31 July 2009

The Causes of the East Timor 2006 Crisis - Role of Land and Property

Extract from 2007 ETLJ 2 Ethnicity, Violence, & Land and Property Disputes in Timor-Leste by Andrew Harrington

Proximate Causes

Specific Role of Land and Property in Conflict
While perceived injustice regarding land and property (meaning real, immovable property, e.g. housing) can be very dangerous, it becomes even more so when merged with issues unrelated to land.[56] Horizontal inequality between kaladi and firaku is an important proximate cause in the recent conflict in Timor-Leste. Reiterating Stewart’s view, “the existence of severe inequalities between culturally defined groups” and “where there are such inequalities in resource access and outcomes, coinciding with cultural differences, culture can become a powerful mobilising agent that can lead to a range of political disturbances.”[57]

Land and Property Repercussions from 1999[58]
Immediately following the 1999 referendum, pro-autonomy militias and the Indonesian Military (TNI) pushed or forced hundreds of thousands of Timorese out of Dili and into West Timor as refugees.

After violence wound down, those who had not been forced into West Timor returned to Dili first. For a variety of reasons (e.g. time and relative distance from the city- discussed further below) the first people back were mainly firaku. Upon arrival, they found the scorched earth campaign had left housing particularly hard-hit; the militia had “significantly damaged” up to 30% of houses in Dili, while an estimated 80% of housing across Timor-Leste as a whole was rendered uninhabitable.[59] Housing was in short supply.

Those returnees who arrived in Dili first occupied various lands and properties. These included former Indonesian State properties, private residences, local militia members’ houses, and virtually any intact housing belonging to Timorese who had fled and yet to return.[60] However, the National Land Agency (NLA - Badan Pertanahan Nasional) was among the first destroyed, the records were taken onto the street, soaked with petrol, and burned.[61] This meant many formal title records destroyed, either in the NLA itself or by fire in houses where Timorese left when they fled. This left virtually formal functioning way to handle competing land claims. Since there was no formal system to speak of, incoming Timorese took the path of least resistance and simply ignored the formal regime.[62]For many of those arriving from outside Dili, a formal land system may have been alien given their lack of experience with it.[63]

The situation in Dili was made worse by returning refugees from West Timor and others displaced to the rest of Timor-Leste.[64] The UNHCR and IOM were mandated to plan and implement the return process, but neither organization took complete control over the process, perhaps due to overlapping mandates. Neither agency developed policy stating precisely where returnees would ultimately return; many were therefore returned where they requested, not to where they actually originated. Accordingly, the majority of returnees were sent to Dili, as requested.[65] Transit camps were established, but after spending some time there, returnees were then expected to find their own housing or use the shelter kits given to them (ironically brought from Indonesia).[66] As the only part of the country with economic activity, many returnees remained in Dili, opting not to return to their home districts (where intact housing may not have existed). Indirectly, IOM and UNHCR repatriation activities helped concentrate approximately 53,000 returnees in Dili.[67] Not to disparage either organization, but at the time, housing was not considered a key concern. Return and repatriation were the key aims while the situation was complicated by attacks on ex-militia members by communities, complicated further by militia attacks resulting in the death of three UNHCR workers in Atambua, West Timor.[68] There has since been a movement within the UNHCR to recognize housing and restitution as key issues to ensure sustainable and successful returns, enshrined in the Pinheiro Principles.[69]
Illegal occupation was extremely widespread. The promulgation of Law No 1/2003 required regularization of occupations in exchange for leases with the DNTP and guaranteed continued occupation. Approximately 6000 ‘illegal’ occupants submitted applications to the DNTP for regularization.[73] An estimated 50 percent of housing in Dili was occupied illegally.[74]

Considering the tradition-based land system which persists in some form today in Dili, many Timorese may not have filed any claim to their property. A lack of formal education and experience with the formal system means many Timorese simply may not have known why or how to file a claim. Under the traditional system,[75] land transactions are not registered with the formal system but regulated through local political and ritual authorities. Only if the traditional understanding of ownership is challenged through competing systems (Portuguese or Indonesian titling), or if there is disagreement over the traditional order – official authorities may be involved. The Chefe de Aldeia and the Chefe de Suco – both political authorities that mediate between customary and official system – are important actors. However, if they cannot restore calm, the conflicting parties generally address higher level official administration, such as the district administration’s land and property officers, legal aid organisations or the formal judiciary.[76]

Many Timorese may therefore consider themselves rightful owner of that property according to the customary land system, but they have no formal title. Accordingly, the extent of illegal occupations in Dili could be significantly greater than suspected.[77] Read more.....
East Timor Law Journal Towards the rule of law in Timor-Leste!

21 July 2009

Draft land law provisions on land rights for foreigners in East Timor will smother development

ETLJB 21 July 2009 SYDNEY - In a press release dated 20 July 2009, the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor stated that '[t]he Gusmao–led AMP government’s consultation process on the draft land law is woefully inadequate and the law itself would open the door to foreign ownership and control of land.

Fretilin further stated that '[a]ccording to the draft, a company wishing to own land in Timor-Leste only needs to have its head office in Timor-Leste, meaning foreigners could set up companies here and through their majority controlling shareholdings purchase large swathes of land at vastly discounted values.

'The major productive asset of most families, land, would potentially be ripe for exploitation by international speculators as nearly all East Timorese have little experience in land valuation, and being desperate for cash, would be vulnerable to unfair deals. This would lead to the displacement of many people and exacerbate social tensions and inequality.'

The press release continued to account a recent history of foreign land grants in East Timor and said that the draft law demonstrates the AMP government’s willingness to put the interests of powerful interest groups ahead of vulnerable East Timorese citizens.

According to Fretilin, last year, 'the current Minister for Agriculture Mariano Sabino agreed to hand over 100,000 hectares of scarce agricultural land to an Indonesian company for use as a sugar-cane plantation.

This deal was followed by the Secretary of State for Energy Policy Avelinho Coelho signing a contract with the Australian-based biofuel company Enviroenergy Developments Australia for Jatropha development on 59 hectares of prime agricultural land at Baucau.

Both deals were signed at a time of sky rocketing food prices and despite clear evidence that the projects were highly polluting and severely damaged Timor-Leste’s capacity to become self sufficient in food production.'

But a closer examination of the draft land law poses some more fundamental issues.

The following provision is in the East Timor Draft Land Law 2009:

Article 11 (Foreigners)
1. Properties whose previous right holder is a foreign claimants revert to the State, unless there is special adverse possession.
2. The State shall grant usufruct to foreign holders of previous rights who maintain the current possession of a property that has reverted to the State's private domain.
3. The usufruct referred to in the above number is automatically re-granted in favor of the heirs and legatees of the usufruct holder (upon the death of the grantee).

The constitutional prohibition on land ownership in East Timor does not mean that foreigners can not gain any land rights. There is a similar provision in the Indonesian constitution. Such a provision is usually interpreted to mean that foreigners may not hold the fullest rights in land that exist in the jurisdiction that prohibits such ownership. Lesser rights such as lease - or, in the case of Indonesia - the right of use (hak pakai) - are created and granted for the purposes of foreign investment.

As the elucidation of Articles 41 and 42 the Indonesian Basic Agrarian Law of 1960 (which is presently part of the applicable land law in East Timor),

Hak pakai (right of use) is the 'collective definition' of the rights which are known in land law by different names, all of which --with slight differences due to differences in circumstances amongst regions-- provide the holder with powers as meant in this article. In the context of simplification as described in the General Elucidation, the new agrarian law uses the same term (i.e. hak pakai) to refer to these rights.

Foreign embassies can be granted with a hak pakai because this right can be valid for as long as the land is used for that purpose.

Foreign individuals and foreign corporate bodies can be granted with a hak pakai because this right only provides limited powers.

Prohibiting access to land by foreign entities is not a policy that exists in legal systems whose economy is based on the principles of capitalism. Land - and secure rights on land - are indispensable preconditions for foreign investment. Foreign investment - in the absence of an economy that is capable of existing without it - is crucial for poverty alleviation and eradication goals as well as general economic and social development.

To argue that foreigners should have no access to land in a developing country's legal and economic system is to argue that country into perpetual poverty, political instability (unless the state is strengthened to suppress dissent) and international isolation.

The draft land law does this by actually inhibiting foreign access to land by restricting the right which a foreign entity may hold to a mere usufructuary right - one of the most primitive forms of land right - and one that is totally useless for international capital because it will not be transferrable (if it is, it will probably require state consent) and, most importantly, it can not be used as collateral for loans from financial institutions. Such a situation will smother foreign investment and contribute to the exacerbation of East Timor's many social and economic woes.

It is extraordinary that such a critical matter should be regulated in the way proposed by the draft land law and that only a short provision exists in a land law that is supposed to be directed to more fundamental determination of land ownership issues and the resolution of disputes over land in East Timor.

It is even more extraordinary that any policy maker or legislative drafter could conceive of such an inadequate and, in the end, detrimental, regulation of the critical issue of foreign land ownership in East Timor.

