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Tempotimor (New York) = Vanuatu firmly condemned during the UN General Assembly the ongoing violations of human rights against the indigenous people of West Papua. The Solomon Islands called in a public session for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to go directly to West Papua, as human rights violations escalated. Vanuatu supported this call on the UN podium.

The calls of the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are in accordance with the decision at the fiftieth Pacific Island Forum meeting 13-16 August 2019 in Tuvalu, where 18 Pacific nations unanimously agreed to call for a UN visit to West Papua, to investigate human rights violations in the territory.

Later Vanuatu also called for ‘the right of self-determination for New Caledonia, French Polynesia and West Papua, as well as calling on the United Nations to ensure their rights are implemented,’ Vanuatu’s prime minister Charlot Salwai said at the 74th UN General Assembly on Friday, 27 September 2019. 

Twenty years ago the Indonesian government was accused of committing human rights abuses in Timor-Leste. Today several Melanesian countries are accusing Jakarta of committing atrocities in West Papua and call on the West Papuans to keep fighting for their rights as recognised in international law.


Tempo Timor (TT) spoke with Vanuatu’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ralph Regenvanu (RR). 

TT: What is Vanuatu’s position with regard to West Papua?

 RR : ‘We consider that West Papua was never decolonized. It was a colony of The Netherlands and then it was passed on to become a colony of Indonesia. Unlike most people in the world they never had a chance to decide their own future, which is a universal human right. The people of West Papua need to be given the chance to exercise their right to decide their own future.’

TT: Will Vanuatu be able to convince other governments to push for a visit of the UN to West Papua?

RR: ‘The human rights situation is very bad in West Papua. No outside media are allowed in. No UN bodies are allowed in. No human rights NGOs are allowed in. So the first step that needs to be taken is for the UN Human Rights Commissioner to go, to visit, to study and to report to the world what is happening with regard to the human rights situation in West Papua, because that is the most important thing.

Human rights are a basic fundamental principal which the international community has set up to uphold. We believe that Indonesia is not upholding the rights of West Papua, and so the UN needs to address this situation. The first thing the UN has to do is a proper independent and impartial assessment of what is actually happening.’ 

TT: What is Vanuatu’s message to the international community with regard to West Papua?

RR: ‘There are human rights violations being committed in West Papua. Some scholars qualify it as genocide as defined by international law and criteria. So it is a very serious situation. The international community has an obligation to address human right crises anywhere. They can act in some places, but unfortunately they seem to ignore West Papua. So I’m asking to the international community to pay attention to the human rights situation in West Papua as it does in another countries in the world.’


 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.

By Tjitske Lingsma

Retired Australian army soldier Ben Whiley, traumatised during his mission in East Timor, walked in just twenty days from the eastern tip of Timor-Leste to the west. His ‘Debt to Honour Trek’ is to honour Falintil and Australian commandos, to heal and to fundraise for charity.

 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.’


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.


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.’

Senator PATRICK» (South Australia) (19:25): I thank Senator Green for making a contribution about the trip we did to PNG. It was, indeed, a great trip. I'm going to move next door to Timor-Leste now and talk about the strategic blunder we are about to make in respect of East Timor. I was in East Timor two weekends ago for the 20th anniversary of their independence, and I managed to witness the president of that country giving a firsthand warning, or indication, to the Prime Minister and the foreign minister that things are not right.


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 people of Timor-Leste welcome the 30 of August with a banner expressing support to Witness K and Bernard Collaery who face charges at courts in Australia. 

Timor-Leste Government, via the national police-PNTL, has announced that they would not authorize any demonstration on the 20th anniversary of Referendum, but the government and PNTL lost control at sea in front of Palacio do Governo. A big red banner bearing Bernard Collaery’s photo and written “Our Solidarity with Bernard Collaery & Witness K” is hanged on a yacht in front of Palacio do Governo. 

“We unfold this banner on the yacht at sea because there is space to speak on shore,” an representative from the Movement Against Occupation of Timor Sea, MKOTT, told TempoTimor.

Witness K and his lawyer, Bernard Collaery helped bring forward information about the Australian espionage activities by planting listening devices at Palacio Governo during negotiations on sharing resources on the oild fields in the Timor Sea. 

“Big Brother Xanana and many leaders know that if it wasn’t thanks to Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery, we wouldn’e have been able to remove the listening devices from the office of Prime Minister,” the MKOTT representative explains. 

The people of Timor-Leste consider Bernard Collaery and Witness K as big heroes in Timor-Leste’s fight for maritime boundary with Australia. As scheduled, at 16.30 (30/08), Timor-Leste and Australia will exchange the diplomatic notes at the front of Palacio do Governo.

“We agree we should sign this note, but we should not forget our big heroes Witness K and Bernard Collaery are facing difficult situation imposed on them by the Australia Government,” MKOTT states.

Tempotimor (Manokwari) – Demonstrasaun no asaun brutu iha Manokwari, kapitál Papua Osidentál daet ona to'o sidade Sorong. Asaun masa ne'ebé brutu, harahun fasilidade públiku, inklui mós fasilidade iha Aeroportu Domine Eduard Osok (DEO) iha Sorong.   

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. 

Tempotimor (Dili) - Violence against children in Timor-Leste is ‘exceptionally high.’ A staggering 87.4 percent (612,539 children) of the Timorese children is victim at home of physical and emotional violence, according to the study ‘Unseen, Unsafe’ by Save the Children, ChildFund, Plan International and World Vision. This percentage is higher than in neighbouring countries such as Papua New Guinee and other Pacific nations.

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