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22 January 2009

East Timor parliament votes for heavy fuel oil power station

FRENTE REVOLUCIONARIA DO TIMOR-LESTE INDEPENDENTE

FRETILIN

Media Release

Dili: January 22, 2009

Timor-Leste parliament votes for heavy fuel oil power station - national environmental defenders vow court action


Timor-Leste's national parliament erred constitutionally and legally in
approving funding for the heavy fuel oil power stations proposed by the de
facto Gusmao government, said FRETILIN's parliamentary leader Aniceto
Guterres in Dili today. But Timor-Leste's largest political party in the
parliament, and environmental NGOs, have vowed to take legal action.

The government has been proposing two US$380 million 180 megawatt capacity
power stations, but opposition parties and national environmental defenders
have opposed it on environmental, legal and constitutional grounds.

The first time the proposal was debated in the parliament in June 2008 it
was rejected. But the government ignored this vote and proceeded to sign a
contract with a South Korean company to purchase the second-hand power
stations from China.

FRETILIN is also questioning why an international tender was not held, given
that the purchase involves such a large commitment of funds, and why only an
'expression of interest' process was used.

"We have suspected from the beginning that the power stations were square
pegs that they wanted to force into round holes. So they rigged this call
for 'expressions of interest' so that it would give them the result they
wanted, ignoring other viable proposals to use renewable energy sources in
lieu of heavy fuel," said Aniceto Guterres.

"This is old hardware, outdated and heavy polluting technology. It is also
well in excess of our needs over the next 10 years, will be a heavy drain on
investment funds, and ignores alternative clean and efficient energy
sources, especially hydro-electricity potential for which viability studies
are very advanced already," he said.

"In addition there has been no environmental impact assessment undertaken on
the proposed project as is required by our law for a project of this
magnitude and nature. But it is more than that. Our parliament and
government have a constitutional duty to protect the environment and to
undertake economic development that does not threaten environmental
well being.

"These are very important issues for us because our constitution seeks to
secure our national development in a sustainable form - socially,
economically and ecologically," Guterres said.

Guterres added that Timor-Leste was a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol and
the parliament should take this international legal commitment on
Timor-Leste's part very seriously, rather than ignore it at the first
chance. Timor-Leste ratified the Kyoto Protocol in October 2008.

An Asian Development Bank 'Power Sector Development Plan' for Timor-Leste,
completed in 2002, assessed Timor-Leste's power needs as 110 megawatts in
2025, also taking into account growing industrial demand.

"It's not just us and other opposition parties in the parliament who are
concerned. It is also civil society, including environment specialists
working with NGOs. It seems that again the courts will be the place to hold
this de facto government and its parliamentary allies constitutionally and
legally accountable for their actions," Guterres said in closing.

For information contact: Jose Teixeira MP on +670 728 7080

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