yaws are an ongoing threat to the public health in Timor-Leste.

Under the program, Diethylcarbamazine and Albendazole will be distributed to communities nationwide. Although Timor-Leste managed to eliminate leprosy in 2010, he said it still affected communities in some municipalities.

"I am appreciative that KOICA continues its financial support to the Health Ministry to help strengthen the national strategic plan for Mass Drug Administration (MDA), which will contribute to the country's development," he said.

He said KOICA had already provided considerable support to the ministry to strengthen healthcare services across the country and increase quality of patient services by providing training to health personnel.

Lymphatic filariasis is a chronic and infectious disease is caused by parasitic roundworms that disrupt the lymphatic system and can lead to swelling of body parts and severe deformity.

The filarial parasite is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. The larvae then enters the body through the skin and is circulated in the blood. Lymphatic filariasis is transmitted by different types of mosquitoes, including the Culex, Anopheles Barbirostris and Mansonia.

Meanwhile, KOICA Health Adviser Sunghee Cho said there were currently three health-related projects underway in the country, including the construction of a maternity room in Hatu-Builico in the Ainaro municipality, a food supplement distribution program for breastfeeding and pregnant women, as well as the MDA program.

"I think the programs implemented are very relevant to the situation because tuberculosis, neglected tropical diseases and maternal and child health are real issues in Timor-Leste and it's important to pay proper attention [to these]," she said.

KOICA provided almost $10 million for health programs across the country in 2016, including the construction of a testing laboratory for tuberculosis in Dili. She said it was very important to strengthen preventive and curative services in the country to reduce mortality rates from disease.

Meanwhile, the head of the Department of Infectious Disease, Merita Monteiro, said the data showed that lymphatic filariasis existed in all municipalities. She said the drugs were a safe and effective way of killing parasitic worms in people's blood stream.

In order to prevent adverse reactions, she said the medication should be taken after eating. Side effects include nausea, dizziness and vomiting, but should not last more than 72 hours, she said.

She the medicine was safe to consume except for pregnant women, those suffering from chronic disease and children under the age of two.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/14501-koica-provides-6-4-million-for-mass-drug-distribution-program-2

Tobacco control law still not properly implemented

Dili Weekly - April 26, 2017

Paulina Quintao – The head of the Department of Non-Communicable Disease Helder Juvinal said the tobacco control law had yet to be properly implemented as the Health Ministry was still in the process of raising awareness to communities across the country.

Former President Taur Matan Ruak approved the law decree last year and gave the Ministry of Health six months to raise awareness to communities before implementation.

He said they had raised awareness to communities in Dili in regards to the law and the fines that will apply, including the establishment of smoke free zones in all health facilities.

"We should raise awareness first because this law mentions many things about the sanctions, so it is important for communities to know the information first," he said at Hotel Timor in Dili.

He said the initial awareness campaign was focusing on health personnel as they play an important role in influencing the wider community to stop smoking.

He said the ministry also planned to run awareness campaigns this year in Maliana administrative post and Oecusse as it depended on operational budget.

He said discussions had also been held with the ministries of Finance, Commerce and Industry, Environment and Interior to look into cigarette prices and import tax, including controls on illegal imports in border areas.

Under the law, businesses that sell cigarettes to children under 17 years old and people who smoke in public places, including public transport will be subject to fines of $50 to $20,000.

Larger fines will apply to businesses found to be disobeying the law rather than individuals.

Health Ministry research in 2014 into the risks of non-infectious disease showed that 71% of men and 29% of women (between the age of 15 and 60) were actively smoking cigarettes.

Meanwhile, data from the 2013 Global Youth survey on tobacco showed that 42.4% of children (aged between 13 and 15) were actively smoking cigarettes and 61.9% were occasionally smoking.

Student Vasco Soares said that as a young person he called on the government to create an effective and integrated mechanism to implement the law in order to protect children from chronic diseases caused by smoking.

He also urged the Ministry of Health to continue raising awareness to the public, particularly young people, about the health dangers of smoking. "Because most young people are smoking every day," he said.

He said it was a very strong law because fines would apply to those who failed to comply. He also hoped the law would reduce smoking-related deaths and chronic disease. He said teachers and parents also had a responsibility to prevent children from smoking.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/capital/14492-tobacco-control-law-still-not-properly-implemented

MPs concerned by decline in students' Portuguese levels

Dili Weekly - April 19, 2017

Paulina Quintao – National Members of Parliament (MPs) have questioned teaching quality and education standards across the country as grade five students in basic schools are still struggling to speak Portuguese.

National MP David Dias Ximenes said that in the past first grade students already had a good understanding of the language, but students nowadays found it difficult to read.

"We ask them, but they do not know how to spell [the words]. What kind of education is this?" he said. "[This issue] needs more attention. Do not play with children's education because we compromise on adequate education for the future of the country."

The National Secretary of Timor-Leste Coalition for Education (TLCE), Jose de Jesus, said this was the reality across the country.

However, he said the drop in Portuguese levels was not only the fault of teachers, but also because parents were not helping their children to improve their ability at home.

"It is very difficult for students to guide themselves in the Portuguese language because at home they just speak Tetum," he said.

He urged parents who were fluent in Portuguese to practice with their children at home and encourage them to read so that they could improve their language ability.

He said it was not only students in basic schools that were struggling and that junior and senior high schools students also found it difficult to answer questions in Portuguese.

He recommended that the Ministry of Education give priority to improving the education system in the country so that children had access to quality education in their communities and did not just focus on securing a scholarship to study overseas.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/14480-mps-concerned-by-decline-in-students-portuguese-levels

Vocational schools lack qualified teachers

Dili Weekly - April 19, 2017

Paulina Quintao – The Timor-Leste Coalition for Education (TLCE) has expressed concern over the Ministry of Education's policy to turn several high schools into vocational schools due to the lack of qualified teachers and proper equipment for practical activities.

TLCE National Secretary Jose de Jesus said although it was a good initiative, the government needed to address several issues in order to strengthen the policy's implementation.

"The ministry should first conduct a viability study on the transformation of schools in terms of the human resources," he said at his office in Kaikoli, Dili. "[Schools] should have [proper] facilities before being transformed."

He said TLCE believes the policy was simply a response to political necessities, as it does not reflect the reality on the ground and has also been poorly implemented.

He cited the Hera Technical School as an example, which is housed in a well-designed new building, but has no facilities for students to conduct practical activities.

Meanwhile, national MP Agostinho Lai called on the government to roll out the policy in stages rather than establishing schools in all the municipalities at once.

He said the education sector continued to face several significant challenges, particularly in terms of the lack of qualified teachers, infrastructure and learning materials.

"We don't have any teachers in general high schools and now we are establishing more vocational schools in the municipalities," he said.

He said six vocational schools had been established in Ermera municipality, but they still faced many problems in the teaching and learning process.

To ensure education standards at existing vocational schools, he urged the government to take responsibility for maintaining facilities, providing proper equipment and recruiting qualified teachers.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/education/14478-vocational-schools-lack-qualified-teachers

Government establishes food inspection authority

Dili Weekly - April 14, 2017

Paulina Quintao – The government has established a special independent authority to conduct routine inspection and monitoring of products and food sold in restaurants and supermarkets across the country.

The Coordinator of the Inspection and Monitoring Authority on Economic, Sanitation and Food Activities (IFAESA), Abilio Oliveira, said a previous inspection service was established in 2009, but it had not been effective due to a lack of coordination between the relevant ministries.

"The four ministries used to work on it, but now it is handled by one institution in order to avoid any confusion among consumers and vendors," he said at his office in Matadouru, Dili.

He said the new authority consisted of representatives from the ministries of Health, Agriculture and Fisheries, Commerce, Industry and Environment and Tourism, Art and Culture.

The new authority will also coordinate with laboratories across the country and overseas to conduct food testing, with results to be made public.

As well as supermarket and restaurants, he said inspectors will also monitor local markets and fuels stations across the country.

Based on the law decree number 23/2009, which refers to administrative violations against the economy, he said vendors and supermarkets that sell rotten produce could face fines of $1000 and up to $10,000, while selling products past the expiry date may attract fines of $10,000 and up to $15,000.

Oliveira said the authority would carry out inspections and issue fines for any rotten products identified, including those past the expiry date. Those products would then be destroyed, while others of questionable quality would be sent to the laboratory for further testing.

Regarding community concerns about frozen meat products like chicken and fish sold at supermarkets, he said testing should be conducted in order to check the quality of the products, but currently Timor-Leste has no laboratory specifically for food testing.

