Timor Leste application for ASEAN membership still being studied – chairman’s report

November 16, 2017 - 11:57 PM
East Timorese wait in line to cast their ballot in parliamentary elections in Dili, East Timor July 22, 2017. REUTERS /Lirio da Fonseca

MANILA – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is still studying Timor Leste’s application for membership in the regional organization.

This is according to the chairman’s statement of the recently ended 31st summit, hosted by the Philippines on ASEAN’s 50th anniversary.

“We noted that the study on Timor-Leste’s application for ASEAN membership is ongoing, and therefore, looked forward to the outcomes of discussion by the ASEAN Coordinating Council Working Group on this matter, which will be held on 5 December 2017 in Bali, Indonesia,” the statement read.

Timor Leste was a former Portuguese colony, which was annexed by Indonesia in 1975.

Its people’s independence struggle for nearly two decades received a major boost in 1994 when an international network of democracy groups led by Filipinos organized the first Asia-Pacific Conference on East Timor (APCET), a gathering that the then administration of President Fidel V. Ramos tried in vain to ban, in consideration of the Philippines’ close ties with Indonesia. Some of the more prominent attendees, including Danielle Miterrand, wife of the French Prime Minister, was among those unable to attend.

APCET, steered by Filipino activist-businessman RC Constantino, succeeded in drawing global attention to the East Timorese’s struggle for independence; and between 1994 and the turn of the century, the liberation movement gained momentum, finally winning independence for the island-nation in 2002.

“We urged ASEAN Sectoral Bodies and Organs to continue exploring relevant capacity-building activities for Timor-Leste’s participation, in accordance with the elements and procedures outlined by ASEAN Member States,” the ASEAN leaders said in the statement at the end of the 31st Summit this week..

Formed on August 8, 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, ASEAN today has 10 member-states.

Apart from the founding nations, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Viet Nam are also part of the Association.