The area outside the Australian embassy in Dili, the capital of Timor Leste, was crowded with thousands of protesters on Tuesday who gathered there and claimed that the Australian government has acquired the Timor Leste territory illegally.
The demonstrators blamed the government for not accepting the renegotiation proposal on maritime boundaries over gas and oil reserves. The ongoing conflict between Australia and Timor Leste over the maritime boundary that was agreed upon by Australia and Indonesia in 1972 even before the independence of the Timorese has not been resolved. At present, there is no agreement relating to the permanent boundary, which prompted the protesters on Tuesday to ensure a definite median boundary is established between the two conflicting countries.
The demonstrators are aware and understands that changes could be made according to the international law under the 1982 UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS). Most of the protesters were students who reacted and joined the march outside the embassy. There were banners with varied messages on them. Some read, “We want justice,” while other said, “Stop delaying discussions on maritime boundary in order to continue stealing our oil.” Latin American Herald Tribune stated that the marchers also held the flag of their nation as a symbol of the protest.
Besides Australia, Timor Leste people are also involved in negotiations with their current neighbour and earlier occupier, Indonesia. The Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea alleged Aussies of illegally holding the maritime territory of Timor Leste with an intention to acquire their resources. “As a big and powerful country in this region, Australia shouldn’t be using its power to continue to steal our future from the Timor Sea,” MKOTT coordinator Juvinal Dias said as quoted by The Guardian.
Moreover, in February, Australian opposition foreign affairs department spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said that the government was planning to prepare an international arbitration for submission in case the negotiations turned unsuccessful. At that time, the Timor Leste government also welcomed the announcement.