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East Timor News Digest 10 – October 1-31, 2018

Timor Sea spy scandal Freedom of information & press Labour & migrant workers Health & education Women's rights & gender Foreign affairs & trade Mining & energy Economy & investment Analysis & opinion

Timor Sea spy scandal

Witness K case: watchdog investigates Australia's spying on Timor-Leste

The Guardian - October 31, 2018

Christopher Knaus and Jessica Bassano – The nation's spy watchdog is carefully considering a complaint alleging Australia broke the law when it bugged Timor-Leste's cabinet during lucrative oil and gas negotiations, documents show.

Earlier this month, a group of prominent crossbenchers wrote to Margaret Stone, the inspector general of intelligence services (IGIS), asking her to investigate whether the 2004 mission to spy on Timor-Leste broke intelligence laws.

The operation, mounted by Australian Secret Intelligence Service (Asis) agents, helped give Australia an edge during talks with the fledgeling nation to carve up the vast oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea.

The two men who helped reveal the existence of the operation – former Asis agent, Witness K, and his lawyer, Bernard Collaery – are currently being prosecuted for disclosing intelligence secrets.

In an early response to the complaint, Stone said she was working through the issues raised by the crossbenchers.

"The matters you raise deserve careful consideration and a thorough review of the legal position. I will contact you again as soon as I have done this," she wrote to the crossbenchers.

When asked about the matter, Stone told Guardian Australia she was unable to comment on ongoing investigations. The complaint was made jointly by Andrew Wilkie, Rex Patrick, Nick McKim and Tim Storer.

"We would urge you to undertake a prompt inquiry, including examination of all relevant records as well as interviews of relevant persons, to determine whether Asis's actions or associated planning, preparation and approvals were in conformity with the purposes of the agency as set out in the Intelligence Services Act," they wrote.

The crossbenchers had made a previous complaint to the Australian federal police alleging Australia had conspired to defraud Timor-Leste. They were told the matter was best directed to the IGIS.

Patrick said he was heartened that the IGIS was taking the complaint seriously. The Centre Alliance senator is currently in Timor-Leste discussing the prospect of an award for Witness K and Collaery. He said "officials have been open to this idea".

"This illegal and very un-Australian affair must be looked into properly and the perpetrators brought before the courts," he said. "It is my very strong and considered view that Witness K and Collaery are simultaneously Australian and Timor-Leste heroes."

Wilkie said: "I'm pleased the IGIS is taking our approach seriously and considering the matter."

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/oct/31/witness-k-case-watchdog-investigates-australias-spying-on-timor-leste

Australia's 'Watergate' outcry on spy case

Australian Associated Press - October 29, 2018

The case against a spy-turned-whistleblower and his lawyer is Australia's "Watergate" and should be kicked out of court, crossbench MPs and senators say.

Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick has joined MPs Andrew Wilkie and Rebekha Sharkie in demanding all commonwealth charges against a man, known only as Witness K, and his lawyer Bernard Collaery to be dropped.

The pair are facing criminal charges of conspiring to communicate secret information after revealing Australia bugged East Timor's cabinet rooms in 2004.

Ms Sharkie, who on Sunday likened it to America's Watergate scandal, is hoping Labor will be willing to consider talking about the case to heap pressure on the government.

Senator Patrick is visiting Dili this week as part of a parliamentary delegation and says it is "sadly ironic" he would be in the East Timorese capital at the same time the case is due back in court.

"Witness K exposed the morally bankrupt nature of Australian policy towards our small and impoverished neighbour," Senator Patrick said. "It is a disgrace that the attorney-general authorised this highly political and internationally sensitive prosecution to proceed."

The matter was due back at ACT Magistrates Court on Monday, but has been delayed until at least Thursday. The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions told AAP a new date and time is yet-to-be confirmed for the hearing but would "most likely" be later this week.

Greens senator Nick McKim has been another vocal critic of the prosecution, joining in a rally outside court before a brief directions hearing on September 12.

They have all argued Attorney-General Christian Porter should step in and drop what they believed to be politically motivated charges against the pair. Mr Wilkie said Witness K was a "hero" who had shined a light on misconduct.

Mr Porter previously said the CDPP 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 over allegations Dili's cabinet rooms were bugged during negotiations over a gas and oil treaty.

Source: https://www.9news.com.au/2018/10/29/12/46/timor-bugging-case-a-disgrace-senator

Freedom of information & press

Timor-Leste state media group sacks editor over role on Press Council

Asia Pacific Report - October 14, 2018

The news editor for National Media Group (GMN) in Timor-Leste has been dismissed due to his role as the TL Press Union (TLPU) representative on the country's Press Council.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the TLPU has condemned the dismissal of the editor as "outrageous" and called for his immediate reinstatement.

Francisco Simoes Belo, news editor of GMN received a letter from GMN information director Francedes Sun on September 27 stating that he was dismissed from his position because his role with the Press Council did not benefit GMN, according to a report by the IFJ Asia-Pacific website.

The letter also said that Belo "could not concentrate" on the GMN newsroom while he was representing journalists at the Press Council.

Belo was elected by TLPU members to represent TLPU on the Press Council. He has registered his case and mediation is due to begin on October 29.

The IFJ said: "The sacking of a journalist for simply fighting for the rights of fellow journalists is outrageous. Francisco has worked hard for journalists across Timor-Leste, and should not be punished for this work. We demand GMN immediately reinstate his employment."

Source: https://asiapacificreport.nz/2018/10/14/timor-leste-state-media-group-sacks-editor-over-role-on-press-council/

Labour & migrant workers

Lack of industry driving youth unemployment up in TL

Dili Weekly - October 1, 2018

Estevao Nuno – The Head of the Vocational Training Providers Department (DFFP), Leonor Bernado said the rates of unemployment in the country continue to rise due to the lack of industry that can provide employment to the youth of Timor-Leste.

The President of the Youth Council from Dili municipality (KJMD), Manecas Lobo dos Santos asked the Secretariat of State for Professional Training and Employment (SEFOPE) to fix some of the challenges Timorese youth face including related to employment opportunities in the country over the next five years.

"Every year the vocational training centres graduate many skilled youth in several areas, but there are limited job opportunities in our country," she said in Dili.

She added based on data from the DFPP, some 8,597 young people received vocational and professional training at the 25 accredited training centres operating in Timor-Leste, from 2013-2017.

"From this number, only 806 have found employment while all the others are still unemployed because there aren't industries to create jobs to absorb them," she said.

He added there are in total 96 vocational and professional training centres across the country but only 25 centres have been accredited by the government, while the others have not received their accreditation.

"All of our youth have skills, but there are limited jobs. Now our country is also full of foreigners and the government has a duty to address this issue," she said.

Meanwhile, the President of the Youth Council from Dili municipality (KJMD), Manecas Lobo dos Santos asked the Secretariat of State for Professional Training and Employment (SEFOPE) to fix some of the challenges Timorese youth face including related to employment opportunities in the country over the next five years.

"I ask the VIII government to fix the living conditions of young people because they are the future of the nation and we need to create job opportunities in the tourism, agriculture, sports and other sectors," he urged.

On the other hand, the Director for the National Centre for Professional Training of Becora, Lourenco Gusmao said SenaiNT Centre has managed to graduate 3,939 skilled young people.

