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Stories

East Timor confident gas row with Australia nears end (2 May 05)

Indonesia and E Timor heal wounds (9 Apr 05)

Some justice for Timor war criminals (18 Feb 05)

Starbucks Accolade for Timor Coffee (21 Oct 04)


East Timor confident gas row with Australia nears end (2 May 05)

MELBOURNE: East Timor Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta said his tiny country and Australia were on the cusp of securing a long-term deal over splitting billions of dollars of revenues from yet-to-be developed offshore gas fields.

East Timor, one of Asia's poorest nations, agreed on Friday to shelve talks on a permanent sea border with Australia for 50 to 60 years in exchange for up to $A5 billion ($NZ5.3 billion) of additional revenue from the Greater Sunrise field.

The agreement, reached by a team of 20 negotiators, still requires official approval by both governments but Ramos-Horta said unprecedented progress had been made during the three-and-a-half days of talks and both countries were on the threshold of a new era in bilateral relations.

"There are many details still to be worked through by the two sides...but I am confident that we are on the brink of securing an agreement to handle for a long period our competing claims in the Timor Sea and in turn unlock the enormous hydrocarbon potential of this region," he said in a statement on Monday.

Final agreement would pave the way for Australia-listed Woodside Petroleum Ltd to push ahead with plans for a $A6.6 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project.

The Greater Sunrise field has an estimated 225 billion cubic metres of gas and up to 300 million barrels of condensate.

But Woodside, which stalled the project late last year amid disagreement, has since given other LNG projects priority and said on Friday that developing Sunrise would depend on both parliaments signing off on the agreement and its ability to secure customers.

East Timor, which gained independence in 2002 after centuries of Portuguese colonial rule and 24 years of occupation by Indonesia, is depending on oil and gas revenues to rebuild its economy and wean itself from foreign aid.

Woodside has a 33.4 per cent stake in Greater Sunrise, ConocoPhillips has 30 per cent, and Royal Dutch/Shell 26.56 per cent. The balance is held by Japan's Osaka Gas Co Ltd.

Woodside is 34 per cent-owned by Shell. Woodside shares were trading up 0.51 per cent at A$23.62 in early afternoon trade in a firmer overall market. Reuters

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Indonesia and E Timor heal wounds (9 Apr 05)

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has visited a cemetery in East Timor where Indonesian troops killed hundreds of protesters in 1991.

The visit, the first by an Indonesian leader to the graveyard, is seen as a symbol of reconciliation after East Timor's 1999 breakaway from Indonesia.

On Friday, he signed a border agreement which both sides described as a good step towards normalising relations.

Some 1,500 people were killed when the tiny country voted for independence.

The president prayed at the cemetery where a peaceful commemoration of an activist killed by the Indonesian military turned into a bloodbath when troops opened fire on 3,000 people.

More than 200 were killed and about 270 went missing.

Improving relations

Mr Yudhoyono later on Saturday visited a nearby graveyard where hundreds of Indonesian troops killed during the occupation are buried.

"East Timor is like an old relative," he told the East Timorese parliament.

"I hope that the atmosphere of this trip can be maintained and translated into closer relations in the future."

The two countries have also signed an important agreement to formalise the border between East Timor and Indonesian-controlled West Timor.

"Our two nations have been able to reach a provisional land border agreement after less than five years of talks," East Timor's Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said.

"This is a great achievement in its own right and it bodes well for making progress on other fundamentally important issues."

Trials

But while the visit marks a step forward in the relation between the two countries, many in East Timor feel that justice has not yet been done.

Indonesia set up a special human rights court in 2000, but has so far refused to extradite those accused of responsibility for the massacres.

Of 18 people it has tried in its own courts, 17 have been acquitted and one is still free while his case is being appealed.

The BBC's Tim Johnston says that despite the visit, the wounds in East Timor are far from healed.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975, starting an occupation which lasted almost a quarter of a century. BBC

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Some justice for Timor war criminals (18 Feb 05)

Aprecio Guterres will be the last person to be tried by the war crimes court set up in East Timor.

After his case has been heard, the United Nations has ordered the court to close, as operations wind down ahead of the final UN pullout on 20 May.

It has already stayed a year beyond its original mandate, and no further extension looks likely.

If he is found guilty, Mr Guterres will be the 75th person to be jailed for crimes connected to the events of 1999, when a vote for independence sparked violent gun battles.

More than 500,000 people had to leave their homes, tens of thousands died and most of the buildings of East Timor were destroyed as Indonesian forces went on the rampage.

