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15 March 2019

The result of LAP’s constitutionality review: only an article about Maritime Boundary in the law is unconstitutional

The result of LAP’s constitutionality review: only an article about Maritime Boundary in the law is unconstitutional GMN Diario Nacional, March 13, 2019 Language source: Tetun

The Court of Appeals has announced its decision regarding the legality and constitutionality of changes to the Petroleum Activities Law, singling out only an article about Maritime Boundaries Treaty in the law that is unconstitutional.

“I just want to inform that only one article in the changed Petroleum Activities Law that is unconstitutional and against Timor-Leste’s constitution,” Deolindo Dos Santos, the President of Court of Appeals, told media at his office in Kaikoli, Dili on Tuesday (12/03).

The Court rules on changes to the Petroleum Activities Law comes as the government is pressing forward to withdraw US$650 million from the nation’s Petroleum Fund to buy out ConocoPhillips and Royal Dutch Shell’s holdings in Greater Sunrise fields.

The government made the move after the President of the Republic approved the government’s controversial amendment to the country’s Petroleum Activities Law after first vetoing the change amid concern it would lead to misuse of funds.

However, soon after the President of the Republic approved the changes, on January 30, a letter signed by 23 members of parliament from the opposition parties asked the Court of Appeals to review the legality and constitutionality of the changed Petroleum Activities Law.

The oppositions maintained the decree was illegal, and warned its modification risked losing transparency and accountability of petroleum fund use.

Commenting on the Court’s rules, President of National Parliament, Arao Noe said all the changes to the Petroleum Activities Law were constitutional; only one article about Timor-Leste and Australia’s Maritime Boundary Treaty was against the law because National Parliament had not yet ratified the treaty.

“The Court said only one article about Maritime Boundary Treaty is against the law, so others are legal and the government could continue its plan to withdraw money from Petroleum Fund to buy out ConocoPhillips and Shell’s stakes in Greater Sunrise,” Noe said.

The purchase of Shell’s 26.56 percent and ConocoPhillips’ 30 percent stakes in the project will allow Timor-Leste to push for development of the field and its gas-processing industry in the southern coast of the country.

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