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It's time to give Timor-Leste a fair go!

It's time to give Timor-Leste a fair go!

It's time to give Timor-Leste a fair go.

Last month, Foreign minister Julie Bishop released two statements addressing a case brought by Timor-Leste to the Conciliation Commission under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The case concerns the Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS), which is a finalised agreement on maritime boundaries between Timor-Leste and Australia (2006). Bishop reaffirmed Australia’s endorsement of the agreement through stating that Australia will “not allow emotion to overwhelm the key principles in play”.

The CMATS agreement was made in the wake of Timor-Leste’s independence from Indonesia, a time when the emergent nation was rebuilding following mass devastation from a violent struggle. Approximately 70% of public service infrastructure was destroyed during the occupation. Furthermore, due to delaying tactics employed by Australian diplomats aimed at gaining leverage over the rebuilding nation, the negotiations themselves lasted for a period of four years. These delaying tactics included deliberately sending understaffed diplomacy missions despite having the resources to properly engage in negotiations.

Timor-Leste was highly determined to make a deal to secure their sovereign maritime borders and effectively become Australia’s biggest foreign aid donor. The aid was sent in hope of increasing Australia’s diplomatic capacity in an endeavour to bring a stop to their tactical stalling. Australian intelligence was also found to have bugged the cabinet rooms of government officials under the guise of renovating the offices.

Australia reneged on its legal obligation to UNCLOS just before negotiations began in 2002. Even to this day, Australia still isn't legally bound by the international law regarding maritime boundaries. This precedent helped to establish the CMATS.

Under UNCLOS, Timor-Leste’s sovereignty is entitled to the entirety of the “Joint Petroleum Development Area” and other zones currently shared with Australia. However, Timor-Leste misses out on billions of revenue inflow under the current obstructive agreement.

In 2002, Timor-Leste finally gained their long-overdue independence after struggling under brutal occupations for centuries. It is simply wrong to blatantly bully our neighbours at their most vulnerable. We need to put an end to this.

It’s time to give Timor-Leste a fair go.

Help out our friends at Timor Sea Justice Campaign by sharing or donating to their Fair Go for Timor campaign here: chuffed.org/project/fair-go-for-timor. You can also follow them on Twitter (twitter.com/TimorSeaJustice) for up to date news on the issue.