31 October 2012

Solidarity with United States as Superstorm Sandy wreaks havoc and destruction

ETLJB 31 October 2012 - ETLJB wishes to express solidarity with the people of the United States of America that have been devastated by Superstorm Sandy. 

The United States people have been a strong and generous supporter of the development of East Timor since independence and we express our heartfelt shock and grief for the terrible loss and destruction that the extreme weather event has wrought on the northeastern states; in particular, we express our profound sorrow for the loss of life caused by the superstorm.

We know that the people of the Unites States will stand together along with its friends and allies to reconstruct the damaged and destroyed communities.

Leading human rights group call on UN to end impunity for human rights violations during Indonesian occupation

ETLJB 31 October 2012 - A leading human rights organisation in East Timor the HAK Foundation has appealed to the United Nations and the international community to give priority to ending impunity for human rights violations in East Timor.

Diario Nacaional reported remarks by the Executive Director of HAK Foundation (HAK), Rogeiro Viegas Vicente, on Saturday, 27 October 2012 at his Office Farol, Dili, saying that “the United Nations Human Rights Council has adopted many recommendations about accountability processes of serious crimes cases in the past.”

Vicente said that HAK Foundation agrees with reconciliation but HAK also insisted that the reconciliation process should not make the judicial system feeble and that there are efforts to develop and strengthen it in future.

“When we put a high priority on reconciliation and ignore of justice, it will have a negative impact on the judicial system and the development of democracy in country,” said Vicente.

Vicente said that the principal responsibility of the Timor-Leste State is to provide protections for its citizens in order to access justice and fairness for human rights violations.

HAK recognized that Timor-Leste has faced many challenges; therefore they called on international community and the UN Security Council in order to help Timor-Leste’s State to end the impunity for serious crimes that occurred during the Indonesian occupation, through the development of a resolution that will  guarantee appropriate mechanisms to bring serious crime perpetrators to justice.

Meeting of the Council of Ministers on October 24, 2012

ETLJB 31 October 2012 - On 24 October 2012, the V Constitutional Government met in the meeting room of the Council of Ministers at the Government Palace in Dili, and approved:

1. Decree-Law establishing a extraordinary period of promotions in the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL)

In 2009, following the approval of the scheme of promotions, the PNTL underwent a major transformation in terms of hierarchical structure. There is, however, still a need to increase the number of openings in some positions, and also to grant new promotions, which necessitates the creation of a special period for this purpose.

2. National Program for Development of Sucos

The National Program for Development of Sucos (portuguese acronym PNDS), launched last June, provides financial and technical support in the implementation of national priorities among Sucos for a period of eight years (2013-2020).

A system will also be established to monitor implementation and to process and resolve complaints to ensure that communities receive the full benefit of this program.

This program was established in January this year, with the adoption of general policies for the establishment of the National Mechanism to Accelerate Community Development, particularly in the areas of construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of basic infrastructure that benefit and improve the quality of life for people in the Sucos. The Government Resolution approving this mechanism also defines and approves the constitution of the Technical Working Group and the Inter-ministerial Coordination Committee to set models of human resource management for the sustainable use of the government resources and staff.

3. Government Resolution approving the dissolution of the Administration Board of the Autonomous Service of Medicines and Health Equipment (SAMES)

As a result of serious irregularities reported in various audits of the performance of the Administration Board of the Autonomous Service of Medicines and Health Equipment (SAMES E.P.), which has been in operation for more than two years, the Council of Ministers decided, in accordance with the law, to dissolve the current Board of Directors and establish a commission to ensure the ongoing operation of SAMES E.P.. The Commission will consist of the following members: Odete Belo (Chairperson), Domingos Babo (vowel), Narciso Fernandes (vowel), Santana Martins (vowel), Luís Amaral (vowel) and Emília Mendonça (vowel).

The Council of Ministers also analyzed:

1. Presentation on the Díli Sanitation and Drainage Masterplan

The Minister of Public Works presented the Council of Ministers with the final report on the “Dili Sanitation and Drainage Masterplan (DSDMP) 2013 – 2025”.

The report, prepared by an international expert group comprised of representatives from two of Melbourne’s largest water corporations (Melbourne Water and Yarra Valley Water) and other water industry experts with international experience, was commissioned by the Council of Ministers in October 2010.

