Wed, 06 Aug 2003

NTT demands compensations for Timor Gap, Pasir Island

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara

Citizens of East Nusa Tenggara have demanded that Australia reopen discussions with Indonesia on the Timor Gap and Ashmore Reef disputes. Otherwise, the neighboring country should compensate the province with US$25 million per year.

These payments should continue for 50 years if Australia refused to discuss the problem, NTT's working committee (Pokja) spokesman said here on Tuesday. The committee is responsible for the management of the Timor Gap and Ashmore Reef (known as Pasir Island in Indonesia) disputes.

"The Australian government keeps refusing to talk about the Timor Gap and Pasir island problems. This disadvantages East Nusa Tenggara because oil and gas continues to be exploited from the Timor Gap," Working Group chairman Ferdi Tanone said.

"That's why Australia should compensate people in the province. The Timor Gap and Pasir island is their legacy," he added.

Melkianus Adoe, chairman of the East Nusa Tenggara legislative council''s Commission A, supported the demand.

Melkianus and Ferdi made the statements after meeting with East Nusa Tenggara Governor Piet A. Tallo in the provincial capital of Kupang to push for compensation.

The working committee also challenged the diplomatic note signed by the Australian and Indonesian governments on July 1, 2000, which enables Canberra and East Timor to exploit oil and gas from the Timor Gap.

The agreement was reached after East Timor broke away from Indonesia in 1999.

"The diplomatic note has extremely disadvantaged Indonesia," Ferdi said.

Earlier last week, he said Indonesia has a strong case to present sovereignty over Pasir island, (which is occupied by Australia), to the International Court of Justice.

Ferdi said a document found in the Archeological Museum of Western Australia provides convincing evidence for Indonesia's claim over the island.

"The document says traditional fishermen from Rote, Timor, Flores and Bugis found the island in 1609 and have conducted activities there ever since," he added.

Pasir island is situated 200 nautical miles south of Rote Island in East Nusa Tenggara. It was named Ashmore Reef after a British captain who landed on the island in 1874.

Australia has used the island as a naval base to contain the flow of illegal immigrants. A conservation park was also built there in 1982.

Ferdi said many of the Rote fisherman's ancestors were buried on the island.

"Australia's bargaining power is becoming weak because the document shows Indonesian fishermen made a living on the island for more than 200 years before the British arrived."