He therefore called on the public to pay closer attention to the issue as 90% of products – including food – are imported from overseas.

Meanwhile, the National Director of Public Health, Pedro Cancio, said the role of the authority was very important in order to promote fair trade and defend consumers' rights in the country.

"We hope that they will do the controls and inspection better," he added.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/capital/14471-government-establishes-food-inspection-authority

National Hospital refuses to treat patients with common illnesses

Dili Weekly - April 14, 2017

Paulina Quintao – The National Hospital has issued a directive to doctors not to attend to patients with common illnesses such as headaches, coughs and colds.

The directive was issued in 2016 with the aim of improving secondary health care services at the hospital and to give more responsibility to health centres.

However, the National Hospital's Clinical Director, Flavio Brandao, said people were continuing to seek treatment for common complaints at the hospital as they were unaware or dissatisfied with the policy.

He said patients often refused to go to their closest health centre because they distrusted the doctors there.

"Those coming to the National Hospital [for treatment] should bring letter of referral from a health centre doctor," he said at his office in Bidau, Dili.

He also called on health authorities in the municipalities to raise awareness to communities that the National Hospital only provides emergency treatment and secondary health care for heart problems and other serious diseases.

He also recommended the Dili Municipality Health Authority strengthen the services provided by health centres to ensure communities were receiving quality treatment.

Statistics show that 85% of patients who receive treatment at the National Hospital are patients from health centres.

Meanwhile, hospital patient Amelia da Silva from Viqueque municipality said she was refused an ultrasound at the National Hospital because she did not have a referral letter from her doctor.

"I am here for an ultrasound test because I am sick, but they said I should bring a referral letter from the [local] health centre, but I didn't do that because I didn't know," she said.

She said that unfortunately she must now return to her municipality to obtain a referral letter so that she can access treatment at the National Hospital.

Head of the Dili Municipality Health Authority Agostinha da Costa acknowledged that efforts to raise awareness were not adequate, but they continued to remind communities and encourage them to trust local health personnel.

"Health personnel also have a responsibility to share information, particularly before attending to the patients, first in relation to the health problem and services," she said.

She said information was shared door-to-door, at health centres and health posts rather than social media or television because there was no budget for that.

However, she said local health authorities planned to inform community leaders about diseases and prevention strategies so that they can help share information in the sukus (villages).

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/health/14465-national-hospital-refuses-to-treat-patients-with-common-illnesses

2.8% of population has sight problems

Dili Weekly - April 13, 2017

Paulina Quintao – According to results from a quick data assessment report on blind prevention from 2016, 2.8% of Timorese people over the age of 50 suffers from some type of eye disease.

Researcher and Doctor Marcelino Correia said the survey was conducted to determine the extent of vision problems across the country and to serve as a baseline for the government to establish an integrated eye health plan.

He added the most common types of eye disease affecting the Timorese are cataracts, glaucoma, corneal opacity and that these conditions can lead to blindness unless treated early.

"The study establishes a baseline for the ministry of health to improve its eye health program in Timor-Leste both in terms of human resources and equipment," he said at Hotel Timor, in Dili.

Dr Correira added there are several causes that affect sight including advanced age which cause blurred vision, accidents involving the eyes and complications resulting from diabetes.

He urged the community to conduct routine eye checks at health facilities because maintaining the health of the eyes is very important.

The study identified at least 3,350 Timorese living in rural areas suffering from different types of sight disease.

Meanwhile, Director for Cooperation of the Health Ministry Dr Narcisio Fernandes said the research undertaken was very important so the health ministry to develop control and prevention programs on eye disease across the country.

He acknowledged limited human resources in Timor-Leste are hampering the provision of adequate eye health care.

"The ministry of health faces shortage of human resources in eye health. We have to provide more training," said Dr Fernandes.

He added the ministry will use data from the research to develop an integrated and comprehensive strategic plan on eye health across the country.

Director General of the National Hospital Guido Valadares (HNGV) Jose Antonio Guterres called on development partners to continue to support the hospital with human resources in the eye field because Timor-Leste only has one eye specialist.

"We need more or less 10 ophthalmologists and sub-specialists for the treatment of cataracts, glaucoma, retina disease; therefore, I am not shy in asking for their support," he said.

He said in 2017, the national hospital intends to send two doctors to study in Nepal and become eye specialists.

Representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Timor-Leste, Dr Rajesh Pandav said WHO will continue to support he government to develop its strategic plan for eye healthcare.

"The World Health Organization has the commitment to support Timor-Leste government and will work together to improve eye healthcare," he said.

He added WHO also supports the government with children eye screening in schools for early prevention.

The research undertaken in the health of eyes of Timor-Leste was conducted nationwide and received technical and financial support international LIONS organization, South East Asia IAPB and WHO.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/14457-2-8-of-population-has-sight-problems

Eye surgery performed in Timor-Leste will reduce cost of transferring patients

Dili Weekly - April 13, 2017

Paulina Quintao – The National Eye Clinic has informed it now has the capacity to perform surgery on patients with sight problems including retinal detachment operations.

Eye Clinic (Officer in Charge) OIC Belmerio Jeronimo said the new equipment and additional human resources will mean Timor-Leste can now reduce the number of patients transferred overseas to treat eye problems.

He added the clinic sends 6-8 patients for eye surgery in Indonesia and Singapore annually due to lack of equipment. "We already have the machine and this will help reduce the cost of sending patients overseas," he said.

He said the cost of patient transfer for eye surgery overseas amounts to 40 thousand US dollars per patient and one relative as it includes travel and accommodation for the entire duration of the treatment.

He added so far the national eye clinic provided only eye consultations, performed limited eye cataract operation but from now onwards it will be able to perform also retinal detachment operation.

Other more serious eye conditions including eye tumours will continue to be referred overseas for treatment because the clinic is not able to attend to these types of eye disease as yet.

Retinal detachment occurs when the thin lining at the back of eye that is linked to the brain gets torn due to head trauma affecting the eyes and it can also be caused by diabetes.

When untreated it may lead to permanent blindness but if treated early, sight can be restored even if not totally.

A survey conducted in 2006 on blindness prevention in Timor-Leste found the main eye diseases affecting the Timorese include cataracts and other optical diseases such as retina detachment.

One Vitrectomy Megatron S4 type machine was offered to the national eye clinic at the Natioanl Hopsital HNGV in Dili by International Organization LIONS Club.

Besides offering the machine, the organization also provided funds for the clinic to conduct outreach activities and cataract operations in the municipalities.

Meanwhile, eye specialist Dr Marcelino Correia said the eye team is ready to assist patients in need of retinal detachment operation.

"Those who suffer from diabetes should have routine check-ups to determine quickly if they have eye complications that should be treated to avoid blindness," he said.

Dr Correia said eye disease is also caused by diabetes. Therefore, he urged the government to pay attention to eye health services particularly with human resource development in this field also given the number of people in the community suffering from vision problems.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/health/14459-eye-surgery-performed-in-timor-leste-will-reduce-cost-of-transferring-patients-overseas

Government develops rabies prevention plan

Dili Weekly - April 5, 2017

Paulina Quintao – The Timor-Leste government and partners are developing a prevention plan to respond to rabies in the case of an outbreak.

The Ministry of Agriculture's General Director of Livestock and Veterinary Medicine, Antonio do Carmo, said although there had not yet been any reported cases of rabies in Timor-Leste, there was a significant risk due to high cross-border movements.

The plan focuses on prevention in terms of controls in border areas and a strategy should there be an outbreak. "Our overseas movements are high so it's possible we could be affected by this disease, [but] now we are still free [of the disease]," he said.

He said it was a dangerous disease because humans could be infected through the bite of an infected animal, but there were often no initial symptoms.

In 2004, he said the government instructed the National Directorate of Quarantine and Bio-Security to ban animal imports to the country.

He also expressed concern that the disease had spread in some areas in neighbouring Indonesia and therefore an integrated plan was needed to control border areas of the country.

Data from the World Animal Health Organization and World Health Organization (WHO) shows that over 50,000 people die annually as a result of rabies, equivalent to nearly one death every five minutes.

The rabies virus belongs to the rhabdoviridae family and is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal, including dogs, cats and monkeys.

The Ministry of Health's General Director of the Department of Health Achievement, Odete Viegas, urged the relevant ministries to discuss the policy and integrated prevention plan.

She also called on Health Ministry personnel stationed at the ports to strengthen controls. "It is very important for the relevant ministries to work together as animals are often imported in containers that can spread disease," she said.