Draft law opens door to foreign ownership of land in East Timor



20 July 2009 Media Release

Draft law opens door to foreign ownership of land

The Gusmao–led AMP government’s consultation process on the draft land law is woefully inadequate and the law itself would open the door to foreign ownership and control of land, former Prime Minister and FRETILIN MP Estanislau Da Silva warned today.

Da Silva said the government’s brief and tokenistic public consultations would heighten community tensions and mistrust.

“This is the most important piece of legislation since Timor-Leste regained its independence in 2002 but many people will not understand or be prepared for the great impact the law will have on their lives,” he said.

“The law is supposed to resolve land disputes and issue the first set of ownership rights to East Timorese citizens.

“But the first two public consultations held in Manatuto on 6 July and in Baucau the following day provided little opportunity for the community to ask questions and voice their concerns.

“According to media releases issued by Land Network, a group of 20 national and international NGOs, the people of Manatuto were only allowed 59 minutes to ask questions and in Baucau, participants got just 90 minutes to ask questions.

”Land Network complained that the Minister for Justice Lucia Lobato has been misleading the people on the length of the consultation process, which will last for 11 weeks only.

“This law requires a much longer period of effective grassroots consultation, particularly considering that half the population is illiterate, most people earn less than a dollar a day and that land is the only real productive and valuable asset which continues to provide livelihoods to East Timorese citizens.

“The government’s consultation process is farcical and inadequate and makes a mockery of the rights of East Timorese citizens.”

Da Silva warned the law as currently drafted would open the door to foreign ownership and control of land in Timor-Leste.

“According to the draft, a company wishing to own land in Timor-Leste only needs to have its head office in Timor-Leste, meaning foreigners could set up companies here and through their majority controlling shareholdings purchase large swathes of land at vastly discounted values.

“The major productive asset of most families, land, would potentially be ripe for exploitation by international speculators as nearly all East Timorese have little experience in land valuation, and being desperate for cash, would be vulnerable to unfair deals.

“This would lead to the displacement of many people and exacerbate social tensions and inequality.”

Da Silva said the draft law again demonstrated the AMP government’s willingness to put the interests of powerful interest groups ahead of vulnerable East Timorese citizens.

“Last year, the current Minister for Agriculture Mariano Sabino agreed to hand over 100,000 hectares of scarce agricultural land to an Indonesian company for use as a sugar-cane plantation.

“This deal was followed by the Secretary of State for Energy Policy Avelinho Coelho signing a contract with the Australian-based biofuel company Enviroenergy Developments Australia for Jatropha development on 59 hectares of prime agricultural land at Baucau.

“Both deals were signed at a time of sky rocketing food prices and despite clear evidence that the projects were highly polluting and severely damaged Timor-Leste’s capacity to become self sufficient in food production.”

For more information, please contact Estanislau Da Silva on +670 733 5062

An unofficial translation of the draft land law is available in English at http://www.sprtl.tl/docs/Land_Law_Draft_English_June09.pdf

20 July 2009

Government intervenes in land dispute in Suco Bahalara-ua'in (Buikarin), Viqueque

East Timor Ministry of Social Solidarity: Community Dialogue in Suco Bahalara-ua'in

MINISTRY OF SOCIAL SOLIDARITY PRESS RELEASE 5 March 2009 Community Dialogue in Suco Bahalara-ua’in - On 28 February 2009, the MSS/UNDP Dialogue teams organised a community dialogue in Suco Bahalara-ua’in (Buikarin), Viqueque. The dialogue was held in the form of a Nahe Biti Bo’ot or ‘stretching of the big mat’ conflict resolution ceremony in order to attempt to resolve a conflict that broke out in January 2009.

In early January, 118 families fled their homes in Suco Bahalara-ua’in to a church in Viqueque town as a result of a fighting between members of rival martial arts groups. The conflict has its roots in a dispute that arose in 1974 and was exacerbated by the Indonesian occupation as the four aldeias in the suco aligned themselves along ‘pro-independence’ and ‘pro-integration’ lines.

The Government reacted quickly to the January 2009 conflict to ensure the 118 families could return to their homes, and thus avoid the possibility of another long-term IDP displacement crisis. The day after the confrontation, the Minister of State Administration, the Secretary of State for Social Assistance and Natural Disasters, and the Secretary of State for Defence, [BML1] travelled to Suco Bahalara-ua’in to try to resolve the dispute. At the request of the Prime Minister, and under the leadership of F-FDTL’s Major Ular the MSS/UNDP Baucau dialogue team had held a number of preparatory dialogues with the community over the preceding two months, who decided they wanted to try and achieve reconciliation through a Nahe Biti Bo’ot ceremony.

The 28 February 2009 also benefited from high level participation, including the attendance of five Secretaries of State, the Deputy Provedor, Major Ular, and the Deputy Commander of the PNTL. Major Ular, appealed to the people of Suco Bahalara-ua’in “to lay the fighting to rest, to stop passing down the problems from generation to generation so that we can move forward together as one people.”

The Secretary of State for Social Assistance and Natural Disasters, Jacinto Rigoberto Gomes, thanked the people of Suco Bahalara-ua’in for participating in the dialogue process and narrating the history of the suco in an attempt to resolve the conflict in peace. He explained “only by resolving these localised conflicts will we be able to move forward and develop our nation. This government has been working hard to give meaning to our country’s independence. When the people can live peacefully together, other aspects of the country’s development will also improve.” He appealed to the people of Suco Bahlara-ua’in to try to resolve future disputes in a peaceful manner or to bring them to the local authorities or relevant institutions to try to resolve.

During the dialogue, youth representatives of three martial arts groups in Suco Bahlara-ua’in were asked to come forward and sign a document agreeing not to fight each other again. At the end of the Nahe Biti Bo’ot ceremony, community representatives also signed an agreement that the conflict was over. Those who participated believe that to go against the proclaimed outcomes of a nahe biti ceremony is to anger the spirits and to bring bad luck and ill health upon the perpetrator and their family. One of the Lia Nain (keepers of the word) explained “what happened in 1975, 1999 and earlier this year is over. It has been resolved by adat (custom). Now is the time for us to move forward.”

Maukali land dispute heard by Baucau District Court May 2009

From JSMP's English translation of the report on Hearings Conducted in the Baucau District Court May 2009

Baucau, 11/5

On 11/5 a hearing was conducted relating to a land dispute in the region of Maukali, Gariwai, Baucau involving the respondent PF and the plaintiffs F and others. The hearing took almost five hours (14.30-19.30). It took so long because the court had to hear testimony from six witnesses (3 from each side) to finish the case.

After hearing witness testimony, the court finally declared that there was sufficient evidence and asked each of the lawyers to make their final recommendations orally.

The lawyer for the respondent, Dra. Muzariah S.H., stated that none of the witnesses presented by the plaintiff had told the court that they knew about the document that was signed by the two parties (plaintiff and respondent) in relation to the land being disputed. The witnesses also stated that they did not know the history about who had originally started working the piece of land under dispute.

The lawyer for the respondent also added that one of the witnesses presented by the respondent, namely the former village chief during the Indonesian period had stated that he had good knowledge about the history of this piece of land, because a dispute had been taken to the village authorities in 1993 and 1995 and at that time the parties agreed to enter a written agreement that had been signed by them in front of the village authorities.

The lawyer also quoted the testimony of the witness who had said that “the contents of the agreement were that the plaintiff could only make use of the existing plants on the aforementioned piece of land, but could not plant anything else in the aforementioned field”.

Finally the lawyer for the respondent requested for the panel of judges to decide the case in good conscience and in the interests of justice.

The lawyer for the plaintiff said that during the trial none of the witnesses from either side could provide complete and accurate testimony. Each of them was only able to vaguely mention a part of the story relating to the land under dispute. Therefore the lawyer asked the panel of judges to decide the case impartially and honestly so that all parties could accept the court's decision in good faith.

18 July 2009

Custom and conflict: The uses and limitations of traditional systems in addressing rural land disputes in East Timor

Custom and conflict: The uses and limitations of traditional systems in addressing rural land disputes in East Timor A discussion paper prepared for a regional workshop on “Land Policy and Administration for Pro-Poor Rural Growth”, Dili, December 2003 By Laura S. Meitzner Yoder
With research assistance from Calisto Colo , Zacarias F. da Costa , and Francisco Soares September 2003


A dynamic background of customary land ownership and recent migrations, overlaid with successive political transitions, are behind many land conflicts in the new nation of East Timor. Some of the forms of land claims and authorities in regions which have experienced migration or formal land schemes replicate customary patterns.

Almost all rural land disputes in East Timor are taken first to traditional leaders and village-level government, and handled by outside authorities only when these mechanisms do not reach settlement. Rural people have a clear preference to settle land cases at the lowest level possible, due to proximity to physical evidence and local expertise in circumstances surrounding the case.

Disputants take their cases to traditional authorities, who hear testimony from disputants and witnesses, consider evidence, observe the disputed land, facilitate and legitimize decisions, and oversee a reconciliation ceremony if the case is resolved. Methods of settlement range from arbitration to mediation.

Cases involving parties from different villages, conflicting customary claims, political differences, and the private sector are frequently deferred or taken to outside authorities, including the Directorate of Land and Property or courts.

