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East Timor News Digest 9 – September 1-30, 2018

Timor Sea spy scandal Human rights & justice Health & education Analysis & opinion

Timor Sea spy scandal

Senator asks why prosecutors sat on Witness K evidence for three years

The Guardian - September 20, 2018

Christopher Knaus – Prosecutors sat on evidence for three years before charging former spy Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery, parliament has heard.

Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick has used privilege to question whether the case was deliberately delayed to avoid a diplomatic incident between Timor-Leste and Australia during recently completed talks on their maritime boundary, which split up lucrative oil and gas reserves.

Patrick called on the commonwealth director of public prosecutions, Sarah McNaughton SC, to explain the "interesting timing" and questioned whether she and her predecessors held off "until the diplomacy was out of the way".

"The AFP began its investigation on 10 February 2014. One year later, on 18 February 2015, the AFP gave a brief of evidence to the commonwealth director of public prosecutions," Patrick said in the Senate on Wednesday.

"The result – nothing. Zip. Nada. Then in May 2018, three years later, and just weeks after the joint standing committee on treaties finally held public hearings on a new Timor Sea treaty, the CDPP filed charges."

The new information on the delay was made available to Patrick in a series of responses to questions on notice made to the Australian federal police.

The case against Collaery and Witness K relates to their role in revealing an Australian spy operation against Timor-Leste in 2004. The spy operation took place during earlier bilateral negotiations to split up the oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea, and gave Australia a commercial advantage.

Witness K, an Australian Secret Intelligence Service agent, became concerned about the operation, which diverted resources from the Bali bombings. He approached the inspector general of intelligence services. He was permitted to approach an approved lawyer, Collaery. Collaery came to the belief that the operation was unlawful, and helped Timor-Leste mount a case in The Hague.

Earlier this year the pair were charged with illegally disclosing information. Collaery is accused of unlawfully communicating intelligence secrets to journalists. The case appeared in the ACT magistrates court earlier this month. Collaery and Witness K face the possibility of jail if convicted.

Patrick also used his speech to highlight the role of the former foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer and the oil giant Woodside.

He said Downer had played a key role in the oil and gas negotiations with Timor-Leste. Woodside, he said, was a major beneficiary of the exploitation of the Timor Sea gas reserves, known collectively as the Greater Sunrise fields.

"The bottom line here is that Downer (and Woodside) wanted to force East Timor, one of the poorest companies in the world, to surrender most of the revenues from Greater Sunrise, revenue it could have used to deal with its infant mortality rate – currently 45 out of 1,000 children in East Timor don't live past the age of one," Patrick said. "And yet our plan was to deprive them of oil revenue."

Patrick said it was Downer who ordered the spy operation. Downer went to work as a consultant for Woodside in 2008, after leaving office, Patrick said.

He said the senior adviser to Downer at the time of the negotiations was Josh Frydenberg, the current treasurer.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/sep/19/senator-asks-why-prosecutors-sat-on-witness-k-evidence-for-three-years

Labor MP Julian Hill criticises Witness K prosecution

The Guardian - September 18, 2018

Katharine Murphy – The Labor MP Julian Hill has implicitly criticised the prosecution of the former spy Witness K and his lawyer, Bernard Collaery, telling caucus colleagues the attorney general has failed to justify his decision to support the legal action.

Hill raised a number of concerns about the prosecution in the Labor caucus on Tuesday in the first major-party criticism of the controversial case, which centres around the two men blowing the whistle on Australia's spying on Timor-Leste.

The Victorian MP asked whether the shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, could provide an update on the legal proceedings, and whether the case would be tried in open court.

According to people present at Tuesday's meeting, Hill expressed concern about the ongoing failure of the attorney general, Christian Porter, to give reasons for supporting the prosecution.

Hill said Labor had supported a tranche of national security reforms partly on the basis that the package included a safeguard that the attorney general consent to certain prosecutions, but the attorney general had then proceeded with a prosecution without providing detailed explanation.

The Victorian MP also expressed the view that the case should proceed in open court – a position that was endorsed by Dreyfus during Tuesday's debate.