She said the government was also cooperating with Indonesia to improve controls in the border areas between the two countries. She said 65% of all diseases were spread from animals and therefore it was important that communities were well informed.

In 2006, the government has established a team to control border movements, consisting of representatives from the ministries of Agriculture, Education, Interior and Finance, including the Customs directorate, but it had not been effective due to a lack of coordination.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/14452-government-develops-rabies-prevention-plan-2

Graft & corruption

The alarming nature of corruption in Timor-Leste

The Diplomat - April 7, 2017

Jonas Guterres – Corruption is a complex global problem that creates high obstacles to sustainable and prospective development and impairs the social, political, and institutional condition of a nation. Generally speaking corruption is understood, in Transparency International's words, as "the abuse of entrusted power for private gains."

Timor-Leste, a country that regained its independence less than two decades ago, has made significant efforts in the quest to fight corruption by establishing an Anti-Corruption Commission (CAC) within a legislative framework. However, success in combating corruption is still far from the general expectation when we consider the glaring injustice of poverty in the country.

Indeed, within Timor-Leste there is widely perceived to be a high level of corruption. According to the findings of a Corruption Perception Survey commissioned by CAC in 2015:

"The biggest problems in Timor-Leste are unemployment (62.6 percent), poverty (49 percent) and corruption (17.6 percent). However when asked specifically about severity of corruption, 77 percent said that corruption is a serious problem in Timor-Leste. Further, corruption, nepotism, and cronyism are present at various levels of government administration with leading cause[s] of [a desire to] get rich fast (60.6 percent), followed by low wages of officials (39.2 percent) lack of ethics (36.2 percent), and poor anti-corruption low enforcement (27.5 percent)."

Historically, some Timorese have sought to identify corruption as "a foreign import or legacy of occupation" from its former colonizers, Indonesia and Portugal (for more on this, see Aderito de Jesus Soares' Combating Corruption: Avoiding "Institutional Ritualism"). It is true that corruption, both institutional and informal, involving civil and military personnel was rampant at all levels of society during the Indonesian occupation. But corruption didn't stop with the occupation.

After the restoration of independence, many resistance leaders became leaders of public sector institutions, not because of their educational qualifications, professional experience, and knowledge of how to run a democratic institution properly, but because of their past credentials during the resistance era. Some tried to adjust to their new roles and responsibilities, while others, retaining the mindset of the resistance period, tended to overlook procedural rules and legal standards and instead use their discretionary power. This phenomenon, and the broader challenge which leaders face in transitioning from clandestine to institutional politics, has been seen in a number of other post-conflict countries.

A culture of gift-giving is part of the traditional norms of Timorese society, accepted as a way of thanking people for their help. There is no specific expression equivalent to "thank you" in Timorese languages, not even in the national language, Tetum: the word "obrigado/a", used to express thanks, is borrowed from Portuguese. This traditional gift-giving practice, however, potentially becomes corruption when it intersects with the operation of a modern democratic political and administrative system intended to embody good governance, of the type that Timor-Leste adopted in its 2002 Constitution and firmly believes in.

The pervasiveness of family connections and networks within Timorese society also tends to create a lax attitude, with people somehow becoming tolerant of corrupt practices. When someone holds a higher office, be it in the public or private sector, there is a strongly felt obligation to take care of "our family," "our networks," or look after "our people," encapsulated in the Tetum expression "Ita nia Ema." Decision-makers indirectly favoring one potential contractor over the others in a tendering process often evinces this sentiment. Further, potential contractors, high-level officers, and junior staff, all of whom try to benefit from corruption, share in the ill-gotten gain. For example, as a kickback for a particular tender award from Timorese or foreign companies, high-level officers may get massive bonuses, and junior staff may get fancy gifts for assisting with administrative work.

Regarding respondents' perceptions of Timor-Leste's corruption offenders, the 2015 CAC survey found that:

"58 percent [of] the respondents believe that acts of corruption are mostly committed by those who hold power, and 13 percent believe that corruption is mostly committed by government officials. Further, the perception survey reported that corruption exists in all Timor-Leste's sovereign bodies, with the highest prevalence considered to be in government."

The Sixth Constitutional Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Dr. Rui Araujo has to its credit undertaken some breakthrough initiatives to tackle corruption in four key areas: public administration; fiscal reform; economic reform; and legislative and judicial reform. These initiatives were steps along the right path, but have not so far served significantly to tackle corruption effectively.

The 2016 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) by Transparency International ranked Timor-Leste as 101st out of 175 countries, with a score of 35 on a scale from 0 (high corruption) to 100 (very clean). Timor-Leste shared its position with two other ASEAN countries, Thailand and the Philippines. The country made a significant leap in the rankings, from 132nd in 2015 to 101st in 2016; however in absolute terms its ranking still amounts to a poor performance, as demonstrated by high-profile corruption scandals, everyday corruption issues, political interference in the judicial system, and weak enforcement of the rule of law. Further, 46.5 percent of respondents in the 2015 CAC survey reported that they considered corruption to be more prevalent and increasing in the preceding two years.

Corruption is especially grave in the public financial management sector, with increasing apprehension about dependence on the financial inflows from oil extraction. While oil revenues have allowed the government to invest in much-needed and indispensable infrastructure and human development initiatives, they have also created opportunities for corruption and administrative malpractice. These have been reflected in the increasing number of high profile corruption cases involving politicians and government office-holders being brought before the courts in recent years, with defendants including a former minister of justice, a former minister of education, a former minister of finance, and a former vice minister of health.

A major focus of the government budget in the last two years has been infrastructure development, primarily roads, electric power, and two "megaprojects": the Suai pipeline, and the establishment of a Special Economic Zone in the Oecussi enclave (ZEEMS). Experience in other parts of the world strongly suggests that such megaprojects have the potential to give rise to lucrative contractual deals between political elites and their clients, which can have a huge effect on budget bottom lines, often associated with a lack of oversight, lack of transparency, corruption, and bribery.

Timor-Leste is an oil dependent country, and the "resource curse" remains a source of concern. Oil revenue can contribute significantly to sustainable and prospective development. However, low institutional capacity, poor accountability and transparency mechanisms, weak political will, and uneven law enforcement potentially creates excessive rent seeking, thus fueling large-scale corruption, rampant poverty, unemployment, and economic stagnation. These effects have particularly troubling implications for economic diversification and the long-term sustainability and development of non-oil sectors.

For now, given the severity of the issue, tackling corruption should be one of the top priorities of the new government to be formed following parliamentary elections later in the year. Based on the surveys cited above, parties that focus on the issue of corruption will be likely to collect a significant share of the vote.

Tackling corruption effectively will require firm political will, a comprehensive policy framework and anti-corruption law, competent human resources and leadership, adequate resources, and active engagement from various stakeholders. To echo the slogan of resistance, "A luta continua" – the struggle continues.

[Jonas Guterres is an anti-corruption practitioner. He is former Advisor to Office of Commissioner at Anti-Corruption Commission of Timor-Leste (CAC), and former recipient of United States Timor-Leste (USTL) scholarship funded by the State Department.]

Source: http://thediplomat.com/2017/04/the-alarming-nature-of-corruption-in-timor-leste/

Social security & unemployment

Voters call on elected president to eliminate life pension law

Dili Weekly - April 5, 2017

Paulina Quintao – Voters in this year's presidential election have urged the elected president to eliminate the life pension law.

Citizen Manuel Soares said there had been public concern about the law for a long time, but there had been no solution until now.

"Everyone is concerned about the life pension law, but there has been no solution. As the president of the Republic [of Timor-Leste], he (the President) has full rights to eliminate it," he said after casting his vote at the Pre and Secondary School 10 de Dezembru polling booth in Dili.

Currently heads of state, ministers, MPs and government officials are eligible to receive a pension for life once they retire or leave office.

Under the Timor-Leste constitution, the President is the supreme commander and is responsible for ensuring the Defense Force of Timor-Leste (F-FDTL) and the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) have the proper conditions to do their work properly.

Meanwhile, former Secretary of State for Equality Promotion Idelta Maria Rodrigues congratulated the government, particularly the National Electoral Commission (CNE) and the Secretariat for Technical and Electoral Administration (STAE), for overseeing the democratic process.

"[The President] should be a good servant, not only for his group (party), but should take care of people in general," she said. "I believe that the new president will bring positive change in the next five years."

She also called on the elected president to work with sovereign bodies to maintain national unity and stability, as well as bring development to the country.

