Lighthouse vs Timor-Leste Court of Appeal (Supreme Court of Victoria)

Presidency of the Council of Ministers

Eighth Constitutional Government


Press Release

December 13, 2019

Lighthouse vs Timor-Leste Court of Appeal (Supreme Court of Victoria)

The Supreme Court of Victoria Court of Appeal today handed down judgment on the government of Timor-Leste’s appeal against a decision of the Supreme Court of Victoria in May 2019 to grant Lighthouse Corporation Pty Ltd and Lighthouse Corporation IBC (together Lighthouse) the right to hear their case against the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste and its electricity department (EDTL) in Victoria. The dispute relates to events that took place in Timor-Leste in 2010 and 2011 in respect of an alleged contract for the supply of fuel and generators in Timor-Leste. The government of Timor-Leste believes no binding contract was entered into.

The Court of Appeal found that it was open to the trial judge to find as he did, that Victoria was not a clearly inappropriate forum in which to hear the dispute. The Court of Appeal found that the judge did not err in his approach to determining the issue, and therefore refused leave to appeal.

Timor-Leste had argued that the trial judge erred in two important ways in reaching his finding on the issue of “forum non conveniens”. This was not accepted by the Court of Appeal.

In particular, Timor-Leste had argued that the dispute’s connections to Victoria were insubstantial, tangential to the main issues, and tenuous, and that there were a number of very substantial connections with Timor-Leste. Timor-Leste argued that the primary judge, Almond J, should have found Victoria was a clearly inappropriate forum for the dispute to be heard, given the relevance of Timorese law to determining the existence of a contract (an issue in dispute in the case) and other factors connecting the case with Timor-Leste.

The case involved complex legal issues, and the government of Timor-Leste will now consider the detail of the judgment and review its legal options. The government of Timor-Leste remains confident in its legal position regarding the lack of contract between the parties, regardless of where the case is heard.

The dispute over whether Victoria was the appropriate forum for the case followed an unsuccessful attempt by Lighthouse in 2015 to have the dispute heard by the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).  On the 23 December 2017 the Tribunal determined that ICSID had no jurisdiction to hear the case. ENDS