Paulina Quintao The Vice Minister of Health, Bonifacio dos Reis, said the Ministry of Health (MoH) will continue to promote the global HIV/AIDS prevention method of ABC, Abstinence (A), Be faithful (B), or use a Condom (C), to prevent the transmission of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
He added that from a health perspective, promoting condom use is important as a last resort in the prevention of HIV infection and that condoms are currently available at all health facilities.
He acknowledged that within Timorese society, it is still a taboo to discuss condom use but he believes condoms prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) when people lose self-control.
"When we talk about prevention, the best way is to abstain or not have more than one sexual partner, but if this fails, using a condom will prevent sexually transmitted diseases," he said in Dili.
He said unless people use condoms it will be difficult to reduce the number of STD's in the country.
He added nonetheless that even though the health sector will continue to promote the use of condoms to prevent HIV and other STD's that this does not mean condoms will be distributed to the public arbitrarily.
He said condoms not only prevent STD's but can be also used as a family planning method. The vice minister also appealed to the public, especially to young people, to avoid risk behaviours including free sex that may lead to the transmission of STD's including HIV.
Meanwhile, the Director of the Organization Estrela Plus, Ines Lopes, said the ABC method is a globally proven method for HIV prevention.
She said that sexually transmitted infections have increased every year in Timor-Leste and that using a condom is the way to stop the transmission of STD's.
"But we also need to deliver education prevention activities and raise awareness about this issue in the community, but in the end, it will be up to the community to choose what works for them" she said.
Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary for the National Commission for Combatting HIV/AIDS in Timor-Leste, Daniel Marcal, said the commission does not promote condom use in its campaign efforts, because condom use does not provide 100% guarantee in the prevention of the HIV virus transmission.
He said that many countries promote condom use and yet HIV cases continue to be identified and are on the increase, so Timor-Leste needs to consider this issue.
"Condom use does not 100% solve the HIV virus transmission. We will only be able to solve the issue 100% by providing information about changing risk behaviours and to give moral support and counselling. This we will continue to do," he said.
He does not believe the rise in the number of HIV cases in Timor-Leste is not due to the Commission not promoting condom use, but it is because more people are aware they should be tested and find out their HIV status.
World AIDS Day, has been marked every year on 1 December since 1988, and is an international day designated to raise awareness, including in Timor-Leste, of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and mourning those who have died of the disease.
Paulina Quintao The President for the Special Olympics, Maria Domingas Fernandes Alves, said people with disabilities, including intellectual, vision, and hearing, and with other physical disabilities and impairments, need special attention and conditions to move and to be able to actively participate in society so there is a need for a National Council for People with Disabilities to advocate for issues affecting this community.
She said for example, people with intellectual disabilities will require special assistance with their health, with education and in other areas.
"I am always talking with them. We need to establish the National Commission for people with disabilities, to make them a priority because they are often left behind. It will be difficult to give them the same consideration as people without disabilities," she said during the celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities organized by the Special Olympics Organization at Hotel Luz Clarita, in Dili.
She said people with disabilities may face discrimination, but it should be positive discrimination not negative.
She added for example, women's organizations fought for equal rights to get involved in politics, so the 30% of gender quota was established to ensure women and men have the same rights.
She informed that the major obstacle facing people with disabilities is their movement, because there aren't facilities enabling their movement in public spaces.
On the other hand, the National Director for Social Assistance, Mateus da Silva, said the draft law on the establishment of the National Council for People with Disabilities has been completed, but has not been discussed and approved by the Council Ministers.
He said once the draft law is approved, the structure of the council will be formed to provide advocacy services on disability issues.
"We are now creating certain conditions, including for the establishment of the National Council and to ratify the international convention on persons with disabilities," he said.
He informed that the government has managed to develop a policy of inclusion, and for the promotion and protection of persons with disabilities, which will serve as a guideline for advocacy on disability with line ministries and to be considered in their plans and programs.
According to the Population and Housing Census of 2015, there are over 38,000 people living with disabilities in Timor-Leste.
Jakarta Presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto says that the elite in Jakarta do not understand the Indonesian people's struggle to defend the sovereignty of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI), including the struggle of former pro-integration militia in East Timor.
