30 April 2010

La'o Hamutuk on the draft Expropriation Law

La'o Hamutuk has launched a new web page on the draft Expropriation Law at:

Expropriation is a process through which the State can compel people to sell their property, to use it for public benefit. On 6 April the Government presented Parliament with a draft Expropriation Law as part of a "land package". Committee A is now reviewing the law.

In many countries expropriation is a source of conflict and rights violations. Many Timorese people lost their land to forcible expropriation during the Portuguese and Indonesian regimes, and these traumas leave deep scars. When expropriation is perceived to be unfair or arbitrary, communities will resent, rather than welcome, projects of genuine local benefit.

La'o Hamutuk and many others believe Timor-Leste needs to approach expropriation carefully. It should only be done rarely, when every alternative is exhausted. The draft law has too few safeguards to prevent the State unfairly taking people's land.

The Ministry of Justice did not consult the public on this law before presenting it to Parliament. We hope that Parliament will send this law back to the Ministry of Justice to conduct a meaningful public consultation that can determine what Timorese people believe is a fair process for expropriation.

The web page outlines the expropriation process described in the draft law. It also suggests safeguards that could be explored further through a government public consultation process.

We welcome further documents, analysis and commentary from all sources.

See also Rede ba Rai (East Timor Land Network) Statement on the Expropriation Law
La'o Hamutuk - The Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis
1/1a Rua Mozambique, Farol, Dili
Mob: +670 730 2439
Office: +670 332 5013
Web: www.laohamutuk.org

Rede ba Rai (East Timor Land Network) Statement on the Expropriation Law

Two weeks ago the government approved and sent to parliament 3 laws that will have a huge impact on the people of Timor-Leste’s land rights. The first of these laws, the Lei de Terras, was the product of much work and debate and 5 months of public consultation. The other two, The Property Fund Law (Lei Fundo Financeiro Imobiliario) and the Expropriation Law (Lei Expropriacoes) were written by law firms[1] and (unlike the Lei de Terras) were not opened for public consultation by the Minister of Justice. They have not yet been translated to Tetun.

In particular the Expropriation Law (Lei Expropriacoes) which establishes when and how the state can take peoples’ land will have a very significant impact on our rights and access to land.

What is Expropriation?

Expropriation is the process through which the state takes land in order to undertake developments in the public interest (for example to build roads, ports or hospitals). Almost all countries have some sort of process for doing this, however the act of evicting a person, family or a community from their home and taking their land is huge incursion on their rights and should only be allowed to happen in exceptional circumstances where there are no alternatives, and where the development is necessary ‘for the public interest’.

The definition of ‘public interest’ during state expropriation of land is one of the world’s most contentious land issues. If we define ‘public interest’ very broadly we give the government huge power to take land. Considering this, in order to prevent conflict and create a law that can contribute to creating peace and strengthening development it is important that there is deep consultation. If we give a wide definition to this concept of public interest we give the state strong powers to take land.

In many parts of the world we can see examples of powerful states evicting the population arbitrarily in the name of economic development. Cambodian Law for example states that ‘no person may be deprived of his ownership unless it is in the public interest’ and yet, in Cambodia over 150,000 people live everyday under the threat of eviction for the creation of luxury housing, hotels, shopping malls etc. In a recent case over 4,200 families in Phnom Penh lost their land when they were evicted in order to make way for state sponsored private economic development.

What does the draft Expropriation Law say?

Timor-Leste’s new Expropriation Law does not give any definition to this concept of ‘public interest’. It gives the government almost no limitations therefore allowing it to determine cases arbitrarily on a political basis what is in the public interest.

Under this law the government could decide that clearing communities from their lands in order to give large tracts of land to companies like SAPT or P.T. Salazar is in the public interest. Or that evicting people from their homes in order to allow foreign companies to come and build hotels is also within the public interest.

Expropriation of land and people’s homes should never happen arbitrarily. We need a law that establishes not only sufficient compensation but also lays down sufficient protections against unjust, arbitrary, corrupt or forced expropriation of land. We need a law which allows the state to expropriate land only in exceptional circumstances and where no other alternatives exist. We need a law that guarantees the role of the people in decisions and consultations about expropriation.