During a hearing last week in Canberra, the counsel for Collaery, Christopher Ward SC, said his client wanted the case conducted "as much in open court as possible".

He said it was "likely or at least possible" that the commonwealth would need to apply for a court order about the handling of national security information because the parties may not agree between themselves.

Counsel for Witness K, Haydn Carmichael, said it was "not in issue" that information that would undermine the anonymity of his client was secret and should not be disclosed.

But he warned that commonwealth agencies' classification of information was "not determinative" and the court would have to form its own view whether disclosure would be likely to prejudice national security and should therefore be prevented.

During Tuesday's caucus debate, two other Labor MPs, Warren Snowden and Luke Gosling, also asked questions about the legal proceeding. Dreyfus agreed to hold a briefing for all MPs concerned about the proceedings later this week.

Labor is under pressure from minor parties and independents to drop the case if it wins the next federal election. The independent Andrew Wilkie and Green Nick McKim have argued the attorney general can stop the case at any time under a power in the Judiciary Act.

As well as the discussion about Witness K, there was also debate in Tuesday's caucus about the trans-Pacific partnership trade pact TPP-11, which the opposition agreed to support last week. Two left-wingers, Victorian Gavin Marshall, and Doug Cameron from New South Wales, attempted to reopen last week's decision to support the TPP.

In a curtain raiser for what is expected to be a significant debate at Labor's national conference about trade liberalisation, one of Tuesday's motions proposed last week's caucus decision be recommitted, and the other said supporting the TPP was inconsistent with Labor's policy platform.

In the ensuing debate, MPs expressed concern about the impact of the TPP on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and about investor state dispute settlement clauses. But members of the NSW right argued against the opposition to the TPP, including shadow ministers Chris Bowen, Jason Clare and Michelle Rowland.

Both motions were defeated on the voices.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/sep/18/labor-mp-julian-hill-criticises-witness-k-prosecution

Witness K case: Labor pressured to promise to drop prosecution of spy

The Guardian - September 13, 2018

Paul Karp – Minor parties and independents have called on Labor to promise to drop the prosecution of former spy Witness K and his lawyer, Bernard Collaery, for blowing the whistle on Australia's spying on Timor-Leste.

The independent MP Andrew Wilkie and the Greens senator Nick McKim made the call at a rally outside the Australian Capital Territory magistrates court ahead of the first directions hearing on Wednesday.

The court heard that commonwealth prosecutors and lawyers for Witness K and Collaery were still attempting to come to an agreement about disclosure of national security information in the case, which was adjourned until 29 October.

Outside the court, Wilkie said the prosecution was "an act of complete and utter bastardry" designed to send a message to other witnesses to crimes by the state not to speak up.

He argued the prosecution was political, citing the fact that the attorney general, Christian Porter, had "acted on only a recommendation from [the commonwealth director of public prosecutions] and has ordered this prosecution".

Both Wilkie and McKim argued the attorney general could stop the case at any time, a power that exists in section 71 of the Judiciary Act.

"There is no doubt that the attorney general has the power right now to cancel these charges and to allow Mr Collaery and Witness K to go free," McKim said.

"We need to understand Labor's position, so that if Labor does win the election... we will know whether Labor will do the right thing... and instruct the DPP to withdraw these charges."

The Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie also targeted the opposition for failing to attend the rally, telling a small but passionate crowd of GetUp volunteers that "one party is missing" and arguing that "Labor needs to come out and support Witness K and Bernard Collaery".

Federal Labor has not expressed a view on the government's decision to allow the prosecution, launched in June, although the New South Wales branch has moved to condemn it as "entirely inappropriate".

The shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, told Guardian Australia: "The charges are serious and it is important to let the judicial process take its course. It would be inappropriate to comment on the specific case while that process is underway."

Earlier, at the rally, Wilkie told the crowd that Australia's decision to bug the Timor-Leste cabinet room was a crime. He said it was "dreadfully improper" to spy on our neighbour, the poorest country in south-east Asia, to get a negotiating advantage.

McKim said the saga was "book-ended by to acts of bastardry": the "deliberate attempt to defraud" Timor-Leste out of its oil and gas revenue and, secondly, the decision to charge Witness K and Collaery, who he said "should be congratulated for their bravery" in blowing the whistle on Australia's spying.

