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Issue #1743      August 10, 2016

Call for Timor Sea justice

I am totally in agreement with Nick Deane’s letter on behalf of the Marrickville Peace Group, “From Chilcot to the China Sea”, (Guardian 13/07/2016).

The Chilcot Report definitely has implications for Australia given that former Australian PM, John Howard, at the urging of Tony Blair and George Bush, decided to involve us in the totally unnecessary and immoral war in Iraq which led to great death, suffering, homelessness and destruction for the Iraqi people.

The Iraq War followed numerous US total war interventions in other places.

James A Lucas, an American writer for the Indian on-line magazine Countercurrents (April 2007) has estimated that the US has been responsible for 20 to 30 million deaths because of invasions it has carried out and other violent interventions into various countries. Some examples are the wars in Indochina, Afghanistan, the Gulf War, Libya etc, the undermining of democratic governments – eg Guatemala in 1954,Indonesia in 1965, Chile in 1973 etc, the death squads in Nicaragua, and El Salvador and support for numerous repressive regimes around the world. And this list is not an exhaustive one.

It is obvious that Australians who work for peace in the world want our federal government to cease supporting this incredible amount of death, suffering, homelessness and environmental damage caused by the US Military Industrial Complex. As Nick stated in his letter, for Australia to regain its self-esteem it needs to become an independent and non-aligned nation that works for peace, social justice, human rights and care for the environment internationally.

On the matter of the China Sea, we now know that the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has ruled against China over maritime boundaries as a result of a complaint brought by the Philippines against China’s activities in the South China Sea. We also know that the recently re-elected Turnbull government hails this decision and Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, has called on China to abide by the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

There is a great deal of hypocrisy in Australia’s position on this matter, however. For 12 years, Australian governments have insisted that Timor-Leste agrees to a very unfair treaty whereby Australia is able to take oil and gas resources from Timor-Leste’s half of the Timor Sea.

The amount concerned could be as high as $40 billion – an amount that is very much needed by the poorest nation in the region after it seeks to re-build and develop after 24 years of occupation by the fascist Indonesian military. Australia, the wealthiest nation in the region, is unfairly exploiting a very poor neighbour – one that suffered mightily for supporting Australia during World War II.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull need to realise that if Australia wants its demands that China should recognise UNCLOS in the China Sea to be taken seriously, they must also recognise the same convention in the Timor Sea. After all, they recognise the UNCLOS principle with NZ and the Solomon Islands. Why are they targeting our poorest neighbour so ruthlessly?

Timor-Leste’s former resistance leader, president and PM, Xanana Gusmao, some time ago said that we need to work for world peace and to do this, we must work for international social justice.

Andrew (Andy) Alcock
Information Officer
Australian East Timor Friendship Association

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