How to ensure fair and just policies on expropriation

A crucial part of writing appropriate expropriation policies and rules is ensuring that marginal communities and those who are likely to be affected by expropriation are involved in their creation. Without their involvement in the process laws will favour the richer and more powerful groups in society.

§ This law was written with no consideration of the Timor-Leste context. It does not look at Timor’s historical complex relationship with expropriation, or how the realities of expropriation might affect the nation. We should not forget that conflict in 1975, 1999 and 2006 was all linked to land and the independence of land.

§ It was written undemocratically with no participation from the people on whom it will most impact. Expropriation of land affects most severely those living in poverty. Special efforts should have been made to ensure the participation of these groups in the creation of these laws. The law should look more specifically at providing protection to vulnerable land groups in Timor-Leste.

§ It was written in a language that our population cannot understand.

§ At no point have we been asked how and when we would feel that it would be justified for the state to take our lands.

Most importantly, we must ask why the Government is trying to sneak in this law as part of a package of transitional land laws? The Expropriation Law was sent to parliament at the same time as the new Lei de Terras. The Lei de Terras aims to resolve uncertainty over land claims in Timor-Leste, it is the product of significant debate and public consultation. It is very important that we consider these two laws as distinctly separate. The Lei de Terrasconsultation process which was carried out last year (June 2009 – November 2009) at no stage discussed or consulted with communities on the issue of expropriation.

Why no consultation?

Government representatives have said that expropriation is a very technical issue and that the population of Timor-Leste would not have the capacity to give opinions on these types of issues. This is not only inaccurate, but also seeks to justify the dilution of our rights of participation. Asking people when and how they feel it is justified for the state to take their land is not a complicated question.

§ If this issue is considered a technical and complicated issue, government, civil society and communities need to re-think their strategies for disseminating information and consulting on land rights and legal issues,

§ A lack of capacity to understand the issues does not negate the duty of government to allow participation in governance and legislative issues. In the case of the Expropriation Law the problem is not that there was insufficient or weak consultation, but that the public was not given any opportunity to access or contribute to the development of this law.


To S.E. Sra. Fernanda Borges the President of Commission A, the members of Commission A, and the Members of Parliament

We ask you as representatives of the people, to take into account the massive impact that this law will have on the rights of the people of Timor-Leste and to;

1. Consider the Expropriation Law as a law that is completely separate to the Lei de Terras,

2. Send the Expropriation Law back to the Ministry of Justice requesting them to carry out sufficiently deep, democratic and participative public consultation on this important issue

To S.E. Sr. Xanana Gusmao, the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste and S.E. Sra. Lucia Lobato, the Minister of Justice

We congratulate you on the public consultation process and subsequent approval of the Lei de Terras and ask you to look to the constructive experiences of the Lei de Terras consultation process, and to;

1. Acknowledge the important role that the people of Timor-Leste play in the creation and definition of our policies, laws and development path,

2. Guarantee and implement a public consultation process in relation to the Expropriation Law that will allow effective participation from the people of Timor-Leste

3. Guarantee the role of the public in the creation of future Land Policies and Laws, and in particular guarantee that all laws that will have a large impact on our land rights and access to land will undergo sufficient and substantial consultation.

To all partners, donors and actors within the justice sector of Timor-Leste

We ask you to follow the good examples laid down by current land sector actors and to commit to a renewed culture of consultation and participation, and to;

1. Emphasize the need for solutions that are specifically suited to the Timorese context,

2. Ensure that there is widespread co-operation, consultation and co-ordination between government institutions, organizations, civil societies and other stakeholders,

3. Guarantee their commitment to participatory and democratic approaches to legislation and policy creation.

The Timor-Leste land network is a group of 20 organisations working to protect land rights in Timor-Leste. Our vision is a nation where all people have land rights and access to land that is just and sustainable. Since 2001 we have been monitoring, researching and advocating on land issues. To find out more about Rede ba Rai, the Expropriation Law or other land issues please contact the secretariat of Rede ba Rai at Fundasaun Haburas +670 730 7800

[1]The Expropriation Law was written by Portuguese law firm Miranda.


