Tempotimor (Dili) - The Vatican Embassy in Dili is ‘still optimistic’ that Pope Francis will visit Timor-Leste this year. Recently president Francisco Guterres – Lú-Olo – sent an official invitation to the Holy Father. The bishops conference of Timor-Leste united itself behind the initiative.

By : Oki & Monty Jacka

Tempotimor (Dili) - Alberto Carvalho Araujo has accused Timor-Leste’s current trade system of being designed to benefit foreign companies, sacrificing the needs of domestic companies. 

By : Oki & Monty Jacka

Tempotimor (Dili) – In Timor-Leste, there is currently no law which forces the government to use local industry over international companies.

As a result of this, international companies are used regularly for mega projects across the country, hurting local companies who are being overlooked by their own government.

International companies who win big projects also hold no obligation to utilise local industry. They often refuse to buy sand and stone from local timorese, instead bringing in supplies and even labourers from abroad.

Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KKI-TL), Hergui Luina Fernandes described the situation as worrisome.

"We are sad! In the private sector there is currently no law supporting local industry. We often think this law exists, but actually it is very sad because it doesn’t," Ms Fernandes said on Friday.

While the Timor Sea agreement laid out legislation for 10% of work to be done by local companies, nothing has been created in national law yet, she explained.

"This is very troublesome to the private sector, because people who come and work on big projects in Timor, they have the right to bring everything from their country, one example is the Tibar Port project,” Ms Fernandes said.

“Our country investing a fair amount of money in the project, but the agreement has nothing to discuss about local companies."

This situation is so harmful, especially around Liquisa where there are Timorese investing in sand washing and destroying stones, but being overlooked in favour of overseas companies, Ms Fernandes explained.

"We visited various places up to Aileu, where the Chinese are putting their own machines to wash sand, crush rocks,” she said.

“We as Timorese cannot go forward, when there are no laws to support local companies.”

"International companies have told us that no legal force can force us. There is no law, no agreement that forces them to have a local context.”

“As a private sector, we are saddened by this situation where there is no opportunity for Timorese," Ms Fernandes expressed.

The situation will continue. The oil and gas pipeline to Timor will not benefit the Timorese the way it should, because when this opportunity is open to multinational companies, they will bring everything from their countries, Ms Fernandes said.

"We will not become a sovereign state, economically we will become dependent on foreign countries.”

Businessman Rui Castro also raised the issue about businessmen from abroad coming to Timor, renting land and using it to grow vegetables to sell back to Timorese people.

"This happens in Aileu many times, in Atabae there are also a few, if we keep this sector open and free, it will not provide good protection and eventually people from abroad will take over everything," Mr Castro said.

Mr Castro is urging the Government to establish a good policy in it’s agriculture sector which will provide opportunities to Timorese.

“If not, what will happen in Aileu, Atabae, Batugade (Bobonaro) and Natarbora (Manatuto), is that the overseas people will rent the land and use it to grow vegetables and sell it back to Timorese.”

The Government has established numerous international partnerships with countries such as China and Germany, which are causing this to happen, Mr Castro said.

A chinese company has opened the shrimp industry in Loes, while others have planted chilies in Natarbora and the other one is now in Manatuto, he said.

The Interim Minister for economic affairs and the Minister of Legislative reform and Parliamentary affairs, Fidelis Manuel Leite Magalhaes, responded to the comments, saying the government has noted the them and would inform local entrepreneurs and the relevant law-making ministries.

Tempotimor (Dili) - The parliament of Timor-Leste rejected the new proposal of the government for the state budget.

 

Sally Rummery

 

I’m sitting in a limousine parked outside an expatriate bar in Timor-Leste’s capital, Dili. I’m told by its proud owner, Fred, that the car was formerly owned by David Bowie. The air outside is ripe with humidity and the smoke of fires frying street food. Further along the road, market vendors are selling fruit to men on scooters. Babies with dirty feet are huddled into the riders’ laps. A stripped-out van (microlet) carrying dusty passengers in a haze of pounding Timorese rap music, narrowly avoids colliding with a U-turning taxi as it passes. Where I sit feels impossibly clean and cool.

Fred tells me his new investment is the first of a fleet to be shipped into the country in preparation for celebrations of Timor’s sovereignty. It’s been 20 years since the people of East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia. He excitedly tells me that I’m sitting where Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, will be in a month’s time.

When I flew into Dili at the end of June, I had only a vague understanding of Timor’s history. I was there as part of an internship working with Timorese journalist, Jose Belo.

As I met and interviewed the people of Timor, I became aware of the fundamental strength and resilience that formed the foundations of the democracy. As a nation conceived in bloodshed, the feel is of politicians and civilians alike striving to move forward to peace in spite of evident pressures from developed countries with vested interests.

On the 30st of August 1999- 24 years after being invaded by Indonesia in 1975, Timor-Leste held an historic referendum. A staggering 78.5% of people vote in favour of independence. Civil unrest erupted between pro-Indonesia paramilitary groups and pro-independence civilians, by 2002 more than 1400 people had been killed.