"Our centre was established in 2001 and provides training in various areas such as electrical, plumbing, welding, bricklaying, sewing, AC maintenance, mechanics for cars and motorcycles and Information Technology (IT)," he said.

He added 25% of SenaiNT graduates are currently employed working for NGOs and other State institutions.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/16234-lack-of-industry-driving-youth-unemployment-up-in-tl

Health & education

FONGTIL challenges government to fix water woes

Dili Weekly - October 15, 2018

Paulina Quintao – The Forum of Non-Governmental Organizations of Timor-Leste (FONGTIL or NGO Forum) challenges the new government and its commitment to solve water issues across the country, 16 years on since the country gained independence given communities continue to complain about lack of access to clean water.

The Director of FONGTIL, Daniel Santos do Carmo said so far successive governments have prioritised physical development, including large infrastructure projects and electricity, but people's other fundamental rights to education, health, and clean water, continue to be a challenge for the community.

He said the big infrastructure developments, such as airports, highways, and the ports are necessary, however, people also have an urgent need to address basic needs.

"Our problem is actually not the lack of water, but the poor water systems that exist and lack of maintenance," he said in his office, Kaikoli, Dili.

He added so far, the government and its development partners res-ponsible for water and facilitating water networks in the municipalities, also established Water Facility Management Groups, but these groups are left with no support to ensure their water systems do not break down.

He hopes the new government will support the people, and allocate the necessary funds to all sectors, including agriculture, education, health, and infrastructure.

He said it is necessary for the government to create sound policies to preserve and conserve water sources and to socialise in the community about the importance of water to life.

In reply the Minister of Public works, Salvador dos Reis Pires said the government already has a master plan for water for the municipalities of Dili, Baucau, Lautem, Viqueque, and Manufahi that has not yet been implemented.

"We intend to invest in clean water in 2019. We will begin with a viability study to validate the amount of funds we will need to invest," he said.

He said in the interim, as a short-term measure, the government intends to rehabilitate existing clean water systems, and address water and plumbing issues in neighbourhoods that have an impact on running water volume, not allowing it to reach households.

He added though that the budget allocation for 2018 was small and limited, so future interventions will depend on the existing funds for investment in this sector.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/16308-fongtil-challenges-government-to-fix-water-woes

Women's rights & gender

Support for rural women needs strengthening

Dili Weekly - October 23, 2018

Paulina Quintao – The Chief of the Suku of Soba, in the Laga Administrative Post, Baucau Municipality, Francisca Monica said the government needs to strengthen training programs for women in rural areas including on financial management and accounting.

She said, from 2008 to 2015, the government through the Secretariat of State for Gender Equality allocated funds for women's groups in rural areas, with public funds, for economic activities but without giving adequate support such as training so many groups failed.

She added the government also did not monitor or control adequately the women's groups.

"We suggested the government needs to continue to allocate funds for women but it also needs to provide training for women on how to manage funds with transparency and accountability so they can strengthen their families' finances," she said via telephone.

She said it is ok when the government allocates funds through the NGO's or directly but the government also needs to monitor and control the progress of the economic activities.

Meanwhile, Member of the National Parliament, MP Antonio da Conceicao said it is not easy to talk about gender equality especially when women are still dependent on men financially, so it is important to encourage women in rural areas to be able to contribute to their family and to society.

"Gender equality means women are economically independent, but it is not easy talking about equality if women are still dependent on men," he said.

He also appealed to women, especially women in rural areas, to change their mindset that girls must stay at home and do house work because they need to go to school to receive knowledge that benefits their future and to change the perceptions of Timorese women.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State for Equality and Inclusion (SEII), Maria Jose da Fonseca Monteiro de Jesus said the International Day of Rural Women is held every year to recognize and to value rural women's efforts and dedication to develop the country's economy.

She said rural women have contributed to Timor-Leste's economic development, but they continue to face many obstacles, such as lack of access to electricity, roads, education, clean water, jobs, and health services.

In 2015, rural women organized a meeting with the government that resulted in the Maubisse Declaration, which tasks line ministries to work together to find ways to strengthen rural women, to eliminate discriminations against rural women and to enable their participation in national development.

"In 2018, the government reaffirmed this commitment to implement the second Maubisse Declaration, focused on strengthening rural women economically, including young women and women with disabilities," she said.

She added, the VIII government gives importance to rural development and is a priority for the government program for the next five years of its mandate.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/16343-support-for-rural-women-needs-strengthening

Foreign affairs & trade

Jose Ramos-Horta says Australia aid 'emasculation' pushing Pacific

SBS News - October 30, 2018

James Elton-Pym, Brett Mason – The "emasculation" in Australian aid and the amount of money flowing to expensive consultants has forced Pacific nations to accept grants and loans from China, according to the former president of Timor Leste.

In an exclusive interview with SBS News, Nobel peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta blasted wastage in the Australian aid system, while warning smaller countries in the Pacific region would develop closer ties with China if it helped them plug budgetary shortfalls.

"They are not interested in playing the big power regional power games, Australia vs China or vice versa," he said.

"They're interested in their own development. They're interested in the wellbeing of their people. And whoever can offer them better conditions, they will take it."

Mr Ramos-Horta said he was "surprised" by the level of concern about Chinese influence in his own nation.

"We are surprised that the Australians are talking about growing Chinese influence in Timor Leste, when in Timor Leste everyone is worried about the incredible Chinese expansion in Australia," he said.

He said Chinese investment in his country was limited to three buildings and about $50 million in loans. The Timorese government had purchased patrol boats from China too, but Mr Ramos-Horta said they did not work properly and were a bad investment.

Australian aid not reaching the ground

Australia will spend an estimated $91.8 million on development aid to Timor Leste this financial year, according to budget figures. But Mr Ramos-Horta slammed "endless studies" and "junkets" that hoovered up the money, alleging very little money was reaching projects on the ground.

"It is an absolute nonsense, misleading, for countries like Australia or the Europeans or Japan to say that the so-called development assistance that they provide to countries like Timor Leste is our exclusive responsibility to manage," he said.

"There is an Australian bureaucracy that is paid out of this money. There are studies after studies that are paid out of this money. Trips, evaluations. They pay out a lot to the consultants."

Unlike Timor Leste, which takes Australian aid for specific development projects, some island nations in the Pacific depended on Australia to make up the difference in annual budgets, Mr Ramos-Horta said.

Source: https://www.sbs.com.au/news/jose-ramos-horta-says-australia-aid-emasculation-pushing-pacific-closer-to-china

Timor Leste's prime minister receives Cuban foreign vice minister

Prensa Latina - October 11, 2018

Dili – The Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste, Taur Matan Ruak, received on Thursday the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, Marcelino Medina, who is on a working visit to that country.

Earlier, the Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs held a meeting with the head of State and the Council of Ministers of that Asian country, Hermenegildo Augusto Cabral.

During the exchange, both officials discussed the excellent state of bilateral relations and expressed their will to consolidate cooperation links, especially in the area of public health, according to diplomatic sources. They also verified the potential to extend bilateral ties in other areas of mutual interest.