Timor-Leste gained its independence in 1999 and restored its independence in 2002 and this is the first time it has organized elections without international assistance since the United Nation completed its mission in 2013.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/capital/14454-voters-call-on-elected-president-to-eliminate-life-pension-law

Police & law enforcement

Criminal Investigation Unit registers 221 criminal cases

Dili Weekly - April 13, 2017

Venidora Oliveira – The Criminal Scientific Investigation Police (PSIK) Unit registered 221 criminal cases in 2016.

The head of the department of Legal, Consultation, and Public Relations, Adino Nunes Cabral said of the 221 cases, 139 were referred by the Public Ministry and the other 22 were cases caught by the PSIK.

He said 84 cases have already been finalized while 30 case were still pending investigation. "Regarding the pending cases, we are still trying to find who the suspects are," he said.

He added most of the cases were for minor offenses, but also included 25 murder cases, 18 arson cases, and 15 cases of document falsification. He said the 22 cases from PSIK were handed to the Ministry of Public to process.

Compared to criminal cases in 2015, there were only 58 criminal cases registered by PSIK and that of those 30 were referred by the Ministry of Public. He added also cases referred by the Ministry of Public included also crimes committed in 2006 and 2011.

National MP Paulo Moniz said he is proud with the services of PSIK because even though the unit was just established in 2015, they were also able to look at crime committed further back in time.

"We should be proud of their service because they have solved some of the cases," he said. However, he also urged PSIK to keep making efforts to find the suspects who are still at large.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/security-defencejustice/14461-maritime-police-in-need-of-new-weapons

International solidarity

Paul Stewart of Painters and Dockers helps East Timor nuns care for disabled

Herald Sun - April 27, 2017

Jon Andrews, Bayside Leader – Painters and Dockers' famous, flamboyant frontman Paul Stewart says he owes his life to the nuns of East Timor.

The rocker, an infamous rager on the music scene with the 80s punk band, spends much of his time now helping the poor of our northern neighbour.

He is the face of a series of fundraisers for the ALMA nuns, who provide care for disabled children in East Timor, including appearing at gigs with bands at Hampton RSL.

Stewart, whose family grew up in the Bayside area, and also a former journalist with News Corp, has a strong history with East Timor.

His brother Tony was one of the 'Balibo 5' – five Australian journalists killed by Indonesian forces in 1975, and his bands, both Painters and Dockers and the Dili Allstars, played a series of benefit concerts afterwards.

He said "divine intervention" by an East Timorese nun "saved his life" after decades of rock and roll overindulgence.

"I was in hospital, basically on my death bed, needing a new liver," he said. "A priest had actually given me my last rites. It had been 18 months of needing a transplant, but nothing was happening."

He said one day soon after he woke in hospital in Melbourne to find the nun sitting at the end of his bed. "I asked what she was doing there, she said she had heard we had helped kids in their village," he said.

"I said I need a new liver, she said she would pray for one for me. "And then bingo, next day, doctors told me one had come through, one had been donated."

He visits East Timor several times a year, and, combined with the Jesuit Social Services, has raised around $250,000 so far.

"We have our blood in their soil, I always say," he said. "I have been given a second chance; I want to give the East Timorese a second chance too."

Source: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/inner-south/paul-stewart-of-painters-and-dockers-helps-east-timor-nuns-care-for-disabled-children/news-story/7e268fdf58bedc3f95495624aa88156b?nk=1dae07f231e3eed8bcda9c2eaf56b2f1-1493465935

Foreign affairs & trade

EU signs new cooperation agreement with Timor-Leste

Macauhub.com - April 3, 2017

The European Union will support Timor-Leste (East Timor) with a budget of 57 million euros over the next five years, under a cooperation agreement signed at the end of last week in Dili by the head of the EU delegation in Timor-Leste and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Timor-Leste.

Alexandre Leitao, head of the EU delegation in Timor-Leste, said the funding – which totalled 4.3 million euros of support from other entities – "reflect the national strategy for institutional training and the diversification of the economy."

The programmes are based on strengthening the management and supervision of public finances "to improve public services" and a sustainable partnership for agro-forestry and forestry, according to Portuguese news agency Lusa.

Initiatives included in the agro-forestry programme will be developed through cooperation with German agency GIZ and the International Labour Organisation, with particular focus on the towns of Baucau, Covalima, Lautem, Manatuto, Manufahi and Viqueque.

The governance programme includes two components, a first in direct budget support to the state and another through a cooperation model with Portugal's Camoes – Institute for Cooperation and Language, which will support both state institutions and non-state entities.

The EU support to Timor-Leste since 1999 totals US$300 million.

Source: http://www.macauhub.com.mo/en/2017/04/03/eu-signs-new-cooperation-agreement-with-timor-leste/

Tourism & hospitality

Tourism ministry calls on Timor-Leste to change its immigration policies

Jakarta Globe - April 26, 2017

Dames Alexander Sinaga, Atambua – The Indonesian Ministry of Tourism has urged the government of Timor-Leste to modify its immigration regulations to boost tourism in border areas such as Atambua in East Nusa Tenggara.

Timor-Leste currently prohibits expatriates in the country from visiting Indonesia, even though they are entitled to enter the archipelago without visas. The Tourism Ministry will therefore cooperate with the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to resolve the matter.

"This is a discussion between government and government. We will cooperate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to lobby the East Timorese government to change its immigration policy regarding tourism," Foreign Ministry official Vinsensius Jemadu said.

Willbrodus Lay, the head of Belu district in East Nusa Tenggara, and Johannes Prihatin, head of the district's tourism board, said the East Timorese government's regulations are prohibiting expatriates in that country from entering Indonesia through land border crossings.

Willybrodus said this does not benefit Indonesia as he believes many expatriates would like to visit the archipelago.

"The total number is huge – about 15,000 expatriates. Moreover, some of them would like to invest in Atambua. Until now, they have faced an ineffective process when visiting Indonesia. For instance, they need to go to Denpasar in Bali to report to their representatives. This is ineffective, considering that the country is visa-free for them," Willybrodus said.

The border checkpoints between Timor-Leste and East Nusa Tenggara are at Mota Ain, Wini and Mota Masin. The three checkpoints were recently renovated and public facilities, including money changers, were upgraded.

"It used to take several hours to cross to East Nusa Tenggara from Timor-Leste, but now it only takes about 30 minutes. We have many upcoming festivals to welcome their arrival, that is why they should visit us," Johannes said.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/tourism-ministry-calls-on-timor-leste-to-change-its-immigration-policies/

Mining & energy

Nepean Group targets oil production onshore Timor-Leste

Australian Financial Review - April 8, 2017

Angela Macdonald-Smith – The private company of Australia's Fuller family has signed a deal to explore for oil and gas onshore Timor-Leste, with the ambitious aim of beginning oil production within four years.

Timor Resources Holdings, part of diversified manufacturing and engineering company Nepean Group, has taken 50 per cent of two prospective onshore blocks covering 2000 square kilometres in a region hosting more than 60 oil seeps.

The production sharing contract, signed on Friday by Nepean chairman David Fuller and Timor-Leste government representatives in the presence of Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araujo, could see the Australian company invest more than $US150 million. Work will start "immediately", with a 900km 2D seismic survey planned for early 2018, Timor Resources said.

The Timor-Leste government has for years been seeking to raise interest in onshore exploration to help advance its ambitions to establish a $US2 billion petroleum corridor on the south coast, including a supply base, refinery, petrochemical and LNG plant, and a network of petrol stations.

Exploration and development in some offshore waters around the country has meanwhile been stalled by a sovereignty dispute between Timor-Leste and Australia where the Woodside Petroleum-operated Sunrise venture hoped to develop a floating LNG venture. Some 95 per cent of government revenues comes from offshore petroleum production, mostly from ConocoPhillips' now-mature Bayu-Undan gas venture.

Timor Resources' venture covers Block A and Block C, where Timor-Leste national oil company Timor Gap, the Australian company's joint venture partner, has carried out scientific studies that it said point to a potential resource of more than 500 million barrels in the ground.

The initial three-year commitment will involve studies, seismic work and one exploration well involving a total cost of at least $US60 million, said Timor Resources managing director Suellen Osborne. The deal, which is Nepean's first foray into petroleum exploration, then has two further two-year options.

She said the partnership-type structure of the deal would see Timor Resources set up two local companies in Timor-Leste, with 90 per cent of staff to be local.

Mr Fuller said the deal, which has been in discussion for six months, could bring "life-changing" benefits to the people of Timor-Leste.

"They don't have the resources to fund a development of this size alone so they have been looking for a partner who is prepared to share the risks and the rewards – a partner they can trust and who will work in a partnership," Mr Fuller said.

