11 September 2010

Land Disputes and National Instability in Timor-Leste

Fundasaun Mahein, 14 July 2010. Press Release Land Dispute and National Instability in Timor-Leste - Fundasaun Mahein (FM) Nia Lian number 8 will discuss land disputes in Timor-Leste, which covers the land, properties, and Islands that are part of Timor, including the border areas which were divided by the foreign occupations of the Island of Timor. The report also highlights in depth, the problems that arose during the Portoguese invasion, and the land problems experienced during the Indonesian occupation, and during 1999.  The report also explains about the complexity of the land situation which is linked to land and development, land and instability and the strength of ownership rights over property. Lastly, FM ends with a conclusion and recommendations.

Land disputes have occurred since the Portuguese time and worsened during the Indonesian time, because of the ruin they caused in Timor-Leste in September of 1999. The 1999 violence forced people to leave their lands and homes, consequently, leaving their ownership documents and files to be burned and ruined. Most of the land documents lost, were those belonging to people who were pro independence.

In this edition being published FM will talk about the fact, that during 450 years of invasion in Timor-Leste, the Portuguese government only released 2.709 land certificates to their Portuguese subordinates and the local kings that were working for them.  On the other hand, FM points out, that during 24 years of the brutal Indonesian occupation in Timor-Leste, 44,091 land certificates were given to the Timorese who were affiliated with Indonesia, and were not people who were pro independence.

The complexity over land issues continued to be a big concern for many people. There is a lack of security regarding land claims, and the people are not confident of their ownership of their land and the houses they live in, because the system is not clear. This obscurity over land ownership has led to conflicts and has made the process of mantaining peace and development difficult. The land claims still being disputed, and other conflicts over property ownership, have been a major barrier for development activities.

The 2006 crisis forced 150,000 Timorese to become internaly displaced pesons for two years. That crisis has indicated to observers, that Timor-Leste has the potential for conflict in the future. It was clear enough, on the surface, that the crisis happened because of problems between the army and police. However, in  the end, the public noted that there were many political interests groups and individuals who were involved, in addition to the many unsolved problem that resurfaced. It can be noted that the cause was not from one single factor only, but it was a crisis caused by multiple factors.

FM recommends in the report, that The National Parliement needs to discuss in-depth, the special bill about property rights which was approved by the Council of Ministers, to guarantee national interest.  Rights over land are fundamental rights for everyone and based on life and personal identity which needs a law, that can reflect the indentity of all Timorese.

FM recommends that the Justice Minister and USAID publish the Memorandum of Understanding that is related to the implemantation of the “Ita Nia Rai” land registration program, so the public can better understand what the project is, and to better guarantee a transparent implementation process of the program.

For further information please contact Nélson Belo, Director Fundasaun Mahein www.fundasaunmahein.wordpress.com email.direktor.mahein[at]gmail.com tlp +670 737 4222

Click here to access the report in Tetun language.

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