The end of the war crimes trials will mean that the most high-profile person to be indicted, the former head of Indonesia's armed forces, General Wiranto, will never face charges in East Timor.

He is unlikely to face trial in Indonesia either, despite being found "morally responsible" by a government-sponsored human rights inquiry.

The Indonesians did put 18 people on trial, but none are actually in jail.

Compared to Liliput

East Timor's political leadership, which is trying to build bridges with the newly elected democratic government in Jakarta, is glad to see an end to the war crimes process.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta said that independence itself was enough justice.

He has put his considerable moral weight behind a new process to be called a Truth and Friendship Commission, to put a line under the wrongs of the past.

Part of the impetus for this comes from a desire not to inflame tensions in Jakarta, recognising that democracy is fragile.

Mr Ramos Horta has compared his country to Jonathan Swift's Lilliput - too small to take on a giant.

"East Timor is not going to be the Lilliputian judge, which is going to bring to justice very powerful Indonesian ministers," he said.

"If we are seen by Indonesia as conniving with the international community to continue to embarrass Indonesia, it could have a backlash against East Timor."

But as the UN prepares to pull out, there are signs that the institutions it has built have failed to put down deep roots.

'Corruption and interference'

All of the country's judges are currently in classes, after failing law exams, and the nation's police force appears to have learnt too many of its techniques from the past, and not enough from the UN-financed international trainers.

Joaqim Fonseca, a human rights activist who now works inside the government, said the public think the new police are just as bad as the old.

"Problems have come in the form of police brutality, accepting kickbacks, and illegal backing of businesses," he said.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said East Timor's police were very good compared to neighbouring countries.

"When you have no problems, then small problems become big problems," he said.

But outside observers complain of political interference and corruption.

There has been interference, too, in the judicial process - most notably when government law officers first endorsed and then disowned the controversial indictment against General Wiranto.

Despite this, the prime minister puts the blame for judicial failings squarely on the UN.

"I am sure that the justice sector was the worst done by the UN," he said.

"We need a credible justice system in this country for sustainable development... and to attract investors, so I do believe that the UN will understand that and will keep on assisting us."

But there is no sign of continuing assistance for justice beyond May, although the UN Development Programme (UNDP) is committed to continue funding a judicial monitoring project to keep an eye on how things are going.

Local forgiveness

One part of the international community's work which will have a lasting effect is the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR), a process to re-integrate former militiamen and Indonesian army soldiers.

Housed in a former political prison in Dili, where some of the cells have been left as a permanent memorial, the CAVR will publish a major report later this year, detailing thousands of horror stories so that East Timor never forgets.

The main culprits may never go to jail, but the small fry have been forgiven after explaining their stories.

Their neighbours seem happy enough to accept that they too were victims of the times.

Sometimes elaborate village ceremonies welcome them back.

Bernadino Pires is a case in point. He said he was taken by the military and forced to work in a group which burnt houses.

After the killings in 1999, he fled to West Timor, only returning when he could go through a public process managed by the CAVR.

His neighbour Jacinta Tillman had her own house burnt down - although not by his gang - but she has welcomed him back home.

"When he came back he was happy, and that made us happy too. We know that it was not his fault," she said. BBC

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Starbucks Accolade for Timor Coffee (21 Oct 04)

East Timor believes that the Starbucks seal of approval will give its key coffee industry a fillip. The world's leading retailer of speciality coffee on October 10 launched its first single-origin coffee from East Timor at Starbucks branches around Australia and New Zealand, a company spokeswoman said. The brand, dubbed Timor Lorosa'e, is expected to eventually go on sale at the firm's more than 8,000 branches worldwide--a first for a single-origin coffee from the fledgling country. The Seattle-based company signed a deal in late September to buy the organically grown Arabica from Caf� Cooperative Timor, a major exporter representing 20,000 farmers. "We've gone out and achieved international recognition, and that's good for the future of East Timor's coffee industry," said CCT's senior agricultural adviser Alistair Laird. East Timor Agriculture Minister Estanislau da Silva agreed, telling the REVIEW that the move will increase farmers' incomes and "help to develop this industry, to improve agronomic practices." He said that Starbucks, which has long purchased blends from East Timor, would be paying between $1.26 and $1.41 a pound for the single-origin coffee as a so-called "fair-trade certified" product, adding that this was almost three times more than farmers could currently expect. Far Eastern Economic Review

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