The company described Timor-Leste as a "highly prospective region" for oil and gas but with onshore fields that had been closed to international exploration for 40 years.

Timor Resources exploration general manager Mike Bucknill, a former general manager of exploration at Central Petroleum, said onshore Timor "offers very good potential, as it is largely unexplored, yet it has the elements of an effective hydrocarbon system".

"You just need to look to the region and the prospectivity of the offshore activity to see the potential. Oil has been recovered from seeps and pits all along this coast," Mr Bucknill said, noting that onshore exploration in the 1960s recovered oil from three wells in the permit area, one of which was still productive.

He said multiple exploration target and play types had been identified, while analysis of recovered oil pointed to favourable quality with low sulphur.

Source: http://www.afr.com/business/energy/oil/nepean-group-targets-oil-production-onshore-timorleste-20170408-gvgncc

Fishing & maritime affairs

Army chief calls for establishment of maritime authority

Dili Weekly - April 26, 2017

Venidora Oliveira – Army Chief Major-General Lere Anan Timor has called on the government through the Ministry of Defense to establish a maritime authority to protect the country's ocean's resources.

He said the authority would have an important role in bringing all the other maritime agencies under one umbrella to work together. "We also ask the government to create the proper conditions," he said.

He said the maritime authority should be established under the auspices of the Timor-Leste Defence Force (F-FDTL), but that the government should determine which institution would be in charge.

Before establishing the authority, he called on the government to provide adequate human resources, materials and facilities. "Those who will be doing the work need the right conditions so that they may fulfill their obligations properly," he said.

He said the most necessary item of equipment was a large ship with the capacity to patrol the south Timor Sea.

National MP Cesar Valente also supported the establishment of a maritime authority. He said centralizing authority under one entity would help avoid misunderstandings in the future.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/security-defencejustice/14490-army-chief-calls-for-establishment-of-maritime-authority

Colonial period & World War II

East Timor, war, coffee and Australia's debt of honour

The Conversation - April 24, 2017

Heather Merle Benbow – Australian soldiers have long relied on an East Timorese hospitality epitomised by its coffee.

The fond appreciation for the nation's beans traces back to the second world war, where Dutch and Australian commandos – known collectively as Sparrow Force – engaged in guerrilla warfare against the Japanese in what was then known as Portuguese Timor.

The commandos were only intermittently supplied with army rations. They relied heavily on the assistance of locals to meet their basic needs, as well as scouring the landscape for fruit, nuts, vegetables and wild or feral animals.

The soldiers' enemy, the Imperial Japanese Army, were also following a principle of "local procurement", which more often than not meant forced requisition and looting.

This conflict was contemplated by one Dan O'Connor, of no. 4 Australian Independent Company, over a mug of warm coffee. His musings reveal the central strategic role of food in the Battle of Timor:

"As I sipped the hot coffee made from beans grown and roasted by the natives and flavoured in the mug with wild honey, my mind was running over the events of the last few months. [...] Lately [...] the Japs had become bolder and were moving out from the coast. They burned the villages and stole the food and the women. [...] It was only a matter of time before we would have no food at all, [...] no hope of survival."

The Japanese and Australians respectively razed villages and destroyed the crops and food stores of the Timor natives, as a means to gain a strategic advantage in the Battle of Timor.

The Timorese also traded with the Australian soldiers, who paid for their food in coins prized mostly for their "ornamental value". There are stories of "natives" emerging unbidden from the forest bearing bananas, of eating with local Portuguese priests and of Timorese "maidens" clothed only in grass skirts bearing water for the soldiers.

However, the Timorese were sometimes reluctant to sell their food, which was interpreted as unfriendliness in one history of the company.

Then there are accounts of mischievous behaviour towards the Australians by the Timorese. A young boy, for example, who pretended to enjoy eating native "berries" encouraged an Australian soldier to try them:

"I tried one, God [it blew] the top of my head off. It was those real hot chillies. He stood there giggling like anything."

Intercultural bonds

Food and drink are often the catalyst for intercultural encounters in wartime. As scholar Katarzyna J. Cwiertka has argued, the cultural meanings of food can be amplified in war:

"...it can become a weapon, an embodiment of the enemy, but also a token of hope, a soothing relief."

It is for this reason that the debt of gratitude to the Timorese is remembered so strongly in the Australian Army. As O'Connor recalled, the soldiers formed strong bonds with their native "helpers", dubbed "criados":

"Without them life would not have been possible. Each soldier had one as his personal servant, friend and general assistant. [...] The criados provided food, washed clothes, carried equipment and did every other task required of them. They did it in a happy, cheerful way. They were magnificent."

One Australian soldier, Bill Beattie, expressed deep shame at Australia's abandonment of the East Timorese following the Indonesian invasion and Portugal's effective withdrawal in 1975 – a sentiment shared by other returned servicemen and women, even today.

Among those who strongly identify with the Independent Company soldiers is a group of peacekeepers from the 6th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment, including Shannon French. He fondly recalls the cups of coffee proffered to his battalion while on a peace-keeping mission in East Timor in 2000, after the independence referendum:

"The Timorese villages had been plundered and burnt to the ground. The locals had nothing, but they would come out to greet us with plastic cups. We would stop and they'd give us hot sugary coffee."

It was on a subsequent mission in 2012 that French and fellow soldiers Tom Mahon, Cameron Wheelehen and Tom Potter, decided to help the East Timorese sell their coffee in Australia. In the chaos after the Indonesian invasion, coffee crops in the region of Aileu were allowed to grow wild through the forest. Here, the Robusta and Arabica coffee crops interbred, thus creating the unique Hibrido de Timor blend.

French recalls slashing through the forest while on peacekeeping duties, oblivious to the damage he was doing to the coffee plants – to the peacekeepers, they were indistinguishable from forest undergrowth.

The four later formed the Wild Timor Coffee company. Their mission to source "organic, ethical and direct" traded coffee from the Timor region is an initiative co-founder Mahon called "a debt of honour thing".

Two cafes have since been opened in Melbourne's inner north; their walls adorned with pictures of WWII soldiers in Portuguese Timor, and their shelves filled with Timorese cakes made by Ana Saldanha, who fled East Timor in 1975. Their efforts have funded health clinics and education initiatives back in Aileu.

But the extent to which East Timor's people are served by the cultivation of cash crops such as coffee – which has a notoriously low global price – remains to be seen.

What is clear, though, is that the hospitality of the East Timorese in times of conflict created intercultural bonds with the Australian military that have endured through more than half a turbulent century.

[Heather Merle Benbow is a senior lecturer in German and European Studies, University of Melbourne.]

Source: https://theconversation.com/east-timor-war-coffee-and-australias-debt-of-honour-55311

Anzac Day 2017: Exhibit honours Timorese boys who risked their lives for

ABC Radio Perth - April 24, 2017

Emma Wynne – A small collection of objects in the Western Australian Museum honours the extraordinary story of the Timorese boys who risked their lives to help Australian commandos during World War II.

James Dexter, director of creative and regional development at the museum, has more than just a professional connection to the collection – his father, Lieutenant David Dexter, was one of those commandos in the 2/2nd Squadron.

"In 1941 the Australians, under pressure from the British, decided to create some commandos; it had never been done by the Army before," Mr Dexter told ABC Radio Perth.

"The 2/2nd was sent to East Timor. In fact, Australia invaded a neutral country because it was then part of Portugal. When the Japanese came they swept all before them. Every Australian, British, Dutch unit in the region surrendered – with the exception of the 2/2nd."

Lieutenant Dexter and the rest of the squadron hid in the hills and became guerrilla fighters while the Japanese occupied Dili.

"They were totally dependent on the goodwill and active support of the Timorese people and in particular the criado," Mr Dexter said. "They would not have survived otherwise."

Who were the criado?

The criado were Timorese boys aged around 13 who attached themselves to Australian commandos and carried their packs and weapons during their months hiding in the hills.

Although the word criado means servant in the Tetun language, Mr Dexter said this relationship was closer to that of brothers.

The commandos and the criado waged guerilla warfare on the Japanese for months; a few hundred men against a force of thousands.

"The criado were totally important in going to a village first to suss out if it was friendly and find out if a Japanese patrol was coming," Mr Dexter said.

"They were the eyes and ears and the food gatherers. For the first two months the Australians had no supplies."

Commandos believed dead

Back in Australia, the commandos were believed to have all been killed. "It was only when they managed to scavenge together a radio from parts they raided from Dili that they were able to get a message back to Darwin that they were still fighting and the Australian High Command understood that they hadn't been lost," Mr Dexter said.

