The relationship between the three neighbouring countries Timor-Leste, Indonesia, and Australia is appeared to reach the coldest point as the impact of suspected spying activities to be conducted by Australia towards its two neighbouring countries.

In the case of Timor-Leste, the relationship has become severe due to the implication of such activity towards the effort of Timor-Leste Government to nullifying the Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS).

It is assumed that the espionage activity conducted by Australia was intended to find out the decisions and efforts made by the Timor-Leste Government on the negotiation of the $40 billion Timor Sea oil and gas in 2004. Unfortunately, the activity is suspected to involve some Australian who claimed to be as humanitarian workers and planted some listening devices inside Timor-Leste Cabinet room and Prime Minister Office in 2004.

This will be a very bitter experience for the people of Timor-Leste if it is found that the Australian government was intentionally committed such practice to gain some advantages on the Oil and Gas negotiation and it will definitely harm the relation between two countries that has been established since the WW II. However, from the international perspective, it is difficult for the Australian government to accountable for such practices as there is lack of international convention that prohibits such activities. As in Tony Abbot statement he said: “All countries in the world are spying one another”. This statement shows that the Australia Government has intention to downplay the issue and make it look like a “normal” activity.

However, under the Principle of Sovereignty Equality, the Australian Government has violated the sovereignty of an Independent country such as Timor-Leste. Under this principle, every states, including Timor-Leste, are equal and should be given equal respect to each other and have right to self-determination and not to be intervened in their internal affairs by other countries or by international organisations.

Also, the Principle of Sovereignty Equality has been codified inside the Article 2 Paragraph (1) of the United Nations Charter and have accepted as and international customary. Therefore, it can also be concluded that Australian Government have violated both the United Nations Charter and international customary principle that accepted and recognised by nations in the world.

The spying scandals activity could shave severe impact not only the relationship between two countries but also the trust that have been built between two nations. As a result, any Australian Humanitarian Aid will be cautioned both by the government as well as the community at large. Moreover, it is very shameful and unnecessary to the Australian Government to spying on Timor-Leste under the reason to find Timorese Government’s “moves” in the CMATS negotiation table, while Australia itself has more upper hands with more experience in diplomatic relations and has more technologically advantages on oil and gas explorations.

Another fundamental reason for Timor-Leste to void the CMATS is that the agreement was reached with no good faith by the Australian Government. The government of Timor-Leste based its discontentment on Articles 26 and 49 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

Under the Article 26, the Timorese Government can invoke the CMATS with reason that the Australian Government may have been performing the agreement with no good faith. It is suspected that the spying activity itself have been used while the both governments conducting negotiation in 2004 and probably continue being used after it. Furthermore, under the Article 49, the Australian espionage activities can be categorised as “fraudulent conduct”, which can be used by the Timorese Government to invalidate its consent to be bound towards the CMATS. Therefore, the CMATS can become invalid and should be declared as null and void.

However, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Hague probably unlikely will decide to declare the CMATS as invalid agreement only on the basis of no good faith by the Australian Government without any solid evidence to prove the spying allegation. The Australia Government understand their situation where they are trying to prevent the CMATS becoming a invalid agreement and in the same time trying to cover up their spying activities, which can very embarrassing to them, so they raided Timor-Leste lawyer Bernard Collaery’s house and seized the document that can prove the allegation and cancel the passport of the former Australian spy that would become the key witness for Timor-Leste in order to make Timor-Leste Government in Hague without any strong and solid evidences against Australia.

Even though, if the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Hague decide that the CMATS is not an invalid agreement, however there is a good possibility that the Court ask Timor-Leste and Australia to renegotiate the agreement, so it will be a good opportunity for Timor-Leste to renegotiate a new agreement that will favour Timorese side.

For Australian Government, this accident has tarnished their reputation as trustworthy regional partner not only to Timor-Leste but also to Indonesia and other countries in Southeast Asia Region. If the Australia Government refused to apologise restore its reputation, this will implicate to the isolation of Australian Government from the region and this may also implicated into their international diplomatic mission in the Pacific and the South East Asia region.

In conclusion, any nation in the world deserves the right to be respected and to be treated equally not only before the law but also in the relationship between nations. No nation should interfere others affairs to gain any advantages. For Timor-Leste, since our National Intelligence Service is still at its age of developing, we are expecting that this incident would become a valuable lesson to our Authorities to alert in order to be able to anticipate any harmful activity that could be committed by any country in the future that could harm our sovereignty.

Salvador Soares
12 December 2013


The President of TSA – NT

The President of TSA-NT

DELFIM FERREIRA AND TSA-NT: Bring it into harmony, unity and respect.