In court the counsel for Collaery, Christopher Ward SC, said his client wanted the case conducted "as much in open court as possible".

He said it was "likely or at least possible" that the commonwealth would need to apply for a court order about the handling of national security information because the parties may not agree between themselves.

Counsel for Witness K, Haydn Carmichael, said it was "not in issue" that information that would undermine the anonymity of his client was secret and should not be disclosed.

But he warned that commonwealth agencies' classification of information was "not determinative" and the court would have to form its own view whether disclosure would be likely to prejudice national security and should therefore be prevented.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/sep/13/witness-k-case-labor-pressured-to-promise-to-drop-prosecution-of-spy-and-lawyer

East Timor spy charges against Bernard Colleary and Witness K reach

ABC News - September 12, 2018

Gordon Taylor – The case of two men charged with revealing that the Australian Government bugged the highest levels of the East Timorese Government has been heard in court for the first time in Canberra, amid calls for the charges to be dropped.

Neither former spy 'Witness K' or his co-accused, lawyer and former ACT attorney-general Bernard Colleary, were present in the ACT Magistrates Court for this afternoon's hearing, however dozens of protesters called on the Federal Government to drop the case against the pair at a rally outside.

The pair were charged earlier this year with conspiring to reveal secret information relating to an incident where Australian Government agents bugged the cabinet room of East Timor during negotiations between the countries on oil and gas.

Witness K and Mr Colleary were charged with conspiring to share information covered by section 39 of the Intelligence Services Act, which covers secrecy and the unauthorised communication of information. The charges could see each man spend up to two years in jail.

Much of the case is shrouded in secrecy, and it is illegal to reveal details of the spying operation or reveal Witness K's identity. It is understood Mr Colleary has been served with a national security order which prevents him from discussing the case or court proceedings.

The court was today open to the public, however the Federal Attorney-General is expected to request that much of the evidence be heard in secret.

Today's proceedings focused on how national security information could be handled as the case proceeded through the courts, and both parties said they would attempt to reach agreement on the matter before the charges are next heard in October.

Outside court this morning, protesters including independent and minor party MPs Andrew Wilkie, Nick McKim and Rebekah Sharkie demanded the charges be dropped.

"It is outrageous that we are doing this, that our government is doing this in our name and not looking deeply at who in the previous Howard government was involved in the spying," Ms Sharkie said.

Mr Wilkie said he had faith the men would be cleared by the court. "Let's just hope now that the justice system in the ACT gives these two men a fair hearing and comes up with the outcome that we would all hope for," he said.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-09-12/witness-k-bernard-colleary-spy-case-reaches-court/10237860

Witness K scandal: Case makes first appearance in court

Brisbane Times - September 12, 2018

Alexandra Back – Lawyers for a Canberra barrister accused of breaching national intelligence laws told a court on Wednesday that they want as much of the trial to take place in open court as possible.

But a laborious court process might be looming over how material that is deemed to disclose sensitive information about Australia's national security will be dealt with.

The case of former Australian spy Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery made its first appearance in the ACT Magistrates Court late on Wednesday afternoon. The former spy and Mr Collaery are accused of conspiring to breach intelligence laws.

Witness K blew the whistle on an illegal bugging operation undertaken by Australian intelligence officers against the Timor-Leste government in 2004. The two nations were in negotiations about how revenue from lucrative oil and gas reserves would be divided.

Witness K took his complaint to the inspector general of intelligence security, and with approval engaged Mr Collaery as his representative. Mr Collaery was charged in relation to his discussions with journalists after ASIO raided his office in 2013.

Mr Collaery and Witness K did not appear in the Canberra court for the case's first mention, leaving Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker to ask: "I have no one to charge... where are we going from here?"

Richard Maidment QC, for the Commonwealth DPP, told Ms Walker that the parties were still hopeful of negotiating a set of agreed orders that would protect the disclosure of national security information.

The orders, which are provided for in national security information laws, are procedural, and deal with commitments by all parties in federal prosecutions to protect sensitive information. Without agreement, a much more laborious court supervised process will be initiated.

