ALA 2013 National Civil Justice Award Winner announced

23rd Oct 2013

A West Timorese small businessman, who distributes water pipes, is this year’s winner of the Australian Lawyers Alliance National Civil Justice Award, which recognises those that go beyond the call of duty to promote justice, freedom and the rights of the individual.

Ferdi Tanoni flew in to Australia this week to receive his award at the Australian Lawyers Alliance National Conference being held at Rydges Lakeside Hotel, Canberra from Thursday (24/10/13) to Saturday (26/10/13).

He is also in Sydney today to meet with politicians and journalists to raise awareness about the plight of villagers from the region of East Nusa Tenggara, the Indonesian province closest to Australia, only 832km from Darwin.

At least 18 villagers from this region have died mysteriously in recent times. Others battle ill health and economic hardship following the appearance of a white milky pollutant on their seaweed that was previously produced for commercial purposes. Fishermen in the region report that the fish are gone. Thousands of villagers have subsequently moved to other provinces to find work, or are still battling to find work in their region.

The main local produce started to die off in 2009 just after the Montara oil spill in the Timor Sea. Villagers believe the two are connected, but without an independent ecological study of the area it is impossible to know what is causing the people and marine life in the community to become sick.

Local police have reported a significant increase in people smuggling in recent times. Head hunters prey on communities’ subsequent disadvantage and also their knowledge of the waters between Australia and Indonesia; recruiting or tricking individuals into steering asylum seeking boats towards Australia.

Mr Tanoni, who formed the West Timor Care Association in 2000 and is author of Timor Sea Scandal – Canberra, Jakarta Political Economic Barter, works tirelessly to raise awareness of the plight of these West Timorese villagers. Five mayors in the province have granted him agency to negotiate the issues on their behalf and he plans to make representation to key politicians while in Australia to receive his award.

“These villages are in a tragic state. The Indonesian government cannot remain silent. Together with the Australian government, they must conduct research into the ecology of the region and any chemicals present,” Mr Tanomi said.

To date, no such study has been done even though the Montara spill was Australia’s worst oil platform disaster and resulted in oil spewing into the Timor Sea unabated for 74 days. It is also despite the now banned dispersant used in the clean up, Corexit, being the same product used in the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico spill and the connection since made to the increase in cancer to people living in the area following the spill.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority used 17,000 litres of Corexit EC 9500; 27,720 litres of Corexit EC 9527A and 32,000 litres of Ardrox 6120 to disperse the oil.

Pictured: Geraldine Collins, National President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, and Ferdi Tanoni, Director, West Timor Care Foundation.

Tags: Civil Justice Award Indonesia Montara oil spill