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Tuesday, 27 September 2016 14:36

Seeking justice for our Timorese neighbours

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Sr Susan Connelly rsj 150Following the decision from The Hague opening the way for talks between Australia and East Timor on the Timor Sea dispute, Josephite Sister Susan Connelly says it is important for Australians to assist their political representatives to work towards establishing a fair and permanent border with the Timorese.

The Permanent Court of Justice in The Hague has issued a press release on 26 September on behalf of the Conciliation Commission, announcing that the Commission published their full decision wherein they rejected Australia's claim that it had no jurisdiction to conciliate the dispute in the Timor Sea, thereby opening the way for talks between Australia and East Timor.

The Government of Timor-Leste has issued a release welcoming the news where Spokesperson for the Government and Agent for the case, Minister of State Agio Pereira noted: “Timor-Leste welcomes this decision. This process is an opportunity to set a good example in our region and we will engage with respect for the commission and its recommendations, ever conscious of the importance of maintaining the best possible relationship with our close neighbour Australia.”

Josephite Sister Susan Connelly writes on this newest development:

"It is hoped that Australia's response will be positive and cooperative. The full decision of the Court notes that 'Australia has committed that it “will abide by the Commission’s finding as to whether it has jurisdiction to hear matters on maritime boundaries” and that “if the decision is against us, [Australia] will engage in the conciliation in good faith"."

"While it is true that the decision of the conciliation will not be binding, an Australian Government response that emphasises this “non binding” nature of the process would not sit well with Australia’s position on international law generally. In particular, Australia's promotion of dispute resolution mechanism for the South China Sea under the United Nations would take on extra hollowness. Conciliation meetings will be largely confidential to best assist towards a successful resolution. The report of the commissioners will be due on September 17, 2017. However, the parties do not have to "wait 12 months and see what happens". Discussions could be undertaken between Australia and Timor-Leste to attempt to further solutions to the dispute."

"It is now important for Australians to assist their political representatives to work towards establishing a fair and permanent border with our neighbours, the Timorese. The more our politicians realise that this issue is important to Australians, the more likely they are use the power we have given them to do what is right and just. Let Australian civil society once more turn towards our loyal Timorese friends and help them to finalise the sovereignty for which they suffered so much."

For more information on this issue, read more from the Timor Sea Forum, the Timor Sea Justice Campaign and the Maritime Boundaries Office Timor-Leste.

Read a related article written by Sr Susan Connelly rsj, "It's time to draw the line: Justice in the Timor Sea," published in July 2016.