Land Issues Mentor
Rede ba Rai Timor-Leste (The Timor-Leste Land Network)
Fundasaun Haburas,
Rua Celestino da Silva,

+670 730 7800
+353 85 1461435
Statementu Rede ba Rai kona-ba Lei ba Espropriasaun

Semana rua liubá governu sira mak approva no haruka ba parliament lei tolu(3) ne’ebe sei fó impaktu bo’ot ba povu Timor-Leste nian direitu ba rai. Lei primeiru, naran Lei de Terras, mak hakerek liu husi servisu no debát barak no liu husi konsultasaun publiku fulan 5. Lei rua seluk, ida kona-ba Fundu Propriedade (Lei Fundo Financeiro Imobiliariu) no ida kona-ba espropriasaun (Lei Expropriacoes)mak hakerek liu husi kompania avogadu sira[1] no Ministra Justisa la loke lei rua ne’e ba konsultasaun publiku, prosesu nebe hanesan ‘lei ba rai’ nian. Lei rua ne’e dezenvolve esklusivu liu no taka ba publiku, no sira seidauk tradus ba lian Tetun.

Liuliu Lei kona-ba Expropriasaun ne’ebe establese bainhira no oinsa estadu bele foti povu nian rai mak fó impaktu bo’ot ba ita nian direitu no asesu ba rai.

Saida mak Espropriasaun?

Espropriasaun mak prosesu ida liu husi estadu bele foti rai atu uza ba dezenvolve projetu ruma ba intereses publiku (ezemplu atu harii dalan, porto ka ospital sira). Normalmente nasaun hotu-hotu iha prosesu ida hodi halo ida ne’e. Maske ne’e atu hasai ema, familia ka komunidade ruma husi sira nian fatin ka atu foti sira nia rai mak iha jerál konsidera hanesan aksaun ida ne’ebe amiasa bo’ot ba sira nian direitu. Bele deit hasai ema husi sira nian rai iha kazus exesional, bainhira alternativu la iha, no bainhira dezenvolve projetu mak nesesidade ba intereses publiku.

Iha mondu hotu definisaun ba phrase ne’e ‘tuir intereses publiku’ mak assuntu ne’ebe hetan debát bo’ot. Definisaun ne’e bele iha interpretasaun la hanesan entre jerasaun sira nebe kaer ukun. Ho konsiderasaun ne’e mak hakarak husu atu iha debat klean nune bele evita konflitu nomo bele produs lei ida nebe bele ‘kontribui ba hari pas no hametin desenvolvimentu’. Se ita fó definisaun luan liu hodi interpreta katak interese publiku deit ba konseitu ne’e ita fó póde bo’ot ba estadu atu foti rai.

Iha nasaun barak ita bele hare’e estadu ho póder bo’ot hasai arbiru povu husi sira nia rai ho naran dezenvolvimentu ekonomiku. Lei Kambozia establese katak ‘la bele hadera ema sira nian direitu ba rai nebe la tuir interese publiku’ maske nune’e iha Kambozia liu ema 150,000 hela loro-loron ho amiasa duni-sai tamba estadu hakarak harii uma luxu, otels no sentru komersial sira. Foin dadaun iha kazu ida estadu mak hasai familia nain 4,200 ne’ebe hela iha Phnom Penh atu fó dalan ba dezenvolvimentu ekonomiku privadu patronisa husi estadu.

Ezbozu Lei Espropriasaun establese saida?

Timor-Leste nian Lei Espropriasaun foun la fó naran definisaun ida ba konseitu ‘intereses publiku’. Lei fó ba governu póder bo’ot kuaze laiha limitasaun atu halo determina kazu saida kona-ba asuntu rai ho deit base politika interese publiku.

Tuir lei ne’e katak governu bele determina atu hasai komunidade husi sira nian rai atu fó rai luan ba kompania hanesan SAPT ka P.T. Salazar mak tuir interese publiku. Estadu bele mos halo desizaun katak halo duni-sai ba ema husi sira nian uma atu husik kompania husi rai liur mai hari otel mak tuir intereses publiku nebe bele dehan atu hari kampo servisu.