Medina arrived in Timor Leste from Russia and New Zealand. His stay in Dili will last until Friday morning and then he will continue his tour on Australia and Spain.

Cuba was the second country in the world, after China, to recognize Timor Leste after its independence from Indonesia in 2002.

Since then both nations have fostered a strong bond of friendship that includes agreements for the training of Timorese doctors on the Caribbean island. (rly/tac/mem/ipf)

Source: https://www.plenglish.com/index.php?o=rn&id=34769&SEO=timor-lestes-prime-minister-receives-cuban-foreign-vice-minister

Mining & energy

Timor-Leste buys $484 million stake in Greater Sunrise fields and pushes

ABC News - October 2, 2018

Stephen Dziedzic – Timor-Leste's leaders want to build a 150-kilometre pipeline, stretching all the way from the tiny south coast hamlet of Beaco to the vast Greater Sunrise oil and gas fields of the Timor Sea.

That's not all. They see a new port and a huge LNG plant springing up in the village, processing the 5 trillion cubic feet of gas which lie under the waves.

They see a sleek new highway running along the country's south coast, linking the LNG plant to a refinery and a sprawling airport, complete with helipads.

Deal could 'unravel' borders with Indonesia

A landmark agreement over the Australian and East Timor maritime border will settle one long dispute, but it could open another legal wrangle with Indonesia, writes Anne Barker.

And they promise this development will transform not just these towns, but Timor-Leste itself, bringing wealth, skilled jobs and development to the fledgling nation.

Analysts label this vision a pipe-dream, and the multinational companies that hold the rights to Greater Sunrise are unconvinced.

But Dili is pushing ahead. And this week it sent a very big signal that it remained determined, pledging almost half a billion dollars to buy a 30 per cent share in the Greater Sunrise consortium held by US company ConocoPhillips.

Timor-Leste's former president, Xanana Gusmao, is now set on convincing the other oil and gas giants with a stake in Greater Sunrise that Dili's vision can work. It's a sudden and dramatic manoeuvre. But Timor-Leste knows it has to move quickly. Right now, almost all of its revenue comes from oil and gas fields that could run dry in less than five years.

And the sovereign wealth fund the nation has built from its natural assets will not last forever. Experts predict it will dwindle to nothing well before 2030.

Why buy out Conoco?

If Timor-Leste wanted any chance of convincing the oil and gas giants to send LNG to Beaco, then it needed ConocoPhillips out of the picture.

Before the most recent move from Dili, exploration and exploitation rights for Greater Sunrise were held by four energy companies – Woodside, ConocoPhillips, Shell and Osaka Gas.

All four venture partners have been deeply sceptical about whether Timor-Leste's vision of a flourishing domestic LNG industry is viable.

But sources close to recent discussions have told the ABC ConocoPhillips has never looked like budging. The US energy company simply did not think the project was feasible.

It wanted to send the gas to Australia instead, so it could maintain a reliable supply to its LNG plant across the harbour from Darwin's CBD. And its frustrations seemed to grow when Greater Sunrise was ensnared in a bitter diplomatic dispute.

Commercial negotiations were suspended for years while Australia and Timor-Leste wrangled over their maritime boundary – which runs right through the gas fields.

The two nations finally signed a landmark agreement in March this year, with East Timor being granted the lion's share of royalties.

But by then, ConocoPhillips was already intent on finding new sources of gas for its Darwin plant. It's been pushing ahead with a new plan to develop the Barossa gas fields 300km to Australia's north.

Meanwhile, Timor-Leste spotted an opportunity to change the fundamental dynamics of commercial discussions.

Late last week, it offered the Conoco $485 million for its stake in Greater Sunrise. ConocoPhillips – perhaps wearying of protracted negotiations, and with no compelling reason to stay – took the money, and got out.

One of the company's vice-presidents, Kayleen Ewin, told the ABC ConocoPhillips and Timor Leste had "different views" on Greater Sunrise, but insisted it was an amicable parting.

"We had a full and frank exchange of views with Timor Leste. We respect the fact that their criteria for development is different to ours," she said.

"For us, we have to make sure that our investments compete in our portfolio. So this was a way to solve the fact that we have different criteria."

If the other joint partners approve the move, Timor-Leste will get a much more powerful voice at the table, and a substantial new stake in the venture.

But it's unlikely to be the last time the Government opens the purse strings. Now Timor-Leste has a stake, it will probably have to funnel billions of dollars from its sovereign wealth fund into the project in order to get it off the ground.

Dr Bec Strating from LaTrobe University said Timor's leaders had locked themselves into their pipeline plan by presenting it as a symbol of the small nation's sovereignty.

"It really draws on nationalistic rhetoric. By describing the pipeline as a non-negotiable it really makes it difficult for them to back away from the vision they've established," she said. "It's a rhetorical straight-jacket."

Dili is also searching for new sources of cash, courting export credit agencies and companies in Asia which might be willing to develop Greater Sunrise and send the gas north.

But close watchers worry its gamble will not pay off – because the project simply does not stack up.

Just a pipedream?

First, building a pipeline to Timor-Leste poses formidable challenges. It would have to cross an ocean trench called the Timor Trough, which plunges to depths of more than three kilometres.

One expert predicts it would have to be 75 per cent thicker than the heaviest pipeline ever built before – the Blue Stream, which runs across the Black Sea.

The oil and gas companies are also sceptical about whether Timor Leste has the capacity to develop an industry from scratch.

Earlier this year, the UN Conciliation Commission published analysis which found Timor's proposal would only get off the ground with a government subsidy of about $7.7 billion.

That drew a furious response from Mr Gusmao, who called the assessment "shockingly superficial" and accused Canberra of colluding with the big energy companies to send the gas to Darwin instead of Beaco.

The future is now

The next six months will be crucial, and Australia will be watching the negotiations carefully.

Strictly speaking, the Federal Government is neutral on how the gas fields should be developed – but officials also doubt East Timor's grand plan can become a reality. That clearly frustrates Dili, which is using every bit of leverage it can get.

Some Timor Government figures have been quoted saying if they could not convince the energy companies to get on board, then they might turn to China to help them buy out the other partners and build the new pipeline.

Close observers say that is probably a negotiating tactic rather than a real live option. But Australia is already wary about China's growing influence in Pacific Island nations, and the prospect of Timor taking on a massive soft loan from Beijing would concentrate minds in Canberra.

And there is no need to conjure nightmare scenarios – the current stalemate on Sunrise is already deeply worrying for both countries.

Timor-Leste is a poor country with a burgeoning population and few sources of cash. It desperately needs Greater Sunrise to fill coffers that will rapidly dwindle when the current reserves run dry.

Dr Strating warned if the project collapsed, the small nation could be in dire straits. "There doesn't seem to be any other plan for Timor Leste's future," she said.

"So if the pipeline falls through, then what else would there be to try to develop Timor Leste's economy in the long term? There is a great deal of risk in this strategy."

If Timor does not find new sources of revenue, it could go over a fiscal cliff within a decade.

That would be a disaster for Timor-Leste. But it would be a big problem for Australia as well.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-02/timor-leste-buys-stake-in-greater-sunrise-fields/10328274?section=business

Woodside considers options as ConocoPhillips sells Sunrise LNG stake to

West Australian - October 2, 2018

Peter Williams – Sunrise LNG operator Woodside Petroleum has left open the prospect of over-riding a deal for the East Timor Government to buy a 30 per cent stake in the undeveloped project.

