Timor Leste eyes Brunei tie-ups

National 2 minutes, 15 seconds


TIMOR Leste is looking to deepen economic and educational cooperation with Brunei Darussalam after setting up an embassy in Bandar Seri Begawan.

The establishment of the mission marks a milestone in Timor Leste’s coming of age, almost 13 years after it gained independence from Indonesia, said Charge d’Affaires Erminio da Silva Pinto.

Speaking with _The Brunei Times _yesterday, Pinto said his government has now established missions in all 10 ASEAN member states, as part of their bid to gain membership of the regional bloc.

“This is one requirement to become a member of ASEAN, and within the month our prime minister will decide on the candidate for the ambassador to Brunei Darussalam,” he explained.

“Since we opened three months ago, the embassy is running well thanks to the help of the Brunei government, especially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade,” he said.

Building cooperation in the fields of energy, education and culture will be the key focus for the new mission.

“Last year when our prime minister visited here, His Majesty promised some scholarships for citizens of Timor Leste, so I think this is a very positive move. Once my ambassador arrives we will follow up on this issue,” Pinto said.

Southeast Asia’s youngest nation is also keen to learn from Brunei’s vast experience in the oil and gas sector.

Timor Leste has a US$15 billion petroleum fund — which accumulates surplus oil revenue year on year — and is now seeking partnerships to develop oil refineries and a liquified natural gas plant.

“So far we have Italian and Australian companies involved in developing this sector but we also want to invite Brunei to cooperate in this area due to their experience,” said the charge d’affaires.

Timor Leste has undergone rapid economic growth since independence, with its GDP per capita (US$ 2,600) now surpassing ASEAN members such as Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

Although rich in natural resources, Timor Leste still has bare infrastructure and is seeking foreign investment to build roads and airports to increase accessibility to the country.

“We want to invite parties from Brunei to join us to develop these areas, and with the establishment of the embassy, we are here to answer any questions or interest there may be in investment,” Pinto added.

“As a new country in the 21st century, many Bruneians don’t know where Timor Leste is, but I do hope that once we establish our mission we will see more movement of people between the two countries.”

Timor Leste, a former Portuguese colony of 1.1 million, was occupied by Indonesia for 24 years until it declared independence on May 20, 2002.

It lodged a formal application to become a member of ASEAN in 2011.

The Brunei Times