Foti ema sira nian rai no uma nunka bele halo arbiru deit. Entaun ita presiza lei ida ne’ebe establese la’os deit hodi determina kompensasaun ne’ebe sufisiente maibe mos lei ida ne’ebe fó protesaun kontra espropriasaun ne’ebe la justu, ne’ebe arbiru deit, korupsi ka forsadu. Ita presiza lei ida ne’ebe husik estadu atu hasai ema husi sira nian rai iha kazu exsesional deit bainhira alternative la iha. Presiza lei ida ne’ebe garante povu sira nian knar halo desizaun no atu hetan konsultasaun kona-ba expropriacoes

Oinsa bele harii politika kona-ba espropriasaun ne’ebe justu?

Parte bo’ot hakerek politika no lei espropriasaun ne’ebe serve ba kontextu sosial, ekonomia, cultural no politika nian mak asegura katak komunidade kbiit-laek sira no ema ne’ebe ba oin hetan impaktu husi politika espropriasaun sira involve iha prosesu kria politika hirak ne’e. Se sira la involve iha prosesu hari politika sira ne’e, politika hali’is liu ba ema bo’ot no riku ne’ebe bele influensa maka’as liu prosesu.

§ Lei ida ne’e mak hakerek laiha konsiderasaun ba kontextu Timor-Leste nian? Lei ne’e la hare ba povu Timor sira nian istoria komplexu ho asuntu espropriasaun. Lei la hare oinsa espropriasaun iha tempu ukun rasik an bele impaktu ba nasaun nian. Keta haluha katak konflitu 1975, 1999, 2006 sira ne’e hotu iha ligasaun kona-ba rai no ukun ba rai.

§ Lei ne’e hakerek ho metodu ida nebe la’os demokratiku nolaho partisipasaun ida husi ema ne’ebe hetan impaktu bo’ot liu? Ema kbiit-laek sira no ema kiak hetan impaktu bo’ot liu bainhira iha espropriasaun. Entaun presiza esforsu spesifiku atu asegura sira nian partisipasaun iha prosesu hari lei no lei ne’e devia hare liu ba protesaun grupu rai kbiit-laek iha Timor-Leste. Oinsa ukun nain sira atu interpreta espektativa populasaun nian wainhira sira sei hetan ‘espropriasaun’ husi Estado?

§ Lei ne’e mak hakerek iha lian ne’ebe povu sira la bele komprende?

§ Governu la husu ba povu sira bainhira no oinsa bele justifika atu foti populasaun nia rai.

Importante liu, sosiedade sivil sira (Rede ba Rai) presija hetan informasaun husi Governu sira, no Ministra Justisa tamba sa sira koko atu la’o subasubar ho lei ida ne’e?Lei ne’e haruka ba Parlimentu tempu hanesan Lei de Terras? Lei de Terras mak hakerek atu rezolva konfusaun kona-ba se mak nain ba rai iha Timor-Leste, Lei de Terras mak hetan debate no konsiderasaun maka’as liu. Presiza duni rekonyese katak Lei rua sira ne’e mak ho moos ketak-ketak (la bele kahor). Prosesu konsultasaun Lei de Terras ne’ebe halo tinan kotuk nunka temi ka halo diskusaun kona-ba asuntu espropriasaun.

Presiza Konsultasaun

Representante Governu sira beibeik dehan katak assuntu espropriasaun mak assuntu ida tekniku liu, no dehan katak povu Timor-Leste nian la iha kapasidade atu fó hanoin kona-ba assuntu hanesan ne’e. Ne’e la’os deit argumentasaun ne’ebe sala maibe mos liafuan ne’e koko atu justifika Governu sira nian perspektiva politika ba hamihis ba direitu partisipasaun povu nian. Maibe atu husuba ema bainhira no oinsa sira senti estadu bele foti sira nian rai maka pergunta simples no klaru, la’os asuntu ‘tekniku’,

§ Se ita senti katak konseitu ruma mak komplexu, Governu, sosiedade sivil no komunidade sira presiza hanoin fali ba ita nian stratejia fahe informasaun, eksplika konseitu no halo konsultasaunn kona-ba assuntu lei no rai.