"When they first made contact with Darwin they asked for ammunition for their Tommy guns, new boots, quinine and two schilling pieces, solid silver florins to repay the East Timorese. "They paid them scrupulously."

Death sentence

In December 1941, heavily outnumbered by the Japanese who were employing scorched-earth tactics, the 2/2nd were told they would be evacuated.

One object in the museum's collection is a particularly poignant reminder of what happened during that evacuation. It is a small dagger with a scabbard inscribed with the word Ray – a parting gift for commando Ray Aitken from his criado on Batono Beach.

"This is a moment in history that is seared into the minds of the men of the 2/2nd," Mr Dexter said.

"When they were being taken off in December 1941, they had all assumed that their criados would be taken back to Australia with them. They knew that it would be a death sentence if the Japanese captured any Timorese that had been known to be collaborating with the Australians. They waited for the boats to come in, swam out to them and were brutally told: 'No niggers'."

The criado were ultimately left behind. But the commandos made a vow never to forget the people who had helped them.

Since 1946, continuing still today, the 2/2nd Association has provided aid and political support to the people Timor Leste. They are also remembered on Anzac Day.

"With all the families of people who served there, I wouldn't say we felt guilt, but there is that sense of a sorrow which isn't just about mates who were killed, but of the tragedy that happened to the Timorese, really because we went in there," Mr Dexter said. Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-24/anzac-day-remember-the-criado-of-east-timor-in-wwii/8461504

Analysis & opinion

Timor-Leste's worrying economic future

East Asia Forum - April 28, 2017

Damien Kingsbury – Timor-Leste is a country increasingly able to stand on its own two feet. At least, that is the sense within Timor-Leste. The success of Timor-Leste's presidential elections in March 2017 and the prospect of successful parliamentary elections again in early July have marked the country as a consolidating democracy in a region where such notions are often compromised.

Timor-Leste believes it no longer needs propping up by the international community as it did during its independence struggle of 2002, and again following the violence and destruction of the 2006 political crisis.

But Timor-Leste's key social and economic indicators don't match up with this growing sense of independence within the country.

Many of the country's problems stem from the oil industry. When former president Xanana Gusmao won government in 2007 with a coalition led by the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) party, he managed to cash in on then booming oil prices. Timor-Leste's huge oil income allowed him to buy the country out of trouble. But the country is still heavily reliant on these oil revenues.

At its peak, Timor-Leste's sovereign wealth Petroleum Fund amounted to US$16 billion. The plan was for the government to only use interest from the fund to underwrite government activity. But now over 90 per cent of Timor-Leste's economy is supported by Petroleum Fund revenues, making it amongst the world's most oil-dependent states.

Another area of concern is the government's ambitious infrastructure projects. The government's initial goal was to provide electricity to 80 per cent of Timor-Leste and then repair and rebuild the country's roads that were damaged by neglect and seasonal rains. But government spending has quickly spiralled to double the sustainable rate of withdrawals from the Petroleum Fund.

The post-2007 government also began a 'selective tendering' process to address emergency issues, through which all tenderers who met government criteria were automatically awarded contracts. But what was supposed to be an emergency measure has now become standardised, with competitive tendering largely being disregarded.

As a consequence, corruption has set in. Government tenders were initially overpriced and companies with close connections to senior government members disproportionately benefitted from government business. These issues only worsened after the 2015 'government of national unity' was established, bringing the major opposition party - Fretilin - into coalition with the CNRT.

With both major parties now sharing the spoils of government, there is even less accountability. Oligarch's known as the 'Forty Families' have now risen, controlling the lion's share of Timor-Leste's economy.

Meanwhile, median standards of living are still low. Immediately after 2007 there were significant improvements, with greater access to food leading to increases in average life expectancy and a halving in maternal and infant mortality rates. But those improvements have not been built upon.

Looking to the future, the current government has pinned its economic hopes on the development of the Greater Sunrise liquid natural gas (LNG) field in the Timor Sea. Much of the Greater Sunrise field lies outside of the joint petroleum development area that Timor-Leste receives 90 per cent of its revenues from.

Australia had agreed to split the proceeds of the Greater Sunrise field evenly with Timor-Leste. But Timor-Leste has started arbitration over the Timor Sea, with the matter now before the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Timor-Leste is hoping for an outcome that establishes an equidistant boundary between the two countries.

If the outcome of arbitration goes in Timor-Leste's favour - and the re-aligned lateral boundaries adhere to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea - Timor-Leste will gain complete control of the Greater Sunrise field.

Yet at this stage the lead joint development partner - Woodside Petroleum - has no interest in acceding to Timor-Leste's demands to develop an LNG processing site on its south coast. Woodside prefers a floating processing platform option, or linking to the existing oil processing infrastructure leading to Australia, which is coming into disuse as existing oil fields deplete.

Even if an agreement over the Timor Sea is reached quickly and a willing development partner is found, Timor-Leste wouldn't receive any profits from the Greater Sunrise field for another six to seven years.

This would be too little, too late. At current rates of government spending, Timor-Leste is expected to be broke within a decade. Even if spending is reduced, which the last budget suggested, things don't look good for Timor-Leste's economy.

Either way, Timor-Leste is likely to face at least significantly reduced spending in the short- to medium-term, or financial collapse over the medium- to long-term. Both scenarios will have deeply negative consequences for such a resource-dependent economy.

Timor-Leste bought itself out of trouble under former president Gusmao. With careful management and a lot of luck it might stave off the worst of the imminent financial tightening. If it does not manage this, the booming youth population will enter a workforce devoid of jobs, presenting another momentous challenge for Timor-Leste's future governments.

[Damien Kingsbury is Professor of International Politics at Deakin University.]

Source: http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2017/04/28/timor-lestes-worrying-economic-future/

The airbrushing of history – 1917 to 2017

Online Opinion - April 24, 2017

Jim Dowling – Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty Four.

It was with great interest that I recently read the following news item:

"The newly-elected president of Timor Leste, former guerilla fighter Francisco Guterres, will lead a 30-person delegation of veterans to Brisbane this Anzac Day.

The visit by Timorese war veterans to participate in Anzac activities honours the commitment of Australian troops supporting the people of Timor Leste – both in the Second World War and since 1999 when Australian troops have helped restore civil order after a fractious vote for independence."

I have been moved by the plight of the East Timorese since I was a young man and read about the Indonesian invasion in the daily news. In the 80's and 90's I became active in trying to end the shameful role Australia was playing in supporting the genocide in that country. Through all those years our nation was providing military training and equipment as well as diplomatic support to cover up and excuse murder, rape, and torture on a massive scale.

While it is true that the Australian military finally led a peace keeping delegation in 1999 after the Indonesian military left (with one final looting, burning and killing spree), the history of the 24 years prior to this was one of betrayal and almost unlimited support for the oppressors. This has largely been airbrushed from history in a way that would have made the "Ministry of Truth" in Orwell's novel proud. Most of the present generation see us as liberators of East Timor.

I think a comparison can be drawn to the airbrushing of the history of WWI in this country. Most people today know nothing of the bitter division in Australia and the strong opposition to our taking part in the war. The opposition was largely led by Irish Catholics, many of whom saw themselves as enemies of British colonisers of their homeland, and Trade Unionists. How many know that trade unionists were jailed for merely speaking against the war? How significant is the fact that the Archbishop of Melbourne, (Daniel Mannix) could lead the anti-conscription campaign in this country? Two referendums were held and twice Australians voted against conscripting young men to go to war. Mannix famously described WWI as a "Trade War". But, war being the "health of the State", and in this age of patriotic fervour, the large number of Australians who opposed WWI have been largely relegated to the cutting floor of history.

I have no idea how long it took to eradicate the WWI anti-war story from popular discourse, but it is truly amazing how quickly the shame of Australia's role in the East Timor story has been revised. From when the Whitlam government made clear to the Indonesians that we would do and say nothing to impede the invasion of East Timor, until the 1999 withdrawal, each Australian government shamefully betrayed the people of that country. Whether Labor or Liberal, the litany of betrayal of East Timor and sycophancy towards the murderous Suharto regime is truly something to marvel at.