East Timor and ConocoPhillips today jointly announced the $US350 million ($484 million) deal for the US company to sell its shareholding in the Greater Sunrise fields in the Timor Sea.

Both Woodside, which holds 33.4 per cent of Sunrise, and Shell (26.6 per cent) have pre-emptive rights to buy the ConocoPhillips stake. Osaka Gas has the remaining 10 per cent.

"The joint venture participants hold certain rights that may or may not be exercised in such circumstances," a Woodside spokeswoman said. She said Woodside would engage with East Timor on Sunrise in the wake of the deal.

"Woodside and the Sunrise joint venture remain committed to the development of Greater Sunrise and we look forward to working with Timor-Leste to deliver value to both the people of Timor-Leste and the shareholders of the joint venture participants," she said.

East Timor Prime Minister Taur Matan Ratak said the agreement with ConocoPhillips would allow his government to proceed with discussions with other joint venture members on developing the resources.

Special representative Xanana Gusmao said ConocoPhillips and the other partners had always known of East Timor's preference to pipe the gas to East Timor's south coast. ConocoPhillips had preferred processing Sunrise gas at the Darwin LNG plant it operates.

"We respect the Timor-Leste Government's preference to develop the Sunrise fields through a new greenfield, Timor-Leste-based LNG facility," ConocoPhillips' Australia-West president Chris Wilson said.

"While we differ on the proposed economic development option, we recognise the importance of Sunrise to the nation of Timor-Leste and hope the sale of our interest to the Government allows them to progress their vision for the development of Sunrise," Mr Wilson said.

The Sunrise and Troubadour gas and condensate fields, collectively known as the Greater Sunrise fields, are about 150km south east of East Timor and 450km north west of Darwin.

The sale price recovers ConocoPhillips' Sunrise project costs. The transaction is expected to close in the March quarter of 2019.

Aside from pre-emption rights, East Timor's purchase is conditional on receiving funding from the Council of Ministers and National Parliament, as well as regulatory approvals. Credit Suisse said the deal valued Woodside's stake at about $520 million.

"While Xanana Gusmao has a habit of proving the impossible possible, so we won't rule anything out, we remain sceptical of progress on Sunrise anytime soon," analysts Saul Kavonic and Peter Liu said in a research note.

"And we have doubts Woodside would be able to exit at a similar price point to what ConocoPhillips achieved, or that it would be a good idea for Woodside to participate in any development."

Wood Mackenzie analyst David Low said an onshore development in East Timor would require construction of a pipeline, liquefaction plant and associated infrastructure, and an offshore platform to collect condensate.

"We believe the key onshore project risk is the construction of a greenfield LNG project in a country that has historically lacked large-scale infrastructure projects," Mr Low said.

"The next step is for the project to put forward a viable development plan that all the project participants would be willing and happy to commit to."

Source: https://thewest.com.au/business/energy/pressure-on-woodside-as-conocophillips-sells-sunrise-lng-stake-to-east-timor-government-ng-b88978649z

East Timor buys ConocoPhillips' stake in Sunrise gas field: report

Reuters - October 1, 2018

Melbourne – East Timor has signed a deal to buy ConocoPhillips' stake in the Greater Sunrise gas field off the country's southern coast for $350 million, the Australian Financial Review reported on Monday.

A delegation led by former East Timor president Xanana Gusmao and its proposed new petroleum minister Alfredo Pires signed a final agreement in Bali last Friday with ConocoPhillips' Australia West president Chris Wilson, the newspaper said, without citing any sources.

ConocoPhillips had no immediate comment on the sale of its 30 percent stake in Greater Sunrise and the East Timor embassy in Australia did not respond to phone calls or an email request for comment.

"While we are aware of unofficial reports, the Sunrise Joint Venture has not been approached formally by Timor-Leste or ConocoPhillips on this matter," Australia's Woodside Petroleum, operator and 33 percent stakeholder in Greater Sunrise said in an email to Reuters.

Taking a stake would help East Timor position itself to push for the development of Greater Sunrise, discovered in 1974 but long delayed as it straddles the maritime border between Australia and East Timor, which was only agreed earlier this year following a protracted dispute between the two countries.

The border agreement outlined two options for developing Greater Sunrise – piping the gas to East Timor, which the tiny Southeast Asian nation has long wanted, or piping it to Australia for processing.

East Timor wants the gas to come to its shores as it is eager to develop oil and gas-based industries, such as petrochemicals manufacturing, to diversify its economy, one of the world's poorest.

The need is urgent as the government's main source of revenue, the Bayu Undan gas field run by ConocoPhillips, is set to run dry by 2022.

The Sunrise and Troubadour gas fields, together known as Greater Sunrise, were discovered in 1974 and hold around 5.1 trillion cubic feet of gas, according to the project's operator, Australia's Woodside Petroleum.

The fields also hold about 226 million barrels of condensate, an ultra-light form of crude oil that would help make the development more profitable. The other owners are Royal Dutch Shell and Japan's Osaka Gas.

State-owned company Timor Gap is looking to build a liquefied natural gas plant on the country's south coast, the Australian Financial Review said. Timor Gap was not immediately available for comment. Pires did not respond to an email.

Under an agreement signed in March, East Timor will receive 70 percent of the royalty revenues from Greater Sunrise if the gas is piped to its shores or 80 percent if piped to Australia.

[Reporting by Sonali Paul; editing by Richard Pullin.]

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-timor-conocophillips-gas/east-timor-buys-conocophillips-stake-in-sunrise-gas-field-report-idUSKCN1MB1PB?rpc=401&

Economy & investment

Government-MCC analyse challenges to economic development

Dili Weekly - October 8, 2018

Paulina Quintao – The government of Timor-Leste together with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Agency conducted an in-depth analysis of the main challenges for the country's economic development, to elaborate a future integrated plan to solve issues and to together develop Timor-Leste's economy.

The Ministry of Legislative Reform and Parliamentary Affairs, Fidelis Magalhaes said it is very important for the line ministries and the MCC agency to identify the problems impacting economic development in Timor-Leste.

He said some problems have been identified, including with public financial management, and in health which links to issues of malnutrition and poor infrastructure.

He added high malnutrition issues in Timor-Leste has a negative impact on the quality of human resources, especially on the citizen's growth and ability to make best use of opportunities, which in turn impacts on the overall economic development of the country.

"We will create a joint program with the government of the United States through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Agency to fund and invest in the upcoming five years and fix the problems we are facing," he said during his participation in the Root Causes Analysis and Consultation Workshop conducted at CNE, in Dili.

Meanwhile, National Member of Parliament MP Maria Fernanda Lay, said parliament also identified many issues impacting the economic development of Timor-Leste and as such, it is very important for the government and the MCC to conduct an in-depth research before investing in solutions.

"Our problem is not about money, because we have money. It is more about how funds are managed, which is still a challenge," she said.

She said Timor-Leste faces problems with managing public expenditure, and support from the MCC agency is needed to guarantee the country's economic development.