The DSDMP report approved today in full is based on extensive and detailed analysis and research and represents a comprehensive “step-by-step” short, medium and long-term Investment and Implementation strategy for Sanitation and Drainage improvements in Díli. The DSDMP will enable the implementation of the Government’s long-term vision for the city as set out in the Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030.

The Council of Ministers’ approval of the Masterplan will enable the allocation, in 2013 of the recommended DSDMP budget of $5 million, for the first year of a program that by 2025 which will reduce flooding by over 75 per cent and provide comprehensive sanitation services to approximately 43,000 properties.

The Council of Ministers also concluded on the need for the setup of a Government Working Group to coordinate the engagement and management of the necessary technical assistance that will assist the setup and implementation of the DSDMP, in the immediate future.

2. Presentation on the g7+ and New Deal

The work of the g7+ group and the status of implementation of the New Deal was presented to the Council of Ministers by the Minister of Finance, before the Second High Level Meeting of the Panel on the Development Agenda Post 2015 when the MDGs expire.  This High Level meeting will be held in London on November 1 and 2.

The Minister of Finance, the current Chair of the g7+ and Panel member working on the United Nations Development Agenda Post 2015, is seeking to ensure that that post MDG agenda takes account of the needs of fragile states.

3. Presentation on the process of extraordinary Promotions in the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL

The restructuring of the PNTL and the promotion process operating since 2009 was presented to the Council of Ministers by the Secretary of State for Security and the Chairperson of the Extraordinary Promotions Commission. Further, a plan for recruitment and new promotions were submitted to the Council of Ministers. .

4. Presentation on Audit of Procurement

The Ministry of Finance informed the Council of Ministers about the audit processes, and mechanisms that take place in public institutions in Timor-Leste.

5. Current Status on preparations for the November National Commemorations

The National Organising Committee of the 37th Anniversary of the Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste and the Centenary of Manufahi Revolution and recognition of Dom Boaventura provided a progress report on preparations for the celebrations that will take place in November from 25 to 30.

The Council of Ministers also analyzed the ongoing preparations for the celebration of "20 Years of Mission Peace to Timor - Lusitânia Expresso" and November 12 (National Youth Day and anniversary of the Santa Cruz Massacre).

28 October 2012

Fuel station owned by PM's nephew targetted during night of violent clashes in Dili

ETLJB 28 October 2012 - There were violent clashes between groups of youths on Friday night and the early morning hours of Saturday in a market which culminated in an attack and attempted arson of the nearby Pertamina fuel station in the suburb of Balide in Dili at 2.00am local time.

According to some witnesses on the scene, the police were very slow to act despite having received numerous phone calls to report what was happening in the conflict zone. The police eventually appeared some hours after the event.

The Portuguese-language website, Timor Hau Nian Doben, reports that although the fuel station trades under the Indonesian state-owned oil company, Pertamina, it is operated by a company called Esperansa Timor Oan that is based in Taibessi and is owned by Nilton Gusmao, the nephew of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao. 

Nilton Gusmao owns several companies and the Pertamina fuel station that was attacked has, according to Timor Hau Nian Doben, has been given the lucrative contract by the government to provide fuel to vehicles belonging to the state. He has also won several very lucrative procurement contracts relating to fuel in East Timor including the new power station.

The original post in the Portuguese language may be read here at Timor Hau Nian Doben.

On 13 November 2009, FRETILIN MP Inacio Moreira called for an urgent investigation into the awarding to Nilton Gusmao, a nephew of the Prime Minister, part of the contract to supply fuel for government vehicles, following a tender in 2007.

In a media release from Fretilin on that day, Fretilin cited section 3 of Law 7 of 2007 on Constitutional Officeholders (which was proclaimed into law by President Ramos-Horta on 22 July 2007), and said that Esperansa Timor Oan should not have been allowed to tender for the fuel supply contract if Nilton Gusmao held 10 per cent or more of the shares, directly or indirectly, in the company.

On May 26, 2008, the Finance Minister Ms Emilia Pires signed a contract with ETO and another company, Aitula Fuels, as a result of the tender process. After a trial period of six months, the contracts were extended for a further four and half years, this time signed by the Prime Minister.

