Penny Wong visits East Timor amid potential gas pipeline investment in China

Before arriving there next Wednesday, Wong will fly to Port Moresby, where China has also been trying to expand its influence. Beijing donated 2,000 bulletproof vests and helmets to PNG last week.

Ramos-Horta is expected to travel to Australia the week after, on September 7, and East Timor’s Ambassador to Canberra Ines Maria de Almeida said offshore gas could be on the agenda when he meets Prime Minister Anthony Albanian meets.

East Timor has a semi-presidential system, with executive powers largely vested in Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak and his cabinet, but Ramos-Horta’s message on Greater Sunrise echoes that of the government, whose state-owned energy company Timor Gap has a majority stake in the oil and gas fields.

It will be his second trip abroad since he was re-elected president in May after speaking about cooperation with Indonesia during a visit there last month.

Ramos-Horta has since been criticized by civil society groups in Timor for bestowing the presidency honor on Saturday on retired Indonesian General Abdullah Mahmud Hendropriyono.

The 77-year-old was given a senior leadership role by the East Timor Commission on Intake, Truth and Reconciliation, which investigated human rights abuses in the 24 years following the Indonesian invasion and concluded that 102,800 Timorese died as a direct result of his activities.

“He was one of the main players directly involved since the Indonesian military invaded this country,” said Sisto dos Santo of the Dili-based NGO HAK Foundation.

Ramos-Horta presents an award to former Indonesian General Abdullah Mahmud Hendropriyono on Saturday.

Ramos-Horta presents an award to former Indonesian General Abdullah Mahmud Hendropriyono on Saturday. Recognition:Ministry of Defense of Timor-Leste

“What our President, Mr Horta, did is not representative of the names of the victims and the families of the victims. The President has just promoted impunity, not only for Timorese but also for Indonesians.”

Hendropriyono, former head of Indonesia’s spy agency BIN, was also mentioned in leaked US cables in connection with the high-profile murder of Indonesian human rights activist Munir Said Thalib, who accused the Indonesian military of human rights abuses in East Timor and poisoning a Garuda flight in the Netherlands in 2004.

In the cables released by Wikileaks, American diplomats reported that Hendropriyono chaired two meetings at which Munir’s assassination was planned and that a senior police official told them he was a prime suspect.

He denied any involvement, but his honoring of Ramos-Horta was “an insult to both the people of Timor-Leste and Indonesia,” said Joaquim da Fonseca, general secretary of the National Resistance of East Timorese Students.


Contacted by the herald and AgeRamos-Horta’s office said it has not yet commented on the award, which is given to people for “significant contributions to national peace and stability” – but will comment in due course.

Hendropriyono has close ties to Indonesian President Joko Widodo and is the father-in-law of General Andika Perkasa, the head of the Indonesian Armed Forces.

His award in Timor also comes as the country ramps up its bid to become a member of the ASEAN regional bloc, which Indonesia will chair in 2023.


But Michael Leach, an expert on Timorese politics at Melbourne’s Swinburne University of Technology, said it was difficult to understand.

“The Timor-Leste Truth Commission report lists Hendropriyono as likely to have ‘lead responsibility’ for crimes against humanity in 1999 and should be the subject of further criminal investigations,” Leach said.

“It is therefore difficult to understand why this person was awarded a medal by the State of Timorese. Everyone understands the need for good relations with Indonesia, but many Timorese see this as a step too far.” Penny Wong visits East Timor amid potential gas pipeline investment in China

Joel McCord

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