On the other hand, economist Dr. Joao Mariano Saldanha agreed that the big challenge for Timor-Leste is the management of public expenditure and with the transparency of procurement.

He said another problem is the poor business environment associated with people's access to the land, credit for business, and as such it is important for the MCC to support the government and the parliament to solve land issues in Timor-Leste. He urged a need for issuing land certificates to land owners.

"The right to land ownership is an obstacle to economic growth and development and to reduce poverty in our country," he said.

He hopes with the MCC's support to Timor-Leste with projects, some of these problems will be addressed so there is a boost to economic development that will contribute greatly to poverty reduction in Timor-Leste.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/16270-government-mcc-analyse-challenges-to-economic-development

Analysis & opinion

What's Next for Timor-Leste's Economy?

The Diplomat - October 30, 2018

David Hutt – After more than a year of political uncertainty – which included two general elections in the space of eleven months, one failed minority government, impeachment threats against the president and still some ministries without ministers – Timor-Leste's governing class looks close to agreeing budgetary matters.

Because of political uncertainty, the state budget for 2018 – which came to $1.2 billion – was only issued on September 27, after months of back and forth in parliament over the costs. Much of this money was paid straight away for state salaries and debts, including a $9.3 million debt to the country's largest telecoms operation, Timor Telecom, that weren't paid throughout the year because of the stalemate. If passing the 2018 budget proved a protracted process, trying to decide the state budget for next year has been even more tiresome.

Between September 12 and 18, the Ministry of Finance held a budgetary workshop at which political and non-governmental voices were invited to speak. Days later, the Ministry proposed three options to the Council of Ministers, of which the new Change for Progress Alliance (AMP) coalition government selected by far the costliest: it set the budget ceiling for 2019 at $1.44 billion. A Policy Review Committee was then established, led by Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak and several ministries, which met twice in October. It is thought that the final budget proposal will be delivered to parliament on November 8 – we will then see if parliament accepts it or if, like the 2018 budget, it goes through a protracted negotiation process.

Earlier this month, however, vice-minister of Finance Sara Lobo Brites said that the 2019 budget will be more than the first planned – it is thought this means more than the $1.44 billion, which includes government borrowing, laid out in at the end of September. How much more, however, isn't yet known. La'o Hamutuk, a local NGO, reports this could include more money set aside for education and healthcare spending (which could be the imposition of Ruak) and $350 million needed to purchase shares from a petroleum firm part of the Greater Sunrise project.

Starting with the latter: In late September, Timor-Leste's government agreed to purchase U.S. energy giant ConocoPhillips' 30 percent share in the Greater Sunrise gas consortium. The syndicate, led by Woodside Petroleum, which holds a 33.4 percent share, has for years been playing tap a large oil and gas field south of Timor-Leste. But it has long been delayed because sections of Timor-Leste's political class (especially former Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, whose National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) is the largest party in the ruling AMP coalition) wants the gas to be transported by pipeline to an on-shore processing site in southern Timor-Leste.

The government has already spent roughly $250 million on the Tasi Mane project, most of which has gone to building the Suai airport and the Suai-Fatukai highway. It is thought that Prime Minister Ruak has now set aside another $5 billion from the Petroleum Fund for further investments in the projects. However, most of the foreign partners (though ConocoPhillips was thought to be the most forceful) argued that on-shore processing would be too expensive, unfeasible and cause considerable delays – a "pipe dream," if you will. Instead, they argued that processing should be done off-shore on a floating platform or in Australia.

But ConocoPhillips owns the gas-processing plant in Darwin, in northern Australia, where they wanted to process the extracted gas, so Timor-Leste's purchasing of its shares changes the picture somewhat. Moreover, if the deal goes through, then as well as the revenue Timor-Leste will collect for its part-ownership of the oil fields, along with Australia, its national oil company, TimorGap, will control a 30 percent stake in the consortium and, therefore, a 30 percent stake in the profits. However, a very important part which is often overlooked is that as well as the $350 million for ConocoPhillips's shares, Timor-Leste will have to contribute 30 percent of capital costs to the whole development, which is likely to cost several billion dollars and will have to paid upfront, either be taken from the Petroleum Fund or from loans.

Earlier this year, Timor-Leste signed a key maritime border treaty with Australia, part of which included the offer that Timor-Leste could keep more of the proceeds from the gas extraction if it agrees to off-shore processing. It would be 70:30 to Timor-Leste if done on-shore, or 80:20 if offshore or in Australia. Dili doesn't seem to have taken the bait of what many thought to be a great deal for the country, most likely because of Gusmao, who continues to pull the political strings of the country. For years, Gusmao and other political leaders have argued that on-shore processing would be something of a silver bullet; not only would Timor-Leste receive billions from gas extraction, the Tasi Mane project would also create untold numbers of new jobs, well-needed in a country where unemployment is rife, and create whole new industries.

His critics, including Ruak before he became prime minister, argued it is just a vanity project that will drain the country's sovereign wealth fund, saddle Timor-Leste with bad debts and, in the end, not really provide anything useful economically. These critics, moreover, say that the money should instead be spent on education, healthcare, and diversifying the country away from oil revenue, which some analysts say has brought to Timor-Leste the "resource curse."

Indeed, the Bayu-Undan reserves, the country's main source of oil and gas revenue, are set to run out by 2022. The Petroleum Fund, unless greatly replenished, could be exhausted by 2030 at the latest. About $17.1 billion is left in the fund, but it contributes almost 90 percent of the state budget, which now rarely drop below $1.3 billion (and could be considerably higher from now on), while governments haven't been shy of taking substantial lump-sums from the fund, such as the billions that will now mostly likely have to go towards paying for the Greater Sunrise project, now that TimorGAP is part of the consortium.

Going into this year's election, some analysts thought that Timor-Leste's infrastructure-led development policy, which has been the previous two administration's focus, would be replaced. Fretlin and the CNRT ran an "informal coalition" between 2015 and 2017, and stuck hard to this policy. Fretilin, which won the election last year but failed to push through its policy as a "minority government," forcing a fresh election, looked set to continue it. But a political backlash began in 2016, starting chiefly when then-President Ruak began to openly question the infrastructure-led policy. The following year he helped create the People's Liberation Party (PLP), which campaigned to increase social spending and curb vanity projects. Its drive now seems to have waned as Ruak became Prime Minster and the PLP entered a coalition government, albeit one in which it's only the second-largest party.

Rather than move towards a more welfarist policy, that puts at center-stage Timor-Leste's underfunded and underperforming education and healthcare system, as well as its agriculture sector that must be radically improved if the economy is to become sustainable (and not reliant on expensive imports that could be produced locally), the new government has opted for the status-quo. Indeed, La'o Hamutuk notes that the $350 payment for ConocoPhillips' shares is "more than twice as much as Timor-Leste spends each year to educate our children."

Source: https://thediplomat.com/2018/10/whats-next-for-timor-lestes-economy/

Uberrima fides? Witness K, East Timor and the economy of espionage

Counter Punch - October 15, 2018

Justin T. McPhee – "There is an air of unreality about this stated case. It has the appearance of a Law School moot based on an episode taken from the adventures of Maxwell Smart".

