Integrating Indigenous Approaches into a New Subsistence State: The Case of Justice and Conflict Resolution in East Timor Nixon, Rod PhD Thesis
Submitted February 2008 Charles Darwin University
This thesis begins by proposing the typology of the New Subsistence State as a conceptual tool for understanding governance challenges typically faced in jurisdictions characterised by subsistence social and economic relations.
Defining features of the New Subsistence State include (1) an overwhelmingly subsistence economy corresponding to little or no historical experience of the generation and administration of large surpluses, (2) minimal workforce stratification and labour specialisation, (3) the predominance, especially in rural areas, of traditional authority relations, and (4) the realisation of statehood as a result of either the adoption or bestowal of the state model, rather than the autochthonous development of the state form.
The thesis then examines ways in which the case-study of East Timor conforms to the typology of the New Subsistence State. This analysis includes consideration of a range of geographic, historical and socio-political features, and some of the ways these aspects restrict the capacity of the new state to operate effectively in accordance with the modern state model.
A particular theme concerns the minimal extent to which the territory of East Timor has experienced meaningful social and economic modernisation throughout any of the chapters of its history. Additionally, a range of other influences contributing to governance challenges in East Timor in contemporary times are examined, including post-conflict aspects, demographic trends and political antipathies which have their origins in the 1974–1975 period.
The analysis demonstrates that East Timor faces major challenges in all main areas of public administration, with the justice sector an area of particular concern. Whereas state institutions remain weak, the country has the option to draw on suco institutions to support some areas of governance, including justice and conflict resolution.
In a number of comparable New Subsistence State contexts elsewhere, strategies have been implemented to link village-level forums to the state justice sector, yet no such initiative has been implemented in East Timor. However, a community justice and mediation program could be a relatively economical means of improving the efficiency of suco-level justice and conflict resolution forums, promoting human rights values and reducing the burden on the national courts system.