23 June 2010
The East Timor Land Law Program: Four Years On - Still No Land Law
There has now been more than a decade for reforms to be made to the land law in East Timor but successive governments have failed to come to terms with the most complex of social problems in this country: land law and policy concerning the indigenous and colonial land rights systems that have operated in this jurisdiction over the last 4 centuries of its recorded history and the violent and unsettled land disputes that are largely the result of the colonial occupations.
This social problem - which ultimately stems from uncertainty surrounding land ownership and the lack of an effective, peaceful and just dispute resolution mechanism to deal with the multitude of land conflicts - is not just a matter of the technicalities of legislative drafting but revolves around more complicated social, political and economic exigencies.
This uncertainty erodes the integrity of the civil peace and economic development and the longer the government sticks its head in the sand about land problems, the more serious and destabilising these problems will become.
The following is a report from the East Timor Legal Information Site legal news archive from June 2006 about the East Timor Land Law Program which to date has failed to provide any properly informed framework for the articulation of the requisite policies and laws - notwithstanding considerable donor aid and the mobilisation of numerous international experts.
02 JUNE 2006 USAID Land Law Program II East Timor: Final Report Published - The final report on the USAID-funded East Timor Land Law Program has been published. The Land Law Program, implemented was undertaken by the the Ministry of Justice through the National Directorate of Land and Property.
"On the legislative drafting front, LLP II worked with government and prepared the main land bill entitled Juridical Regime of Immovable Property - Part III: Property and Transfer Systems, Land Registration, Pre-Existing Rights and Title Restitution. This bill addresses the themes related to the new immovable property and land registration systems to be implemented in the future, the provisions for the resolution of land claims and title restitution of pre-existing freehold rights and the compliance with the Constitution by non-national claimants of land rights. Numerous work sessions with high-level government officials and a special committee designated for the review of the bill took place. Advocacy for the passage of the law was carried out to the fullest extent possible. The submission of the bill to the Council of Ministers is pending.
The law drafted previously by LLP II on Leasing between Private Parties was passed by Parliament. A draft decree-law for the regulation of illegal constructions and informal settlements was prepared and delivered to the Ministry of Justice. The first debate of the bill at the Council of Ministers took place in December 2005.
A bill on Land Taxation and Expropriation was also delivered to government in mid-March 2006 for the future debate of these matters and to be considered only after the main land bill is passed and the land registration system is fully functional. In addition, the DNTP Organic Law was drafted and accepted by the Ministry of Justice for consideration along with ministerial decrees on lease tender processes, contract preparation, and delegation of responsibilities by the Minister of Justice to DNTP."