It was with some levity that Justice Mason described the Australian Secret Intelligence Service's botched training session at the Sheraton Hotel, Melbourne, in November 1983. In that case, the High Court decided the identities of the ASIS operatives could be disclosed to the Police, but, perhaps, ought not be. While their identities remained concealed, their antics were revealed.

Now, fast-forward three decades. ASIS operatives are again in the public spotlight and before the High Court. Although this time the hijinks has been revealed by one of their own, and with disturbing consequences. It is a story about blowing-the-whistle on the entanglement of intelligence, politics and commercial interests. It is also a story about exposing where all three unite.

Some context is in order to set the scene. The escapade starts in 2004, when the government of John Howard authorized ASIS to clandestinely bug the offices of the East Timorese Prime Minister and his cabinet in Dili. By doing so Australian officials were able to covertly record internal discussions revealing the East Timorese negotiating position and strategy over the maritime boundaries of an oil and gas treaty known as 'Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea' (CMATS). Over its lifetime, that treaty is estimated to have a multi-billion-dollar value, and is was a much-needed source of revenue to the East Timorese government and people.

At this point, keep in mind East Timor is not a hostile country toward Australia. It is more ally than adversary. Also keep in mind that the Timor bugging operation occurred not too long after the Bali terrorist bombings in Indonesia had killed over 200 people. Terrorism in the region was imposed on the minds and screens of the public and security agencies alike. One might, then, ask questions about where Australia's intelligence priorities lay and how intelligence recourses were allocated.

It would appear that economic priorities took precedence and that ever-malleable concept, national security, became a metonym for private commercial gain. Indeed, the direction and authorisation to conduct the Timorese bugging operation was rationalised under the justification that it was in the interests of Australia's 'economic well being' (dare one say: advantage?). But this is highly contentious. Why? Because the principal beneficiary of the treaty, to which Australia obtained an undue (possibly illegal) advantage through the intelligence gleamed from the negotiations, would have gone to a private consortium led by Woodside Petroleum. But more on this shortly.

First, a deeper question needs addressing: how is covertly bugging the East Timorese government in the interests of Australia's economic well being when the pecuniary benefits of the treaty would have gone to a private consortium? Answers, indeed, became rather vague.

When quizzed on this very issue, the former Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (that alleged impartial body responsible for oversight of the intelligence community), Dr Vivian Thom, had trouble explaining the difference between spying for national security and spying for private commercial gain. 'National economic well being', Thom averred, 'is a broad umbrella' and the differentiation is not always clear.

Matters of setting intelligence priorities are equally vague. As Dr Thom stated, it is up to the Executive or National Security Committee of cabinet (NSC) to decide what is an appropriate intelligence requirement.

It might not surprise, then, that the NSC is hardly what could be called 'bi-partisan' in constitution. Consider the implications of the 'quotation marks'. It's comprised entirely of members of the incumbent government. It's chaired by the PM. And, it sits within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. The leader of the Opposition can be asked to sit in on major decisions, but such courtesies do not extend to any Independents or Greens. Likewise, its decisions do not require the endorsement of the full cabinet. The government's assurances that an intelligence agency has been directed to act in the national interest must be taken a face value – a fool's gold standard of accountability and transparency. Just as Dr Thom explained. In her view, ASIS collected intelligence inline with requirements set by the government. In short, ASIS did what the government asks it to do. Nothing to see hear. Next question.

Little wonder, then, that after becoming aware of the bugging the East Timorese government protested. It declared Australia's conduct had rendered the treaty invalid under international law because the negotiations had not been undertaken in good faith. When it comes to the economics of espionage, Uberrima Fides, appears as flexible as national security.

Using parliamentary privilege, Andrew Wilkie made his feelings about the matter quite clear. The result, as he aptly put it, was 'one of the richest countries in the world forced East Timor, the poorest country in Asia, to sign a treaty which stopped them obtaining their fair share of oil and gas revenue'. East Timor's Prime Minister, Rui Maria Araujo, concurred, calling such actions a 'moral crime', while former President, Xanana Gusmao, referred to the matter as a 'criminal act'.

Some intelligence personnel held similar qualms about the operation. But, just pause for a moment to remember what happens to intelligence personnel that take a stand, or blow that shrieking whistle on the alleged improper use of intelligence.

Still memorable is the resignation of former ONA officer, Andrew Wilkie, due to Australia's use (or misuse) of intelligence to justify the case for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. History tells us what happened here. Does Mr Bolt ring any bells? But that only took twelve years to clear up, and there was nothing to see there either.

One might also consider the cases of Lance Collins and Martin Toohey or even the most despicable circumstances that led to the death of Mervin Jenkins. And these are just case that are known to the public.

Now consider the case of Witness K. You might have some clairvoyance of where this is going? K is a former distinguished and decorated ASIS Officer that was directly involved in the Timor bugging operation. K initially sought advice from the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) after being 'constructively dismissed' from ASIS in 2008. Again, read between the quotations marks.

But K suspects that his dismissal was more in relation to concerns he raised about the East Timor bugging operation. The IGIS advised K that he could seek private legal counsel regarding a means of redress. (The IGIS denies having ever received K's complaint.)

K thereafter sought the advice of lawyer, Bernard Collaery. After investigating K's claims, Collaery, determined that the Timor operation likely fell outside ASIS's remit under the Intelligence Services Act 2001. Collaery and K then sought to have the matter brought before the International Court of Justice, at the Hague.

But the sledgehammer fell. On 3 December 2013, under warrant issued by the Attorney General, ASIO raided Witness K's home and confiscated his passport, while also raiding the offices of Mr Collaery seizing documents and electronic data relevant to the case. K was thus stymied from leaving the country.

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions subsequently filed criminal charges against Witness K and Bernard Collaery, for breaching section 11.5 of the Criminal Code and section 39 of the Intelligence Services Act. While the Attorney General theoretically has the power to stop these legal proceedings under the Judiciary Act 1903, he did the opposite.

But, not only did the Attorney General, Christian Porter, consent to the prosecution, the prosecution is now seeking to have the judicial proceeding conducted without commentary, under the provisions of the National Security Information Act 2004. If this occurs, details of the proceeding will remain classified. The actions of the government may never be heard in an open court. As K might just find out, the law can beat you with its own gavel.

But here is what makes this case so much more disturbing. Aside from the unscrupulous nature of the bugging operation and the persecution of whistleblowers and their legal representatives, there is a glaring impression of government impropriety.

As it turns out, the minister with statutory responsibility for authorising the ASIS bugging operation, former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, went on to consultant for Woodside Petroleum after he left parliament in 2008. Note that he took a retainer, too. Several other political links can be established. Again, perceptions are important. Former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ashton Calvert later obtained a position on its Board of Directors. Likewise, the Howard government's Minister for Resources and Energy, during the Timor operation, Ian MacFarlane, now sits on the Board of Directors. After resigning from his position as National Secretary of the Australian Labor Party, Gary Grey went on to be Woodside's principal strategic advisor and later joined the Executive Board. [1]

It is on this point that the proximity between intelligence, policy, and commercial interests seemed to have blurred considerably. By 2007, Grey was holding the Federal position of Minister for Natural Resources Energy and Tourism in the Gillard government. The inequity is clear. Those that speak out are exiled and punished; others appear to act with impunity.

