Gareth Evans and Ali Alatas drink to Timor Oil Deal 1989
Not since 1989 when Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans gulped
down champagne with Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas over the
Timor Sea have Timorese relations been so bad. In 1989 Timorese watched
as the Australian and Indonesian Governments’ stole the future
prosperity of Timorese by carving up the Timor Sea petroleum deposits
between Canberra and Jakarta.
That was 21 years ago. Since then the Australian Government has come to
the assistance, although unwillingly, of the Timorese people in 1999
and 2006. However, in 2010 relations between Canberra and Dili have
sunk to the point where they can almost no longer to talk to each
other. For example when Australian Foreign Minister Steven Smith
proposed to visit Dili meet Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao in Aileu on 14
May Xanana refused.
This is for many reasons. While the most obvious reason is the
disagreement between the two over the Woodside – Greater Sunrise
polemic there are many other causes.
From Left to Right Gareth Evans, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Foreign
Minister Steven Smith.
Since 1999 the AusAID has provided hundreds of millions of dollars of
support for the development of Timor-Leste, but the people of
Timor-lest are not sure that they have received much good for this
help. Poverty rates increased, political stability declined (ie 2006),
and aid programmes have often failed to provide much. Amazingly, given
its “saviour” role in 1999, the Australian Defence Force has also been
viewed with some suspicion by many Timorese for real and perceived
political biases. The Opposition Party even contends that Canberra in
many ways helped Prime Minister Gusmao unseat former Prime Minister
Alkatiri in 2006. And now Gusmao is spending his days traveling the
country telling the Timorese people, one sub district at a time, that
Canberra and Woodside are stealing Timorese resources once again – over
the Greater Sunrise issue.
Many Timorese argue that AusAID programmes are wasteful and they are
achieving little if anything. Certainly the corruption, poverty,
unemployment figures are all going in the wrong direction. What is
remarkable is that AusAID uses taxpayers money to create accountability
in Timor, but the projects are not accountable for their failures as
accountability is getting worse not better. Some Australian efforts are
worthwhile such as in the water and sanitation and private sector
development areas. But these are rare examples. AusAID puts millions of
dollars into projects in the finance, justice, infrastructure, and
media sectors, which are more destructive and productive. What is wrong?
As the heat rises on Greater Sunrise Timorese and Australians should
realize the people in the mountains are beginning to think its just
like 1989 all over again. In those days Timor was a police state under
the Suharto regime. The Australian Government was happy with that as
they made oil and gas deals with Suharto. Since then the Australian
Government has changed its face, but has it changed its spirit?
When Timorese see Australian Government programmes in Timor, they
usually see high paid consultants on 1000-2500 dollars a day. Giving
Timorese advice and not much more. Timorese need advice for some things
to be sure. But Australians should know that the Government’s agencies
in Dili do not take advice. They should concentrate on the projects
that the Timorese, and not Government, feel are useful. And reconsider
the rest. If this is not done there is a possibility that relations
could get worse.
In 1942 Australian soldiers fought and died alongside Timorese in the
war against Japan. Many more Timorese died that Australians. Those
Australians that owed their lives to the Timorese that were their
comrades in arms never forgot their debt to Timor. Timorese will never
forget the debt of 1999 owed to Australia. But the last Timorese to
fight alongside Australians in World War two died this year. In time
memories of 1999 and the debt owed to Australian will fade. Good
relations are based on history but also the present and the future.
Australia needs to know that the poor relations are not just about
Woodside. There is history here. The history is mostly bad. If the
history is to develop into a better one, pay attention, the time is now.
Posted By TEMPO SEMANAL to TEMPO SEMANAL on 6/03/2010 01:33:00 AM