This was conveyed by Prabowo when he met with former East Timorese pro-integration militia and veterans of the Seroja military operation in August 1975, when Indonesian troops invaded East Timor. The meeting took place in Atambua, Belu regency, East Nusa Tenggara on Thursday December 27.
"Many of the elite in Jakarta don't understand the struggle and sacrifices of our brothers in arms. Let alone your sacrifices or the suffering of the Indonesian people elsewhere", said Prabowo in a written release by the Prabowo-Sandiaga Media Team Centre.
Prabowo claimed that he has long wanted to visit Atambua to meet with his former comrades in struggle. Only now however has the Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) chairperson been able to come and reminisce with his old comrades.
"I see the faces of old comrades, comrades who fought under the red-and-white [national] flag and I understand that your sacrifices were huge and your struggle was truly extraordinary", said Prabowo who did four tours of East Timor when he was still an active member of ABRI [the Indonesian Armed Forces, now the TNI].
Prabowo said he was proud of the loyalty of ordinary Indonesian people in East Timor who have now moved to and live in Atambua. Prabowo pledged to bring justice and prosperity to all Indonesian people.
"This struggle was not just talk, but sacrifices which were realised by concrete actions for the NKRI. And I will continue to fight for you", he said.
As well as meeting with his old comrades in Atambua, Prabowo found time to make a devotional visit to the grave of Joao Tavares, who was the commander of the East Timor pro-integration militia and is buried at the Seroja Heroes Cemetery in Atambua.
Prabowo scattered flowers on his grave and shook hands with Tavares' family members who were waiting for him in front of the grave. Prabowo, with devotion and reverence, also said a prayer for the other national fighters who are buried at the Seroja cemetery.
"We must remember the service of those who are our heroes. They had the courage to sacrifice their souls and their bodies to defend the nation and state of Indonesia. And their spirit of nationalism must become an example to be followed by all Indonesian people", said Prabowo.
After visiting the grave, the former Army Special Forces (Kopassus) commander shook hands with Atambua residents who were at the Seroja cemetery. Prabowo even picked up a child who had been brought to the cemetery by their parents to meet with Prabowo.
"Wow amazing, what's your name, nak [kid]? When you're grown up you must be a hero to your parents, for your nation and your country", said Prabowo as he held the child.
During his visit to Atambua, Prabowo was accompanied by leaders of his presidential election campaign team such as Farry Djemi Francis, Hashim Djojohadikusumo and Sugiono. (arh)
In 2003 the United Nations Special Crimes Unit in East Timor charged former militia commander Joao Tavares the overall leader of the pro-integration militia forces in East Timor for atrocities committed before and after a UN sponsored vote for independence from Indonesia in August 1999.
Hamish McDonald When Australia and East Timor settled maritime boundary dispute in March, guided by conciliators from The Hague, it seemed the way was now clear to develop the big Greater Sunrise petroleum field under the Timor Sea and thus sustain the new state for decades.
But now there is a deepening wrangle about how to exploit Greater Sunrise. East Timor's former guerrilla leader and first president, Xanana Gusmao, remains in charge of Timor Sea matters in Dili. He's pushing ahead with a $US15 billion ($21 billion) scheme for a liquefied natural gas plant on the island's rugged south coast, fed by gas piped from Greater Sunrise.
Because of this, oil companies with the development rights to Greater Sunrise are now heading for the exit. They see Gusmao's scheme, known as Tasi Mane from the Tetum name for the sea, as commercially risky and technically dangerous.
A pipeline across the unstable 3,000-metre deep Timor Trench between Greater Sunrise and the Timor coast carries a high risk of catastrophe, says Marc Moszkowski, whose Florida-based undersea pipeline company DeepGulf surveyed the pipeline route for the government in Dili, which has not released the findings.
A sudden rush of water into the pipeline as it was being laid could capsize the pipe-laying vessel. Because no compressor exists that is powerful enough to expel water 3,000 metres down, a flooded pipeline would then have to be abandoned.
In October, ConocoPhillips said it would sell its 30 per cent share to East Timor's state oil company, TimorGAP, for US$350 million. Last month, Royal Dutch Shell, said it would sell its 26.56 per cent share to the Timor company for US$300 million.
