Gusmão - Boundaries a National Priority

Last night Minister of Planning and Strategic Investment H.E. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão was awarded a Doctorate of Letters from the University of Melbourne. He gave a speech that we spotted coming up on ETAN overnight where again he addressed the issue of maritime boundaries. A friend attending sent me the photo.

The whole speech is here.

May the optimism of leaders lead to a maritime boundary in the Timor Sea based on fairness, on international law.

And here is the part which turns to this issue:

"Achieving the restoration of our Independence turned out to be but the first step in achieving true freedom for our people – a freedom from poverty and the freedom to realise our full potential as a nation and as a people.

To do that we had to learn to forgive. We had to let go of the past.

Many Australians are surprised to learn that Timor-Leste and Indonesia, have successfully pursued a path of reconciliation and partnership.

We are sometimes criticised for being too forgiving, but I resolutely believe that the only way to move forward, the only way to ensure our survival, as a people and a nation, was to follow a pathway of reconciliation.

That meant we had to embrace our jailers, and sit opposite our former oppressors. We had to reconcile with our brothers and sisters, and cousins and sometimes parents and children who had taken a different path.

Timor-Leste and Indonesia today are a positive example of cooperation between the Muslim and the non-Muslim world.

Our shared commitment to negotiate maritime boundaries is a recent powerful example of where the path of reconciliation has taken us.

The Government of Timor-Leste has made the permanent delimitation of maritime boundaries a national priority as it is the final step in our long struggle for full sovereignty.

Indonesia and Timor-Leste have commenced maritime boundary negotiations and have agreed to abide by the principles set out in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and international law.

Australia on the other hand has refused to negotiate a maritime boundary with Timor-Leste and Timor-Leste cannot refer the issue to be determined by an independent umpire.

This is because in 2002, on the eve of Timor-Leste’s independence, Australia withdrew from the compulsory dispute mechanisms set up under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea for any disputes relating to the delimitation of its maritime zones.

Like your new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, I am an optimist.

And so, I look to the new Australian Government to recognise that it is in Australia’s national interest to have a clearly defined permanent maritime boundary in the Timor Sea.

From the Timorese perspective we are fighting for justice in the Timor Sea so that we can finish the work of our struggle for independence and achieve our rightful sovereignty under international law. We are continuing to be idealists."