Even in conflicts surrounding titled land, abandoned properties, migration, state claims, and government administrative boundaries that require state involvement, traditional and village leaders often participate at all levels of settlement as witnesses and counselors.

Many traditional authorities and government officials are expectant that future land laws will clarify decision-making authority in intractable land disputes and will assist them in settling rural land disputes.

Executive Eviction of Suara Timor Lorosae by Fretilin Government

Suara Timor Lorosae's background on eviction from the building

Dear friends,

Here I attach the background of the eviction of the house of newspaper Suara Timor Lorosae, the leading and biggest newspaper in the country.

Thank you.

Salvador J. Ximenes Soares Publisher and Editor in Chief Suara Timor Lorosae Mobile : + 670-724777 ; 62-816822775

Background of the eviction of the newspaper Suara Timor Timur from the building

Dear friends,

The newspaper Suara Timor Lorosae received an eviction notice from the Land and Property Office on April 18, 2005. This stated that the government has decided to not extend any more time to the newspaper to use the building, and ordered an immediate eviction. This letter was a response to our letter to the Minister of Justice requesting a 6 month extension to enable the newspaper to find a new location and to construct a printing house in new site. The reason specified for the eviction notice was that Government is intending to use the building soon. However we believe the government's decision reflects their desire to make the newspaper unviable, such that it is forced to close down.

Taking this into consideration we have made the decision to nevertheless keep the newspaper running.

I. Immediate action taken

1. In view of the eviction, our top priority was to rent a house as a newsroom. Newsroom activities moved to this rented house on April 19, the day after receipt of the eviction notice.

2. The house has no land line. Internet access will be at internet cafes. This is also affected STL on line version that stop for while.

3. STL has started building a provisional building; the smaller Kumori printing machine, that will print the newspaper with small format, has already been dismantled and moved to the new location for reinstallation in the very near future. In the interim we are contracting the printing of the newspaper to a printing company.

4. We are proud that to inform you that Suara Timor Lorosae was able to continue publishing, without even a single day's break.

5. The web printing machine is being dismantled and put into a container, waiting for construction of a building to house it. This will take 4 months.

6. All equipment has been moved to the two new locations - a rented house and the new building that is under construction as a printing house in STL's own land in Surikmas - Fatumeta, Dili. STL bought this land (3,000m2) in 2003, after it first started receiving threats of eviction in 2003.

7. We have submitted applications to connect a land line phone and electricity to the new site.

8. Circulation will function at new site under emergency roof.

9. Finance, Advertising and other departments will operate along with the news department in the rented house.

II. Short term plans

1. Build a small provisional building for the Kumori printing machine at the newspaper's own land in Surikmas, and install the machine there. This will take 10 days. Hopefully after that the newspaper will print using its own printing machine, though still in tabloid format.

2. Speed up the construction of a permanent printing house at this Surikmas site. This building, with a size of 24 x 12 meters, is supported by the Finish Government.

3. Look for additional funds to enable the addition of a second storey to this building. For this, an additional $15,805 is required (see the breakdown of budget). The second storey would allow only the news room.

4. Place for Management including circulation, advertising and administration departments building will construct a provisional house.

5. We hope that by the first week of August 2005 the building will be ready for use and all department of newspaper will accommodate in the new compound of newspaper.

III. Medium Term Plans

Look for funds for the construction of a management building. This requires around $35,000. Our plan is for a building of 24 x 6 metres, situated beside the printing house and newsroom. For a breakdown of the budget see the attachment.

Dear Friends and colleagues

Regarding the decision of the Government, a lot of friends are questioning why Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and his government are apparently very angry with the Suara Timor Lorosae newspaper.

Firstly let me explain a few measures taken by Mari Alkatiri and his government, as follows:

1. Suara Timor Lorosae was given 60 days to vacate the current building used by STL to publish the newspaper. This order has no basis as the building has been used by STL since the Indonesian period, beginning in 1993. In 1999, Indonesian military backed militia totally destroyed the building, along with all equipment, including a Heidelberg printing machine which had been given by The Asia Foundation and USAID. In 2000 STL rehabilitated the building, and on 30 July 2000 STL was able to print the first edition again.

2. All government departments and other government officials are banned from receiving or giving interviews to STL journalists. This edict was displayed on the walls of government offices. STL journalists are also banned from carrying out journalistic work in the national hospital, which is the only public hospital in Dili.

3. All government institutions (offices), whether national or in the districts, are forbidden from subscribing to STL.

4. All government institutions (offices) are banned from advertising in STL.

5. Direct pressure from Mari, and expulsion of journalists in public, are things experienced by STL at this stage.

6. Besides these pressures, there are efforts from the government to destroy STL from inside by approaching certain STL journalists to persuade them to leave the newspaper and join another group of businessmen and government officers to establish a new newspaper Diario, which is linked to the weekly Portuguese-language paper Seminario. These approaches to STL journalists were carried out directly by Mari Alkatiri over the telephone. In addition, some ministers and businessmen approached the journalists by setting up meetings face-to-face to persuade the journalists to join. These efforts until now are still not successful and hopefully will not succeed in the future.

The background of the Mari Alkatiri government's anger towards STL can be explained as follows:

1. Perhaps Mari's aversion can be dated back to before East Timor's independence, but this is uncertain. In the Indonesian period, Pemuda Pancasila (a youth group close to Soeharto), has an East Timor branch led by Mari's young brother Ahmad Akatiri. He, with the support of military, entered the STL office, destroying computers, television, and other equipment in the editorial office in December 1994. This event was widely published, and Ahmad had to repay all equipment destroyed and to advertise his apologies in the newspaper Kompas.

2. After independence, the Prime Minister and his ruling party found that the only media in East Timor which they could not control for their purposes is STL. Protests and threats have been conveyed to STL by Mari many times before he became PM. These included threatening to close STL, and accusing STL of being a spokesperson for the opposition.

3. In September 2003, after STL published news about people questioning Mari Alkatiri's citizenship, and about the eviction of Mario Carrascalao from his house, etc., Mari again threatened STL by ordering the Land and Property Unit to evict STL from the current building within 30 days. We sent a letter in response to this very repugnant policy, but there has never been any answer from the government, until the second eviction letter arrived in February 2005.

4. This political pressure intensified after the local authority elections last year in 2004, in which Fretilin lost in some districts. Due to STL's publication of this fact, the PM called the Deputy Chief Editor to express his anger and threaten to close down the newspaper. On 25 October 2004 he call to the newspaper complaining that his statement specifically address to opposition parliament member not all members. He request to make correction and threat the newspaper. His office letter of correction.

5. In 6 December 2004, STL publish statement of Inpector General saying that many corruption cases was interfere by PM Alkatiri and it is difficult to combat against corruption and collusion. PM Alkatiri was angry and call to Deputy Chief Editor to complaining on that.

6. In 6 January 2005, STL published news about Mari Alkatiri's criticism towards the opposition, and in the same edition STL also published the opposition's response to Mari and put their photo in the front page. Mari was very angry and he called the Deputy Chief Editor Domingos Saldanha to appear before him. On that occasion, he threw the newspaper to Domingos and threatened STL by saying STL had been excessive in its news and that one day he would close the STL as he has authority to do so. Two times he calls to Domingos and made tree time correction by his office.

7. In 7 February 2005, STL reported about 53 peoples died in the sub-district of Hatubuiliko. Pm was angry call to Deputy that he is not happy with the report and threaten again to close the newspaper.

8. In 10 February 2005, when STL reported about the hunger in almost all districts in East Timor, Mari was very irritated with the reports and he called Domingos saying he would take necessary measures against STL. He also accusing STL is made autonomy campaign.

9. Three days later STL received a letter from the Land and Property Unit, which gave an ultimatum to STL to vacate the building within 60 days.

12. There are systematic efforts to close STL but it seems that they have not found the way to do so.

10. The other reason why Mari and his government are using systematic methods to close STL is that STL in their view is the only media which does not serve their interests. Furthermore the national election is approaching (in 2007); they (the ruling party) feel that STL will be a threat to their interests.

11. We had sent a letter to Land and Property Unit on February 2005, to request a much longer time (6 months) in the current building, so that we could find funds for construction of new buildings. The response was only received on 19 April 2005, which was the deadline given for departure from the building. In this letter, the government stated that they would not extend any more time to STL.

It seems the government expected STL to close, but it miscalculated, because even in this emergency situation we are still printing the newspaper.

Under Indonesian administration military destroyed the office, bur rent down car, beaten journalist and pressure to withdraw Publisher and Editor in Chief from Indonesian parliament (DPR) but never order newspaper to live the house.

That is the price of free and independent newspaper.

According to words of Bishop Dili Mgr. Alberto Ricardo Mari's Government it seems introduce dictatorship to this newly country. Try to shutdown newspaper, no license for demonstrations, sensitive to critics and band not publish about hunger.

We would really appreciate if friends could help us in this difficult time. We particularly need the support of media partners now that democracy and freedom of the press are under threat in this new nation of East Timor.

Thank you very much,

Dili, April 20, 2005

Salvador J. Ximenes Soares Publisher and Editor in Chief

Watu Lari Land Dispute Media Reports

Uartu Lari Land Dispute 7 September 2004 Timor Post The newspaper reports that the Office of President, Xanana Gusmao said that a letter was recieved from the head of the village of Tebabui, sub-district of Bobonaro, about complaints over five PNTL members in that area.