§ Kuran kapasidade la signifika katak governu iha direitu atu taka prosesu ba publiku. Governu iha nafatin dever atu garante partisipasaun iha assuntu governasaun ba nasaun nian.Problema ho Lei Espropriasaun ne’e la’os katak konsultasaun la sufisiente ka la forsa, problema mak ita la simu oportunidade ida atu asesu Lei ne’e no fó ita nian kontribuisaun iha prosesu desenvolvimentu lei ne’e.

Rekomendasaun Sira

Bodik ba S.E. Sra. Fernanda Borges, Presidenta Komisaun A, membru Komisaun A sira no Membru Parliamentu

Ami husu ba ita bo’ot sira hanesan representante povu nian atu hare’e ba impaktu bo’ot husi lei ne’e ba ita nian direitu no atu;

1. Konsidera Lei Espropriasaun ne’e hanesan assuntu ida ne’ebe ketak (labele kahor) ho Lei de Terras transitoriu,

2. Haruka fali ba Ministra Justisa Lei Espropriasaun no husu ba sira atu halo konsultasaun ida ne’ebe klean, demokratiku, no partisipativu ba asuntu importante ne’e.

Bodik ba S.E. Sr. Xanana Gusmao, Primeiru Ministru Timor-Leste no S.E. Sra. Lucia Lobato, Ministra Justisa

Ami hakarak hato’o ami nian parabems kona-ba konsultasaun publiku maka’as no aprovasaun Lei de Terras. Ami husu ba ita bo’ot sira atu hare’e ba esperiensia konstruktivu prosesu ne’e no nune bele;

1. Rekonyese knar importante povu Timor-Leste iha prosesu harii no fó definasaun ba politika, lei no dalan dezenvolvimentu Timor nian,

2. Garante no implementa prosesu konsultasaun maka’as kona-ba Lei Espropriasaun ne’ebe fó dalan efetivu ba partisipasaun povu Timor nian,

3. Garante povu sira nian knar ba oin iha prosesu harii lei no politika rai nian no garante katak Lei sira hotu ne’ebe impaktu ba povu sira nia direitu rai sei hetan konsultasaun nebe klean.

Ba parseiru, doadores no ema seluk servisu ho sector justisa iha Timor-Leste

Ami husu ba ita bo’ot sira atu tuir ezemplu diak ne’ebe bele agora dadaun hare’e iha parte balun setor rai, no atu haburas komitmentu ba kultura foun konsultativu no partisipativu, no mos atu bele;

1. Fó enfaze atu buka solusaun sira ne’ebe tuir kontextu Timor nian,

2. Asegura katak iha kooperasaun, konsultasaun, no koordinasaun entre ita bo’ot sira, instituisaun governu, sosiedade sivil, povu Timor no makletak sira seluk,

3. Garante ita bo’ot sira nian komitmentu ba prosesu kria politka no lejislasaun ne’ebe partisipativu duni no demokratiku.

Rede ba Rai mak grupu organizasaun local, nasional no internasional ne’ebe servisu atu proteje direitu ba rai iha Timor-Leste. Ita nian vizaun mak povu Timor-Leste ne’ebe moris nafatin ho direitu no asesu ba rai ne’ebe justu no sustantivel. Husi tinan 2001 ita halo monitorizasaun, peskiza no advokasia kona-ba asuntu rai. Atu hetan informasaun liu kona-ba Rede ba Rai, Lei Espropriasaun ka asuntu rai seluk favor ida kontaktu sekretariadu Rede ba Rai liu husi telemovel +670 7307800.

[1] Ministra mak emprega kompania avogadu Portugues Miranda atu hakerek Lei Espropriasaun.

02 April 2010

Customary Land in East Timor: A Lesson from Malaysia

Court Voids Malaysian Palm Oil Giant's Leases on Native Lands MIRI, Sarawak, Malaysia, April 1, 2010 (ENS) - A native community on the Tinjar River in the Malaysian part of Borneo has won an important legal battle against the Sarawak state government and a subsidiary of IOI, one of the world's largest palm oil companies.