There are significant implications to be realised here. First, there is a conspicuous absence of options available to intelligence personnel that decide to speak out about any impropriety. Whistleblower protections are somewhat muted.

Some protections do fall under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID). But consider what legal scholars, Keiran Hardy and George Williams, have to say about that:

"Requirements under the PID will be particularly difficult to satisfy where the information being disclosed relates to the conduct of intelligence agencies. This is because special restrictions on information connected with intelligence agencies due to the greater risk involved to national security."

The exhumation of national security, again, works as a metonym for 'there are just some things we don't have to tell you'.

Likewise, limited protections can be found in section 79 of the Crimes Act that provide for disclosures made in the interests of the Commonwealth. But, disclosures about one friendly nation spying upon another are unlikely to be in the Commonwealth's interest. Overall there are fairly minimal protections for whistleblowers that disclose security information because of the special status given to intelligence information, and that broad umbrella – 'national security'.

But the Timor case gives rise to another significant issue. The case of Witness K emphasises several implications. One is the possibility of an Australian intelligence agency being abused not just for political ends, but also for private commercial gain. Another is that the act of whistle blowing is always framed as one of political rebellion, rather than political reform.

One more is the perception that ASIS collection activities seem to have been aligned with the commercial interests of a private company. Ultimately, the perceived impartiality of ASIS could be diminished. Indeed, perceptions of impropriety become evident by posing the simple question: did this ASIS intelligence operation serve the Australian public interest, those of a minister, or a private company?

There are significant moral and legal questions that need addressing. Witness K and Bernard Collaery are accused of conspiring to reveal secret information. Yet, there is no evidence available that Australia's national security has ever been compromised by the incident. Nonetheless, initial proceeding for the case began in the High Court on 12 September. It lasted 15 minutes before the directives were adjourned. The Attorney General wants that case to be conducted behind closed doors. The defence wants only that which is essential to the preservation of K's anonymity and national security heard in confidence.

What's remarkable is that three decades ago, Justice Mason, when ruling on the ASIS – Sheraton incident, may have unwittingly summoned a prophecy. 'For the future,' he said, 'the point needs to be made loudly and clearly, that if counter-espionage activities involve breaches of the law they are liable to attract the consequences that ordinarily flow from breaches of the law.' Whether his prophecy comes true remains to be seen. The case resumes on 29 October 2018.

[Dr Justin T. McPhee teaches at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is currently preparing a book on the history of intelligence politicisation in Australia, for Monash University Publishing.]


[1] See Cleary, P. Shakedown, "Australia's Grab for Timor Oil", (Allen & Unwin, NSW, Australia, 2007), pp. 93-94; and, "The Dark Politics of the Timor Spy Case", The Saturday Paper, 7 July 2018. pp. 1 & 10

Source: https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/10/15/uberrima-fides-witness-k-east-timor-and-the-economy-of-espionage/

Government sat on Witness K prosecution for years despite advice

ABC News - October 6, 2018

Steve Cannane – Former attorney-general George Brandis was asked to approve the controversial prosecution of an Australian spy and his lawyer more than two years before consent was finally granted, a document obtained by the ABC has revealed.

The ex-spy, known as "Witness K", and his lawyer Bernard Collaery are facing charges under the Intelligence Services Act 2001 for allegedly conspiring to communicate secret information to Timor-Leste's government sometime between May 2008 and May 2013.

Mr Collaery is also accused of sharing information with ABC journalists about an operation which saw Australia bug Timor-Leste's cabinet room in Dili during negotiations over oil and gas reserves worth an estimated $40 billion.

There has been much speculation about why the Government has suddenly moved to prosecute Witness K and Mr Collaery, almost four-and-a-half years after ASIO raided their homes.

Some such as former Victorian premier Steve Bracks and independent MP Andrew Wilkie have questioned whether it is linked to a recent deal signed over oil and gas, something the Government has emphatically denied.

According to a letter sent to senator Rex Patrick by the current Attorney-General Christian Porter, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) sent a request for "consent to prosecute" to Mr Brandis on September 17, 2015, more than two-and-a-half years before approval was finally granted.

Mr Brandis asked then-CDPP Robert Bromwich to provide written advice on the prosecution, which was finalised on October 1, but Mr Brandis did not act.

It was another 10 months before Mr Brandis asked the new CDPP Sarah McNaughton if she could "consider the Bromwich advice and provide her opinion".

About a month later Ms McNaughton provided her opinion, but again approval to prosecute was not given. The letter states in February 2017, almost six months later, Mr Brandis sought further advice from the solicitor-general, Stephen Donaghue QC.

That legal opinion was provided to the attorney-general in May 2017. Seven months later the CDPP received that advice on December 19.

A day later Mr Brandis stood down as attorney-general to become Australia's high commissioner in London. Mr Porter was sworn in the same day.

The letter states the CDPP then received external advice on the matter on March 15 this year from a barrister who has not been named. Two weeks later the CDPP wrote to Mr Porter seeking his approval to prosecute, and that was granted in May.

In cases like this, the Attorney-General is required to consider whether any such prosecution is in the public interest.

Mr Bracks, a long-term adviser to Timor-Leste, has previously told the ABC he believes the approval was delayed until after Australia signed a deal with Timor-Leste over new maritime boundaries in March.

The Attorney-General's office has been contacted for comment. He has previously insisted the finalisation of the new treaty had no influence on his decision, saying in a statement to the ABC:

"The decision was based on my consideration of the CDPP's independent assessment of the evidence. External factors played no part in my consideration of the matter."

Senator Patrick said the time it took for Mr Brandis to act "stood out".

"I don't understand why he sat at each stage for so long and did not do anything," Senator Patrick said. "The major concern I have here is that justice delayed is justice denied."

Mr Brandis told the ABC: "I am not at liberty to comment on matters concerning national security nor on legal advice to the government."

Secret prosecution sought

Mr Porter's letter also revealed the prosecution is seeking to have the case against Witness K and Mr Collaery heard under the National Security Information (NSI) Act.

"It means the prosecution is seeking orders to have almost the entire case heard in secret," University of New South Wales international and political studies professor and former army intelligence officer Clinton Fernandes told the ABC.

The NSI Act was introduced in 2004, which Professor Fernandes said was at the height of the risk of terrorist attacks in the region from Jemaah Islamiyah.

"The NSI Act was enacted in circumstances where the prosecution of terrorists and the protection of ASIO officers and intelligence personnel and certain evidence was justified as requiring the highest level of protection," he said.

"It was never mentioned that a trial like this would ever be brought in [under these orders]."

If the prosecution and the defence cannot agree to the highly secretive orders under the NSI Act, it may well fall on Mr Porter to decide whether they can be used during the trial. The next hearing is due in the ACT Magistrates Court on October 29.

