22 June 2011
8 Myths about Evictions in Dili and the Ex-Brimob Case
20 June 2011 DILI - Today at a press conference in Aitarak Laran the families of Ex-Brimob who were forcibly evicted from their homes on the 20th of January at 4am announced that they 'still wait for the State to guarantee their right to housing'. The community stated that they now walk to the Provedoria for Human Rights and Justice and will wait there for the State, the Minister for Justice the Prime Minister and the Provedor for Human Rights to resolve their case.
Here we look at 8 commonly heard misconceptions about the Brimob case and evictions in Dili.
MYTH: ‘The people of Ex-Brimob illegally occupied state land’
Most of the families of Ex-Brimob have lived there since 1999, when they occupied the land after the violence of 1999, widespread destruction of over 68,000 homes and large-scale displacement.
In 2002 the Government was faced with a number of policy choices, and it approved Law 1/2003, which states that all land that belonged to the Portuguese State on the 7th December 1975 and all land that was used by the Indonesian State during the occupation is now Timorese State Land.
The community of Ex-Brimob are not claiming that this land is theirs nor have they committed any criminal or fraudulent acts in order to obtain this land. They are stating simply that in 1999 they had nowhere else to go and as many other people they took it upon themselves to find alternative solutions. They did not occupy the land or homes of other private individuals but much like many communities in Dili occupied land that had previously been used by the Indonesian State, military and police.
The government has never fully implemented Law 1/2003 because this would cause tens of thousands of evictions, substantial conflict and not address any of the root causes of housing and land problems. The people of the Brimob community have lived on this land for over 11 years, they have repaired housing and built communities, many of their children have been born and raised here, they have found work in the surrounding areas and cultivated fields and gardens.
Solution: There needs to be a significant change in the current outlook on state land – state land should be viewed as a resource to be used for the benefit of poor and vulnerable communities. Policy should be aimed at creating sustainable development and securing access to land rather than on making it as easy as possible for the State to control and ‘empty’ state land for future developments.
MYTH: ‘The community of Ex-Brimob have manipulated data and made fraudulent claims’
TRUTH: This case began in 2008 when PNTL and DNTPSC officials were sent to collect data about who was living in the community. It was the state and not the community that carried out this original data. What we know for certain is that
· At no stage was the eviction process explained to the entire community,
· At no stage did the community agree with any of the lists (there have been 3) which were produced by government.
· There are widespread reports of coercion evidence of collusion between the PNTL/DNTPSC joint team and the original community representatives to manipule data.The Community have reported to the authorities that many of the names which were entered onto the list and received money were people who have never lived in Brimob – these names were entered onto this list by Government officials.
· Some 33 families who lived in Brimob have not received any compensation.
· PNTL should not have been involved in the administration of this process or in the distribution of compensation as the competent authority is DNTSPC.
According to testimony collected by Rede ba Rai from community members Ex-Brimob was comprised of 175 families who are now living all over the city in various different locations (some are still living in tents in Ex-Brimob, some are sheltering in the ex-petitioners houses in Aitarak Laran and others have built make-shift shelters up in the mountains).
There are many different histories and stories involved in this case however it is now very difficult to assess the validity of individual claims, the time to verify whether or not all of these families had a right to compensation or alternative housing from the state was BEFORE the eviction was carried out at 4am on the 20th January.
While the state argument that there may be a number of families who should not have received compensation is probably accurate there are without doubt many more who have not received any support and have been left in a very vulnerable situation.
Solution: Evictions should only occur after rigorous consultation with the whole community. The entire eviction process should be explained in detail to the community so that they understand why and how they are being evicted and understand how much and under what conditions compensation will be given. This process should be finalised and executed to the acceptance of all parties before any forced eviction occurs. Legal support should be given to community members. This should under no circumstances be used as an excuse for the government to ignore the current plight of the ex-residents of Ex-BRIMOB
MYTH: ‘These people have already received compensation and are just trying to manipulate the situation’
TRUTH: 131 of the 175 families which lived in Brimob have received $2,000. MSS estimates that it costs the government a minimum of $4,500 to build a basic house not including the land that is needed on which to build the house. The state argues that many of these people already have access to land -- if that is the case the compensation is lacking by at least $2,500. Many of the families state that they do not have alternative land as they were displaced many years ago, many of these families have used the original $2,000 that they received in order to buy land and so now have nothing with which to build a house.
According to international standards no victim of eviction should be left in a worse situation than they were in before the eviction took place.
There was no consultation with communities about the lists of who would and would not receive compensation, how much compensation they would receive etc. Due to collusion with community representatives in 2009 many families were intimidated into accepting the original $2,000 and many accepted money stating that this was not enough for them to build their houses and that they would not leave Brimob until further assistance was given, while others accepted the money with very little information about what this would mean.