I believe the turning point for East Timor came when the horror of the Dili massacre of 1991 was broadcast around the world. But still we were apologists for the Suharto regime, with Australian Foreign Affairs minister Gareth Evans famously called it an "aberration". In its aftermath even the US refused to train Indonesian troops. Australia promptly took up the slack and increased the numbers trained! A great friend of Suharto, Paul Keating visited Indonesia six times in just over four years. In 1995 he oversaw the signing of a defence pact with Indonesia. Gareth Evans had many years before signed the Timor Gap treaty to divide up East Timor's oil with the Indonesian Generals. When the Howard government first came to power in 1996, Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer promptly went to Indonesia where he fawningly described Suharto as "perhaps the world's greatest figure in the latter half of the 20th century." Right up until the Indonesians withdrew in 1999, Foreign Affairs minister Alexander Downer was lying for them by claiming the Indonesian death squads were East Timorese fighting a civil war.

Not only did we betray the people of East Timor, but we betrayed our own journalists murdered by the Indonesians as part of the invasion. Every Australian should watch the video of Greg Shackleton reporting from Balibo the day before his murder. The Australian government heartlessly covered up the knowledge of the five journalists' deaths even from their own families, once again to appease the Indonesians. It was not until 2007 that an inquest made the government face the facts of the murders. Still no apology was ever given to the families. In fact when I thought to verify this fact and Googled "Balibo five apology", the only article there was about the government apologising to a former Indonesian officer of the invading force, for asking him to give evidence at the 2007 inquest!

As for Australian troops supporting the people of Timor Leste, in WWII here the truth has been turned upside down. Any Australian involved in supporting East Timor in the terrible years between 1975 and 1999 will know the name Paddy Kenneally. Paddy was a young Aussie digger who was sent to East Timor as part of Sparrow Force in WWII to try to stop the Japanese there. Paddy felt he owed his life to these people, and spent much of the 80's and 90's campaigning for a free East Timor, and decrying our nation's betrayal of the people he loved. He had this to say about what happened in 1942: "We went to Timor and brought nothing but misery on those poor people. That is all they ever got out of helping us – misery." Over 40,000 lost their lives at the hands of the Japanese because they helped the Aussies. Our air force dropped leaflets on the island after we left saying "We will never forget you". But we did worse than forgetting them.

Over 200,000 lost their lives at the hands of the Indonesians because we were more interested in oil, trade, and diplomacy than the lives of these poor neighbours.

No lessons have been learned. We continue to train Indonesian troops as they oppress the West Papuan Independence movement. Recently an Aussie soldier put up a West Papuan poster at the SAS WA training facility where Indonesian Kopassus are trained. The shocked Indonesians temporarily withdrew their forces, until the Prime Minister offered enough apologies!

Lest we forget?

Source: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=18985

East Timorese heroes of Australian wars

Eureka Street - April 23, 2017

Susan Connelly – In the great traditions of Australian war remembrance we remember all those Australian youngsters who died in the World Wars and since. What is often forgotten, however, is the toll on the Timorese people in World War II on behalf of Australians.

Fearful of the southward thrust of the Japanese, the Australian government entered East Timor against the wishes of its Portuguese colonisers - not to protect the Timorese, but to thwart possible attacks on Australia.

A band of intrepid Australian soldiers, never numbering more than 700, successfully held off thousands of Japanese in Timor, but only because they had the support of the local people.

The East Timorese could have handed the Australians over to the enemy, but they didn't. Between 40,000 and 60,000 Timorese died as a result of Japanese reprisals for their friendship to Australians, and because of Allied bombing on Japanese positions.

Fearful, self-protective and oblivious Australia contributed to the demise of those tens of thousands of civilians. Leaflets were dropped all over Timor declaring 'Your friends do not forget you.' Yet this extraordinary historical episode receives little attention in Australia.

Thirty years later, Australian security was again served by the Timorese people. Massacres, starvation, torture, rape and killings were all part of the 24 years of Indonesian annexation, yet the demise of a huge proportion of the Timorese population found little protest from Australia over the quarter century.

Intelligence reports were concealed and statements of witnesses were ignored or belittled as Australian governments doggedly pursued appeasement of Indonesia, until 1999 when political realities and a disgusted Australian population caused the reversal of the policy.

Even now, it is officially stated that the Australian position right through the Indonesian occupation was for Timorese self-determination. It is unknown whether this claim is made with a straight face.

Australians in all walks of life, including academics and politicians, would do well to bone up on this history, especially when it comes to the fraught questions over the settlement of a fair and permanent border in the Timor Sea between Timor-Leste and Australia, and Timor's desire to secure management of oil and gas resources in the Timor Sea.

The Timorese are not asking for handouts, special treatment, nor even remembrance of the history. They are simply asking for a fair deal in accordance with current international law.

The NSW Timor Sea Justice Forum has made available a petition asking that the border be finalised as soon as possible. It will be available as an online petition on the parliamentary website in June, but this version is useful in the meantime for those who wish to print it and invite family, friends, neighbours and strangers to sign.

Ordinary Australians rose to the occasion for the Timorese in 1999. It is time to rise again.

[Susan Connelly is a Sister of St Joseph, the Catholic Religious Congregation founded by St Mary MacKillop. After years teaching scripture in Catholic schools and in state schools, she spent 17 years with the Mary MacKillop Institute of East Timorese Studies.]

Source: http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=51257

East Timor needs more than peaceful elections to survive

Global Risk Insights - April 19, 2017

Jeremy Luedi – The successful conclusion of East Timor's 2017 presidential election has been lauded as another positive milestone for the country's fledgling democracy. The recent election was the first to occur without assistance from the international community, and the first since the departure of the UN mission in 2012. Since 2008, East Timor has also been named the most democratic nation in Southeast Asia by the Economist. Such credentials would appear to indicate clear sailing, yet there are growing political risks that need to be addressed if long-term stability is to be realized.

The victory of Francisco Guterres in the 2017 presidential elections highlights several interconnected issues facing East Timorese politics going forward. The first of these is East Timor's increasing tendency towards a one party state with no effective opposition. Since the National Congress for Timorese Construction (CNRT) and Freitilin parties entered into a power-sharing agreement after the 2012 election created a hung parliament, the country's two largest parties have enjoyed an effective monopoly on political power. By mutually supporting each other's candidates and implementing a non-compete agreement, the coalition has been able to maintain control, and is likely to remain in power after the upcoming July 2017 parliamentary elections.

Growing generational divide

With 57% of the vote, Guterres was far ahead of his closest competitor, Antonio da Conceicao at 32.5%. Both the CNRT and Freitilin are composed of revolutionary-era leaders from the region's long struggle against Indonesia. At 70, Guterres' victory reinforces the status quo and highlights the growing lack of consensus between Generation 75 (older, Portuguese speaking leaders who were already established when Indonesia invaded in 1975), and Generation 99 (leaders who came of age in the 1980s and 1990s during the independence struggle).

With the election of Guterres, East Timor's government continues to be dominated by aging Generation 75 leaders, many of whom entered democratic politics after directly transitioning from being armed rebel leaders. Since independence in 1999, resistance-era leaders have used their rebel credentials to attain political office for themselves and their allies. While this trend is understandable, with the country coming up on 20 years of independence, there is growing pressure for a generational shift in leadership, especially among the burgeoning youth demographic.

The 2017 presidential election pitted Generation 75 Gutteres against Generation 99 Conceicao, 53. One of the drafters of the East Timorese constitution who supported Conceicao is Aderito Soares, who explains the results of the 2017 election: "Antonio did very well and it shows that there is a bit of a change in the minds of voters as well. I think Antonio is a new generation from [previous] small political parties [...] I think in the previous election their Democratic Party only got 10 percent, something like that, so I think is a big jump [sic]."

Generation 99 leaders are itching to make their mark on East Timor, and have criticized the direction the country has taken under the leadership of the older cohort. These disagreements were played out during the election campaign, with the opposition emphasizing the need for more sustainable growth and economic diversification. This in contrast to the emphasis on oil over the past two decades, and the government's focus on energy and infrastructure mega-projects.

East Timor's development strategy undermines accountability

Many Timorese are concerned about the country's dependency on oil, with accounted for 60% of GDP in 2014, and 78% of the state budget in 2017. Consequently, "the next five years with new leadership is a critical time because the currently used oil fields are mostly depleted," notes Charles Scheiner, of La'o Hamutuk, a Dili-based think tank. As things stand, the country is on the road to bankruptcy as the government increasingly dips into the national petroleum sovereign wealth fund to cover fiscal shortfalls. At current rates the fund will be depleted within a decade.

