By Max Lane
In the Netherlands on January 23, the government of Portugal began action in the International Court of Justice against Australia for signing the Timor Gap Treaty with Indonesia. United Nations resolutions still recognise Portugal as the administering power over East Timor.
One of Portugal's legal representatives, Miguel Galvao Teles, told the media, "Portugal wants oil in the Timor Gap to be conserved for the people of Timor when they are in an effective position to benefit from it".
The Timor Gap treaty divided the sea between Timor and Australia into three zones — one Australian, one Indonesian and one administered as the Timor Gap Zone of Cooperation (ZOCA). Between 1985 and 1993, 80 wells were drilled in the ZOCA. Initial drillings were unsuccessful, but BHP struck oil twice last year.
There are similarities between the Timor Gap case and a 1971 ruling by the International Court of Justice on South Africa's presence in Namibia in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions. The International Court of Justice ruled then that UN member states were obliged to refrain from any action that would imply recognition of the legality of South Africa's presence in Namibia.
Meanwhile in Belgium, 25 solidarity groups from 13 countries and three East Timorese organisations met in Brussels from January 27 to 29. This was the 13th European solidarity meeting on East Timor.
The meeting welcomed the recent report by the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, Bacre Waly Ndiaya. This report concludes that the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre was a planned military operation. It entirely rejects Indonesia's investigation into the killings and calls for a new and independent inquiry. The report also stresses that all the conditions in East Timor that made this massacre possible are unchanged.
The meeting also expressed concern that many countries in the European Union — notably Britain, Germany, France and Spain — are selling arms to the Indonesian government. It strongly condemned these sales and supported the 1991 resolution of the Council of Europe and the November 1994 resolution of the European Parliament which called for an embargo on arms sales to Indonesia. Sweden and Belgium have already decided not to export arms to Indonesia.
The meeting also expressed full support for the Indonesian democracy movement and welcomed the fact that the movement sees its struggle as directly related to that of the Timorese people.
While welcoming the UN-endorsed talks between East Timorese, the groups deplored the fact that the UN secretary-general's statement requests that these talks not address the issue of self-determination. "The East Timorese must be part of discussions concerning their future. These talks should be convened and chaired by the United Nations. We ask for the release of Xanana Gusmao, the leader of the East Timorese Resistance, in order to participate in the talks, and also call for the inclusion of Bishop Belo and other prominent Timorese leaders", explained a statement issued by the meeting.
The meeting decided to launch campaigns: in favour of the release of all Timorese political prisoners; to halt migration of Indonesians to East Timor; and to urge joint action worldwide on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Indonesian invasion.
[Information for this article compiled from various reports on Pegasus.]