The remaining partners Australia's Woodside Petroleum with 33.44 per cent and Japan's Osaka Gas with 10 per cent can pre-empt these deals, but Gusmao says they have waived this right.
However, Woodside also wants no part of Gusmao's project. In October, its chief executive Peter Coleman suggested a way his company might detach itself from Tasi Mane. Greater Sunrise development could be split into two phases. The first, costing US$2 billion, would be wells and platforms, and storage-offloading tanker, to extract petroleum liquids, worth between US$15 billion and US$17 billion. Any natural gas would be reinjected into the wells, pending a decision where it should be piped.
Coleman was effectively saying to Gusmao: if you want the gas, you have to pay for the pipeline and onshore facilities such as the LNG plant at Beacu, and then handle the exports. The point of sale for the companies would be the production platforms.
Woodside's preferred option is sending the dry gas through a new 210 kilometre pipeline in relatively shallow water to connect with an existing pipeline from Bayu-Undan to the ConocoPhillips LNG plant in Darwin. Or it could be simply put into the Australian pipeline grid. Either way East Timor would get 90 per cent of royalties, without a huge development cost.
But asked recently on Dili television about those who questioned the cost or feasibility of Tasi Mane, Gusmao said "I don't care" and viewers should just trust "I will win" as he did in the independence struggle.
East Timor's government is not standing in the way, even though new Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak, another former guerrilla leader, had been critical of Gusmao's grandiose scheme in his former role as the country's head of state.
Indeed, funding for the ConocoPhillips purchase is now included in its 2019 budget, as presumably will be the Shell purchase. The laws governing the sovereign Petroleum Fund have been changed to allow Gusmao to tap it for Tasi Mane.
The only serious questioning inside East Timor is coming from La'o Hamutuk, a non-government organisation in Dili. It says it has "serious doubts" the benefits will outweigh the costs. "We have repeatedly asked the managers of the project for the assumptions and data that make them so optimistic."
La'o Hamutuk's estimate of Tasi Mane's total cost including the ConocoPhilips and Shell acquisitions, the 56 per cent share of offshore development, the pipeline, the LNG plant at Beacu and support facilities comes to US$15.85 billion.
This is roughly the present size of the Petroleum Fund. Gusmao is thus betting the house on his scheme.
Moszkowski says the flight of oil majors, selling out at discounted prices, should signal something. Even oil majors team up to dilute the risk and capital requirements for projects this size, he said. TimorGAP had zero production and zero revenue except subsidies. Now one of the world's tiniest state oil firms was trying to get a majority interest in a US$25 billion project.
Who might step in to help fund it? The only possibility is China, Moszkowski thinks. "But it is unlikely China would sink US$25 billion in a money-losing scheme if she does not get something valuable in return." This could be access for its navy to the new Suai port and for its air force to the large Baucau airfield both right on the approaches to Darwin.
Such strategic nightmares aside, Australia should be worried about a potential repeat of Indonesia's Sukarno years in its neighbouring quasi-protectorate: a revolutionary figure taking his country into bankruptcy, probably followed by political upheaval.
Instead, Canberra perpetuates the distraction of its sharp legal-diplomatic practices against fragile new regimes, Indonesia's in 1972 and East Timor's in 2004, to secure Greater Sunrise. This is the result of its ongoing prosecution of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service officer known as Witness K and the eminent lawyer Bernard Collaery, over disclosure that ASIS bugged East Timor's cabinet room during the 2004 maritime negotiations.
Even without this reminder, Canberra would be struggling to convince Dili's leaders its advice was disinterested. East Timor's supporters in civil society should step up to persuade them against this ruinous project.
Damien Kingsbury Timor-Leste started the year in political chaos and ended it with a return to the confrontational politics of the past.
Cooperation between the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) and the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin), which had together run the country since 2015 under a 'government of national unity', was shattered following the July 2017 elections.
The aftermath of the elections saw Timor-Leste enter 2018 with a majority opposition alliance, which blocked the minority Fretilin government's budget and called on President Francisco 'Lu-Olo' Guterres to install it in office. Guterres who is also President of Fretilin and was elected with key cross-party support in the final months of the government of national unity refused. Instead, he called fresh elections for May 2018.