Mr Collaery's silk, Christopher Ward QC, who appeared with barrister Ken Archer, told the court it was their position that as much of the trial as possible took place in open court. He said the parties had so far been unable to agree on the orders, and flagged a likely application for the court to become involved.

For Witness K was barrister Haydn Carmichael. He said his client was content with that pseudonym continuing in court and noted that so far on the charge sheet the only classified information was Witness K's name. He agreed that they were hopeful a resolution on the orders would be made.

Dozens of supporters filed into court when the case's first mention started about 4.45pm and Ms Walker called Mr Collaery's matter. But many people were forced to sit on the floor and lean against the walls in the small Court 2 usually reserved for bail hearings.

The mention was finished in 15 minutes. The case was adjourned to October 29.

Earlier on Wednesday, protesters outside the Civic court building called for the criminal charges against Witness K and Mr Collaery to be dropped. The protest, organised by activist group GetUp, attracted dozens of supporters who held signs in support of the former spy and his lawyer.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie and Greens senator Nick McKim all addressed the crowd. Mr Wilkie said if intelligence officials witnessed crimes they had a moral obligation to speak up.

Source: https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/act/witness-k-scandal-case-makes-first-appearance-in-court-20180912-p5037n.html

PM confident of East Timor bugging justice

Australian Associated Press - September 12, 2018

Prime Minister Scott Morrison believes "justice will be served" to a spy-turned-whistleblower who revealed Australia bugged East Timor's cabinet rooms.

Lawyer Bernard Collaery and his client, known only as Witness K, are facing criminal charges of conspiring to communicate secret information. They are due to front the ACT Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

"He'll always get the support from Australia and the consular services that we provide that every Australian can expect," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

"But at the same time, we'll also respect the laws of our neighbours and other countries, particularly those in our region. It's our intention that these things will be conducted in a way that enables justice to be served."

A demonstration led by independent MP Andrew Wilkie and activist group GetUp will take place outside the courthouse, protesting what they believe to be politically-motivated charges against the pair.

Mr Wilkie, along with Greens senator Nick McKim and Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie, are calling on Attorney-General Christian Porter to drop the case.

"The government shouldn't be going after the whistleblower and his lawyer, they should be going after those who broke the law by spying on East Timor in 2004," said Mr Wilkie, a former intelligence analyst.

"This is an act of political bastardry. Thankfully, there are some who are brave enough to speak truth to power."

Mr Porter has previously said the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions sought his permission to lay the charges and he gave consent after "very detailed, very thorough advice".

Witness K, a former Australian Secret Intelligence Service agent, was a key witness for East Timor in a case against Australia over allegations Dili's cabinet rooms were bugged during negotiations over a gas and oil treaty in 2004.

The person was supposed to give evidence at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague but was unable to leave Australia because his passport was seized in 2012.

East Timor dropped the spy case against Australia last year as an act of goodwill before signing a new resources treaty.

Source: https://www.9news.com.au/national/2018/09/12/08/48/pm-confident-of-east-timor-bugging-justice

Human rights & justice

Timor-Leste remembers Indonesia's slain human rights hero

The Diplomat - September 7, 2018

Bikash Kumar Bhattacharya, Dili – "Munir was a genuine friend of the East Timorese people, and all other oppressed peoples across the region," said Diamantino da Costa Freitas.

Freitas was a victim of the Indonesian occupation authorities' abuses in what was once the Indonesian province of Timor Timur, and now the country of Timor-Leste. He was remembering slain human rights activist and lawyer Munir Said Thalib on the 14th anniversary of his death.

On September 7, 2004, Munir Said Thalib, Indonesia's most prominent human rights campaigner at that time, was poisoned to death – allegedly on the orders of the Indonesian state intelligence agency BIN – aboard a Garuda Indonesia plane en route to Amsterdam. Munir was traveling to the Netherlands to study International Humanitarian Law at Utrecht University.

