Today, the 30th of August, is a bittersweet day for the Timorese. It is the anniversary of the Popular Consultation, the UN sponsored referendum held in 1999 that finally gave the Timorese people a chance to vote for their freedom. And vote they did, overwhelmingly for self determination. This courageous act unleashed a terrible tirade of violence that saw over 1,400 civilians killed, some 200,000 Timorese forced into West Timor by Indonesian troops and paramilitary gangs, and the destruction of the capital Dili.
In October 1999 after spending seven years in an Indonesian prison Xanana Gusmão, the Commander in Chief of the resistance flew home to his beloved people now once again on a path to freedom.
And where is Xanana today? Surely he is amongst his people on this important day of commemoration?
Instead he is thousands of kilometres away in Europe battling with Australia, to finally establish a maritime border that gives the Timorese people what is their right under International Law.
What an appalling state of affairs.
While we can only speculate on what is happening in the secret United Nations Conciliation meetings now underway, one fact is beyond speculation - it is time for this sorry story of Australian greed and arrogance to come to an end. To finish this without delay with a final chapter that tells a story that shows integrity and demonstrates friendship and respect.
I have written before about the opportunity that now exists for Australia to set an example in the Timor Sea.
The President of East Timor in a televised address to the nation on the 21st of August made plain the commitment of the State:
"Because this negotiation is intimately related to the sovereignty of Timor-Leste, as one of our national interests, as the Head of State, I want to express my full support to the government of Timor-Leste, through our brother Xanana Gusmao, who is leading and will continue to lead the negotiation with a view to achieving a result that is fair to us, in accordance with international law."
He went on to say:
That 'one day' is long overdue.
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The fact that today, of all days, Xanana is on the other side of the globe continuing the struggle for Timor's sovereignty so that the Timorese people can finally enjoy their rights under international law is an indictment on Australia's poor treatment of its near neighbour.