Delfim from Timorese Students Association in the Northern Territory (TSA-NT) said “unity, harmony and respect are the fundamentals of this organization”. Here, he chats with Laurentino Bento.

“Commit to get involved in an organization, it means that you are studying to enhance your communication skills”

While we enjoy the beautiful sunset on afternoon, having a chance to chat with a wise man is a remarkable time.

With a big smile on her face, this fine gentleman greets me confidently. He firmly tries to open the conversation about the TSA-NT. He turns and says, “It is a beautiful sunset. This is what I feel the harmony and peace come together”.

On his hospitality, he offers me a cup of tea before we start talk about the TSA-NT. The interview starts to flow as I conveniently explain to him about this writing. Then, It follows by one question and other questions, that I feel necessary to get deepest insight about TSA-NT.

Q:    I did a little bit observation with your organization; I found that now you are involving in an organization called TSA-NT. Can you tell me a little bit about TSA-NT?

Delfim: The TSA was formed by the Timorese students who are studying at Charles Darwin University and any other high schools in the Northern Territory. The idea came from some students who want to form this organization. The reason behind this is to preserve the unity among Timorese students. As a result of first general meeting on 28 July 2013, we, for the first time, established the TSA-NT which stands for Timorese Students Association-Northern Territory. 

Q:    How did you become involved with The TSA-NT?

Delfim: I became involved as a member of ad-hock committee before I was elected as President of the TSA-NT. We start this organization to accommodate Timorese students who are studying in the NT through education, culture and social relationships.

Q:    What are the goals of the TSA-NT?

Delfim: Our goals are to strengthen the unity and friendships of Timorese students in the NT. The philosophy of this organization is unity, harmony and respect.

Q:    Can you tell me about the work your organization does and the program or programs you run?

Delfim: Well, the programs of the TSA-NT are supporting education, social, cultural, and sport. 

 Q:    What is the structure of the organization?

Delfim: Mainly, the TSA-NT consists of President, vice president, secretary and treasury. Also we do have focal-point for each group of students. All students, who are currently studying at CDU or in The NT, can become membership of this organization. Now, we reach approximately 30 members in TSA-NT. We do expect all the TSA members to actively participate and involves in TSA-NT’s programs.

Q:    Are the work times flexible or fixed?

Delfim: The TSA-NT’s memberships are volunteer and flexible. We only run the work of organization mostly in the free time (weekends or holiday). The most time of the members is to focus on their study as first priority.

Q:    What skills or qualities can members develop as a result of working with the organization?

Delfim: Communication skill is mostly important and expected to derive from this organization. For example, a member would learn how to deal with our stakeholders or communities.

Q:    How does the organization interact with the surrounding community?

Delfim: One of our objectives is to establish and maintain communication between all Timorese Students and the local Timorese community in Darwin and other community groups.

Q:    Anyway, when it comes to operating, how would your organization fund the programs?

Delfim: The TSA-NT organisation is actually not profit organization and we don’t have funding agency, but we have established regular monthly collection of $10 of each membership.

Q:    What are the main challenges that inhibit the fulfilment of your mission? And how are you planning to overcome them?

Delfim: I think we actually have some main challenges, such as, to schedule activities because we have different time schedules on campus, works and other activities, and to fund activities because we needed to support some activities these require huge cost. In order to overcome these challenges, we have to adjust the TSA-NT’s programs with schedule of each member. We also need to apply for possible funds or conduct fundraising events.

Q:    Where is your leadership team strong, and where does it need development?

Delfim: Well, I am willing to work hard and contribute to the good of this organisation. I fully have commitment and responsibility to run this organization. I also actually learn more on how I can improve my leadership skills. I would be happy if the member of this organization may need to develop their skills and knowledge through academic and non-academic activities as well. In general, we do need to learn more about how to improve our personal and organizational performance to accomplish a goal.

Q:    To what degree have you attracted new people and new ideas to your organization?

Delfim: We do attract the new member to enrol by informing through social media such as, blog and Facebook and sometimes we approach and give information to students individually. Moreover, we do have informal meeting, to discuss and develop ideas to our organization in the future.

 Q:    Well, this is the last question. How do you balance your time between study, organization and family or friends?

Delfim: Yeah, I mostly spend more times in my study, while I have a commitment to work on this organization. I also attend several meetings, and participate in social events in Timorese community such as celebration of our Independence Day, church and cultural performance. It is important for me to communicate intensively with my family in regard I am far from my home country. Thankfully, we communicate via Facebook and Skype.    

Contact details:


International House Darwin (IHD), Casuarina, Darwin

Mobile: 0406980788