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Timor tells Telstra good riddance

The Australian - February 19, 2002

Geoff Elliott – Telstra will withdraw its services from East Timor, prompting a stinging attack from East Timor foreign minister Jose Ramos Horta. Mr Ramos Horta said Telstra would not be missed as the telco giant had not done much for East Timor.

His comments follow allegations last year that Telstra had been monitoring phone calls of senior ministers in East Timor. Telstra started rebuilding East Timor's infrastructure in 1999 following Australia's role as the head of the UN-sponsored peacekeeping force after the civil war. Telstra's role was part of an extension to its telecommunications contract with the Australian Defence Force.

But Telstra is not participating in new tenders to run East Timor's phone and internet network, a move in keeping with the company's strategy to abandon marginal operations and services.

Mr Ramos Horta said Telstra had made millions of dollars out of East Timor through its ADF contract but put nothing back. "Telstra did not put much back in [to] East Timor, in terms of infrastructure, they simply piggybacked on what was there, what was not destroyed by Indonesia," Mr Ramos Horta told the ABC. "They made millions and millions of dollars out of East Timor's situation and I don't think anyone will be missing them ... when they leave and other companies take over. There will be no farewell [or] goodwill."

Telstra helped rebuild fixed line communications in Timor as well as a mobile phone network. It was used by the ADF but also handed over for public use too, Telstra International spokeswoman Karen Gomez. "We refute that we haven't invested," she said. "We did resurrect the fixed-line network, we also established a GSM [mobile] network that wasn't functioning at the time, but we have since then extended the GSM network to the general public. "Telstra went to East Timor to support the peacekeeping efforts." She said that Telstra was not abandoning the fledgling nation.