Over 5000 Australian personnel were deployed into Timor between 1999 and 2002 as part of the peacemaking mission, International Force East Timor (INTERFET). Ex-Australian soldier, Jason, tells me at a dinner for INTERFET veterans that while the turn of the century evokes memories of fear, violence and chaos for many, for him it was one of his most gratifying experiences as a soldier.

“I went to Afghanistan four times and that wasn’t nice. In Timor, people wanted us to be here and they appreciated the help. You could integrate with them easily and be part of their culture. They were accepting and a beautiful people.”

“[There was] a sense of liberating a country, or helping to liberate a country who had fought for their own independence for 20 odd years and helping to enable that and provide them with the security to take over their own country and be their own government and people.”

As the world’s newest nation, Timor-Leste is still considered ‘third-world’. It held its first election to appoint members of a constitutional assembly to approve the East Timorese constitution in 2001. In 2002 it elected its first president of the republic. Since then, the nation has borne the brunt of a young government system trying to gain its feet. In 2006, conflict between components of the Timorese military over discrimination saw violence and chaos take control once more. The crisis prompted military intervention from several other countries, including Australia.

The effects of the violent confrontations can still be seen today. Burnt out buildings lend an eerie quality to rural towns while mountainous backdrops and smiling people in bright shirts counteract the effect. Dili has the appearance of a hastily put together shanty town. Women bathe their children in small iron tubs outside. Their dirt floored kitchens are swept immaculately clean. Non-government organisations drive initiatives for change while the elected governments strive to implement policies to allow reform.

Pressure from external forces give a sense of Timor’s need to maintain a high-functioning democracy. Talking with Timorese politicians though, I am constantly reminded that many of these men are adjusting into a role they had not seen themselves in before. Many of them were soldiers at the change of millennium and again in 2006. What were once guerrilla fighters, are now the presidents and prime ministers of a democracy.

Jose Ramos Horta former president, prime minister and foreign minister tells me that while he did not personally take up arms, he led the resistance by taking on the role of foreign minister under the liberation movement and first elected party, FRETILIN (revolutionary front for an independent East Timor), and pleaded his country’s cause across the world.

I meet Mr Ramos Horta in a beautiful, airy old-style home. Portraits hang on every wall. He says that even now he continues to help the governing party in passing new policies.

“Even if they are the opposition, I try to help. Whether I agree or not with their policies, they are the government elected. That’s my philosophy in life. In the circumstance of Timor-Leste, it is still a fragile society, a fragile country. I cannot play democracy opposition like you can afford to in Australia”.

Catching a microlet in the direction of my hotel after leaving Mr Ramos Horta I am suddenly aware of the sound of chanting. Up ahead a street has been completely blocked by the bodies of thousands of people shouting and cheering. It is the third LGBTQI + pride parade held in Timor-Leste. An estimated three thousand people are in attendance, six times that of the country’s first ever march held in 2017.

President, Francisco Guterres offers his support for the ‘Marsa Diversidade’ (Diversity March) saying in a statement “I am a president for all people”.

“I respect everyone! Respect and love tie us as a family, as community, as a people. I ask everyone to see diversity as our nation’s wealth”.

A 2018 report by the National Women’s Network (Rede Feto) and the ASEAN OGIE caucus into the treatment of women in Timor-Leste found that while many women feel increasingly accepted as lesbian, bisexual and transgender, they still experience a disturbing level of perverse discrimination and violence.

While this trend is alarming, it is positive to see the young nation striving to move forward by addressing modern issues in a progressive and inclusive manner.

The relationship between Timor-Leste and Australia has a tumultuous history. Our military involvement between 1999 and 2002 is considered to have been paramount to Timor’s independence, politically however our involvement has created deep upset.

In commemoration of Timor’s milestone, Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, has promised to publicly ratify the maritime boundary treaty between the two nations.

The struggle for sovereignty over the maritime territory has been an ongoing battle for Timor-Leste with the Australian government only entertaining discussions following an International Court of Justice ordered ‘compulsory conciliation’ in 2016.

Under the latest maritime boundary agreement, all contracts for petroleum activities in the Timor Sea will belong to Timor-Leste.

Rifts between Timor-Leste and Australia hadn’t been fully resolved when the Maritime Boundary Treaty was signed in March 2018 and the countries remain unwilling to agree on where the gas will be processed, with each nation vying for it to be piped to their own domestic facilities.

Private operators and energy experts support the viable option of piping the gas to Darwin in an arrangement that would see Timor-Leste receive up to $8 billion AUD in revenue, but the Timor-Leste government is adamant that jobs in their already-constructed domestic Tasi Mane facility would create financial security for the country.

In a small yellow painted room, I speak with members of Dili-based NGO, La’o Hamutuk. A fan lazily paddles through the damp air above our heads as they tell me that they’ve estimated the cost of building the required pipeline to the Tasi Mane facilities and the cost of buying out ConocoPhillips and Shell’s stakes in the Greater Sunrise oil and gas field will total more than what is left in the country’s sovereign wealth fund.

