Monday, May 07, 2018

Oil and gas superseded human rights

Newly declassified documents have revealed that Australia appeared driven by a desire for oil and gas rights when it was deciding to legitimise the 1975 Indonesian occupation of Timor-LesteIn 1979 Australia became the only western nation to formally recognise its sovereignty over East Timor.

Academic Kim McGrath, author of , Crossing the Line: Australia’s Secret History in the Timor Sea, said the documents made public this week suggested the Australian government was “embarrassed” to publicly reveal that border negotiations were the key issue motivating Australia to give legitimacy to Indonesia’s occupation. “It wasn’t just that we wanted to appease Indonesia for the sake of being friendly with a big neighbour. It was because we had a direct commercial interest.” 

A newly unredacted 1978 cabinet submission by the then-foreign affairs minister, Andrew Peacock, discussed the implications of moving towards either “de facto” recognition of Timor-Leste as effectively but informally under the control of Indonesia, or to formally declare “de jure” recognition of Indonesia’s sovereignty. De jure recognition would allow the two countries to formally negotiate. In the material that was released, there’s a line that used to say ‘a natural and steady progression to de facto recognition’ and then it was redacted the next few lines,” McGrath said.
“What’s been revealed underneath the black ink is that it goes on to say ‘and ultimately, by falling in with international developments, full acceptance of East Timor as part of Indonesia so as to allow the negotiation of the seabed boundary between Australia and Indonesia in the missing link section adjacent to East Timor’.”
In March 2018 Timor-Leste and Australia signed a treaty agreeing to a permanent maritime border and establishing a “special regime” area to share the untapped multibillion-dollar gas field in the Timor Sea. Exactly how that will be divided and where the extracted gas will be processed remains in question.
Human rights groups and observers claimed the treaty confirmed Australia had been profiting for years from resources that had been Timor-Leste’s all along.

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