Security of tenure to land is an essential element of the civil peace; of which East Timor has known little over the last 3 decades. Land conflicts are a chronic social problem in East Timor that have frequently led to violence, bloodshed, murders and displacement and therefore severe disruptions to the civil peace.
Land and land rights are one of the fundamental bases of the social, political, economic and cultural dimensions of the lives of individual citizens, groups and the State.
The failure of successive post-independence governments to clarify land ownership and settle land disputes continues to hinder efforts to eradicate poverty and maintain social harmony.
The many conflicts over land in East Timor are largely the legacy of the Portuguese colonial hegemony, the illegal occupation of the national territory by Indonesia as well as the ill-advised and poorly implemented policies of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).
The development of just land policy and laws is the only means to resolve the land problems in East Timor and an historical examination of the issues may inform the necessary policy debates and drafting of appropriate legislation.
The primary purpose of the East Timor Land Studies web site (which is the successor to the Timor-Leste Land Law and Policy Information Centre) is to research, compile and publish information, reports, cases, commentaries and analyses of land problems in East Timor to constitute an historical land issues resource for those wishing to understand and learn more about the land problem in East Timor.
Ultimately, it will be necessary to create and administer a public record of land ownership and the transactions which occur in relation to land and land rights such as transfers of ownership in the private market, the mortgaging of land as security for loans, the inheritance and gifting of land, the redistribution of land through land reform, the resumption of land for public purposes, State ownership of land and the recognition and regulation of customary land tenure systems. This will also be essential for urban planning, environmental regulation and the use of land by foreigners.
There are several articles pubished on the East Timor Law Journal that discuss land issues in East Timor:
Community land in East Timor – A New Tragedy of the Commons?
The East Timor Land Law Program: Four Years On – Still No Land Law
Land Policy in East Timor:
The Cart Before the Horse
Land Rights: Restitution Not Possession – A Comment on the Draft Land Law
Communal Land Tenure Systems in East Timor to have no legal status under new draft land law
Draft land law provisions on land rights for foreigners in East Timor will smother development
Ethnicity, Violence and Land and Property Disputes in Timor-Leste
Some Land Tenure Issues in Post-Conflict East Timor
A Note on Land Rights in East Timor (Indonesian Government Regulation No 18 of 1991 on the Conversion of Land Rights in East Timor) and the Purported Suspension of Article 5 by Government Regulation No 24 of 1992
UNTAET Land Policy
Some Observations on UNTAET Regulation No 27/2000 on the Temporary Prohibition on Transactions in Land by Indonesian Citizens
Some Observations on the Report on Research Findings and Policy Recommendations for a Legal Framework for Land Dispute Mediation in East Timor
An Overview of East Timor’s Law No 1 of 2003 on the Juridical Regime on Immovable Properties
Report on Research into Adat Land Law in East Timor
UNTAET Guidelines for the Administration of Public and Abandoned Property by District Administrations
Finding Ways of Resolving Land Problems in East Timor
About the Blog Author - Mr Warren Leslie Wright BA LLB
The author of this site is an Australian lawyer who has over 35 years experience working in land administration, land legislation, international land projects in Indonesia, Bangladesh and East Timor and was the Property Rights Adviser to the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor.
Contact details: wwright1961-at-gmail.com
East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin
East Timor Legal News Archive 2006-2008