According to the newspaper report in the four-page letter, the leader of the community, Vicente da Cruz, said that four members of PNTL and their commander stationed in that area beat nine members of that village.

Mr da Cruz described the incident in detail in the letter, and a copy was also sent to the National Parliament, to the National Police Commissioner, Paulo Martin, and the Minister of Interior, Rogirio Lobato.

Meanwhile the Police Commissioner Paulo de Fatima Martins said, "If it is proven that those police officers have acted wrongly and violently against members of the community, strict measures will be taken against them."

The incident was caused by a land dispute when members of Lora community occupied a piece of land that belongs to Tebabui on August 13.

Land Dispute in Uato Lari Settled Suara Timor Lorosae 26/02/2001 The long-drawn land dispute in Uato Lari sub-district in Viqueque involving prime paddy land was solved peacefully yesterday. The dispute involved Henrique de Carvalho, the Chefi Suco of Afaloikai and Mateus Amaral also from Afaloikai.

Both parties signed a memorandum of understanding at the Uato Lari Church. Arbitration in the land dispute was carried out by the Uato Lari Mediation Team and CNRT. On the other hand, the Land and Property section of UNTAET, together with CivPol and Yayasan Hak were observers.

Deadlock Broken in Viqueque Land Dispute 23/02/01 http://www.un.org/peace/etimor/DB/Db230201.htmAn historic agreement will be signed tomorrow, 24 February, between two groups involved in a long and complex land dispute in Uato Lari sub-district, Viqueque district. The signing marks the starting point of a reconciliation process aiming at ending the dispute, which dates back to the 1940s.

The disputed land is an area approximately the size of Dili, ideal for rice cultivation. The two conflicting groups are occupying two separate parts of the land and are both laying claims to the entire area.

The conflict stems from political and cultural rivalries between two ethnic groups, the Makassae and Naweti. While the agreement is a community based initiative, UNTAET’ Land and Property Department plays an important part as observers and advisers.

The reconciliation process was initiated by representatives from East Timorese human rights NGO Yayasan HAK and the Justice and Peace Commission.

16/09/2003 Minister of Justice: Government Will Confiscate All Identified Assets

16/09/2003 Suara Timor Lorosa'e, Timor Post The Minister of Justice, Domingos Sarmento said on Monday, that the government has been identifying all its assets and that people who refuse to follow the notifications issued by the government, will be evicted, "regardless of which political affiliation they belong to".

Sarmento pointed out to the case of Mario Viegas Carrascalao who was evicted from the house he was living; the property had been identified as belonging to the State. He also pointed out the case of Santina Quentino, coordinator of Fretilin's Central Committee (CCF), who was evicted last week from a house belonging to the State, for having refused to follow instructions issued by the Land and Property Department.

He noted that the media had been impartial in their reports on Mario Carrascalao eviction, reported STL.

2004 Executive Eviction of Mario Viegas Carrascalao by Fretilin Government

Executive Eviciton of President of the Social Democratic Party Mario Viegas Carrascalao Suara Timor Loro Sa'e 09/09/2004 The Prime Minister, Dr Mari Alkatiri, said that the government will not withdraw its decision on the house that used to be occupied by Eng Mario Viegas Carrascalco, the Timor-Leste former governor during the Indonesian times, and that it cannot be interfered with by anybody.

The Prime Minister said that the court can make any decision they wish, but the government's decision cannot be interfered. (Decision taken by the Government to evicted the former governor out of the residence in Farol).

The newspaper reports that the house is currently being rehabilitated for government use, even though is it under legal dispute in Dili District Court. Meanwhile the Deputy Director of Legal Assistance Foundation Liberta, Benevides Correia Barros, said that while a house or land is in dispute or seized, it should not be occupied and rehabilitated until a final court's decision. He said that legally, before a court makes a final decision, nobody is allowed to occupy or have the rights over a house.

Government Failed to Evict Mario Carrascalao 21/07/2003 Timor Post, TVTL The Government failed to evict Mario Viegas Carrascalao from his house in Farol on Friday, reported Timor Post on its front page on Saturday. According to TP the Department of Justice claims that Carrascalão failed to submit requested documents within a period of time as specified by the government to remain in the house identified as belonging to the State.

According to the media a temporary agreement was reached by telephone between Minister of Justice Domingos Sarmento and Carrascalão to remain in the house. Meanwhile Carrascalao said that he submitted a letter with four proposals to the government but had not received a reply and instead was faced with the eviction. He said he would take the matter to the court and will obey whatever the court rules.

Former Governor Evicted 30/07/2003 The Sydney Morning Herald reports that in Dili, East Timorese police have evicted the President of the Social Democrat Party and former governor under the Indonesian occupation, Mario Carrascalao. Mr Carrascalao had lived in the property as his home for 22 years. Mr Carrascalao described the Government's action as an act of political persecution.

The Government had abandoned a previous attempt to evict the 66 year old veteran of East Timorese politics after negotiations with the Department of Justice Land and Property Directorat. He failed, however, to prevent the latest heavy-handed actions of the Government.

Mr Carrascalao's house was surrounded by 50 policemen at dawn on 28 July and a crowd of angry supporters soon gathered. But the property was sealed by police, forcing Mr Carrascalao to leave several hours later.

The eviction order was issued by the Land and Property Directorate of the Department of Justice on the grounds that the Indonesian Government had expropriated the house from its original Portuguese owner after the 1975 invasion.

Justice Minister Comments on Carrascalao Eviction 23/07/2006The Minister of Justice, Mr Domingos Sarmento, yesterday said that law is paramount and every one should obey it, including Mr Mario Carrascalao. He said Mr Carrascalao should abide by the Law of Land and Property. (This is a continuation of a series of reports on Mr Mario Carrascalao's case whereby Mr Carrascalao is fighting what he says is an unfair eviction).

Carrascalao Threatens to Leave East Timor if Government Proceeds with Eviction Suara Timor Lorosa'e 22/07/2003 - Suara Timor Lorosae reported that the President of the Social Democratic Party, Mr Mario Viegas Carrascalao, yesterday said that he would leave Timor-Leste if the Government evicted him from his home.

"I will leave Timor-Leste if the Government evict me, I don't have money to build a new house. For me it doesn't a matter to live in Timor-Leste or abroad, but what I am thinking is about the ordinary people if they are evicted where do they go?" said Mr Carrascalao. Mr Carrascalao said that he will abide by the Court's decision regarding the status of the house he is living in; ie whether it belongs to the State or is a private home.

The Case of Carrascalao's House: More Political Than Legal Suara Timor Lorosa'e 22/07/2003 The Director of East Timor Study Group said on Monday that the attempt to evict Mario Carrascalao from the house where he lives is more of a political than legal case. Joao Saldanha argued that the situation is a test case for the Government, adding that the government is applying the eviction starting with its opposition.

17 July 2009

10/12/2005 Baucau Land Dispute

Media Monitoring 10-12 December 2005 TVTL reported on Friday that some 25 students have temporarily stopped going to their schools and moved to the military camp in Baucau, due to a land dispute problem between the villages of Bahu and Buibau, in Baucau.

These students originally come from Bahu village and are unable to attend school because they were reportedly being threatened by the people from the village of Buibau.

Raimundo Xavier Lakuani, spokesperson for the Internal Displaced People, at the military camp in Baucau reportedly told journalists that PNTL Baucau District Commander was not neutral in this issue because he was alleged to have backed the villagers from Buibau.

Lakuani further alleged that Baucau District Coordinator of FRETILIN party, Joao Capristao (Ajino) also involved. He appealed to the leaders to find the solution to enable their return to their homes.

28/03/2005 Indonesia Claims on Land and Property in Timor-Leste

Indonesia's claim on assets frustrates MP's 28/03/2005 Suara Timor Lorosa'e - Political figures claim demands by the Indonesian government for their assets in Timor-Leste are considered to be inconsistent with the friendly relationship that has been pursued by both governments since Timor-Leste's independence in 1999.

Member of Parliament from ASDT Feliciano Alves Fatima speaking to STL said that the two governments should start from a 'zero option' basis meaning that neither government demands anything from the other. He said that the continued hold on this demand for assets has the potential to negatively affect the future relationship between the two countries.

Alexandre Cortereal from UDT party also expressed his frustration, saying that it was the Indonesian military and its militia who destroyed the assets, therefore Timor-Leste has no assets to return. He expressed his opinion that a more worthy matter to pursue is that of the fate of former Indonesian civil servants.

Indonesian team in East Timor in bid to reclaim assets Kyodo June 26, 2000 Tim Johnson - DILI, East Timor, Indonesian team arrived in East Timor on Monday to look into the prospect of reclaiming privately held assets that were not destroyed after the Aug. 30 vote for independence, a U.N. spokeswoman said Monday.

Barbara Reis, spokeswoman for the U.N. Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET), told reporters the team will 'look into facilities and equipment the Indonesian team believes belong to their companies.'She said the 10-member team, which includes representatives of private corporations, will review the condition of buildings their companies owned and compile a list for future negotiations.

