EDITORIAL

Australia must pay reparations for stolen East Timor oil

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The relationship between Australia and the newly independent nation of Timor-Leste is a classic case study of imperialism. The imperialist nation claims to be motivated by “humanitarian concerns” and “generosity” for its poor neighbour while blatantly plundering its resources. The dependent nation is expected the to be grateful for Australian aid, even though the amount involved is much less than what its greedy neighbour steals.

All about oil.  Australia has a long shameful relationship with East Timor. For 24 years, governments — both Coalition and Labor — supported Indonesia’s illegal occupation which resulted in the death of one-third of Timor’s population. Australia was richly rewarded by Indonesia for its services which carved up royalties from oil and gas in the Timor Sea in a deal favourable to Australia. The current “interim arrangements” perpetuate this inequality.

Daylight Robbery. The Laminaria-Corallina oil field is closer to East Timor than Australia.  Australia has collected a cool US$1 billion from this area since Timor’s independence in 1999. East Timor receives nothing. In the same period, the “generous neighbour” spent US$100 million in aid to East Timor. Do the maths! It is easy to see why the East Timorese estimate that for every dollar of aid they receive, the Australia Government pockets $10 — money which rightfully belongs to East Timor.

Opposition grows. The East Timorese have had enough! Earlier this year they formed the Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea to protest this injustice. It demands a that fair border between East Timor and Australia, based on international law, be quickly established and, in the meantime, it wants all funds held in an account to be divided when the new boundary is agreed. Fair enough!

But the East Timorese are asking too little. Australia should pay billions of dollars in reparations for what it has already stolen and also to recognise its quarter-century of complicity with Indonesia’s genocidal occupation. Australia — hands off East Timor’s oil and gas! Stop stalling — negotiate a fair sea border now! Millions in reparations — Australia has East Timorese blood on its hands!

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