The 2018 elections returned the opposition Alliance of Change for Progress (AMP) coalition comprised of the CRNT, the People's Liberation Party and the Kmanek Haburas Unidade Nasional Timor Oan (or KHUNTO) as the new government. But following allegations of corruption against eight proposed ministers, Guterres refused to swear them in.
Three other proposed ministers refused to be sworn in as a show of support for their colleagues, leaving Timor-Leste without ministers of finance, health and natural resources, among others. Guterres also signaled that he would refuse to enact the government's proposed 2019 budget. The government in turn refused to approve a visit by Guterres to the Vatican, saying that domestic matters took precedence.
Guterres' rejection of the budget reflected his concern over Timor-Leste's financial sustainability and opposition to the government's use of central bank funds to further its ambitious Tasi Mane development project. The government required an unavailable two-thirds majority to overrule the President's proposed veto.
The government intended to establish a liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing plant on Timor-Leste's Tasi Mane south coast to kick-start a petrochemical industry that could provide jobs and income into the country's future. But the Greater Sunrise joint venture partners, who hold the rights to develop the energy reserves, rejected the proposal as unfeasible. A major issue was the plan to build a 150-kilometre undersea pipeline, which would have had to cross the deep-sea Timor Trough.
The Timor-Leste government spent US$350 million in October 2018 to purchase ConocoPhillips' 30 per cent stake in Greater Sunrise. And in late November, an agreement was reached for the government to buy Royal Dutch Shell's 26.56 per cent stake for US$300 million, bringing the government's total holding in the project to 56.56 per cent.
Yet Timor-Leste's 2005 Petroleum Activities Law restricts the state to a maximum of 20 per cent equity in the project. Timor-Leste may need to sell some of its stake to a new partner, possibly from China or South Korea.
The remaining Greater Sunrise partners, Woodside Petroleum and Osaka Gas, oppose the idea of a south coast processing facility. If the plan is to proceed, this could leave the roughly US$5 billion cost of development to the Timor-Leste government, or to new partners.
The government's purchase of a stake in Greater Sunrise followed the establishment of a permanent maritime boundary between Australia and Timor-Leste in March 2018. The agreement allocated 70 per cent of the revenue from Greater Sunrise to Timor-Leste if the LNG is processed there, or 80 per cent if it is processed at an offshore facility.
Processing the LNG onshore is a key ambition of government Special Representative Xanana Gusmao, who was the country's first president and second prime minister. As Timor-Leste's key political figure, Gusmao coordinated opposition to the former Fretilin government and brought together the parties of the 2018 AMP government.
The governments that Gusmao led or effectively controlled since 2007 have withdrawn well beyond sustainable amounts from the country's US$17 billion sovereign wealth fund the Petroleum Fund. Successive budgets have spent between two and three times the sustainable limit, meaning the government has drawn on capital as well as interest from the fund.
Income into the fund is reducing as oil fields in the Timor Sea dry up, with the last field expected to close by 2022. The Petroleum Fund currently pays for 95 per cent of all state activities, which in turn supports more than 70 per cent of all economic activity. Yet at current rates of government spending, the Petroleum Fund will be fully depleted before the end of the 2020s. This outlook has led to and in turn, is exacerbated by the government's push to gamble on investing in Greater Sunrise and the Tasi Mane project.
The high cost of this development set against a limited financial reserve and its questionable prospects of success have motivated Fretilin and the incumbent Guterres to be more financially cautious. Meanwhile, historical disputes between Gusmao and the three parties he was able to bring into alliance against Fretilin continue to mark their relations, only compounded by increasingly stark differences in their approach to how best secure Timor-Leste's challenged future.
Viji Menon In March 2018, Timor-Leste and Australia signed a treaty resolving the issue of the long-disputed maritime boundaries between the two countries.
This treaty recognised Australia's and Timor-Leste's shared sovereign rights over the resources in the Greater Sunrise field. Timor-Leste is to get 70-80% of revenues from the field. What was not resolved was the issue of how these resources would be developed: through a pipeline to the south-east coast of Timor-Leste or to an existing LNG facility in Darwin in Australia.