In 2005, Indonesia's Supreme Court convicted former Garuda pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto of murdering Munir and handed down a 20-year sentence, which was later reduced to 14 years. However, on November 28, 2014, Pollycarpus was released on parole after serving eight years in Sukamiskin Penitentiary in Bandung and on August 29, 2018, he was officially declared a free man. Recently, he joined Tommy Suharto's Berakaya Party, stirring outrage in human rights activists across Indonesia.

Human rights campaigners argue Munir's murder can be traced to figures within the country's intelligence community. Muchdi Purwopranojo, a senior official with the BIN, had been in frequent contact with Pollycarpus in the period surrounding Munir's death and was also charged with the murder. But the South Jakarta District Court in 2008 acquitted him of all charges.

Also implicated in the murder but never investigated was former BIN chief Abdullah Mahmud Hendropriyono, a close ally of former President Megawati Sukarnoputri and former chairperson of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). According to U.S. diplomatic cables leaked in 2011, Hendropriyono was involved in the planning of Munir's assassination.

Freitas had met Munir in late 1999 – five years before the latter passed away – in Dili when Munir was visiting the island as a member of the Indonesia's National Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights Violations in East Timor (Komisi Penyelidik Pelanggaran HAM di Timor Timur, or KPP-HAM).

The commission was tasked with investigating the human rights violations and abuses perpetrated by the withdrawing Indonesian forces after the East Timorese massively voted in favor of Timor-Leste's independence in a UN-monitored referendum held on August 30, 1999.

"Munir was calm, composed, and very soft-spoken. He listened to our stories very carefully. He had a lot of empathy for us; he knew what it meant to be without the basic human rights and what a massive tragedy we had been through. He understood the sufferings of the East Timorese," said Freitas.

Munir started off his career as a rights activist when he was studying at Brawijaya University in Malang, East Java. After graduating from the university, he joined the Legal Aid Foundation as a lawyer. In the early years, he was involved in labor advocacy and also played some significant roles as a lawyer striving for justice in certain military-linked cases, such as the 1993 murder of unionist Marsinah and the 1993 Nipah land dispute in Madura.

In 1998, Munir founded the Commission for "the Disappeared" People and Victims of Violence (KontraS), a human rights organization that demanded justice for victims of state abuse and started exposing crimes by the Indonesian military and militias in East Timor in 1999.

Thus, many believe, Munir had over the years become a thorn in the military's side, which prompted his assassination.

A former exile refuses to forget the past

Domingas de Araujo Mendonca is a gardener and flower seller in Dili, and today she looks like any other random street vendor squatting by the streets in the sprawling coastal capital of Timor-Leste.

But three decades ago, when she was only 17, she was already a battle-hardened Fretilin guerrilla fighting for the liberation of Timor-Leste from the yoke of Indonesian occupation that lasted from 1975 to 1999. In 1982, she was captured by the Indonesian military and exiled to Atauro Island for two years.

"I was a member of the clandestine resistance movement. When I was captured by the Indonesian military, I was 17. They tortured me for several months. I was stripped and forced to sit in water tanks, given electric shocks, and sexually abused. Then I was banished to Atauro Island," said Mendonca, who also testified before the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste (CAVR), a truth commission formed to "inquire into human rights violations committed on all sides, between April 1974 and October 1999" in Timor-Leste.

Atauro Island is located 18 miles off Dili on the western Pacific Ocean. During Portuguese colonial times, Atauro served as a notorious prison, housing exiles, prisoners, and dissenters from Portuguese colonies across the world, such as Mozambique, Angola, and Sao Tome and Principe in Africa; Portuguese holdings like Goa in Asia; and Portugal itself. The Indonesians also used the island as a penal colony, as a place to banish captured Timorese resistance fighters, sympathizers and their relatives. It was considered a hellhole for detainees.

Mendonca and her fellow exiles were forced to work on a road on the island, the women collecting rocks from the coast as the men broke them up. Mendonca recalled, "We had to break our backs to work for food and drink. The food we were offered was scant and it was of the worst quality. Those were the toughest days of my life."

After being released in 1984, she settled down on a vacant plot in a corner of Dili and started gardening and selling flowers for her livelihood. Today she feels her suffering has been forgotten by others.

