Friday, 25 May 2012

Land Policy in East Timor - The Cart before the Horse

Original Citation: 2009 ETLJ 10 Land Policy in East Timor - The Cart before the Horse

The government seems intent on finding out who owns the land in East Timor without there being the sound foundations of a reformed land law or land right registration decree law. (see also the following posts in the East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin: Government to start land data collection in Liquica and Manatuto, East Timor Nationwide land data collection to start in East Timor and East Timor Ministry of Justice & DNTPSC Launch National Property Cadastre)

The question that arises is why should the government proceed in such an exercise before there is legal clarity about the status of the 40000 odd land rights (over most of the most valuable land in East Timor) created during the Indonesian occupation, or about the abolition of the Portuguese land rights created during the colonial period, or, even, indeed, about the status of land rights that exist over most of the national territory by virtue of local customary law.

The data collection program seems to be an odd approach based on a misinformed policy. It ought to have been preceded by a comprehensive land law that resolved the legal problems and one that provided for a proper process for land right ownership determination and recording that incorporated the judicial system in the event of disputes and conflicts - frequent and violent occurrences in East Timor's cities and the countryside.

The data collection exercises bring no clarity or certainty to the legal ownership of land in East Timor. This program is not being conducted in accordance with the conventional land right registration policies and laws. There was already a national claims registration process some years ago. It is a shame that so much money and resources are being consumed in this way. It will be a greater shame if it results in the unjust entrenchment of unverified claims and that carries the risk of further disintegration in the social relations in East Timor that relate to land.

Warren L. Wright BA LLB

02 May 2009

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1. Justice for Serious Crimes Committed during 1999 in Timor-Leste: Where to From Here?

2. Joint Command for PNTL & F-FDTL Undermines Rule of Law & Security Sector Reform in Timor-Leste

3. Criminal Justice in East Timor and the Constitution of East Timor

4. Commentary on the Draft Arms Law in Timor-Leste

5. Deleted


1. The Law on Political Parties (No 3/2004) & the Decision of the Timor-Leste Court of Appeal in the case of Vitor da Costa & Ors v Fretilin

2. Ethnicity, Violence & Land & Property Disputes in Timor-Leste

3. East Timor: Reconciliation & Reconstruction

4. Legal opinion on the appointment of the Prime Minister and the formation of Government in Timor-Leste

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6. Commission for Truth Friendship East Timor Competing Concepts of Justice

7. 25th of May 2006 Massacre & War Crimes in Timor-Leste


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2. Extradition from Indonesia to East Timor & the Serious Crimes Process in East Timor 1999 - 2005

3. East Timor: Internal Security, States of Seige & Emergency: A Note on the Constitutional Provisions & the Internal Security Law 2003

4. East Timor: The Constitutional Process Governing the Dismissal of the Government

5. Guidelines for Preparation of Outgoing Requests by East Timor for International Judicial Assisstance - Extradition Requests & Letters Rogatory - A Practice Manual

6. Roles of the President and the Prime Minister in the Current Constitutional Crisis in East Timor

7. Institutions & the East Timorese Experience

8. An Early Warning System for Timor-Leste: A Framework Concept of the Need & Possibility of an Early Warning System for the Timorese People


1. The Timor-Leste Maritime Boundaries Case

2. Deleted

3. On the occasion of the International Conference on Traditional Dispute Resolution & Traditional Justice in Timor-Leste

4. General Facts on the Timor Sea & Facts on the Negotiations on a Permanent Maritime Boundary between Timor-Leste & Australia

5. Deleted

6. Morality, Religion & the Law: Abortion & Prosititution in East Timor


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2. UNTAET Land Policy

3. Some Observations on UNTAET Regulation No 27/2000 on the Temporary Prohibition on Transactions in Land by Indonesian Citizens

4. Sandalwood & Environmental Law in East Timor

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6. An Overview of East Timor's Law No 1 of 2003 on the Juridical Regime on Immovable Properties

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