Saturday, 19 May 2012



Translated 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.

In order to find a solution, Yayasan Hak (now Perkumpulan HAK) organised a public discussion about land and property at Knua Buka Hatene, Dili, on 5 October 2002. This discussion involved all interest groups from the community, youth, Parliament and the government. The purpose of the discussion was to involve the community in finding alternative means of resolving the land and property problem. It was hoped that from this discussion would arise proposals on appropriate resolution mechanisms that would form the basis of national policy.

In this discussion, the Director of Land and Property, Pedro de Sousa analysed the history of the land problem in Timor Lorosa’e. According to him, the land problem is so complex that there needs to be a thorough identification of the issues before the method of resolving it and legislation can be determined. In addition to that, there needs to be a dialogue with all interested parties.

A similar view was expressed by Jose da Costa, Judge of the Dili District Court. He said that the court experienced difficulties in resolving land dispute cases. This was caused by the absence of legislation regulating the matter. Now, based on the UNTAET regulation, the Indonesian law is still applied; namely, the Basic Agrarian Law. “This legislation is really not appropriate for the resolution of our land problems”, he said.

Meanwhile, Member of the National Parliament, Manuel Tilman (from the KOTA Party) said that the Government had already submitted a draft regulation on immovable property. “That regulation will soon be enacted to regulate our land and property. But the possibility of amending it is still open if there are any deficiencies in it”, he said.

In the same discussion, the Head of the East Timor Students’ Solidarity Council, Natalino de Jesus, said that there needs to be vacant free land surrendered to the Government so that the Government can regulate it for the public interest. “But in doing this, the Government must involve the community” he added.

Participants discussed many views on the land issue. For example, there is land that has already been sold by its owner during the Indonesian occupation, and again by the second owner to a third party. Now, the first party claims that the land is still owned by him because the first sale was not really a sale but a loan. There is land that is owned in respect of which there are two certificates originating from the two different periods; the first from the Portuguese government; the second from the Indonesian government. These certificates are held by different people so now a conflict arises. Other issues are that, following the destruction in 1999, there are people who occupy land and buildings that are owned by others. Amongst this group are people who occupy more than one house and rent it to other parties.

Generally, participants said that the Government needs to involve the community in the discussion of draft legislation. “It would be better if the National Parliament created a mechanism to hear opinions before determining legislation that has a connection with public issues”, said Rui Viana from Yayasan Hak. “The Parliament and the Government can constitute a working group outside the Parliament to discuss the resolution of the problem together with the people”, he said.

Translation by wlwright dili 25 august 2004

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