Twelve years after the natives' class action lawsuit was filed, the Miri High Court Wednesday declared leases of Kayan native customary lands "null and void" because they had been issued by the Sarawak state government to IOI Pelita in an illegal and unconstitutional manner.

Successful Kayan native plaintiffs and their lawyer Harrison Ngau, center, celebrate outside the courthouse in Miri, Sarawak. March 31, 2010. (Photo courtesy BRIMAS)

The court declared that the five plaintiffs who represented their village of Long Teran Kanan in the class action case possess native customary rights over their native customary land area, both on the leased lands and beyond them "according to the plaintiffs' communal boundary."

The court also found that issuance of the leases constitutes a violation of the rights of the plaintiffs to their property which is the source of their livelihood.

The court ruled that the company and its agents "are trespassing" over the land of the plaintiffs and awarded both exemplary and aggravated damages to the Long Teran Kanan native community. Any damages and losses suffered by the plaintiffs will be assessed by the Deputy Registrar of the High Court at a date to be fixed.

Outside the courthouse plaintiff Emang Jau said he was very happy with the judgement. He urged the state government not to appeal the High Court decision.

Jau said, "Previous and current ministers, elected representatives and government officers have encouraged us to develop our land and not leave it idle. We have received a lot of assistance from the government when our previous longhouse was burnt twice and also from subsidies to plant rubber, cocoa and paddy [rice]. So it is unfair for the government to accuse us of not having any rights at all."

Lah Anyie, the first plaintiff and also the headman for Long Teran Kanan asked, "Why does the company and the government accuse us of being squatters when our village is officially recognized by the government as a legitimate village?"

The Court decision also discredits the so-called Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, which, according to IOI, had found in a probe that the company "had acted responsibly for the management of land in Sarawak."

Oil palm plantation in Sarawak (Photo by Anjalil)

IOI, a Malaysian palm oil producer serving markets in 65 countries, is a founding member of the Roundtable. IOI Pelita is its subsidiary.

Nongovernmental organizations that have supported this native community and others in their fight for native customary rights and land rights are urging the Sarawak state government not to appeal the High Court's ruling.

The Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia says the Sarawak government should let the ruling stand. "Even though the government has a right to appeal, they have to take into account their priorities to the people, espoused by the slogan, 'Peoples First, Performance Now,'" the institute said in a statement Wednesday.

The Bruno Manser Fund, based in Switzerland, said today that it welcomes the Miri High Court decision and "expects IOI to stop its jungle clearance activities and move out of the disputed lands in the Tinjar region with immediate effect."

Last December, a BBC News investigation found that vast tracts of former rainforest were being bulldozed in the disputed IOI operations area. BBC reporters documented "a scene of absolute devastation: a vast scar on the landscape."

On March 15, Friends of the Earth Europe and its Dutch branch Milieudefensie issued a report presenting evidence that IOI was responsible for large-scale illegal and unsustainable activities in the Indonesian part of Borneo.

The report exposes the illegal activities of the IOI Group and shows that the increasing demand in Europe for palm oil in food and biofuels is leading to deforestation, breaches of environmental law and land conflicts in Asia.

"The picture that arises from our investigation differs considerably to the promise of sustainable palm oil that is being presented by the IOI Corporation," Friends of the Earth states in its report. "As IOI is expanding its plantations to capitalise on the growing market opportunities for palm oil, it is failing ... to live up to the standards it has subscribed to."

The IOI Group responded that its own investigation into these allegations found that "Milieudefensie's field research had been highly selective and limited, and that several incidents on which allegations were based were incorrectly reported. The investigation also concluded that no land conflicts have occurred, nor have any laws or RSPO regulations been violated."

"IOI Corporation is also not involved in any open burning activities and, as part of its zero-burning policy, is monitoring and preventing third-party burning activities on its concessions," the company said in a statement March 25.

"IOI Corporation is determined to demonstrate its commitment to its sustainability goals and its compliance with legal regulations and RSPO Principles and Criteria by openly providing concerned stakeholders with insight into company field documents and procedures," the company said.