"The bitter experiences I and hundreds of other women like me had had are unforgettable for us. I refuse to forget," she said. "Our country is now independent, but no government official has ever showed up in my door to ask me about my plight. The hope of getting justice for the sufferers like me is fast slipping away."

Mendonca, however, remembers Munir as "one of the few Indonesians who lent support to the East Timorese cause. He spotlighted forceful disappearances, detentions, and banishment by the Indonesian authorities in East Timor and elsewhere in Indonesia under Suharto's military-backed New Order Regime. "I'd love to see justice delivered to his family."

Justice for Munir, justice for Timor-Leste

Even 14 years after the assassination of Munir and 20 years into Indonesia's Reformasi era, resolving Munir's case still remains an unachieved litmus test for successive governments in Jakarta, casting doubt over their commitments to delivering justice for past crimes and human rights violations.

Usman Hamid, a former colleague of Munir in KontraS and now the Indonesia director of Amnesty International, is of the view that the Reformasi has failed on human rights in Indonesia. Despite the status of the government, whether military or not, former police and military generals implicated in past human rights violations have continued to hold power in the past 20 years.

Notwithstanding governments' efforts to do better on human rights in the post-Suharto era, the military, which still had considerable political influence in the parliament, under former President Abdurrahman Wahid's managed to insert an article in the Indonesian constitution endorsing the legal principle of non-retroactive law enforcement.

This effectively prevents future administrations from prosecuting the military for its past human rights violations, including the killings of around 200,000 people from 1975 to 1999 in Timor-Leste, according to Hamid. "This was where the Reformasi officially gave birth to impunity," he said.

Timor-Leste, a tiny fledgling country, on the other hand, can't afford to bear the diplomatic cost of estranging Indonesia, its former subjugator and currently largest neighbor and trade partner, by pushing for stern action in international platforms against Indonesia's generals, military elites, and politicians involved in past crimes on its soil.

Nevertheless, in 2017, Timor-Leste's prominent writer Dadolin Murak wrote a poem titled Jendral in Bahasa, which speaks to the long history of human rights violations in both Indonesia and Timor-Leste. The poem ends with a call for solidarity with Indonesian activists, echoing the solidarity Indonesian activists like Munir had expressed for Timor-Leste back in the 1990s.

Murak said, "I wrote the poem to express my solidarity with the victims of the 1965 tragedy and the ongoing Indonesian human rights struggles. For me, fighting for human rights should transcend national borders."

In the same vein, Freitas said, "A large part of Munir's works pertained to Indonesian authorities' rights violations and state abuses in East Timor, Aceh, and Papua and crossed the boundaries of mainstream Indonesian society. So justice for Munir also means justice for us."

Meanwhile, Suciwati, Munir's widow, has been continuously disappointed by the Indonesian justice system and has stopped pinning all her hopes on the legal process.

Rather, she now looks to achieve what is possible on a social level, such as the launching of Omah Munir, a museum dedicated to Munir's memory in East Java's Batu city. She helped found Omah Munir in 2013 with the help of Munir's former colleagues and friends. One central aim of the museum is to educate people on human rights, which could help foster a better sense and appreciation of human rights in Indonesian society.

"Melawan lupa – oppose forgetting – is our motto," Suciwati said. "Munir is a single chapter in the bigger picture of the long struggle for human rights in Indonesia. I don't want people to forget this struggle. Omah Munir aims to resist forgetting the Indonesian human rights struggle and its crusaders including Munir."

[Reporting for this story was funded by a Reporting Right Livelihood grant from the Sweden-based Right Livelihood Award Foundation. Bikash Kumar Bhattacharya is an independent journalist based in northeastern India. His work has appeared in Buzzfeed, Mongabay.org, Down To Earth, The Diplomat, The NewsLens International, Scroll.in, Earth Island Journal, and Eurasia Review among other publications.]

Source: https://thediplomat.com/2018/09/timor-leste-remembers-indonesias-slain-human-rights-hero/

Health & education

Poverty preventing reduction of tuberculosis

Dili Weekly - September 25, 2018

Paulina Quintao – The Acting General Director for Health Services at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Horacio Sarmento da Costa said socio-economic limitations represent the major problem to the health sector to reduce the incidence of Tuberculosis (TB) across the country.

