12 July 2009

Land in the Constitution of the Demoratic Republic of Timor-Leste

Several signigicant land laws have been enacted by both the National Parliament of East Timor and the Government exercising its legislative powers under the Constitution. First, it is instrutive to peruse the provisions of the Constitution that pertain to land in East Timor. They include:

Section 4
(Territory)
1. The territory of the Democratic Republic of East Timor comprises the land surface, the maritime zone and the air space demarcated by the national boundaries that historically comprise the eastern part of Timor Island, the enclave of Oecussi, the island of Ata├║ro and the islet of Jaco.
2. The extent and limits of territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone, and the rights of East Timor to the adjacent seabed and continental shelf shall be laid down in the law.
3. The State shall not alienate any part of the East Timorese territory or the rights of sovereignty over the land, without prejudice to rectification of borders.

Section 54
(Right to private property)
1. Every individual has the right to private property and can transfer it during his or her lifetime or on death, in accordance with the law.
2. Private property should not be used to the detriment of its social purpose.
3. Requisitioning and expropriation of property for public purposes shall only take place following fair compensation in accordance with the law.
4. Only national citizens have the right to ownership of land.

Section 141
(Land)
Ownership, use and development of land as one of the factors for economic production shall be regulated by law.

Section 139
(Natural resources)
1. The resources of the soil, the subsoil, the territorial waters, the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zone, which are essential to the economy, shall be owned by the State and shall be used in a fair and equitable manner in accordance with national interests.
2. The conditions for the exploitation of the natural resources referred to in item 1 above should lend themselves to the establishment of mandatory financial reserves, in accordance with the law.
3. The exploitation of the natural resources shall preserve the ecological balance and prevent destruction of ecosystems.

Section 161
(Illegal appropriation of assets )
Illegal appropriation of mobile and fixed assets that took place before the entry into force of the present Constitution is considered crime and shall be resolved as provided for in the Constitution and the law.

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