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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

MEDIA RELEASE: Timor-Leste de facto government should stop blaming others for its failures


Dili, February 16, 2010

Timor-Leste de facto government should stop blaming others for its failures

The de facto Gusmao government is bungling the negotiations for the Greater Sunrise field, warned FRETILIN MP and party Vice President, today. “It should heed the opinion of all who are deeply committed to the national objective of sustainable development of Timor-Leste’s petroleum resources for the benefit of all Timorese,” Mr Bano said.

“This includes opinions expressed by former Prime Minister Dr Mari Alkatiri, who is rightfully credited with having ably negotiated the Timor Sea Treaty and the “Sunrise Arrangements” (CMATS Agreement of Certain Maritime Arrangements on the Timor Sea) both of which have secured a greater share of the resources in the Timor Sea than Australia was originally prepared to concede,” said Mr Bano.

In the Dili newspaper the Timor Post, 25 November 2009, State Secretary for Natural Resources, Alfredo Pires, is reported as having said: “it was possible for the Timorese Government to replace the Wood Side Company with another company which had good will to build the Greater Sunrise gas and field’s pipelines to Timor-Leste if the Woodside Company remains hell-bent in installing pipelines to Australia.”

Suara Timor Lorasae, 14 December 2009, quoted a government source: In high-level contacts between the Government of Timor-Leste and representatives of companies Petrokimia and Petronas of Malaysia, which this newspaper has accessed, "The Government is looking for an alternative company to replace Woodside to explore the possibility of bringing the Pipeline GSR for Timor-Leste." Malaysia has demonstrated its commitment to assist Timor-Leste, in technical-scientific matters, to bring the Pipeline GSR for Timor-Leste.

According to Mr Bano, “It is the de facto government that has been saying that they would replace Woodside. Neither Dr Alkatiri nor anyone else in FRETILIN has ever said anything to that effect. It is totally misleading for members of the de facto government to say that he or anyone in FRETILIN has done so.”

Like many Timorese, FRETILIN is very concerned with the non-transparent, and excessively secretive manner in which the Sunrise Development Plan approval process has been handled by the de facto government, which has legal implications for the state of Timor-Leste that the National Parliament needs to be concerned with and informed," Mr Bano stressed.

La’o Hamutuk opposed the previous parliament’s decision to ratify the petroleum treaties. However, Veriato Seac from La’o Hamutuk stated in a public letter on 6 August 2009: “La’o Hamutuk, as a non-governmental organization established and working in Timor-Leste, has repeatedly stated that Woodside should respect Timor-Leste’s people’s interests on this project, and La’o Hamutuk defends those interests only, not those of the project operator Woodside. Nevertheless, we place highest emphasis on treaties which were signed and ratified by the Governments of Australia and Timor-Leste: the Timor Sea Treaty (2002), International Unitization Agreement (IUA, 2003) and Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS, 2006),” adding, “the state has signed those treaties already, so we continue to call Timor-Leste’s Government to obey those treaties, so as not to lose trust from the international community and companies. If we do not follow the rules of law and do not keep our word, then we will create a bad example for other nations.”

FRETILIN is aware of the government’s frustrations with Woodside, and shares these, said Mr Bano. “The point we are making, that Dr Alkatiri has been making, is that whatever ways are explored to ensure Sunrise gas is brought onshore Timor-Leste, the rule of law and the treaty obligations Timor-Leste has signed must be adhered to. If the de facto government does not abide by our treaty obligations, that have benefitted our people and nation tremendously to date, there will be terrible damage done to the reputation of Timor-Leste for sovereign risk and investment risk.

“It was the FRETILIN government which commenced preparing the pipeline viability studies and engaged world leaders in deep pipeline technology, and we are pleased to see the de facto government carried that through as a vital step to establishing the onshore Timor-Leste oil and gas plant as a viable option for Sunrise.

“When Dr Alkatiri headed the Timor Sea Treaty negotiations team between 2000 and 2002, Timor-Leste faced strong pressure from the Australian government to keep the share of the production in the Joint Petroleum Development Area to 50%, as it was with Indonesia, and managed to negotiate an outcome where Timor-Leste now has a 90% share in production from the area. Without this treaty, Timor-Leste would not have the billions we now have in the Petroleum Fund,” said Mr Bano.

“Between 2003 and 2005, he oversaw the negotiations that resulted in CMATS, which resulted in Timor-Leste increasing its share in projected revenues from the Greater Sunrise oil and gas field from 18% to 50% whilst keeping open the viable option of a pipeline and LNG plant to Timor-Leste,” Mr Bano said.

“For certain members of the de facto government to say that he has ever acted contrary to the national interests in this or any other regard, especially on oil and gas matters, is just nonsense,” Bano said, responding to recent Gusmao de facto government statements.

According to Mr Bano, Dr Alkatiri has been the principal defender, from the outset of negotiations, of Timor-Leste’s rights to develop Sunrise gas on Timor-Leste’s shores.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister John Howard in Sydney on 12 January 2006 following the signing ceremony for CMATS, Dr Alkatiri said:
“Above all (given the comparative distance) Timor-Leste to Australia, (Timor-Leste) is much closer.  This is one thing, so of course we keep, not hoping but fighting, to have this plant there and the pipeline to Timor-Leste. We do believe that it is technically feasible and have been trying to get the pipeline there and I hope it will go there.”

Mr Bano acknowledged some recent formal acknowledgment by the government that it respects the legal rights of the upstream joint venture partners.”We urge them to ensure that they continue to do so in their media comments, and not to sensationalize the issue in an attempt to generate popular fervor against our Timor-Sea partners.  It is not helpful.
But it continues to be unacceptable for the Opposition, the parliamentary committees and civil society to be denied crucial information for two years. If they wish there to be more national consensus regarding Sunrise, they have to stop being totally secretive and unforthcoming with civil society groups and the opposition on where they are at with bringing the pipeline onshore Timor-Leste.”

For further information please call Arsenio Bano MP on +670 741 9505

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