He said TB continues to be a public health issue in the country because Timor-Leste has higher incidence and mortality rates compared to other countries in Southeast Asia.

He said another big challenge for the fight is that the TB bacteria is already drug-resistant making it more difficult to treat.

"Socio-economic factors are a major issue for us to reduce TB in Timor-Leste, but it is important for us to provide treatment for those who are diagnosed with TB to prevent drug-resistance," he said during the opening of the coordination meeting for the national research on drug-resistant TB at the MoH, in Kaikoli, Dili.

He said the research will be very important so there is accurate data about the incidence of drug-resistant TB in Timor-Leste and so he urged the contribution from the Directors of the Municipal Health and all health facilities across the country for the successful undertaking of the research.

He informed the research will be carried out starting in the month of September, with Manatuto and Ermera municipalities the first to be researched followed by all other municipalities.

On the other hand, Doctor Daniel Murphy said TB is now an endemic disease in Timor-Leste because in 1999 many people lived with people infected with TB bacteria in refugee camps so the bacteria is still endemic until now.

He said TB is now a major issue across the country, and the bacteria can affect human organs including the lungs, liver, skin, lips and other organs but TB can be cured if it is detected and treated early.

"Reducing poverty can also help combating this disease, and we need good management to reduce it so everyone can have jobs, and live in proper places rather than sleeping 5 or 6 together in a room. The bacteria is airborne so everyone in the room will be infected by morning," he said.

He added the early case detection program needs to be more effective to look for people with TB to be placed immediately in treatment because the TB bacteria is already registering high across the country.

Meanwhile, the Chief of the TB program at the Ministry of Health, Constancio Lopes said according to data estimations from the World Health Organization (WHO), between 60 to 100 drug-resistant patients should be being registered annually, but only 3 to 5 TB patients get registered.

He added the research will prove that either the estimation data is higher that it needs to be or that there needs to be more adequate efforts by the Ministry of Health to detect cases.

"The results of the research will serve as evidence for us to develop policies and strategic plans of intervention based on the research," he said.

He said according to data estimation from WHO, the mortality rate of TB in Timor-Leste is of 100 deaths annually by 100,000 people, but in Timor-Leste up to 1,000 people die annually of TB.

He informed that the research will cost $380,000 and will be carried out over six months with funds from the Global Fund.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/16188-poverty-preventing-reduction-of-tuberculosis

CCT to export 2500 tons of coffee in 2018

Dili Weekly - September 10, 2018

Paulina Quintao – The General Manager of Cooperative Cafe Timor (CCT), Sisto Monis Piedade said they will be able to export 2500 tons of Timorese coffee to America, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany in 2018.

He said 800 tons have already been sent out of the country with the rest of the consignment to follow shortly.

He said coffee production so far in 2018 has been good compared to 2017 and CCT has been able to buy 6000 tons of coffee cherries and produce 1000 ton of dry coffee beans for exporting.

"This year we spent $11 million for purchasing coffee beans, for transport fees, and for paying personnel for processing coffee until exporting," he said in his office, Lecidere, Dili.

He said the main problem they face is with infrastructure due to poor road conditions in almost all coffee areas of the country, which makes it difficult for farmers to access markets and this has an impact on the price of coffee.

He informed that they have three coffee farms, two in Ermera and one in Maubisse, in Ainaro municipality, for processing the coffee cherries after they are picked.

He said many farmers also keep their coffee too long before depulping which affects the quality of the coffee.

He added Timor-Leste has many coffee plantation areas in the municipalities of Ermera, Aileu, Liquisa, Bobonaro, Same and some in Ainaro amounting to some 56.000 hectares.

On the other hand, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF), Joaquim Gusmao dos Reis Martins said coffee exports depends on production, which is sometimes high and sometimes low.

He said the dynamics of coffee production has also been affected by climate change and many of the coffee trees in Timor-Leste are old which also impacts on the quality of coffee cherries produced.