The total contract over four years is worth at least US$8 million, with Esperansa Timor Oan providing fuel for state vehicles in the Districts of Lautem, Baucau, Viqueque, Manatuto, Oecussi and Dili districts, while Aitula Fuels looks after Aileu, Ainaro, Same, Suai, Liquica, Ermera, Maliana 
and also Dili District.

The Dili weekly newspaper, Tempo Semanal, reported this case on September 7, 2009, noting that their journalists were denied information on the share holders of ETO from the Directorate of Business Registration of the Ministry of Tourism, Commerce and Industry.

Related story
Xanana Mistakenly Signs Contract with ETO (a company owned by his nephew)

Author: Warren L. Wright Sources: Timor Hau Nian Doben, Fretilin and Tempo Semanal

27 October 2012

East Timor police on their own by 15 December 2012

Finn Reske-Nielsen
ETLJB 27 October 2012 - The East Timor National Police will be entirely on their own by 15 December 2012 when there will be no UN Police left in the country.

The final batch of peacekeepers will leave in December in line with a timetable to depart by the end of the year, said Finn Reske-Nielsen, head of the United Nations Integrated Mission in East Timor (UNMIT).

"We will pull them out over the next two months. By the 15th of December there will be no UN police [peacekeepers] left in the country," he told reporters in Jakarta.

The UN partially handed over responsibility for security to Timorese police in March last year and from November 1 they will be expected to operate on their own.

It would be the "end of any kind of operation of support by the UN police", Reske-Nielsen said.

"At the moment whenever we are asked to provide support for a police operation, we will do that. But as of 1 November that stops and we will send the police home in very short order," he said.

A first batch of 330 UNMIT personnel will withdraw this month, with the largest contingent expected to pull out in the early weeks of November, said Reske-Nielsen.

At its peak, the UN mission was made up of 1,600 people and it currently has about 1,270. Reske-Nielsen said the UN Security Council was expected to make a decision to formally terminate the mission next month.

The East Timor National Police is presently headed by the first Prosecutor General of East Timor, Longuinhos Monteiro whose mandate as Commissioner of Police will also end soon. He is expected to be replaced after a series of mismanagement of police weapons, several cases of human rights abuses by police officers the the shooting dead of a several citizens over the last few years.

Civil society, Members of the National Parliament and the Commander of the East Timor Defence Forces have all called for Mr Monteiro's dismissal or replacement over recent months because of a perceived lack of competence and responsibility for the actions of his officers.

Source: Agence France-Presse and The Jakarta Globe. Edited and added to by Warren L. Wright
. Photo: UN News Center

26 October 2012

Massacre leaving 5 dead the result of a land dispute

Map shows location of Atabae
ETLJB 26 October 2012 - A horrifying massacre occurred in the village of Ailok Laran in Atabae yesterday (25/10/2012) which left 5 dead and 5 seriously injured. The injured are being treated in the Guido Valadares National Hospital in Dili. According to a report by Tempo Semanal, the dead comprised one man and a woman aged between 30-40 years and three children aged between three and twelve years.

In an exclusive interview with Tempo Semanal, the Commander of the East Timor National Police (PNTL) in Bobonaro District, Superintendent John Belo, said unknown persons with their faces covered attacked the residents in two houses with machetes killing four of the inhabitants immediately. The fifth died this morning in the National Hospital.

Witnesses who were at the hospital said the mother of a baby who was also attacked tried to save her child but he was wounded by a machete blow on the left side of the neck. The child's mother was killed and the child subsequently died.

The Bobonaro Police Commander did not reveal the cause of the slaughter because the case is still under investigation.

The area is now under control due to the quick intervention of the Maliana police, the special forces and the maritime police.

Timor Hau Nian Doben blog posted information received in an email saying that "this happened because of a land dispute and a martial arts group attacked the people in their homes.

It seems to me this this is a conflict between people who fled to Indonesia in 1999 and are now returning to occupy their land. In 90% of such cases, there is police involvement" the email said.

