ASEAN Decision Making can be frustrating and self -defeating –Who is holding back Timor Leste’s Membership?


March 11, 2017

ASEAN Decision Making can be frustrating and self-defeating:Who is holding back Timor Leste’s Membership?

by Dr. Khoo Ying Hooi@www.newmandala.org

Image result for Dili

Delay in admitting Timor-Leste as 11 the member  will only reflect negatively on ASEAN’s decision-making process, writes Khoo Ying Hooi.

2017 is a pivotal year for the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) as it celebrates its 50 years since its founding. Among the puzzles that need to be solved is whether Timor Leste will be formally accepted as the regional bloc’s 11th member.

As the newest country in Southeast Asia, Timor Leste and its place in the region is often overlooked.

Timor-Leste is vulnerable not only as a small and relatively young state. The fact that it has suffered an Indonesian occupation that destroyed its economy and infrastructure prior to the restoration of independence in May 2002, means it faces various post-conflict challenges, including having its voice heard in regional and international forums.

Timor-Leste expressed its desire to be part of ASEAN right after the restoration of independence in 2002. In July 2005, it became a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and it signed the ASEAN Treaty on Amity and Cooperation in 2007. As outlined in its Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030, Timor-Leste’s aspiration to join ASEAN is based on geographical location, the wishes of the country’s leaders and people, and its cultural affinity with its neighbours.

Timor-Leste officially applied for ASEAN membership in March 2011 during Indonesia’s chairmanship after a number of years of ASEAN observer status. An ASEAN Coordinating Council Working Group (ACCWG) was then set up and tasked to assess Timor-Leste’s readiness to be part of the regional grouping, and the implications for ASEAN if it did join. It has been almost six years now since its official application in 2011.

With its domestic challenges, some questioned Timor-Leste’s aspiration for ASEAN membership, as well as the benefits and costs of joining.  For Timor-Leste’s part, ASEAN membership is hoped to provide access to an established forum where important issues such as security, economic development and integration, and socio-cultural matters can be pursued.

Timor-Leste has indeed come a long way. The nation’s independence came at a high price. Now, the country is gradually moving from fragility to a country that is consolidating and strengthening the necessary foundations of a state. But that is not without obstacles.

In ASEAN’s 50th year, many are hoping that the Philippines will use its chairmanship to accelerate  Timor-Leste’s formal membership to  the regional bloc. Under the theme of “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World” as announced by President Rodrigo Duterte last September 2016 in Laos, it is hope that ASEAN could live up to its inspiration as a model of greater regional integration when it comes to Timor-Leste.

Timor-Leste has done everything it can to be part of ASEAN. Now, the question is not what Timor-Leste will have to accomplish to be accepted formally as ASEAN’s 11th Member State. The test now lies with ASEAN leaders, and whether they can live up to the ASEAN aspiration as lauded in the ASEAN Community.

The longer Timor-Leste’s membership is delayed will only reflect negatively on ASEAN’s decision-making process that has often being criticised. It is time to demonstrate ASEAN’s commitment to a region made prosperous through the spirit of cooperation and integration and most importantly, a people-centred organisation.

Khoo Ying Hooi (PhD) is Senior Lecturer at the Department of International and Strategic Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya, Malaysia.

 

Timor-Leste’s win against Goliath Oz


January 12, 2017

Timor-Leste’s win against Goliath Oz

by M. VeeraPandiyan@www.thestar.com.my

Image result for Dili Bay

Cristo Rei of Dili is a statue that depicts Jesus Christ on top of a globe, and is located in the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.

The idyllic beauty of Timor Leste

A treaty that is unfair to one of South-East Asia’s poorest countries will be repealed to enable it to redraw a more realistic border with Australia.

I WAS in a village in Jakarta, Indonesia over the weekend and I was smeared by all and sundry.

This was a “smear campaign” of the joyous kind, though, held annually to mark the start of the year in Kg Tugu, near the port of Tanjung Priok.

The ritual is called Mandi Mandi but the water is only used to mix a beige talcum powder into a paste, which is then smudged on the faces of everyone, symbolising forgiveness in an atmosphere of fun.

