Tempo Semanal-Dili, 08/07/2011
The former Prime Minister of Australia and now Foreign Minister of Australia Mr. Kevin Rudd arrives in Timor-Leste tomorrow (09/07). The Timorese will be happy to receive Mr. Rudd for two reasons. He is known to be a friend of Timor-Leste, and unlike almost all other senior Australian politicians, he is coming to stay overnight, and will leave on Sunday (11/07) after a visit to the rural areas.
|Xanana and Rudd|
In May 2010 Prime Minister Gusmao rejected to meet the Australian Minister for Trade, and in March 2011 Gusmao also rejected to meet the Australian Minister for Defence on his 6 hours visit to East Timor. Mr. Rudd is being welcomed to East Timor because ehe has a long history and undertstanding of the Timorese, and is happy to make time and priority to stay overnight with his Timorese friends.
Tempo Semanal has learned that Rudd plans to meet with the President of Timor-Leste Jose Ramos-Horta, the Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, and the Foreign Minister Zacarias Albano da Costa.
According to TS sources Mr. Rudd will meet with Prime Minister Gusmao at 1730 hours on 9 July 2011 at the Government Palace.
This visit comes a few days after the Australian Government has responded to a review of Australian Aid – this change in Australian aid is due to the initiative of Foreign Minister Rudd. Rudd has accepted that there have been long term mistakes made and is trying to correct some of those mistakes. These mistakes were covered by this newspaper in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Many of these issues caused the relationship between the Canberra and Dili to become bad.
Critically Australian aid is increasingly from $75 million a year to $125 million a year starting now. However, the Governments of Australia and East Timor have not yet informed the public how this extra money will be used. But it is important to note that an extra $75 million is not viewed as being very much by Timorese authorities in the context of the Government’s current $1.3 billion annual budget. East Timor President, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance have many times expressed concern over the usefulness of international aid, including Australian assistance, in East Timor.
In May 2011 the Prime Minister angrily spoke out on the effectiveness of international aid in East Timor, asking what happened to the $8 billion dollars of aid between 1999-2009. It is an issue, which Timorese of all political allegiances from Dili to the mountains ask over and over again.
Rudd’s visit to Timor-Leste comes just days before the Timor-Leste Development Partners meeting in which the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste Xanana Gusmao shall reveal to the international community his so called Strategic Development Plan for Timor-Leste 2011-2030.
There are remains serious differences of opinion between Canberra and Dili over the effectiveness of Australian aid in East Timor and the Timorese Government is making its own path to national development. The Opposition in Parliament has differences of opinion with both Canberra and the Gusamo lead coalition Government.
Of most serious argument is the matter of the Greater Sunrise liquid natural gass field in which the Government, Opposition and Australia’s Woodside Company have very serious conflicts over the direction of the pipeline. North to East Timor or south to Australia.
In 2010 during the public consultation of the Strategic development plan by PM Gusmao the the PM accused Woodside and Australia of seeking to steal East Timor’s future economic prosperity. The President of East Timor has tried to mediate between Gusmao, Woodside, Australia and the Opposition on the issue.
President Ramos-Horta has appealed to Canberra to bring Woodside to the position of running the pipeline north to East Timor.
Rudd is in East Timor from 9-10 July. The Woodside agreement expires in early 2012. There is not much more time for Australia, Woodside and East Timor to reach a solution. Failure to do so will put the future of Timorese children at risk.