Posted by: Andi Arsana | February 15, 2008

Empathy to our neighbor Timor Leste

In July 2004, I talked to Jose Ramos Horta concerning maritime boundary between Indonesia and Timor Leste in Sydney. It was really surprising to know that 3.5 years later, newspapers, television news, internet and radio informed that Horta, the president of Timor Leste, was shot. Three bullets tragically penetrated his body and even nearly shut down his political stand. Revenge seemed to be the reason behind the attack that caused the death of Reinado the attacker. The world is now watching the young, fragile and dying Timor Leste. It might be small, but not forgotten in the world’s history.
The attack to Horta was not the only indication of threat to the struggling State. Prime Minister Gusmao was also a target of attack. Luckily, the bullets did not injure him as he was covered by his car. Simply speaking, anxiety, worries, and threat are parts of daily life in Timor Leste. When it is nearly six years old, Timor Leste is like a boy of a poor family. He has to fight even for a glass of water, while at the same time he needs good cloth, good home and even education.

After separation with Indonesia, this young nation puts its hope to the Timor Sea (Timor Gap) to support life of its people. It is believed that Timor Sea conserves oil and gas for its future. Having full authority to explore and exploit ocean resources in the Timor Sea was, of course, one of the agendas of Timor Leste being an independent State. Unfortunately, the small State with limited human resources is powerless when facing Australia. Australia rejected Timor Leste’s proposal to establish maritime boundaries based on the principle of median line. By having median line as the boundary, most of oil and gas fields in the Timor Sea would fall within Timor Leste’s jurisdiction. Instead, Australia insisted to establish Joint Petroleum Development Area (JPDA). The two neighboring States arranged production sharing in the Timor Sea.

Luckily, pressure from the international community played significant role in establishing good profit sharing for the JPDA and surrounding. The sharing of 90% for Timor Leste and 10% for Australia in JPDA and 50:50 for certain other areas have been seen as equitable solution for Timor Leste. However, some still opine that it was still too much for Australia.

Some Sydney Buses donated by the government of New South Wales, Australia were soon transformed into old abandoned stuffs in the road of Timor Leste. For its weakness, Timor Leste could not even maintain few buses for public transportation. Dying economy and the use of US Dollars for transaction do not seem to bring prosperity to the people in Timor Leste. It was tragic, how bad the life the independence can offer to the small state.

The wounded Horta, the worried Gusmao and the resigned Alkatiri confirmed terrible situation in Timor Leste. Timor Leste is young, weak and fragile. Since its independence in 2002, the world has been decreasing its attention to Timor Leste. The newly-born child of the world is losing aid to survive. The world pays more attention to the more “exciting” Iran and Iraq. Timor Leste finds itself in a big trap of uncertainty.

Meanwhile, Indonesia is now the closest neighbor to Timor Leste. Notwithstanding bitter history the two States have experienced, Indonesia is a State to which Timor Leste should look at. Folklore and fairy tales tell us that Indonesia is a State with politeness and forgiving culture. Revenge is not an option we should consider for resolution. Therefore, Indonesia should theoretically express its sympathy and empathy to its weak neighbor. Considering that much is needed by Timor Leste, Indonesia can actually do and even might have done many important things.

However, it has to be admitted that riots in Timor Leste can also be a threat to Indonesia. Indonesia, being very close to the State, can easily be the place for refugees. Indonesian government, I believe, has anticipated this. Consequently, Indonesian government should be much more careful in deciding what Indonesia should and should not do. In addition, Indonesia is currently facing its own endless problems. Political dispute, security and social problems, and never ending natural disasters, have made Indonesia sick and tired. It seems to me that not much Indonesia can contribute to its close neighbor. However, it does not mean that Indonesia does nothing. While paying attention to our own situation, we can at least remind ourselves that we are brothers. We should say that your prosperity is also our wish. Get well soon, Timor Leste.


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