Observer: Timor Sea pollution issue must be addressed immediately

Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) - President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) should address the Timor Sea pollution issue to protect the economy of local fishermen and seaweed farmers, an international law observer said.

"We hope that the momentum of the National Press Day 2011 in Kupang on February 9 will be used by President SBY to reaffirm the Indonesian government`s stance to fully address the case so that it will not drag on," Wilhelmus Wetan Songa, a lecturer at the University of Nusa Cendana (Undana)`s faculty of law, said here Tuesday.

He said the national team on the Timor Sea oil spill set up by the government had so far failed to deal with the pollution issue because it had concentrated on the claim for compensation from PTTEP Australasia company.

"What needs to be given priority is to collect evidence for the compensation claim. But this was never done by the National Team on Emergency Handling and Oil Spill in Oceans (PKDTML) headed by Transportation Minister Freddy Numberi," he said.

The team, in fact, had never cared for the fate of East Nusa Tenggara fishermen and seaweed farmers, who currently no longer can do their work because the sea has been contaminated, according to Songa.

He suggested that the central government trusts the West Timor Care Foundation (YPTB) to deal with the case as the foundation`s working program has focused on the pollution evidences, especially on hazardous chemical substance of dispersant which had been sprayed to Timor Sea to submerge oil blob into the bottom of the sea.

The use of the chemical substance to eliminate the oil spill in the sea surface was much more dangerous than the pollution itself, he said.

"It is YPTB which has concentrated on this problem, so that their complain to an independent investigation commission of Australia about the Montara oil spill, is the one accepted and entitled fully to file the law suit in line with the existing law in Australia," he said.

The foundation led by Ferdi Tanoni has set up a working team consisting of among others environmental experts, to follow up the the complain lodged to the Montara investigation commission in Australia, he added.

He hoped that President Yudhoyono would pay attention to this problem because the national team could no longer be expected to handle the case for the sake of the West Timor fishermen and farmers, he stated.(*)