18 October 2012

East Timor Legal News 17 October 2012

Military intimidatory intervention in dispute over state land occupation -  Jornal Independente reported today that the East Timor Defence Force Commander, Major General Lere Anan Timor, has intervened in a land dispute involving citizens occupying what is claimed by the state as state land. According to the English translation of the Jornal Independente report, the Commander called on the occupants of the Resende Hotel in Dili to vacate the property because it belongs to the state.

The Commnader called upon the occupants to remove themselves from the hotel quickly and peacefully and not to take the opportunity to create instability after the United Nations Integrated Mission in East Timor mandate ends in December next. 

"If we occupy a State asset temporarily and if the State wants to use the place that we occupy we need to move from that place," he said.

The Commander has recently made threatening statements that those who create instability are the enemies of the country.

These statements are, in the view of ETLJB, a disturbing development as the military involves itself in civil disputes between the state and citizens over land or any other matter. It is, in our view, entirely inappropriate for the military too intervene in such matters in any way whatsoever and is a bad omen for what may happen in the future in such matters.

The Indonesian military was infamous for deploying unlawful violence against citizens in relation to land disputes and conflicts both within the national borders of Indonesia and in land affairs during the occupation of East Timor resulting in extra-judicial killings and the subversion of the rule of law as well as an usurpation of the central role of the civilian authorities such as the administrative and judicial organs of the state who have the critical constititional and democratic role of ensuring the application of the civil law.

The military have no proper role whatsoever to play in such conflicts and the impementation of the civil law and the Commander of the military forces should remain silent and keep well away from such matters.

This type of statement and the implied threats behind it are, in the view of ETLJB, an appalling development that must be highlighted and combatted by the necessary criticism from lawyers, the government, the courts and civil society.

Land disputes have been a chronic cause of conflict, violence and killings in East Timor both before and since independence and continue to threaten the civil peace. See also Ethnicity, violence and land and property disputes in Timor Leste written by Andrew Harrington on the East Timor Law Journal. ETLJB also reported on a recent murder in East Timor which was the result of a land dispute.

And, while Radio Timor-Leste reported today that the leading security sector monitoring civil society organisation, Fundasaun Mahein, was confident that the national security forces would ensure stability after the UN and ISF missions end, its Director, Nelson Belo also referred to conflicts over land disputes as a cointiuing problem that would impact stability.
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Police destroy explosive weapons - Jornal Independente also reported today that the police and the Portuguese Republican National Guard officers destroyed explosives weapons such as ammunitions and grenades in Kaetehu in Liquisa District on Tuesday 16.

Police explosive weapons destruction technician, Sergeant Estaqui de Jesus, said the explosive weapons were collected from the communities in the districts.

"We destroyed the explosive arms which were collected from the communities and we destroy these arms with the assistance of the GNR because the police have no proper facilities to destroy the arms," he said.
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Corruption, Collusion and Nepotism happen because of poverty - Diario Nacional reported today that the

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Social Affairs, Fernando La Sama De Araujo has said that corruption, collusion and nepotism (KKN)  happened in the country because most Timorese People were poor.

"In Timor-Leste, if we compare to other countries, KKN happens because we are so poor," he said.

Regarding the phenomenon, Mr. La Sama called on all Timorese who assume important posts in State bodies not to engage in corruption, collusion and nepotism.
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Prime Minister not confident Timorese lawyers can defend government in dispute with ConocoPhillips - Diarion Nacional also reported today remarks by the Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao that he was not confident that local lawyers could defend the government in the court proceedings with ConocoPhillips over tax liability and had therefore hired international lawyer, Aren Foks, who had experience in petroleum and gas issues.

Mr. Gusmao said the problem arose because the government accused ConocoPhillips of not paying US$ 3 million in tax to the State and ConocoPhillips had disputed its liability to pay the tax.

"We chose Aren Foks because he has experience that relates to petroleum contract tax problems," he said.

Timor Post reported that the Prime Minister has proposed an allocation by the Minister for Finance of US$ 1,5oo, ooo from the contingency fund to hire the international lawyer to defend the Timorese people and the country's interest in the petroleum sector.

The proposal was put forward in the additional budget debate on Tuesday 16 in the Parliament
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