Solution: Carry out proper assessments of the situation in which communities live before evictions occur, engage in detailed discussions with communities about what will happen during the eviction process before it begins. The objective of these consultations should be to ensure that families and communities are well provided for after evictions occur. The lack of a good state verification process should not be used to victimise communities who have not received any compensation or support.
MYTH: ‘This was a good and/or legal eviction process’
In considering whether an eviction is legal or illegal the state must consider two separate issues; firstly, whether the eviction is justified and secondly whether the eviction followed the minimum standards and guaranteed basic human rights?
Evictions which are unjustified and/or do not follow the appropriate standardsare considered as abuses of people’s fundamental human rights and are illegal. Evictions without consultation or adequate alternatives and compensation are illegal in terms of international law.
The Ex-Brimob eviction process which was begun in 2008 has been characterized by a chronic lack of information and consultation, a lack of transparency and many allegations of corruption and intimidation*.
· At no point was there a genuine consultation or dialogue with the community of Brimob,
· There was much intimidation and manipulation of the community by both community representatives, government representatives and the police,
· There was no assessement or discussions of what viable alternatives were open to the families once they were evicted and many families have been left without access to adequate housing
· No legal support was given to the victims of the eviction, at no point were their legal rights such as the right to appeal and the right to legal counsel explained to them
· Eviction notices were given to community representatives rather than to each family and were in a language that the community did not understand (Portuguese)
· The eviction process has left the community without access to adequate shelter and other basic needs such as sanitation, clean water and security. It has impacted on their access to other rights such as education and employment.
Solution: A commitment should be made by the state that no more evictions will occur until legal regulations are drafted on how to carry out ‘good’ evictions and until training is given to all DNTPSC staff and police on how to carry out evictions. Regulations should be in line with the very clear international legal instruments which lay out guidelines on evictions processes.
MYTH: ‘The people must contribute to the nation and so should not ask for compensation’
TRUTH: The state has a constitutional and international obligation to guarantee adequate housing to its people. The people of both Aitarak Laran and Ex-Brimob are not claiming that they are the owners of the land or homes that they were and are occupying -- what they are saying is that in many cases they have nowhere else to go and, in the case of Ex-Brimob, that the compensation given to them was not enough to build a house.
Recognising that they must contribute, the communities originally asked that the state help them to build social housing and said that they would then pay rent or a mortgage to the state. In the absence of any such plan, and with no alternative housing they asked for compensation.
Without a doubt a strong nationalistic spirit is required in order to build the nation of Timor-Leste, reduce poverty, promote justice and further economic development but under no circumstances should this development occur at the expense of poor and vulnerable populations.
The reality is that the people of Ex-Brimob and Aitarak Laran had cobbled together a living space in the last 10 years and had re-built a community. This shelter, this community and access to other resources like schools, health services and water was taken away by the state when it carried out an illegal and forced eviction on the 20th of January in order to build PNTL housing.
To date no progress has been made on the building of the PNTL facility.
Solution: Develop a strong social housing policy and supporting mechanisms for dealing with the victims of evictions, put significant resources behind the implementation of the housing policy. pass legislation guaranteeing that people can never be made homeless or left in a worse situation because of no matter what the justification.
MYTH: ‘The state has no further obligations to the Ex-Brimob community’
TRUTH: The Minister of Justice herself on the 25th of January promised that the Ex-Brimob community would be given further construction materials, she authorized the community to use the IDP shelters in tasi tolu for three days as an interim measure until these construction materials were sourced and provided to the community. No preparation was made for the community on this site and the remaining IDP’s living on this site would not allow the Ex-BRIMOB community to enter. The community were then given permission by the Government to move onto the current Aitarak Laran site as a temporary measure until this support was provided.
The state has obligations under the Constitution and International law to
· guarantee that all people have access to adequate housing,
· respect and guarantee all the basic human rights of all its citizens,
· monitor the situation of families after it carries out evictions,
Five months later, many families are still living in Aitarak Laran, in increasingly unsanitary and unhealthy conditions. Community members living there include young infants being born and cared for in damp tents, pregnant women, and the elderly for whom the eviction has been particularly traumatic.
Solution: The Minister for Justice must solve this case without any further delay. Representatives of the Minister must be sent in person to the community of Ex-Brimob to explain the solution, how and when it will happen and how compensation or construction materials will be shared. In the meantime the state must act within the next number of days to figure out how to monitor and provide for the humanitarian situation in Aitarak Laran. At the very minimum the state should look for other organizations who may be able to address and monitor the humanitarian situation in Aitarak Laran.
MYTH: ‘The people of Ex-Brimob are not co-operating with the state’
The people of Ex-Brimobhave sent over 50 letters to various government departments asking for assistance, further information about their case and to meet with Government. At no stage has any member of Government come to explain the situation to them.
On the 25th of January the Minister of Justice promised the community of Ex-Brimob construction materials and asked them to stay in the IDP transitional shelter in Tasi-Tolu for three days while the state prepared the materials. The transitional shelter was never prepared for the community of Ex-Brimob and 4 months later there are no construction materials.