After the results of the U.N.-organized referendum were announced, vengeful anti-independence militias, many organized and backed by the Indonesian military, systematically looted and burned most of the territory's buildings. Public buildings were specifically targeted, apparently with a view to leaving nothing of potential benefit behind that Indonesia built for East Timor during its 24-year occupation.

The field review was agreed to by UNTAET and the Indonesian side at a May 25 round of negotiations in Yogyakarta, Central Java. Reis said the Indonesian side wanted to see for themselves the actual condition of the buildings in question, rather than simply relying on UNTAET descriptions.

'We are talking mainly about private buildings,' she said, adding UNTAET's claim to public property inherited from Indonesia is not much in dispute.

Indonesia says the assets in question include those of telecommunications firm Telkom, state electricity supplier PLN, government and private banks and the state oil monopoly Pertamina. It says there is also the issue of privately owned land left behind by Indonesians after the poll.

As part of the process of normalizing relations between East Timor and Indonesia, the sides are also negotiating the transfer of public archives and records pertaining to East Timor, the payment of former Indonesian civil servants' pensions and the status of East Timorese refugees in Indonesia's West Timor.

Other issues include formation of a joint border commission, land border demarcation, establishing a transit corridor between the Oecussi enclave in West Timor and the rest of East Timor, and maritime delimitation.

East Timor Embassy in Jakarta Receives 6000 Land Claims from Indonesian Citizens Suara Timor Lorosa’e 08 July 2004 page 4 Jakarta – East Timor continues to its efforts to resolve the issue of assets owned by Indonesian citizens and corporations in the country. At least 6000 individual claims have been received at the East Timor embassy in Jakarta.

This was reported by the Foreign Affairs Minister of East Timor, Ramos Horta, to reporters gathered at the bilateral meeting with the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister, Hassan Wirajuda at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Pejambon Street, Jakarta on Wednesday (30 June 2004).

Horta explained that this issue was already discussed between the Republic of Indonesia and East Timor over the last 2 years. A number of steps have been taken including discussions on legislation in relation to this problem by the National Parliament of East Timor. “We are also now identifying these claims to check their veracity. We are working together with Indonesia to find a solution that is just to this problem. We want this problem to be resolved with good outcomes for both sides” said Horta.

Acknowledging that a final solution has not yet been found, Horta said that East Timor will continue to increase discussion of this problem; including the possibility of asking for the involvement of the international community.

“We view this matter in a constructive manner and from the humanitarian perspective. We have lost a lot of money and other assets. I believe that the involvement of the international community can help those who have lost money and assets” added Horta. Translation by wlwright dili 25 august 2004

Pertamina to continue operations in East Timor JAKARTA, June 3 (AFX-ASIA) - Pertamina will maintain its assets and operations in East Timor to meet the country's energy needs, the Antara news agency reported, citing Pertamina president director Baihaki Hakim.

"Pertamina will continue to operate in East Timor and its storage facilities in Dili will function as usual," Hakim said, adding that Pertamina's assets in East Timor were valued at 3.2 mln usd.

Pertamina distributes 60,000 kilolitres of oil in East Timor per month.

"Pertamina's presence in East Timor is profitable and therefore, the government does not want us to pull out from there," he said.

Hakim said most Pertamina employees in East Timor were Indonesian citizens and only 20 were East Timorese. He did not give a number for the total number of Pertamina employees in East Timor.

MP Guterres: Indonesians have lost their rights over assets (Timor Post, STL) MP Eusebio Guterres claims that Indonesians no longer have any right to reclaim their assets in Timor-Leste. Guterres says that according to Timor-Leste’s constitution, private and company assets belonging to Indonesians and Portuguese individuals are now under the ownership of the state. MP Guterres is urging Timor-Leste’s government to enforce the existing law.

He said the deadline for Indonesians to reclaim any assets or property ended on 10 March 2004. However, he concluded by saying that private assets could legally be reclaimed through a court process and based on paragraph 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Meanwhile, MP Leandro Isaac expressed similar sentiments, arguing that if the Indonesian government wants to reclaim their assets then Timor-Leste should do the same.

21/03/2005 Makeshift shelters pulled down in Dili

Makeshift shelters pulled down in Dili 21/03/2005 Suara Timor Lorosa'e- Approximately 100 makeshift shelters erected by vendors along the Coconut Beach Road were pulled down last Friday following orders from the Dili District Administration.

The operation was carried out by officers from the Dili District Sanitation Department and involved the national police.

Vendors interviewed by STL expressed their disappointment at the government action, as they have not been assigned any other place to sell their goods. Some said that if the government continues to limit their options in making a living, then it is the same as leaving them and their families to starve.

Dili District Administrator Ruben Braz de Carvalho said that the shelters spoiled the attractiveness and cleanliness of the city. According to Carvalho, more of these actions are planned for other makeshift shelters in Dili.

Approximately 20 of the vendors took their case to the National Parliament on Friday, upset and angry by the actions of the Dili District Administration. Speaking of the current economic situation as critical, the vendors said that destroying their shelters by putting holes in their tin and canvas roofs was inconsiderate. Member of Parliament from Commission A, Vicente Faria, said that the Parliament would speak to the Dili District Administration regarding the case.

Note: Administrative evictions in Timor-Leste are effected under section 8 of Law No 1 of 2003 Juridical Regime of Real Estate Part 1 - Ownership of Immovable Property (pdf file)

Image: Map showing Dili District and Sub-Districts, Timor-Leste

15 July 2009

East Timor Law Journal Land Law and Policy Research Resources List

EAST TIMOR LAND LAW & POLICY RESEARCH SOURCES (Note: Some links may not be current)


Operational Plan for Assistance to IDPs wishing to leave current IDP Camp Government of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste Ministry of Labour & Community Reinsertion 23 November 2006


STATUS OF PROPERTIES MUST BE RESOLVED QUICKLY Office of the Prime Minister of Timor Leste Media Release Dili 13 November 2006

LAND RIGHTS IN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN EAST TIMOR Pedro de Sousa Xavier Manager Land Registration ETTA Land and Property Unit



PROPERTY RIGHTS: EAST TIMOR; ADVERSE POSSESSION ABC Australia Radio National The Law Report 13 April 2004 Program Transcript



LAND VALUATION AND TAXATION POLICY FOR TIMOR-LESTE July 2005 This publication was produced for review by the United States Agency for International Development. It was prepared by ARD, Inc.

NON-CUSTOMARY PRIMARY INDUSTRY LAND SURVEY LANDHOLDINGS AND MANAGEMENT June 2005 This publication was produced for review by the United States Agency for International Development. It was prepared by ARD, Inc.



THE CUSTOMARY USE AND MANAGEMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES IN TIMOR-LESTE A discussion paper prepared for a regional workshop on “Land Policy Administration for pro-Poor Rural Growth,” Dili, December 2003 Prepared by Claudia D’Andrea, PhD With research assistance from Oscar da Silva of Yayasan Hak And two case studies by Laura S. Meitzner Yoder Editing and project management by Oxfam

CAN EAST TIMOR SURVIVE INDEPENDENCE? "Land Ownership" in Joseph Oenarto North Australia Research Unit DISCUSSION PAPER NO. 17/2000 RSPAS.ANU.EDU.AU/NARU First published in Australia in 2000 by the North Australia Research Unit, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University. at pages 10 - 11

FROM AGRARIAN REFORM IN COLONY TO GLOBAL PRIZE TIMOR LOROSA'E Under a New Wave of Economic Transformation by George Aditjondro in Arena, The Website of Left Political, Social and Cultural Commentary

W G CLARENCE-SMITH East Timor Agriculture Network and Virtual Library Document: TA051 March 1992 Published in: Indonesia Circle Nº 57 March 92 London

LAND POLICY IN POST-CONFLICT CIRCUMSTANCE: SOME LESSONS FROM EAST TIMOR The Journal of Humanitarian Assistance 24 November 2001 Daniel Fitzpatrick

LAND POLICY & ADMINISTRATION: ASSESSMENT OF THE CURRENT SITUATION AND FUTURE PROSPECTS IN EAST TIMOR FINAL REPORT Mark Marquardt Jon Unruh Consultants, Associates in Rural Development Lena Heron USAID Washington DC Submitted to USAID East Timor 9 October 2002

LAND AND PROPERTY RIGHTS IN THE PEACE PROCESS Unruh, Jon D. Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder. Posted: January 2004

CUSTOM, CODIFICATION, COLLABORATION : INTEGRATING THE LEGACIES OF LAND AND FOREST AUTHORITIES IN OECUSSE ENCLAVE, EAST TIMOR A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Yale University in Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy by Laura Suzanne Meitzner Yoder Dissertation Director: Michael Roger Dove May 2005

LAND TENURE CONFLICTS AND EAST TIMOR Peter Woodrow Partner and Program Manager, CDR Associates Interviewed by Julian Portilla 2003

LAND POLICY IN POST-CONFLICT CIRCUMSTANCES: SOME LESSONS FROM EAST TIMOR Daniel Fitzpatrick Senior Lecturer Faculty of Law Australian National University Australia E-mail: Daniel.Fitzpatrick@chello.at February 2002 FAO NEW ISSUES IN REFUGEE RESEARCH Working Paper No. 58