"We are now rehabilitating the old coffee trees by planting new coffee trees and shade trees to protect and to produce better quality coffee," he said.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/16105-cct-to-export-2500-tons-of-coffee-in-2018

Analysis & opinion

As Witness K trial opens, questions over how much of spy case to keep

The Conversation - September 13, 2018

Clinton Fernandes – The first step in the trial of the former Australian spy known only as Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery has taken place in the ACT Magistrates Court.

The two are accused of conspiring to reveal that former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer ordered an espionage operation against the government of East Timor in 2004 in order to gain an advantage in oil and gas negotiations with the newly independent state. Lawyers for both defendants faced off against the prosecution in a small courtroom presided over by Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker.

Although the directions hearing lasted only 15 minutes and covered preliminary formalities, enough was said to shed light on what is at stake in the case ahead. The prosecution wants as much of the case as possible to be heard in secret; the defence wants to keep secret only what's necessary to protect Australia's national security.

The prosecution offered "proposed orders" for the magistrate to sign that would effectively ensure a closed trial.

Witness K's lawyer, Haydn Carmichael, responded by supporting the ongoing suppression of K's real name. He said that such "anonymity is desired by him and is also a practical solution to possible questions that might arise as to national security."

To understand the importance of this, it's worth remembering that the Australian Secret Intelligence Service requires a high degree of operational secrecy. It needs to reassure its agents overseas that it will never reveal their identities. If foreign governments were to learn K's real name, they might be able to identify his agents in their countries and take countermeasures against them.

Such governments might also be able to take reprisals against K or his family if the opportunity arose. Failure to keep K's identity secret would also affect ASIS's credibility in its other operations. People who betray their country would no longer dare risk their safety by dealing with Australia's spies.

The opening phase of the trial showed both Collaery and Witness K are fully committed to keeping these key pieces of information secret.

However, Carmichael added that anything on the charge sheet apart from K's real name "is not subject to a claim of national security classification."

Public interest vs national security

The more expansive secrecy desired by the prosecution is another matter altogether. If granted, it would prevent the public from hearing defence evidence that the 2004 bugging operation could itself be considered a crime – a conspiracy to defraud the government of East Timor under Section 334 of the Criminal Code of the ACT.

The defence would be unable to put forth evidence that the operation was planned and ordered in the ACT, as well. This is a much more powerful legal argument than a moral argument against spying for economic purposes.

This is the background of the case: Australia and East Timor met as joint venture partners with consequent mutual fiduciary duties under the 2002 Timor Sea Treaty. They negotiated production sharing contracts, supposedly in good faith.

The espionage operation occurred before and after the October 2004 round of negotiations, when East Timor's Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and Secretary of State Jose Teixeira briefed their cabinet colleagues about their negotiating position. Their briefings were bugged – an action that is alleged to have given Australia's negotiators an unfair advantage.

Cheating or attempting to cheat a joint venture partner in this way is an offence that would carry heavy civil and criminal penalties under the laws of the ACT.

A court order to prevent the public from hearing this would avoid embarrassing the Australian government, but it is arguably irrelevant to national security.

Witness K's lawyer also urged the magistrate to exercise her "independent function" in determining what constitutes grounds for national security exemptions, and not to accept the prosecution's claims at face value.

Underpinning this request is a 1982 case between the Church of Scientology and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. In this case, the High Court was asked to determine whether it could prevent ASIO from investigating the church in circumstances where it claimed it did not pose a risk to security.

The High Court found against the church but added: "The court is not bound by the organization's (ASIO's) opinion as to what constitutes security or what is relevant to it."

Despite claims that intelligence and national security are too complex to be understood outside the intelligence community, courts routinely evaluate far more complex evidence in other areas: elaborate taxation schemes, labyrinthine trust arrangements, recondite mergers and acquisitions, sophisticated forensic evidence in criminal trials, and so on.

According to the defence's argument, the ACT Magistrates Court is within its power to form its own opinion and not defer reflexively to the prosecution's view of what constitutes national security. The case has been adjourned until 29th October.

[Clinton Fernandes is a professor of International and Political Studies, UNSW.]

Source: http://theconversation.com/as-witness-k-trial-opens-questions-over-how-much-of-timor-leste-spying-case-to-keep-secret-from-public-103164

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