Author: Warren L. Wright Sources: Timor Hau Nia Doben (machine translation of the original Portuguese language post), Tempo Semanal. Map: United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor

Related stories
Land disputes a continuing cause of violence in Timor-Leste
Murder in East Timor the result of land dispute
Violence flares as police beat protestors over land dispute
Land dispute triggers more violence in Timor-Leste

Missing police weapon turns up in Prime Minister's possession

East Timor's gun-toting police commissioner
ETLJB 26 October 2012 - On 30 August 2012, Tempo Semanal reported that a senior and high ranking officer in the PNTL with the initials OA had an FNC semi -automatic rifle taken from his car on the evening of 30 July 2012.  It was understood that OA was working for the police intelligence service and is also a member of a martial arts group and there may be some mysterious intra martial arts group conflict connection to the theft of this weapon.

The weapon went missing during the attendance by police, including senior officers, at a brothel in Dili that night.

Despite a lengthy investigation and numerous appeals from the police to the public for the stolen weapon to be returned to the police over the months since its theft,  the police were unable to recover the weapon.

Yesterday (25 October 2012), it was revealed by TVTL News that the missing weapon has turned up on the hands of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.

TVTL reported that the Police Commissioner, Commandant General Longuinhos Monteiro said that he still did not know of the whereabouts of the lost weapon but had been informed  that the weapon is currently in the possession of the Prime Minister.

“That is even better (that the weapon is in the PM’s possession), and what is important is that it does not turn up later in the hands of some bad person.  The problem is not only that it was lost.  As I have said repeatedly, a rifle does not have feet to be able to walk away.  I cannot comment because I have not been informed yet nor has the weapon been handed over to the PNTL command.  It is like this.  There are two issues.  One; there is the responsibility of the officer who lost the weapon.  Two; that of the person who stole the weapon,” Longuinhos Monteiro said. He added that there should be two investigative processes for the lost weapon.  One will be with respect to the person who lost the weapon, and the other for the person who stole the weapon.

The Commander of the East Timor Defence Force had called for the immediate dismissal of the police commissioner following the incident.

Member of the Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Security matters Committee B, Member of Parliament Duarte Nunes also claimed that the lost weapon is now in the possession of the PM.

“We cannot comment on the case of the lost weapon, because the weapon has been found and handed over to the Prime Minister,” Duarte Nunes MP said. According to MP Nunes the full report on the lost weapon has been completed and the investigative processes have not been exhausted.

With the revelation that the police weapon is in the possession of the Prime Minister, civil society law and justice organisations have demanded an investigation to uncover the truth of how the weapon fell into the Prime Minister's possession in orfer to dispel public concern.

According to a further report by Jornal Nacional Diario also published yesterday, Fundasaun HAK  (Human Rights Foundation), ANTI : The Alliance for an International Tribunal and Fundasaun Mahein have all demanded the Timor-Leste National Police (PNTL) explain to the public how it is that the weapon reported lost by a PNTL officer some months ago has turned up in the possession of the Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao.

Joao Almeida Fernandes, a researcher with Fundasaun Mahein told journalists from Jornal Nacional Diario when interviewed at his office in Balide last Wednesday 24 October that “[t]he weapon lost a few months ago has now turned up in the possession of the PM.  The PNTL and other entities responsible for this matter must explain to the public the full circumstances surrounding this incident, so that the  public can know the truth as to how the investigation has proceeded and how the weapon has now turned up in the possession of the PM, so as to dispel the general public’s concern regarding this issue.”

Author: Warren L. Wright BA LLB, Editor  ETLJB Sources: (as cited)

Related stories
PNTL Loses Weapons: Commander Longuinos Monteiro In Charge
Management and Mismanagement of Police Weapons
East Timor Legal News 10 September 2012 (Police have not yet found missing gun)
Military chief calls for immediate dismissal of Police Commissioner

East Timor Legal News 25 October 2012

Immigration police arrest illegal immigrants and prostitutes in districts - The Director of the Immigration Police Unit, Superintendent Jose da Costa, was reported by Jornal Independente today as stating that the police have have arrested prostitutes in four of East Timor's thirteen districts; namely, Manatuto, Viqueque, Baucau and Lautem Districts.

The arrests were made during a joint operation between the police, customs, the Secretary of State for Professions and Unemployment and the Ministry of Tourism.

Da Costa said that "the aim of the joint operation was to reduce widespread public rumors that the immigration police were weak and had to work better to control illegal immigration and drugs in the country.weak to better control the illegal immigrants illegal drugs in the country," da Costa said.