TALKING TITLER Department of Geomatics Engineering University of Calgary (Research note on land administration in post-conflict societies)



For broader East Timor Law research, see also East Timor Law Jounal Main Index to Legal Research Resources

14 July 2009

Ethnicity, Violence and Land & Property Disputes in East Timor

2007 ETLJ 2 Ethnicity, Violence, & Land and Property Disputes in Timor-Leste

Andrew Harrington
B.A (Hon.), LL.B / M.A. International Affairs
Norman Paterson School of International Affairs &
Faculty of Common Law, University of Ottawa
Joint Candidate

Author Contact: andy_harrington78@hotmail.com

All Material Copyright 2006 ©
This publication is copyrighted. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any means
(electronic, mechanical, microcopying, photocopying, recording or otherwise), stored in a
retrieval system, or transmitted without prior written permission.
Enquiries should be addressed to the author (contact above)
Dili, Timor-Leste & Ottawa, Canada, 2006 ©

In the not too distant past, the world’s newest nation seemed to have a bright future. The end of 24-years of struggle against Indonesian occupation was seen to mark the end of conflict and the beginning of peacebuilding for Timor-Leste. Kofi Annan called Timor-Leste the poster-child for successful international intervention, lauding it as ‘the’ example of effective nation building, while World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz crowned the country a shining example of post-conflict development during his visit in April 2006. These views have proved prematurely optimistic.

Most foreign observers and international staff who worked (or are still working) in Timor-Leste were unaware major divisions existed within Timorese society. While some were aware of obvious political divides stemming from the brief post-Portuguese civil war in 1975, few had any inkling of an east-west divide which has become the focal point of the current crisis facing Timor-Leste.

The current outbreak of violence marks the emergence of a new round of a preexisting internal conflict, largely unknown to outsiders and buried for years under Indonesian occupation. Broadly speaking, the recent conflict is rooted deeply in large scale horizontal inequality between ethnic identities in terms of land and property access and ownership in Dili, with a significant portion of destruction and violence stemming from the failure to address this issue in the wake of the 1999 scorched earth campaign. These problems, combined with the internal schism institutionalized in the F-FDTL, East–West divisions fanned by certain politicians and the anaemic economy have all contributed to the current situation in Timor-Leste. Ultimately, violence may have been triggered by political mishandling of a delicate situation, but there are multiple important underlying causes that must be examined to properly understand the situation. This is crucial to prevent such breakdowns in the future for United Nations nation-building missions and to inform current international efforts in Timor-Leste.

Country Background [1]
Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor) is the world’s newest democratic country. After nearly 400 years of Portuguese colonial rule and 24 years of Indonesian military occupation, independence was formally gained in May of 2002. It is a small country, covering half the island of Timor and currently has a population of less than one million. Timor-Leste is a village-based society with over sixteen distinct language groups, characterized by dramatic geography, isolation, and diverse local cultural traditions.

The country has a violent history. After a brief civil war, Timor-Leste declared independence from Portugal on November 28th, 1975. It was invaded and occupied by Indonesian forces nine days later, under the auspices of crushing a Communist revolution at the request of one the defeated internal faction, the União Democrática Timorense (UDT). It was then incorporated into Indonesia in July 1976 as the province of Timor Timur, in violation of international law prohibiting the acquisition of territory through aggression. This move was internationally recognized only by Australia.

An extremely brutal, yet ultimately unsuccessful campaign against local resistance fighters followed over the next twenty-four years, during which the occupiers, killed, starved, sterilized, and executed between 104,000 to 183,300 Timorese citizens — out of the then 800,000 population.

Read the full article on East Timor Law Journal

Land Tenure Issues in Post-Conflict East Timor


Warren L. Wright BA LLB

East Timor, like all post-conflict countries, faces unique land tenure issues as it seeks to reconstruct. The most immediate land tenure problem concerns refugees and displaced persons. Often, such groups have historical and religious ties to the land from which they have been displaced and the loss of their land has profound economic and social impacts. They need secure land tenure to rebuild their lives. Access to land where the tenure is legitimate and stable is a precondition to the resumption of economic, social and political activities. It is also the key to personal security for those displaced and traumatised by the conflict.

The land tenure agenda in relation to the resettlement of refugees must also take account of residual social conflict. Post-conflict societies tend to remain polarised for a period of time with sections of the population mistrusting and fearing other sections of the population. The hostilities during the conflict in East Timor between pro-independence supporters and pro-Indonesia supporters will not disappear immediately. This complicates the land tenure and land allocation problems because even if there are stable tenures to be given to resettled refugees, pro-Indonesian East Timorese who are still in East Timor could not be resettled in regions where independence supporters live.

In addition to the plight of internally displaced persons, the land tenure issue is compounded by the return of East Timorese refugees from Indonesia and by the fact that many in the civilian population who are not refugees have had their homes, businesses and villages destroyed in the aftermath of the referendum. They too will be competing for land along with the refugee population.

Read the full article on East Timor Law Journal

The Conversion of Portuguese land rights in East Timor into Indonesian statutory rights


Introduction and Background
Paragraph 4 of the General Elucidation of Law No 7 of 1976 on the Legalisation of the Unification of East Timor into the Unitary Republic of Indonesia states that, upon integration, the People of East Timor become People and Citizens of Indonesia and all legislation of Indonesia applies in the territory of East Timor.

One law of Indonesia is the Basic Agrarian Law of 1960 (Law No 5 of 1960 on the Basic Principles of Agrarian Affairs – hereafter “the Basic Agrarian Law”). The main intent of the Basic Agrarian Law was to abolish the Dutch colonial land law which had continued to operate in Indonesia since independence in 1942 and to replace it with Indonesia’s own national land law. It repealed all of the principle Dutch land law and all of the provisions of Book Two of the Civil Code “insofar as [they] pertain to soil, water, and the natural resources contained therein, with the exception of the provisions concerning hypotheek (mortgage) which are still effective at the time this act comes into effect”.

The Basic Agrarian Law asserted a new basis for Indonesia’s land law – its adat (customary) law, confirmed the State’s rights in relation to the control and allocation of land and created a new regime of statutory rights. It also included provisions which converted the old Dutch land rights into the new statutory rights. Rights under the Dutch colonial laws which were analogous or similar to the new Indonesian statutory rights were converted into the corresponding Indonesian statutory rights. The Dutch eigendom land right, which was the most complete and strongest Dutch colonial land right in Indonesia, was converted into the Indonesian statutory Right of Ownership. The erfpacht right on large plantations became the Right of Business Enterprise with a term of 20 years and the opstal right and the erfpacht right for residential purposes became the Right of Use of Structures with a term of 20 years. Certain conditions were imposed on the converted statutory rights which required foreigners who held the converted rights to either release them to the State or transfer them to citizens within one year of the enacted of the Basic Agrarian Law. If these conditions were not complied with, the land right was cancelled and the land forfeited to the State.

Read the full article on East Timor Law Journal

UNTAET Land Policy


Section 7 of UNTAET Regulation No 1 of 1999 on the authority of the Transitional Administration in East Timor provided as follows:

7.1 UNTAET shall administer immovable or movable property, including monies, bank accounts, and other property of, or registered in the name of the Republic of Indonesia, or any of its subsidiary organs and agencies, which is in the territory of East Timor.

7.2 UNTAET shall also administer any property, both as specified in section 7.1 of the present regulation and privately owned that was abandoned after 30 August 1999, the date of the popular consultation, until such time as the lawful owners are determined.

Pursuant to these sections, the UNTAET Land and Property Unit drafted and implemented a policy on the administration of immovable property of the Republic of Indonesia and private abandoned property. This policy provided for the granting of Temporary Use Agreements on immovable properties administered under section 7 (Guidelines for the Administration of Public and Abandoned Property by District Administrations). UNTAET Notification No 16 of 2000 on fees in relation to land, buildings and property provided for the payment of market value rentals for Temporary Use Agreements. As a result of the administration of this policy and of the implementation of Notification No 16 of 2000, hundreds of the many thousands (approximately 50 000) properties which fell under the administrative powers of UNTAET set out in section 7 were granted with Temporary Use Agreements (TUA’s). These TUA’s were granted to the peacekeeping forces, administrative agencies of UNTAET (including administrative agencies of the East Timor Public Administration), local and foreign businesses, and local and foreign citizens for residential purposes and, up to the dissolution of UNTAET on 19 May 2002, approximately $1 million per in revenues were being collected annually.

Read the full article on East Timor Law Journal

UNTAET Regulation No 27 of 2000 on the prohibition of land transactions in East Timor by Indonesian citizens

2004 ETLJ 3 Some Observations on UNTAET Regulation No 27 of 2000 on the Temporary Prohibition of Transactions in Land in East Timor by Indonesian Citizens not Habitually Resident in East Timor and by Indonesian Corporations

Introduction and Background
This regulation was enacted by the Transitional Administrator on 14 August 2000. As the title suggests, it temporarily prohibits transactions in land in East Timor by Indonesian citizens not habitually resident in East Timor and by Indonesian corporations.