Over six weeks ago DNTPSC gave out forms asking the families to fill in these forms in order to access assistance. Community representatives co-operated fully in this process helping DNPTSC to fill out forms and recommending to the Director of DNTPSC that the forms not be distributed arbitrarily in order to minimise corruption and also that DNPTSC put archive numbers on the forms so that they could not be easily duplicated. 154 families came to fill out these forms. So far they have not received any information from DNTPSC or the Minister for Justice about next steps in relation to these forms or when/if they are likely to receive compensation or construction materials.
Last Monday officials in DNTPSC confirmed to community leaders that these forms had been passed on and were ‘sitting on the Minister’s desk’, however officials at the Ministry of Justice replied that they had not yet received the forms.
Solution: Lines of communication between DNTPSC and the Ministry of Justice should be improved. The current position and future processes regarding the communities claims should be made clear to the community of Ex-BRIMOB so that they can be prepared to respond. The government needs to create clear lines of communication with the community of Ex-Brimob and a clear process for monitoring the case. Newspaper articles and television interviews are not appropriate ways of conveying sensitive information to vulnerable communities and are not likely to create space for dialogue and trust. Appointing a particular government authority to monitor the case and give regular updates to community members would help with this aspect of the case
MYTH: The situation in Aitarak Laran where the former residents of Ex-Brimob are living ‘is not that bad’.
TRUTH: After the Minister for Justice promised that construction materials would be provided to the community, they were sent to stay provisionally in the IDP transitional shelter in Tasi Tolu, as no preparation had been made for this the community were not allowed into this facility. 128 families were given temporary shelter in the offices of local NGO’s Laifet and Haburas. On the 4th of February with permission from the Government the community moved from this location to the Ex-Petitioners shelter in Aitarak Laran.
Oxfam originally provided some support to the Ex-Brimob community - tarpaulins, hygiene kits, family kits, water electrical pump and a water tank. Six emergency toilets were constructed, with an intended lifespan of three days.
Four months later, despite the temporary nature of the shelter, there were still over 50 families living in Aitarak Laran, in increasingly unsanitary and unhealthy conditions. Community members living there include young infants being born and cared for in damp tents, pregnant women, and the elderly and mentally disabled for whom the eviction has been particularly traumatic. In February a woman gave birth to a baby in the shelter, her and her family now live under a tarpaulin in Bairo-Pite.
Many of the tarpaulins that were distributed in February became damaged due to the weather conditions (wind and heavy rain). During the rainy season living areas got wet - it has been difficult to cook food and to get to sleep at night because people’s beds keep getting wet from the rain.
Until two weeks ago all of the emergency toilets that were provided were full and there were no washing facilities in place. There were no other toilets available and the people keep using these toilets, despite them being full. This unsanitary condition was impacting negatively upon the health of the community, particularly the children. Some children have been getting getting stomach aches and fever and are unable to go to school. Around the building are drainage areas where people are planting vegetables, with run-off from the toilets polluting this water. These areas also accumulate rubbish which washes into the living area during rainy periods. Many children play in this area. Many of the evicted people lost their livelihoods and are struggling to establish new ones – consequently they are facing difficulties in accessing food.
In response to this situation Haburas Foundation have supplied some basic support to the community, repairing and emptying the emergency toilets and building more sanitary washing areas however the community still live in very insecure conditions without adequate shelter from the rain and unreliable access to water. There only response from the Government has been to restrict the operations of international NGO’s that wanted to support the Ex-BRIMOB community.
Solution: Solve the case as quickly as possible so that these people can begin re-building their lives and communities. In the interim period (which should be kept as short as possible) the government needs to monitor the case and ensure that humanitarian assistance is getting to this community.
Note about statistics:
This article refers to ‘175 families’. This number is based on a list of 130 names collected by the government, a further 33 families who claim that they live in Ex-Brimob but have not received any compensation and a further 12 families who lived in Brimob received the $2,000 compensation but whose names do not appear on the government lists. The community also claim that some of the names in the original list of 130 are people who have never lived in Ex-Brimob – this data can be analyzed and has been submitted by the community to the Dili District Tribunal, the Ministry of Justice, PDHJ, the UN and the National Parliament and can be accessed in the Rede ba Rai report on the Brimob case. During the latest process of filling out the forms for the claiming of construction materials 154 of the 175 families filled out forms, some of those who did not fill out forms are families who did not make it back from the districts, community members who are accused of colluding with the authorities in 2008/2009, and presumably those who received compensation but have never lived in Brimob.
For further information please contact either Meabh or Santi at the Secretariat of Rede ba Rai - email@example.com.
Land Issues Mentor
Rede ba Rai Timor-Leste (The Timor-Leste Land Network)
Rua Celestino da Silva,
+670 730 7800
+353 85 1461435