Such rumours were reinforced by statements made by Members of Parliament such as MP Arao Noe de Jesus from National Congress for Timorese National Reconstruction (CNRT) who was reported by Diario Nacional as saying that although the police had arrested illegal immigrants in Timor-Leste, they still weak, therefore they would have to work harder to control foreigners.

In the meantime, however, as Suara Timor Lorosae reported today, the police, through the Criminal Investigation Process had been cooperating with a team from the Indonesian National Narcotics Agency to process the recent drugs smuggling case which involved four Indonesian citizens.

"We have cooperated with a team from BNN and the team has been here to see the process of the drug case, and I am calling on all Timorese citizens to cooperate with PNTL to continue the operation named Rasta because there are still other people who also bring drugs to Timor-Leste," he said.

See also Analysis of the Social Problem of Prostitution in East Timor.
Parliament calls for investigation of police officer who threatened Government member - Suara Timor Lorosae reported today that the National Parliament has called on the police to investigate the threats made against a member of the government by a police officer (see East Timor Legal News 24 October 2012 for further details of this case)

"The investigation process will decide who is guilty in the case, therefore, the case needs to be investigated," PN member from the CNRT bench, Mateus de Jesus, said.
UN car hits local man on motorbike; driver tries to flee - In another accident involving a UN staff case, a young man called Martinho Fernandes was hit on his motorbike in the Dili Suburb of Fatuhada on 23 October.

After the collsion, the driver of the UN vehicle (registration number 01.57), tried to flee the scene but many local residents who had witnessed the collisions began shouting at him and he eventually turned back and took Martinho to the national hospital for treatment for the injuries he sustained. Martinho's hand and hip were injured (and his laptop computer was damaged)

Related stories
UN police officer flees after collision
More reckless driving by UN staff in Dili results in yet another collision
Government and Parliament strongly condemn UN Staff who killed three Timorese in traffic collisions
Another traffic accident involving UN vehicle results in two deaths
People stone United Nations car after traffic accident leaves a Timorese boy dead
Police register 2010 cases of traffic accidents

25 October 2012

Indonesia stops heroin smuggling to Timor-Leste

ETLJB 25 October 2012 - The Jakarta Post reported on 23 October that the Indonesian customs office said on Monday last that it had thwarted the smuggling of 1.06 kilograms of heroin worth more than US$249,360 from India through the Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in East Jakarta.

The package was to be sent to Timor Leste via Indonesia, Agus Sudarmaji, an official at the Jakarta customs agency, said on Monday.

"The package was hidden among golf equipment packed in a wooden box," Agus said on Monday as quoted by kompas.com.

The agency said that it was informed that on 13 Oct that a package of heroin sent by delivery service United Parcel Service from India to Timor Leste would enter Indonesia via Halim Perdanakusuma Airport.

National Narcotics Agency spokesman Sr. Comr. Sumirat Dwiyanto said his team was coordinating with its counterparts in India and Timor Leste to find the alleged smugglers.

Related stories
Indonesians and Mozambiquans arrested on suspicion of importing 8 kgs of methamphetamine to Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste Legal News 24 October 2012

Police officer threatens to assault State Secretary for Social Security - Suara Timor Lorosae reported today that a police officer threatened to assault the  State Secretary for Social Security (SESS), Vitor da Costa. on Tuesday 23, in Bidau Toko Baru.

Mr. Vitor explained that on in the early morning that day,  he was exercising on a bicycle in front of Bidau Toko Baru and he saw a police car and a taxi stopped in the middle of road that were obstructing other road users. He attempted to speak to the police officer but the police officer threatened to beat him.

“I saw the police car with its emergency light was on and a taxi stopped in the middle of the road which was stopping others from passing so I tried to talk to the police officer but did not want to hear me and he threatened to beat me if I continued to talk,” he said.
Police confiscate 22 state cars -  Diario Nacional reported today that the Police Transportation Unit had confiscated 22 state cars which were being driven by civil servants for private purposes.

The coordinated operation between the police and the national directorate for the state's patrimony said the reason for the operation was that some civil servant used the state cars on holidays.  The drivers did not have the necessary documentation authorising them to use the vehicles.

Yesterday, Suara Timor Lorosae reported that the Deputy Prime Minister Fernando de Araujo said that he will deploy the police at all fuel stations in the country to seize private cars and motorcycles that refuel using state coupons to pay.

