24 September 2008

Government unable to champion onshore LNG plant from Greater Sunrise

Frente Revolucionaria do Timor-Leste Independente
Media Release 23 September 2008

Government unable to champion onshore LNG plant from Greater Sunrise – Mari Alkatiri

The de facto AMP government lead by Xanana Gusmao is showing itself to be totally incapable to provide the legal, technical and economic arguments that can convince the Greater Sunrise joint venture partners that a pipeline to Timor-Leste and an onshore LNG processing plant is the best and most viable option for the field's development, said the former Timorese Prime Minister Dr Alkatiri today.

Dr Alkatiri negotiated both the Timor Sea treaty and the Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS) Treaty. He was speaking from Dili today after having met with his parliamentary colleagues to discuss recent developments and media reports that the Greater Sunrise joint venture had decided on Darwin as the location for the LNG plant to process the gas from Greater Sunrise.

"I think that the media reports of a site location decision by the Sunrise joint venture are premature. From recent discussions with Woodside's top executives in charge of the project during a recent visit to Dili, I don't believe the investment decision has been made yet. So the media reports are misleading and mischievous. As far as I can gauge, it is just a lot of noise," Dr Alkatiri said.

"But they are uncomfortable about other noise coming from the Timor-Leste side that may lead them to question whether or not this Timor-Leste government knows the ground rules for the legal and technical process which will guide the discussions on which will be the best and most viable option for developing the Greater Sunrise field. I am worried by statements from people like the de facto Prime Minister and his Secretary of State for Natural Resources that it is a matter for the two governments to discuss. This is just wrong," stressed Dr Alkatiri.

In recent media reports following Mr Gusmao's visit to Australia, where this issue was discussed between Mr Gusmao and Australian Prime Minister Rudd, Mr Gusmao is quoted as having said: "This is an issue for negotiation between the two governments", meaning the governments of Timor-Leste and Australia.

"This is wrong because the Treaty documents set out the criteria, the process and the mechanism for joint decision making. The developers of Greater Sunrise will present a proposal to the Sunrise Treaty Commission which will decide whether or not the development plan meets the technical and economic criteria set out by the treaty. Its not for the two government's to negotiated as this de facto government thinks," added Dr Alkatiri."

Then you add the suspicion arising from the government's signing of hitherto secret agreements with international oil companies who have no legal stake in the Greater Sunrise field. According to the explanation given by the Secretary of State during recent parliamentary hearings, this secret agreement purports to give them rights to market the gas from the field which they do not have, but in fact rests with the downstream contractors.

I think we have a very volatile mix that will place in jeopardy Timor-Leste's chances of getting a pipeline and LNG plant on our shores. This is a goal we all share and we support any government that tries to achieve that. But we have an obligation to speak out when we see actions that could jeopardize our chances," Dr Alkatiri stressed.

Dr Alkatiri repeated his offer that FRETILIN have always been ready, willing and able to contribute with their extensive experience in negotiating these resource-related matters, through an appropriate inclusive and consultative body established for this specific purpose.

"That is how we were able to negotiate the outcomes we did during our government against the odds. We included everyone, civil society, opposition in parliament, the president, everyone," he said in closing.

Contact: Jose Teixeira +670 728 7080 Nilva Guimaraes +670 734 0389

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