Discussions continued between Timor-Leste and the joint venture. The option preferred by Timor-Leste is a pipeline from Greater Sunrise to an onshore processing facility on Timor-Leste's south coast facing the Timor Sea (Tase Mane project). Timorese leaders want to develop this area as a sub-regional centre for the petroleum industry, providing direct economic dividends for the country. The oil companies have expressed a preference for a pipeline to Darwin as it claims that a pipeline to the south of Timor-Leste will be too costly and not commercially viable.
Little progress was made in these negotiations with the oil companies. In late September 2018, it was announced that former President and Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, the main negotiator on the maritime boundary negotiations, had signed a deal with Conoco Phillips (US) to buy its 30% share in the joint venture for US$350 million.
Gusmao, whose coalition forms the current government, appealed to all political parties for support. As the development of the Greater Sunrise field was important for the country, he told the media that "we need to trust each other and see eye-to-eye, if not, it is hard to develop our country".
All political parties in Timor-Leste want the pipeline to come to Timor-Leste. This is a matter of national pride and it is unpatriotic to oppose it. Former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, head of the Fretilin party, now in the opposition, said last year that "we firmly maintain our position that the gas pipeline must come to Timor-Leste."
The Fretilin's position was supported by other opposition parties in parliament. However no party in parliament raised the issue of how the buy-out would be funded.
On 21 November, it was announced that Timor-Leste had signed an agreement with Shell to buy its share (26.6%) in the joint venture for $300 million. With this move, Timor-Leste now owns the majority stake, 56.6 percent, in the joint venture. It would be difficult for the remaining companies, Woodside (Australia) or Osaka Gas (Japan) to veto its plans.
Following the buy-out of Conoco Phillips' 30% share in the joint venture, the Dili Government submitted to parliament an amendment to the Petroleum Activities Law allowing the State to participate in a joint venture with a share larger than 20%. On 14 November, parliament approved the amendment, with 38 votes in favour and 23 against, with Fretilin voting against the amendment. It said the deal was "illegal" as it had violated the 20% limit provided in the 2005 Law.
The $1.83 billion budget for 2019 includes $350 million for the buy-out of Conoco Phillips' share. On 22 November, Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak told the media that although included in the budget, the funds would be taken out of the Petroleum Fund. He also added that the government had not made any decision on the $300 million for buying out Shell's share.
According to La'o Hamutuk, a local NGO that monitors closely all petroleum-related activities, Timor-Leste will have to invest at least $14 billion in capital expenditures to develop the Sunrise and Tasi Mane projects. The NGO has expressed concern "that the issue has financial, economic, environmental and social consequences which will be longer-lasting and more impactful than temporary patriotic emotion".
It has serious doubts that the benefits of bringing the pipeline to Timor-Leste are enough to justify its huge costs, risks and social impacts. However, the government believes that spinoff jobs, contracts and local economic development on the Tasi Mane coast will more than compensate for the higher costs and risks of bringing the pipeline to Timor-Leste.
Some political leaders have suggested that most of this money should be invested directly by the Petroleum Fund, rather than taken as an expenditure through the State Budget. Although Article 15 of the Fund allows up to 5% of the Fund (about $800 million) to be invested in "other eligible investments" approved by the Minister of Finance (which could include petroleum projects), the article also requires that all investments must be located outside of Timor-Leste.
While this law could be amended in future, the revenues in the Petroleum Fund will also be gradually depleted. The Bayu-Undan field is currently the main source of revenue for the Fund but is expected to end production by 2020 or 2022. It is therefore unclear as to where the funding for these projects will come from.
According to oil industry sources, Timorese officials are currently having discussions with Chinese and Korean oil companies. There has been speculation that Timor-Leste could seek concessional loans from China, in return for drilling rights or establishing port facilities.
With the current US sanctions on Iranian oil exports and China's insatiable demand for energy, Timor-Leste's oil resources could appear attractive. Although there is no concrete evidence at present that China would be interested in investing in the oil sector in Timor-Leste, it is a development that bears close watching, especially given its current drive to increase its presence and influence in the south Pacific.