The charming hamlet is the home of the descendants of slaves brought to Batavia (the old name for Jakarta) after the Portuguese lost Malacca to the Dutch in 1641. In later years, they were joined by others from the Moluccas, Celebes, Flores, West Timor and parts of India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

Now referred to as Keluarga besar Tugu (Big family of Tugu), they were once known as Mardjikers, a corruption of the Sanskrit Maharddhika meaning “prosperous”, which acquired the meaning of a free person in the region. The word Merdeka (independence), used in Malay and Bahasa Indonesia, can be traced to mardjiker.

In 1653, the original group of former slaves were offered freedom on the condition that they changed their faith from Catholic to Protestant. Eight years later, 150 people from 23 families were given a place to settle down.

Kg Tugu was then a harsh swathe of forests and mosquito-ridden swamps and many died from malaria. However, the community survived despite the odds and have kept part of their culture, traditions and music alive over the centuries.

Image result for Xanana Gusmao,

At the Mandi Mandi festival, the surprise presence of Xanana Gusmao, 71, the former guerrilla leader who led Timor-Leste to independence from Indonesia on May 20, 2002, made it a truly special event.

Yuk ke Atambua, Intip Pesona Wisata di Perbatasan RI-Timor Leste
Timor-Leste’s first President until 2007 served as Prime Minister for more than seven years before stepping down in 2015. He is currently Minister of Planning and Strategic Investment, a role overseeing the country’s quest for a better deal for its oil and gas resources from its bigger and richer southern neighbour, Australia.

East Timor was a colony of Portugal until it first declared independence in late 1975, only to be invaded and occupied by Indonesia until a UN-backed referendum in 1999 paved the way for independence three years later.

When I last met him in Malacca in June 2016, Gusmao was in the midst of resolving a bitter dispute over Timor-Leste’s maritime border with Australia through the United Nation’s 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

UNCLOS gives all coastal states the right to a 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) from the sea surface to under the seabed.

Australia signed the convention in 1994 but in March 2002, two months before Timor-Leste’s independence, it pulled out of compulsory jurisdiction of international courts and tribunals on matters relating to maritime boundaries. In 2006, East Timor and Australia signed a treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS) but no permanent border was set.

Under the original pact, Timor-Leste received 90% of current oil revenues from the joint petroleum development area, and Australia 10%, but the further Sunrise IUA treaty gives Timor-Leste only limited claim over future exploitation of the larger Greater Sunrise field.

It prevented any negotiations on boundaries for 50 years, although the line should rightly sit halfway between the countries, placing most of the oil and gas in Timor-Leste’s territory.

In December 2013, Australian police and Security Intelligence Organisation officers seized files and computers from a lawyer advising Timor-Leste in the dispute over CMATS.

The lawyer, a former Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) agent, was reported to have prepared documents exposing Australian espionage to secure advantage for the country during negotiations for CMATS in 2004. His passport was cancelled, preventing him from travelling to The Hague, where the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) was due to hear an application to cancel the treaty.

The ASIS agents, who pretended to be aid workers, bugged the walls of an office where ministers met, gaining information that gave Australia advantage in the negotiations before the treaty was signed against an impoverished and vulnerable neighbour.

Gusmao described the raids as “unconscionable and unacceptable conduct” and when Australia refused to return the documents, Timor-Leste filed for a hearing at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The episode sullied Australia’s “fair go” reputation and in September last year, the PCA agreed to take up the dispute.

On Saturday, before Gusmao’s face was smeared and he went around smearing others, he told me that things were going well and to expect a good announcement soon.

And on Monday, reports revealed that Australia had to eat humble pie. A joint statement from both countries said CMATS would no longer apply after three months.

“The Government of Australia has taken note of this wish and recognises that Timor-Leste has the right to initiate the termination of the treaty,” the statement read.

For now, it means Timor-Leste has won another “David vs Goliath” battle and the situation will revert to the 2002 treaty which set up the joint petroleum development area.

Media Consultant M. Veera Pandiyan