18 August 2018

East Timor Community Legal Education Program


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In partnership with The Asia Foundation and the University of San Francisco School of Law’s Centre for Law & Global Justice, I directed this part of the TAF’s Access to Justice program.

At the beginning, I was instructed by my superiors to conduct the Community Legal Education Program (CLEP) “just like a University course with exams and everything”. This advice came from an American lawyer who knew not nor cared for East Timor.

I did not conduct the CLEP in that way. It was an absurd notion to put forward to the community who had just been through the destruction of their entire nation and mass extra judicial killings along with the deployment of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations to keep the civil peace and the constitution of UNTAET to administer the territory until the restoration of independence.

The Universities lay in ruins. The students dead or traumatised.

And so I formulated another methodology in consultation with my East Timorese staff. We then implemented a series of workshops with village chiefs, university students, civil society organisations, government officials, and women with East Timorese as teachers and organisers. I stayed well in the background as the invisible administrator. We even organised radio call in sessions with the Catholic Church's radio station where citizens could call in and ask government officials and lawyers questions. This particular and effective methodology has also since been adopted by The Asia Foundation.

The workshops were successful with full attendance and many questions from participants and legal information distributed in Tetum and Indonesian.

When I allocated funds to provide transportation and a per diem for the attendees to come from as far away as Atauro, the Director of The Asia Foundation sought to stop me. She then proceeded to appropriate US$30,000 from my projects budget. This was crushed by the central administration in San Francisco after I reported to the University. Such a scurrilous act that does not go unremembered because it spitefully constrained and stressed the important work my team was doing in community legal education.

The Asia Foundation has since taken up a more comprehensible role in legal education with a respectable American university and we hope that politics will not influence that although I remain suspicious of the true intentions behind TAF and all but particularly American aid entities in East Timor who gather information through project activities and then convey it to certain interested parties.

It behoves us to recall the origins of TAF as a CIA agency. [1]

[1] https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/document/0001088617 
https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/DOC_0001088617.pdf

Warren L. Wright BA LLB
Former Consultant TAF &
USF in East Timor

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