In an email exchange, La’o Hamutuk researcher, Charlie Scheiner, tells me how important it is that the Timorese government understand the heavy environmental and social costs of the petroleum industry. He worries that the industry’s reliability on a volatile, evolving global energy market could prove costly to the nation. “We should not put all our eggs in such a costly and uncertain basket, especially when other paths for economic development are more certain, more sustainable, and more beneficial to most of our people”.

Tourism and agriculture are being pushed forward in the public’s conscience. The development of both industries appears at the outset to be a sustainable opportunity for improvement to economic and job growth.

While Timor-Leste continues to face devastating economic conditions as reserves of their current resource projects, which provide up to 80% of their total revenue, are projected to run out within a few years, their insistence on maintaining firsthand control of these seemingly doomed projects feels like a protective act.

Timor-Leste is resting on a knife-edge. While stability and growth sit well within the democracy’s grasp, outside pressures threaten to undo the fledgling nation’s future prosperity and hard work. Reflecting on the history of the nation on its twentieth anniversary, the world would do well to remember how significantly the new democracy has built itself up out of the rubble.

  

 

 

 

 

Tempotimor (Dili) – The body of Timor-Leste's first prime minister, Nicolau dos Reis Lobato has never been found. He was killed by the Indonesian military on 31 December 1978. But after 41 years it is still unclear where his remains are.

Tempo Timor (Dili) -Timorese seasonal workers have been experiencing ‘big problems’ in Australia, said Tim Nelthorpe, lead organiser for the Australian United Workers Union (UWU). The union spoke with Timorese who earned just 20 dollars a week, which was all that was left after costs such as for housing, healthcare and flights had been deducted from their salaries. Workers also reported they experienced ‘racism’ and couldn’t move freely as they were assigned to their accommodation.

 

 The West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda campaigns at the United Nations for a new referendum for West Papua. Tempo Timor interviewed him in New York.

 Friday 13 September 2019 -- Xanana Gusmão, the independence hero who has been president and prime minister of East Timor, was suddenly angry. With bare hands and helped by police and others, last Tuesday (10 September) he demolished the wooden fence that was installed by Marino Enterprise to protect the land this Timorese business owns in the village of Kaitehu, part of Liquica municipality.

A few days earlier the Court had issued a decision in favor of Marino Enterprise, confirming that the land belonged to Marino Enterprise and that another business, the China Harbour Lda Company had to stop using the land to process gravel (rock fragments). After that, on Monday 9 September, the lawyers of Marino Enterprise, escorted by police, went to the area to set up the fence, which was subsequently taken down by Xanana.

Tibar port

Before his drastic action Xanana had met with Marino Enterprise and requested them not to go to court against China Harbor Company, because the gravel is used for the Tibar Port project, a public-private partnership involving hundreds of millions of dollars to create a new harbor west of the capital Dili. ‘I told them: you cannot bring this matter to the court. The Tibar Port is not for me, but for the whole of Timor-Leste,’ Xanana told the public.

Xanana explained he will not take legal action. ‘I am not going to see the court. I am here to pull down their decision. They can arrest me here. To arrest or jail me in Becora prison. I am ready, in the national interest,’ Xanana said, adding: ‘This port of Tibar is not for me. It is not a hotel for me to live in.’ In the presence of police and local authorities from villages and the district, he looked at the workers of the Chinese company who were standing around him, and said: ‘I’m here ordering you to go back to work.’

Bribes

Xanana also accused Marino Enterprise of bribing the Court and the ministry of Justice to issue a decision in favor of this company. While crying he said: ‘I believe that Marino Enterprise has bribed them. I believe it happened.’

The Minister of Justice, local authorities or the police refused to comment on Xanana's actions. ‘I don't comment, don’t force me to speak,’ Justice Minister Manuel Carceres da Costa told reporters.

Ownership

Xanana stated that Marino Enterprise bought the land from the community for $ 15,000 US dollars. His own foundation tried to buy back the land, but Marino Enterprise refused the offer.

When the Justice Minister Manuel Carceres da Costa recently visited the area he confirmed: ‘This land belongs to Marino Enterprise. Marino Enterprise bought it from a community which owned it. The act of selling and buying this land has been legalised by the notary.’ He added: ‘I have signed a lease agreement with the Chinese company, but this does not include the land that belongs to Marino Enterprise. This is private land.’

The lawyers for Marino Enterprise said that if others ‘want to use this land they have to establish a contract with the owner. But my client is powerless, that’s why we take the case to the court. The court confirms that my client has the right to the land.’

Tempotimor (Dili): Eis Prezidente Repúblika José Ramos Horta, kongratula xefe negosiadór prinsipal Xanana Gusmão ho ninia ekipa téknika iha Parlamentu Nasionál, hodi aprezenta proposta lei hirak ne'ebé importante ba ratifikasaun tratadu fronteira marítima Timor-Leste ho Australia. 

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