A history of treaties in the Timor Sea

In 1989 Australia and Indonesia signed the Timor Gap Treaty when East Timor was still under Indonesian occupation

East Timor was left with no permanent maritime border and Indonesia and Australia got to share the wealth in what was known as the Timor Gap

In 2002 East Timor gained independence and the Timor Sea Treaty was signed, but no permanent maritime border was negotiated

East Timor has long argued the border should sit halfway between it and Australia, placing most of the Greater Sunrise oil and gas field in their territory

In 2004 East Timor started negotiating with Australia again about the border

In 2006 the CMATS treaty was signed, but no permanent border was set, and instead it ruled that revenue from the Greater Sunrise oil and gas field would be split evenly between the two countries

In March 2018, Australia and East Timor signed an agreement that drew the first maritime border between the two nations

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-06/government-sat-on-witness-k-prosecution-for-years-despite-advice/10341994

Strengthening the fight against corruption in East Timor

Asia Times - October 2, 2018

Jonas Guterres – Fighting corruption is one of the key essential actions needed to support good governance, poverty eradication and the creation of a sound and safe environment for economic development.

There are significant, and sometimes huge, costs to all countries affected by corruption, which in its worse forms can jeopardize the rule of law, damage the ethical, moral, social and political fabric of a society, and have major economic consequences.

In the era of rapid growth of globalization and the call for open and transparent governance, many governments around the world have tried remarkably hard to stamp out corruption in its many shapes and forms. One straightforward approach is to establish an independent anti-corruption agency, or multiple coordinated agencies, tasked with tackling corruption through prevention, education, raising awareness, and investigation or prosecution. This mandate is described in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), to which most countries are state parties.

In 2009, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, under the leadership of then-prime minister Xanana Gusmao, displayed its serious intention to fight corruption by establishing (by Law No 8/2009) an Anti-Corruption Commission (Comissao Anti-Corrupcao; CAC) as an independent state institution led by a commissioner. That action was in keeping with the democratic tenor of the nation's constitution, and also reflected the spirit of UNCAC.

Corruption is rightly deemed an extraordinary crime, in that its consequences have the potential to undermine or even destroy the foundations of democracy and inclusive development, both of which are recognized in East Timor's constitution as fundamentally important. An extraordinary approach is therefore required to tackle this malicious disease. The results of the fight against corruption have, however, been mixed, and there is still plenty of room for further action to ensure that the fight is maintained as a national and inclusive goal.

Political gridlocks

One measure that could strengthen the nation's anti-corruption effort would be to improve the mechanism by which the CAC leadership is selected. The current process has proved to be vulnerable to various destructive political gridlocks, because both the government and Parliament may have to compromise to arrive at a political consensus on the candidates. If the Parliament will not agree to the candidates proposed by the government, the process becomes paralyzed, and the work of the CAC can be severely hampered by the resulting leadership vacuum.

This is the situation the CAC has in fact been in for the last three months since the end of the mandate of its previous leadership in June. According to the existing legal framework, 30 days before the end of that leadership mandate, the government was required to propose the election of a new CAC commissioner to the Parliament.

Unfortunately, however, the current legal framework has a fundamental weakness, in that it requires the commissioner to be appointed by an absolute majority of the members of Parliament, with at least three-quarters of the MPs present. Those requirements make it possible for discrete blocs in the Parliament to prevent an appointment from progressing, which is exactly what has happened.

Because the development of political consensus is a time-consuming process, and because strong differences between parties are likely to lead to greater delays, the Parliament never arrived at a political consensus in support of the government's proposal, as no bloc within the Parliament was fully satisfied with it.

This whole situation has given the impression to the public that the politicians are not serious about fighting corruption and are unable to make a decision on their own.

A second flaw in the existing law is that while the commissioner may appoint up to the three deputy commissioners to assist him or her, experience in the past four years has shown that the deputy commissioners, unless delegated specific powers by the commissioner, can function as little more than administrative assistants undertaking administrative, financial or human-resource management tasks.

Blame games

A third weakness of the current legal framework is the diffusion of responsibility among the government, Parliament and parties, which leads to a lack of accountability for outcomes. Much finger-pointing and playing of blame games has marked the ongoing recent drama in the Parliament. Those in support of the government's proposal claim that they have performed the task required of them by presenting it. Those opposed claim not to be content with the names proposed by the government.

While the law may have intended that all the players would make, and be jointly responsible for, a decision, in fact events have shown that ultimately nobody can be forced to resolve the issue, or be held to be so responsible.

A fourth issue resulting from this legal framework relates to the eligibility requirements for the candidates, which restrict the field to people with a legal background and experience such as jurists, public prosecutors, lawyers and criminal investigators with more than five years of experience. This excludes other potential candidates who may have sound knowledge and established experience in fields such as anti-corruption, public policy, finance, public administration, and other related areas. Given the limited human resources in the Prosecutor's Office, courts and Public Defender's Office, it would make more sense to extend the eligibility beyond those with legal qualifications.

When the former commissioner, Aderito Tilman, was elected, the Prosecutor's Office was reluctant to make him available to take up the position, as he was then head of the District Prosecutor's Office for the Eastern Region. Some sought to argue at the time against seeking to strengthen an institution by weakening another institution.

New mechanism needed

In order to prevent political deadlock of the type seen recently, and to limit the influence of political interests that could undermine the independence of CAC, a different selection mechanism for the CAC leadership should be adopted, providing for an open and transparent process with emphasis on individual competence and integrity, independence, non-partisanship, accountability and impartiality. Such a change would require a strong political will to amend Law No 8/2009.

To ensure an open and transparent process, CAC leadership positions should be publicly advertised, with a reasonable time permitted for applications to be made. The National Parliament should appoint members of a designated non-partisan and independent ad hoc committee to be responsible for the whole process, from recruitment through to the swearing-in ceremony.

The members of the ad hoc committee could include representatives from the government, Parliament, civil-society organizations, religious groups, women's organizations, judicial institutions, law-enforcement bodies and academia. Alternatively, Parliament could confer the role of the committee on a respected independent body such as the National Commission of Elections.

The committee, however constituted, should be established well before the mandate of a CAC commissioner terminates, so as to allow the recruitment process to be completed in time.

To qualify as a candidate, a person should be required to be a citizen of East Timor with proven personal qualities such as integrity and recognized moral standing in the community, and a high level of independence and impartiality. Candidates should also have established professional experience, a relevant academic background, and sound knowledge of anti-corruption issues.

The committee should consider all the candidates and select the best three candidates who fulfill the requirements for appointment; Parliament should then choose one of the three to be commissioner, with the other two being deputy commissioners. If the Parliament has not made its choice by the time the term of the incumbent expires, the power to choose the commissioner should be required instead to be exercised by the president of the republic.

The commissioner and deputy commissioners should serve terms of four years with the possibility of being reappointed to a second such term, but not to a third; and while serving, they should be prohibited from being involved in any other government activity.

The commissioner should manage the organization and personally lead the investigation function, while the deputy commissioners should provide leadership in the areas of corruption prevention, the raising of public awareness, institutional cooperation, and administration.

Such a leadership selection mechanism could help to prevent the political deadlock, unnecessary delays, and politicization of the process seen recently, because the candidates for the CAC leadership would be selected through an open, public recruitment process managed by an independent and inclusive committee that represents various actors in the country. It would eliminate the paralysis that has been shown to be possible when political compromise turns out to be elusive, and would avoid the creation of the negative impression that the country is not serious about tackling corruption.

Corruption is an urgent and extraordinary crime, the fight against which calls for equally urgent and extraordinary solutions.

Source: http://www.atimes.com/strengthening-the-fight-against-corruption-in-east-timor/

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