18 April 2013
Communities "surrender" land for government supply base
ETLJB 18/04/2013 A community in the District of Covalima have surrendered 100 hectares of land to the state for the construction of a government supply base, according to a report in Timor Post on 17 April 2013.
Timor Post reported that the President, Taur Matan Ruak, had appreciated the communities of Covalima District’s contribution in handing over 1000 hectares of land to the Government for supply base construction.
He is reported as stating further that he also appreciated the Government’s plans to build Kairabela Port in Baucau District to better develop transportation of the sea.
“As president I am happy and call on the Government to encourage people to participate in the countries’ development,” TMR said.
Community land in East Timor has no juridical status and with no law governing the acquisition of such land by the state for public purposes, communities have no bargaining power to have just compensation paid to them by the state for such acquisitions.
Facing the might of the state, it is little wonder that communities surrender their land to the state. The first post-independence acquisition of community land for public purposes occurred when the armed forces base at Metinaro was constructed. That acquisition was done without due process and without the international standard of the payment of just compensation (market value) of the land. It provoked local residents to confront government officials armed with machetes and both the military and the police were mobilised to intimidate the community into abandoning their objections to the acquisition.
It is undemocratic and unjust for the government to take the people's land or individual's land rights for public purposes without due process and without the payment of just compensation. Community land is in no better position in independent East Timor than it was when the Indonesian's took lands with violence or threats of violence. Source: Timor Post 17/04/2013 Edited by Warren L. Wright