01 November 2018

Canberra must compensate Timor-Leste for "fraud" in the Timor Sea

WARNING! MACHINE TRANSLATION ORIGINAL TEXT HERE. Australia acted reprehensibly by spying on Timor-Leste when it was negotiating the Timor Sea treaty and for this "fraud" it must compensate the country for the oil and gas revenues it lost, an Australian senator said today.

Co-operator that Australia acted wrongly in 2004. Australian officials defrauded Timor-Leste of oil and gas, and the fraud undoes everything.We should return to a position where neither party is harmed by this fraud," he told Lusa Rex Patrick, Senator of the Center Alliance.

"It is not conceivable to look at someone with whom we shake hands and to whom we have said that we are going to negotiate in good faith," he said, "it is illegal and unthinkable to do so.

Rex Patrick speaking to Lusa in Dili, on the sidelines of an Australian parliamentary visit to East Timor - the first since 2011 - referred to the controversial case denounced by two men currently being tried in a Canberra court.

A former Australian intelligence agent, known as "Witness K" (his identity was never disclosed publicly), and his lawyer, Bernard Collaery, were charged with conspiracy by the authorities in Canberra.

The defendants, who return to court on Thursday, face a maximum sentence of two years in prison if convicted. The Government has argued that given the nature of the content of the case what happens in the court must be 'closed', something challenged by the defense and critics of the decision to accuse the two men.

At issue is a complaint by "Witness K", which issued a 2004 eavesdropping scheme by the Australian secret services in offices of the Timorese Government in Dili.

According to the reports, the Australian Government obtained information to assist them in the negotiations with Timor-Leste of the maritime border and the control of the Greater Sunrise zone, a rich oil and gas reserve.

The case is overshadowing the success of negotiations between Timor-Leste and Australia - initiated after Dili to resort to a mandatory Conciliation Commission under the Law of the Sea - and which led to a treaty definitively delimiting the maritime borders .

Rex Patrick welcomes the new treaty, which he considers to have been negotiated in good faith, argues that it should be ratified, but admits not to agree to the clause in the document which states that there will be no compensation.

"A lot of things happen in negotiations and I think we have reached a balanced solution. But I was surprised that Timor-Leste has agreed not to make any compensation in the future," he said.

"I do not want to suggest that Australia or Timor-Leste should not ratify the treaty, I was only a little surprised that there is no possibility of compensation. I do not know how to compensate, if the money is returned or, in the future, if we adopt a program much stronger external assistance. What I am saying is that you can not have an advantage from a fraud, "he said.

The new treaty, signed in March but not yet ratified, places the borders in the position that Timor-Leste has always claimed, implying that since 2004, Australia has been receiving revenue from resources that it now recognizes as Timorese waters.

Accounts of the Timorese organization La'o Hamutuk estimate that under the previous treaty, which Rex Patrick says had been negotiated in bad faith, Australia received about five billion dollars of East Timorese revenue.

The organization also notes that, until ratification of the new treaty - which is not yet known - Timor-Leste will lose more than $ 5,500 per hour to the Australian coffers, or about four million dollars (3.23 million euros ) per month, equivalent to 10% of the revenues that Canberra still receive.

The Australian senator spoke to Lusa during a five-day visit by an Australian parliamentary delegation, the first to Timor-Leste since 2011.

"Since then we have had some turbulence in the relationship and I think everyone now feels that with the signed [maritime border] treaty it is time to move on to a new phase with greater bilateral interaction," he said.

"We have a position now in which we can build and work as friends," he said.


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