During the Indonesian occupation of East Timor which began with the full-scale invasion on 07 December 1976 until the the administration of the territory was granted by the United Nations Security Council to UNTAET (United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor), the Indonesian State granted about 40 000 land rights under its Basic Agrarian Law; many of which grants were made to Indonesian citizens and corporations. In the lead up to the Popular Consultation which occurred on 30 August 1999 and in the wake of the destruction of the country by the Indonesian military and militia groups, most Indonesians fled East Timor and abandoned their properties. Many of the Indonesian citizens who fled subsequently sold or leased their land to either East Timorese citizens or to the many foreigners and foreign businesses who entered East Timor once law and order had been restored by INTERFET (the International Force in East Timor led by the Australian military).

This was seen as unjust enrichment of of Indonesian citizens and corporations, who, although they may not have borne personal responsibility for the mass human rights abuses and the destruction of the country, were nonetheless citizens of an illegal and tyrannical occupier that had caused immeasurable pain, suffering and death to the East Timorese people and nation and which had no intention of making reparations for the massive losses of life and property during its brutal occupation.

This alone should have been enough reason to enact a law prohibiting the sale or lease of land in East Timor owned by Indonesians. The considerations in the preamble of this Regulation state that the Regulation was enacted "[f]or the purpose of ensuring that, pending the outcome of assets and claims discussions between UNTAET and the Government of the Republic of Indonesia, the legitimate claims of the people of East Timor against the Republic of Indonesia, Indonesian citizens, and Indonesian corporations, are not prejudiced."

Overview of UNTAET Regulation No 27 of 2000

Read the full article on East Timor Law Journal

Sandalwood and Environmental Law in East Timor


The island of Timor was famous centuries ago for its vast forests of sandalwood trees. Even before the colonization by the Portuguese, the existence of the sandalwood forests had been documented in 1436 by Chinese traders. In those documents, Timor was described as “a region of mountainous terrain covered in sandalwood trees and the country produces nothing else.” The island of Timor was included in a map of the known world in 1529 while Java was not. The first Portuguese person who visited Timor, Duarte Barbosa, wrote in 1598 that “white sandalwood on the island is very abundant and the Moors in India and Persia attached a very high value to it with many benefiting from the sandalwood trees”.

During the Portuguese period, although other “commodities” such as honey, wax and slaves were also exported from the island, the focus of trade was sandalwood.

The influence of the sandalwood trade extended to the structure and development of the local political systems. The power of kings on the northern coast of Timor in the 16th century was a direct result of the sandalwood trade.

The Destruction of the Sandalwood Forests of East Timor during the Indonesian Occupation

Read the full article on ea

Observations on Policy Recommendations for Legal Framework for Land Dispute Mediation in East Timor


Historial Note: When this article was first published in 2004, it was so objected to by USAID (the funder of the Land Law Program) that it was removed following complaints by USAID to the author's then employer who directed that the article be removed. The suppression of the critique of the Land Law Program's work was anti-democratic and authoritarian. The article has therefore been re-published in the hope that the deficiencies in the Land Law Program might be addressed.

The East Timor Land Law Program is being implemented by ARD Inc., the National University of Timor Lorosa'e and the National Directorate of Land and Property. The LLP is conducting various researches to provide reports and recommendations to the Government of East Timor on land policy options and land legislation.

The complexity of the land problems in East Timor can not be underestimated and is a central policy issue critical for the maintenance of the civil peace, economic development, the guarantee of the basic right to land and opportunities to right as many injustices that occurred in relation to land under the Indonesian occupation as possible. The Land Law Program is considering problems such as land taxation and valuation, the administration and leasing of State land, land held by foreigners, and expropriation.

It has also researched and produced a report on land disputes published at http://landlawprogram.com/web/pdf/research/PolicyRecom-e.pdf and has circulated this report with a request for comments. A round-table conference on this report was held at Hotel Timor on 02 April 2003. The time for discussion of this report was severely restricted to only a few hours and no opportunity was provided for participants to ask questions and receive further information elucidating the report. Due to the importance of the topic, the consultative process would have benefited from more time and opportunity to request further clarification from the authors of the report.

General Comment
In a discussion of a legal framework for land dispute mediation generally, and in particular, in the context of the possibility of utilising traditional dispute resolution mechanisms, there are several central issues that ought to be addressed.

1. Description of Traditional Dispute Resolution Mechanisms
To provide valuable context, the report should be augmented with a description of the existing traditional dispute resolution institutions; their nature, including how they are constituted, how they function and how successful they are at resolving land disputes, the knowledge and competence of the constituent members of the institutions, the rules governing their operation, how procedures before them are initiated, where they continue to operate and where they do not continue to operate in Timor-Leste.

None of this appears in the report.

An Overview of East Timor Law No 1 of 2003 on the juridical regime of immovable property


Law No 01 of 2003 on the Juridical Regime on Immovable Properties was approved by the National Parliament of East Timor on 03 December 2002, promulgated by the President on 24 December 2002 and published on 10 March 2003. It came into force on 11 March 2004 virtue of Article 20 which provides that “[t]he present law enters into force on the following day of its publication.”

It is the first legislation enacted by the National Parliament pertaining to immovable properties.

It deals with the following matters:

1. the definitions of immovable property, private domain immovable property, public domain immovable property, and the State’s private immovable property;
2. illegal appropriation and illegal occupation of immovable property;
3. administrative eviction from the State’s immovable property;
4. claims to immovable property owned by citizens and foreigners;
5. the administration of abandoned immovable property; and
6. past acts relating to State’s immovable properties.

Full report on East Timor Law Journal

UNTAET Land Administration Policy


United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor




Revised 15 August 2000




1.1 The General Approach of these Guidelines

1.2 Implementation of these Guidelines


2.1 Source of Land and Property Powers of UNTAET

2.2 Defining "Public" and "Abandoned" Property


3.1 Assertion of UNTAET's Administrative Authority over Property

3.2 Identification of Property as Public or Abandoned

3.3 General Principles for Administration of Public and Abandoned Property

3.4 The Process of Allocating Public and Abandoned Property for Use

3.4.1 Investigation
3.4.2 Decision-making
3.4.3 Notification
3.4.4 Three Categories of Agreements
3.4.5 Appeals

3.5 Receiving Requests to Use Vacant Public and Abandoned Property

3.6 Receiving Requests to Use Occupied Public and Abandoned Property

3.6.1 Requests to Use Occupied Public and Abandoned Property Where the Current Occupier is Authorised to Occupy the Land

3.6.2 Requests to Use Occupied Public and Abandoned Property Where the Current Occupier is Not Authorised to Occupy the Land

3.7Collection of Rent

3.8 Eviction

3.9 Protection of Public and Abandoned Properties

3.10 Sub-leases

3.11 Appeals

Read the full policy on East Timor Law Journal

Tara Bandu: The Adat Concept of the Environment


A translation by Warren Wright of an article by Rogerio Soares in Direito pages 8-9, Edition 22, February 2003 published by Perkumpulan HAK, Dili, Timor-Leste.

Tara bandu is a good tradition that needs to be conserved for the development of the life of the community. The environment can be guarded and the agricultural community can sustain the support of the lives of the village population.

Tara bandu is an adat custom that regulates the relationship between humans and the environment surrounding them. In the era of independence, communities everywhere are reviving the tarabandu ceremony to determine the times when it is forbidden to fell trees, to pick and collect the produce from plants in certain places that are considered to be sacred. Places that are considered to be sacred are those places from which many people derive their means of existence. For example, places around water sources or the forest that are ecologically useful to maintain water flows and avoid erosion. This is evidence that our ancestors had a high level of consciousness about environmental protection. Read the full article on East Timor Law Journal

Finding ways of resolving land problems in East Timor


Translated by Warren Wright from the original article in Indonesian by Amado Hei published in Direito Edition No 21 January 2003 published by Perkumpulan Hak, Dili, East Timor

The Portuguese and Indonesian governments left behind the problem of land and property in respect of which a solution must be found soon.

Many land and housing issues are coming to light in our country that constitute a heavy burden for the government. This problem is very difficult to resolve because it is a problem that accumulated during Portuguese colonialism and the Indonesian occupation and that was made more complex by the destruction of the country in 1999. Read the full article on East Timor Law Journal

Land and displacement in Timor-Leste

Land and displacement in Timor-Leste Humanitarian Exchange Magazine Issue 43 June 2009 by Ibere Lopes - A familiar dilemma faced the Timorese government in developing a strategy to promote the return and resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs): should it determine property ownership before promoting return, or should it promote return first, and deal with property issues later? In the end, it chose to promote return and resettlement through a ‘cash for return’ programme, a decision that was heavily criticised by humanitarian agencies – including the UN – who argued that promoting return without first resolving property ownership issues would provoke further tensions and cause re-displacement.

Today, it is clear that the government’s IDP reintegration programme has been largely successful. However, unresolved property disputes are still a source of tension in receiving communities, and addressing them remains a condition for the sustainable reintegration of IDPs. Based on recent monitoring reports, this article offers preliminary observations on the results of the government’s approach to land and property issues within its IDP reintegration strategy.


