Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

Australia–Timor-Leste relations are back on track

Timor-Leste’s President Francisco Guterres attends the 20th Popular Consultation Day to commemorate the referendum of Timor-Leste in Dili, Timor-Leste, 30 August 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Antara Foto).

Author: Michael Leach, Swinburne University of Technology

Relations between Australia and Timor-Leste appear to be back on track following the March 2018 treaty which created permanent maritime boundaries between the two states for the first time. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s visit to Dili in late August 2019 saw notes exchanged marking the formal ratification by both parliaments. This signified the end of a key stumbling block that saw ministerial visits cease for nearly five years.

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Timor-Leste’s ASEAN membership limbo

Timor Leste designated Representative Aurelio Gutteres, South Korea's President Moon Jae-In, Malaysia's former Prime Minister Najib Razak, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Myanmar's State Councellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, during the Opening ceremony of the 31st ASEAN Summit in Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in Manila, Phillipines, 13 November 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Noel Celis/Pool).

Author: Maria Ortuoste, California State University

Another year, another rejection. Once again, ASEAN did not discuss Timor-Leste’s application for membership in its annual meeting. This delay is puzzling since Timor-Leste has made significant progress in meeting ASEAN’s requirements and current geostrategic trends necessitate greater ASEAN solidarity. Ultimately, Timor-Leste’s membership limbo says more about what ASEAN has become than about Timor-Leste’s ‘fitness’ for membership. Read more…

Hard times ahead for a politically divided Timor-Leste

Supporters of the FRETILIN political party take part in a rally ahead of parliamentary elections in Tasi Tolu, Dili, East Timor, 9 May 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Lirio Da Fonseca).

Author: Damien Kingsbury, Deakin University

Timor-Leste started the year in political chaos and ended it with a return to the confrontational politics of the past. Cooperation between the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) and the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin), which had together run the country since 2015 under a ‘government of national unity’, was shattered following the July 2017 elections. Read more…

Sun setting on Timor-Leste’s Greater Sunrise plan

Logos of Woodside Petroleum are seen at Gastech, the world's biggest expo for the gas industry, in Chiba, Japan, 4 April 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Toru Hanai).

Authors: Clive Schofield, University of Wollongong, and Bec Strating, La Trobe University

On 6 March 2018, Australia and Timor-Leste signed a landmark treaty that draws permanent maritime boundaries in the Timor Sea. The treaty is the result of the United Nations Compulsory Conciliation (UNCC) processes that have facilitated negotiations between the two states for over a year. This represents an important symbolic victory for Timor-Leste, as Australia had been reluctant to establish permanent maritime boundaries. Read more…

Timor-Leste’s ‘government of national disunity’

Supporters of the the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) political party attend a rally ahead of parliamentary elections in Dili, East Timor, 18 July 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Lirio Da Fonseca).

Author: Damien Kingsbury, Deakin University

A year that started so well for Timor-Leste has ended badly. The country is in a constitutional crisis, its minority government had refused to reconvene the Parliament and there is the prospect of another round of elections in 2018. Read more…

Timor-Leste’s precarious position after 2017

An election official holds a ballot during the counting process for parliamentary elections in Dili, East Timor, 22 July 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Lirio da Fonseca).

Author: Bec Strating, La Trobe University

Timor-Leste ends 2017 with great uncertainty over the future of the Greater Sunrise gas field, over the stability of its government and over its ambitions to become a member of ASEAN.

In the long-running Timor Sea dispute between Australia and Timor-Leste, the year started with a bombshell. Read more…

The Timor Sea agreement is in hot water

East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri (C) walks after his swearing-in ceremony in Dili, East Timor, 15 September 2017. (Photo: Reuters/Lirio Da Fonseca).

Author: Damien Kingsbury, Deakin University

Australia’s agreement with Timor-Leste to settle a permanent maritime boundary in the Timor Sea may have hit a snag with Timor-Leste’s politics descending into turmoil. Read more…

Political alliance collapses in Timor-Leste

An election official holds a ballot during the counting process for parliamentary elections in Dili, East Timor 22 July 2017. (Photo: Reuters/Lirio da Fonseca).

Author: Damien Kingsbury, Deakin University

Timor-Leste came through the 2017 parliamentary elections with a general expectation that the two major parties, CNRT and Fretilin, would continue to dominate the small country’s politics and return to the coalition they had since 2015. Read more…

Timor-Leste’s worrying economic future

Timorese students shout slogans during a protest in front of the Australian embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, 24 March 2016. (Photo: Reuters/Beawiharta).

Author: Damien Kingsbury, Deakin University

Timor-Leste is a country increasingly able to stand on its own two feet. At least, that is the sense within Timor-Leste. Read more…

Timor-Leste’s maritime ambitions risk all

A group of student protesters in front of Timorese police while the government holds a meeting with an Australian delegation discussing the sea border between Australia and Timor-Leste in Dili, 26 October, 2004 (Photo: Reuters/Lirio Da Fonseca).

Author: Bec Strating, La Trobe University

A recent joint statement by the Timor-Leste and Australian governments announced that Timor-Leste has officially notified Australia of its wish to terminate the 2006 Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS). Both states claim an interest in the lucrative Greater Sunrise gas field in the Timor Sea. The decision to terminate CMATS could have serious ramifications for Timor-Leste as its economy is among the world’s most oil dependent. Read more…

Unravelling Timor-Leste’s Greater Sunrise strategy

Author: Bec Strating, La Trobe University

Disputes over the resource-rich Timor Sea have consumed bilateral relations between Timor-Leste and Australia. In 2006, Timor-Leste’s then foreign minister José Ramos-Horta and his Australian counterpart, Alexander Downer, signed the Treaty of Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS). The treaty aimed to distribute revenues derived from the lucrative but disputed Greater Sunrise oil and gas field.

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Decentralisation and rural development in Timor-Leste

Author: Terry Russell, Denpasar

Timor-Leste’s new Prime Minister, Rui Araujo, has inherited a policy of decentralising the nation’s governance. Given capacity issues, this process is unlikely to bring broader-based rural development to Timor-Leste in the short term. But, if managed effectively, greater decentralisation could have some positive impacts on village-level infrastructure and autonomy. Read more…

Concerns over judicial independence in Timor-Leste

Author: Michael Leach, Swinburne University of Technology

The parliament of Timor-Leste passed a motion on 24 October announcing the government’s intention to dismiss the contingent of foreign judicial officers working in its legal system. Citing concerns over recent tax cases against foreign oil companies operating in the Timor Sea, which have gone against the government, Timor-Leste’s leaders called into question the competence and integrity of foreign judges and prosecutors, accusing them of not complying with East Timorese law. Read more…

No good time for Xanana Gusmão to let go

Author: Damien Kingsbury, Deakin University

Timor-Leste’s prime minister, Xanana Gusmão, has deferred his decision to step down as his country’s leader until April 2015. He had announced earlier this year that he intended to leave office firstly in September, then in October. He has since said that he wishes to stay on to oversee negotiations with Australia over a resolution to the Timor Sea dispute. Read more…

Australia must build trust with Indonesia

Author: Adrian Vickers, University of Sydney

The relationship between Australia and Indonesia stretches back to ancient maritime trade and fishing connections across the narrow seas.

But in the first half of the 20th century not many Australians had contact with Indonesians, and it was only during World War II that a larger number of Australians were exposed to their neighbour. Read more…