The government has in turn set its sights on resolving an outstanding maritime border dispute with Australia, with some positive developments coming over the past 18 months. If this issue can be quickly resolved, East Timor will gain access to the $40 billion Greater Sunrise oil field. The problem is that the cost of developing said field – $2 billion – dwarfs the $1.39 billion 2017 state budget. Critics point that this money could be better spent elsewhere, with the development of the Greater Sunrise field only further entrenching the country's resource curse.

Alongside the Democratic Party, the newly formed People's Liberation Party (PLP) is advocating for more sustainable development, and is calling for a departure from the personality driven politics of CNRT and Freitilin. This call finds fertile ground in the country's growing youth population who have come of age post-1999: two-thirds of the population is under 30. East Timor's youth have no connection to the revolutionary era, and instead see aging former rebels dictating their future, while unemployment stands at 60%, illiteracy at 30%, 70% of the population lacks health care access, and 40% of the nation lives below the poverty line. Moreover, the government's focus on mega projects such as the industrial processing and special economic zone in the Oecusse exclave clash with everyday concerns and needs. Indeed, some 70,000 people, the majority of Oecusse's population, face relocation as the mega-project sprawls across the region.

The focus on oil and gas, as well as mega projects in general does little to improve accountability and transparency in East Timor, which currently ranks 101st in the 2016 Corruption Perception Index. While East Timor made an impressive jump from 132nd to 101st between 2015-2016, the country's score is still dismal, and in line with results from a corruption perception survey which saw 77% of respondents describe corruption in East Timor as 'serious'. While the country legislatively enshrined its Anti-Corruption Commission, the nature of political-economy in East Timor does not remain conducive to good governance. As in other petrostates, a focus on oil and gas concentrates economic power and decision-making, preventing robust oversight and encouraging abuse and rent-seeking.

Revolutionary leadership ill-suited to civilian governance

Similarly, a focus on mega projects over more diversified development further centralizes economic power and provides fertile ground for clientelism and collusion between developers and government, especially in the absence of strong oversight. This is further accentuated by the fact that many top posts are filled by individuals with revolutionary, instead of practical credentials. These leaders, accustomed to leading by force of personality, often forgo formal conventions and regulations, instead preferring to rely on personal discretion in decision making and planning.

Many of these leaders have not successfully transitioned from clandestine to institutional leadership, and as such are ill-suited for bureaucratic postings. This trend is exemplified in the office of the president, which while constitutionally a largely ceremonial role, has seen past occupants regularly overextend beyond their mandate, as they work within a network of fellow revolutionary comrades. This leads to informal and semi-formal mutual understandings and other agreements that blur the boundaries of government posts.

Add to this the expectation of providing for familial connections and nepotism becomes endemic. Another issue is the East Timorese custom of gift-giving, which can morph into corruption when it intersects with government administration. Moreover, corruption is highly apparent in the public financial management sector, something that does not bode well for a country navigating declining revenue streams. These short-comings have been seen in an increase in high-profile corruption trials in recent years, involving a former justice minister, minister of education, finance minister, and vice health minister, to cite a few.

Many of the problems East Timor faces are not unique to the tiny nation, as few leaders have successfully made the leap from guerilla to governor. That being said, the problem is especially pressing in East Timor as the country faces a narrow window in which to transition to more sustainable development practices before it marches off the fiscal cliff.

Source: http://globalriskinsights.com/2017/04/east-timor-more-than-elections-needed/

As maritime agreement with Australia dissolves, Timor-Leste left exposed

The Interpreter - April 13, 2017

Bec Strating – On 10 April this year, the 2006 Certain Maritime Agreement on the Timor Sea (CMATS) was terminated. CMATS was an agreement between Australia and Timor-Leste designed to facilitate development of the contested Greater Sunrise gas field, a 5.1 trillion cubic foot gas field in the Timor Sea.

In January, as part of the ongoing UN Compulsory Conciliation (UNCC) maritime dispute resolution proceedings, Timor-Leste notified Australia of its wish to dissolve CMATS. Australia accepted without threatening the terms of the 2002 Timor Sea Treaty. As a quid pro quo, Timor-Leste abandoned two legal proceedings against Australia.

While this move has revived Australia's obligation to negotiate permanent maritime boundaries, it also exposes Timor-Leste to the risk of losing a considerable share of Greater Sunrise. With the CMATS dissolution, agreement on Greater Sunrise now reverts back to the Timor Sea Treaty and a 2003 International Unitisation agreement. According to an Australian Parliament Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) report, this reversion:

"...amends the allocation of Greater Sunrise between Australia and Timor?Leste. With the termination of CMATS, 80 per cent of the Greater Sunrise unit area falls within Australia's maritime boundary. Of the remaining 20 per cent, Timor-Leste is apportioned 90 per cent, or 18 per cent of the Greater Sunrise complex in total. This is in contrast to the 50 per cent of the total Greater Sunrise Unit Area Timor-Leste had negotiated under the CMATS Treaty."

Ownership of Greater Sunrise is contested, and the arguments about who owns it are legally ambiguous, largely due to the fact that the lateral line that splits Greater Sunrise is drawn to simple equidistance. Maritime boundary expert Professor Clive Schofield told the JSCOT hearing that:

"We now, potentially, have a long negotiation ahead of us until we can reach an agreement. To achieve anything better than that fifty-fifty split, to put the whole of Greater Sunrise on the Timorese side of the line, is drawing a long bow. It is very difficult to think of the factors in maritime delimitation that would lead to that level of shift in that lateral boundary."

It is impossible to divorce the issue of maritime boundaries from Timor-Leste's economic realities and policies, for three reasons.

First, Dili's economic ambitions have driven its policy approach to the Timor Sea, culminating in the CMATS dissolution. Successive Timorese governments have viewed Timor Sea oil and gas reserves as providing the basis for developing local petrochemical refining industries. Dili's Timor Sea policy has been driven by its need to secure permanent maritime boundaries (and ostensibly 'complete sovereignty'), to take possession of Sunrise, and to establish an export pipeline for the purposes of building a petroleum processing industry on the south coast.

Since 2012, Timor-Leste has reactivated its pursuit of maritime boundaries after failing to secure a pipeline. But rather than abandon industrialisation plans in the absence of an agreement with Australia, Timor-Leste's leaders have continued to develop an oil mega-project, Tasi Mane, which has been promoted as one of the Timorese government's highest priorities.

The likelihood of Timor-Leste gaining all or most of Sunrise is slim, so it is unlikely to get a deal unless it compromises on some of its goals. The question, then, is what goals will be sacrificed. Recent reporting casts doubt on how wedded Timor-Leste's leaders are to Tasi Mane, though this report was subsequently denied.

Second, Timor-Leste's capacity to ensure it remains an independent, sovereign, economically viable state relies on its Timor Sea policy. Timor-Leste's formal economy is currently almost entirely dependent on petroleum exports. Timor Sea oil revenues have been crucial for Timor-Leste's independence and economic viability (furnishing 90-95% of state budgets), and enabled Timor-Leste to build a Petroleum Wealth Fund worth US$16 billion. The oil in the JPDA will run dry around 2020-2022. Projections by independent economic monitor La'o Hamutuk suggest that on current spending the wealth fund will last until 2026-2028.

Timor-Leste's capacity to be self-determining depends in part on its economic viability. Heavy loan or aid dependency in the future would compromise its decision-making autonomy. Ensuring future economic viability, and sharing oil and gas wealth across the community in ways that promote political order and human development, is central to securing Timor-Leste's hard fought sovereignty. This will depend on the timely resolution of the Greater Sunrise dispute.

Third, since 2012 Timor-Leste has employed an 'activist' foreign policy strategy characterised by a concerted public relations campaign designed to change Australia's Timor Sea policies through grassroots public pressure. Yet Australia's Timor Sea history provides little basis for optimism for a policy shift from Canberra. While public diplomacy has influenced public narratives in Australia, it has not been enough to shift Canberra into a position inimical to its key interests. Crucially, despite the Timor Sea being cast as a bilateral issue, it is actually a trilateral one, with Indonesia also involved. And Australia's first-order foreign policy priority is not Dili but Jakarta.

It is in the interests of both Australia and Timor-Leste to find a compromise in their negotiations, yet this need is undeniably more intense and urgent for Timor-Leste. Severe oil dependency exacerbates Dili's negotiating vulnerabilities with Australia. Without an agreement, Timor-Leste will be left with very few sources of revenue outside its $16 billion petroleum sovereign wealth fund. An eventual return to aid dependence would undermine political independence and Dili's capacity to advance development goals.

Source: https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/maritime-agreement-australia-dissolves-timor-leste-left-exposed


Home | Site Map | Calendar & Events | News Services | Resources & Links | Contact Us