Timor-Leste’s history is marked by numerous episodes of mass displacement. The first occurrences of forced internal resettlement were reported during the Portuguese colonial period, and again during the 1974–75 civil war. The Indonesian occupation, however, accounts for the most significant state-sponsored forced displacement programmes, with entire villages being resettled as part of Indonesian counter-insurgency strategy. Further displacement occurred around the independence referendum in 1998–99, when Indonesian troops and pro-Indonesian militias waged a campaign of violence, destruction and illegal mass deportations, causing thousands to seek refuge outside urban areas. In the latest wave of displacement, in 2006, approximately 100,000 people fled their homes.

Displacement and its consequences are the main causes of the uncertainty over property rights Timor-Leste currently faces. In seeking refuge from violence or being physically forced to move, many displaced families abandoned their former homes, leaving them to be occupied by other displaced people or destroyed. In each episode of displacement, a similar pattern of displacement, resettlement and arbitrary occupation occurred, resulting in constant changes of occupancy. The lack of property records only aggravates this already chaotic picture, and unregistered transactions make it almost impossible to disentangle the chain of transfers and identify legitimate owners, particularly in urban and peri-urban areas.

‘Cash for return’ and the property dilemma following the 2006 crisis

In April 2006, 600 personnel were dismissed from the Timorese army after protests over alleged discrimination based on them being from the west of Timor-Leste. The dismissals sparked tensions that led to widespread violence and the torching of houses, primarily in the capital Dili. Frightened families, predominately from the east of the country, sought refuge in churches, schools, NGO offices and parks, on vacant land in and around Dili and at the international airport. In early 2008, some 30,000 people were living in camps in and around Dili, with another 70,000 staying with family or friends. While the causes underpinning the violence were many, there is consensus that unresolved land and property issues were an important element. Latent tensions between the lorosae (easterners) and loromonu (westerners), exacerbated by these communities’ uneven access to land and property in Dili after 1999, played an important role in fuelling the violence.

The newly elected Timorese government made resolving the displacement crisis its main priority. A survey by the Ministry of Social Solidarity and UNDP found that more than 3,000 abandoned houses had been destroyed and another 2,000 damaged. Discussions between the government and international agencies on how to address the displacement crisis led to an inter-ministerial ‘retreat’, where the relevant ministries, UN agencies, NGOs and other stakeholders met to outline an action plan. The Ministry of Social Solidarity, the leading agency on IDP issues, commissioned a Technical Working Group to develop a Recovery Strategy to address the consequences of the 2006 crisis, with a particular focus on promoting sustainable return and reintegration.

The initial drafts of the Recovery Strategy concentrated on the most immediate impediment to return: the lack of habitable housing. According to the first version of the strategy, IDPs opting to return or resettle would be given a ‘recovery package’ of building materials tailored to their needs, from a two-bedroom shelter to a kit of building materials for minor repairs. Field surveys by the Ministry of Social Solidarity and the Ministry of Public Works identified the houses from which IDPs had been displaced, and assessed the level of damage.

After reviewing the draft recovery strategy, the government requested the inclusion of a ‘cash for return’ programme. The TWG had strong reservations regarding a cash-only approach, believing that giving large amounts of cash to IDPs would reinforce the existing ethnic divide (easterners would have the cash, while westerners would not), exacerbate social tensions in recipient communities and make building materials more expensive. Despite these reservations, a plan was developed under which IDPs opting to return or resettle would be entitled to different amounts according to the level of destruction of their homes. Entitlements were: $4,500 or a new two-bedroom shelter for houses deemed uninhabitable; $3,000 for severely damaged houses; $1,500 for partially damaged houses; and $500 for houses needing minor repairs.

With a history of repeated episodes of displacement, overlapping land rights, a lack of land registry and property records and insufficient legal frameworks to ascertain property ownership, it was extremely difficult to determine whether IDPs were entitled to the land on which they were supposed to build their new homes, and to which they would return. Would the government promote return and encourage construction on land with contested ownership? Would return to such land reignite tensions between returnees and recipient communities? If IDPs had been displaced because they were illegal occupants in the first place, why should they be allowed to return? Such fears and concerns prompted parts of the government and a number of international organisations to suggest that property rights needed to be clarified before IDP return began.

The government had to decide whether to concentrate its scarce resources on clarifying property rights first, promoting return only once such rights were determined, or promoting return first, and dealing with property rights later. On the advice of the TWG, the government chose the latter, for two reasons. First, outstanding property issues were not the only obstacle to return, and resolving them in isolation would not ensure the conditions for sustainable reintegration. Other factors which impeded return and resettlement included fear and insecurity (easterners were not comfortable with the idea of returning to predominately western communities, and vice versa); IDPs in general did not believe that law enforcement agencies had the capacity to prevent attacks after return. Meanwhile, even though conditions in the camps were far from good, the regular distribution of free rice and the delivery of some basic services made them a safer and more attractive alternative given conditions in areas of return. Second, clarifying land rights, even if only in Dili, would take years of complex work, legislative measures and additional resources not available at the time. Leaving IDPs waiting in camps would have been unacceptable. The few existing transitional shelters, built by the government and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), could not accommodate the larger IDP population and no suitable land was available on which to build extra units. Although suitable state land was identified, the government decided to allocate it for other purposes, such as the new Post Office headquarters. Clarifying land rights would require not only a lengthy and expensive cadastral survey, but also the passage of legislation, particularly of a Transitional Land Law, in order to determine criteria for resolving conflicting claims, rights acquired through adverse possession, validation of previous titles and other sensitive issues. There was no chance that such a controversial piece of legislation could be debated and approved quickly, and resolving the displacement crisis was an urgent matter.

The Recovery Strategy

The government’s Recovery Strategy was launched in December 2007, and is ongoing at the time of writing. It has adopted a holistic approach to IDP reintegration, treating each obstacle to return – including land and property issues – as part of a bundle of factors preventing resettlement, rather than as separate issues. The Ministry of Social Solidarity formed dialogue teams, which were dispatched to IDP camps and recipient communities to encourage IDPs to return and to facilitate their acceptance by recipient communities.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), in cooperation with other organisations including UNDP, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Care, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and Belun, a local NGO that specialises in conflict resolution, assisted the government in implementing its Recovery Strategy and in monitoring return. By December 2008, the Ministry of Social Solidarity had distributed recovery packages to 11,700 IDP families. An IOM survey conducted with village chiefs shows that 64% of households have returned to their villages of origin. The re-displacement rate has remained remarkably low: only 1.03% of returning families were forced to move out of their communities after return. The same survey shows that there is little correlation between villages reporting re-displacement and villages reporting post-return problems, including outstanding land and property issues. According to the survey report, re-displacement seems to be linked with specific factors related to affected families.


Overall, the government’s Recovery Strategy has succeeded in promoting IDP return and resettlement. The high return rate and the small number of re-displacements indicate that the cash-only packages have met the needs associated with return. However, at the time of writing no hard data is available on how returnees have used the money. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some returnees invested a large portion of their package in rebuilding their homes; others ‘shared’ part of their cash with members of the receiving community, made contributions to community peace-making ceremonies or invested in livelihoods, particularly replacing trading stalls lost during the violence. There were some reports of misuse, but this does not seem to have had a significant negative impact on return and reintegration. A survey by the Asia Foundation on perceptions of security among the general population shows that only 2% consider IDP returns to be the most serious security issue in their neighbourhood, and only 5% of respondents in areas that have received returnees believe that social tensions have increased as a result.

Outstanding land and property issues, although still a potential source of future tension, have not been an impediment to sustainable return. Nonetheless, in villages reporting problems between community members and IDPs land issues are most often cited as the source, indicating that land and property issues remain contentious, and may contribute to further conflict. Clarifying land rights will not guarantee stability in neighbourhoods receiving IDPs, but it will play an important role in promoting peace and preventing future conflict.

Ibere Lopes is the Land Policy and Legislation Task Leader in the USAID-funded Strengthening Property Rights in Timor-Leste project. In 2007, as a Land Rights Adviser in the UNDP Support to Government for IDP Reintegration project, he was part of the Technical Working Group set up by the Timorese government to develop an IDP return strategy.

References and further reading

Daniel Fitzpatrick, Land Issues in a Newly Independent East Timor (Canberra: Department of the Parliamentary Library, 2001).

Chega!, Final Report of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR), 2008.

Timor-Leste’s Displacement Crisis, International Crisis Group, March 2008.

Cynthia Brady and David Timberman, The Crisis in Timor-Leste: Causes, Consequences and Options for Conflict Management, Prevention and Mitigation (Dili: USAID, 2006).

Andrew Harrington, ‘Ethnicity, Violence and Land and Property Disputes in Timor-Leste’, East Timor Law Journal, 2007, http://www.eastimorlawjournal.org.

Scott Leckie, Housing, Land, and Property Rights in Post-Conflict Societies: Proposals for a New United Nations Institutional and Policy Framework, Legal and Protection Policy Research Series, PPLA, March 2005.

Chefe de Aldeia Survey, September–November 2008 Monitoring Report, IOM, Dili, 2009.

Liam Chinn and Silas Everet, A Survey of Community-Police Perceptions, The Asia Foundation, East Timor, 2009.