"I will contact with Prime Minister to seek authorisation to implement this plan in all fuel stations throughout the country."

These actions by the state authorities appear to be real efforts to curb corrupt behavior of government officials.
98% of border with Indonesia resolved - STL reported today that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jose Luis Guterres, said the land dispute at the border area between East Timor and Indonesia had been 98% resolved although there were still some problems in the remaining unresolved border areas.

“We have been discussing the land border problem for a long time but there are still some problems such as the recent construction of a building in the neutral zone that caused some conflict between the citizens of the two countries" he said.

He added that there was a technical team that would hold discussions with the Indonesian team and together they would visit the places that still in dispute such as Naktuka in Oe-Cusse to define the border.

Related stories
Border Dispute, Oekusi Enclave - 60,000 Timorese Inside Indonesia
Three Sections of RI-Timor Leste Border Still Disputed
Residents on the Indonesia-East Timor Border agree to Resolve Conflict through Adat
Clash Erupts Between Indonesians, East Timorese in Neutral Zone

UNMIT fails to bring criminals author to international court - Diario Nacional reported today a statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Jose Luis Guteres that while the United Nations Integrated Mission in East Timor was about to end, they had failed to bring criminals to the international court.

“UNMIT has helped the country in many sectors but they have failed to bring criminal authors of human rights violations in Timor-Leste during the Indonesian occupation to the international court,” Guterres said.

Guterres also express thanks to UNMIT because the building of a new country is not easy and because of UNMIT's presence, Timor-Leste has achieved a peaceful and stable environment.
Police arrest 5 foreigners on suspicion of drug trafficking - Radio Televizaun de Timor-Leste reported today the the police have arrested five foreign people who brought illegal drugs to Timor-Leste.

The five arrested foreigner falsified documents to bring illegal drugs through Nicolao Lobato Airport without legal documents.

Criminal Investigation Commander Calistro Gonzaga said of the five of foreign people, four of them come from Indonesia and one was from Africa.

“They are five men one of them is from South Africa and four are from Indonesia,” Gonzaga said.

Related story Indonesians and Mozambiquans arrested on suspicion of importing 8 kgs of methamphetamine to Timor-Leste

24 October 2012

East Timor Legal News 23 October 2012

Opposition MP accuses Police Commissioner of supporting illegal gambling - A member of parliament for the opposition party, Fretilin, has accused the Police Commissioner Longinhos Monteiro of supporting the widespread illegal gambling in the country.

Diario Nacional repoorted today comments by MP Osorio Florindo that he did not believe the police commanders decision to stop illegal gambling because the clandestinely support it and obtain benefit from it.

"If I were the Prime Minister, I would sack out the PNTL commander who is backing the illegal gambling in our country," MP Florindo said.

see alsoAnalysis of the Social Problem of Gambling in East Timor
Police seize drugs - Timor Post reported today that, in response to the recent seizure of six kilograms of drugs , the President, Taur Matan Ruak, has appealed to the police to work hard on the problem of drug trafficking.

"I had received information from Prime Minister which said that the police had seized six kg of drugs, that is what we have seized, but it will add its quantity every day, therefore, it needs PNTL's dedication to combat it," he said.

At the same time, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao also called on PNTL to work hard to combat people engaging in illegal activities in addition to drug trafficking such as prostitution.

See also
Indonesians and Mozambiquans arrested on suspicion of importing 8 kgs of methamphetamine to Timor-Leste

 Analysis of the Social Problem of Prostitution in East Timor
Police to be deployed at all fuel stations - Suara Timor Lorosae reported today that the Deputy Prime Minister Fernando de Araujo said that he will deploy the police at all fuel stations in the country to seize private cars and motorcycles that refuel using state coupons to pay.

"I will contact with Prime Minister to seek authorisation to implement this plan in all fuel stations throughout the country,"
CPLP Court's Presidents share experience - Radio Televizaun de Timor-Leste reported today that Presidents of the Appellate Courts from Portuguese Language Speaking Countries (CPLP) have shared their experience with Timor-Leste, and to discuss three topics, namely; the global interdependence of courts, the role of appellate court and how to guarantee the judicial sector.

President of the East Timor Appellate Court Claudio Ximenes said this conference was an important way to know their experience because they have been running their judicial sectors for many years and that it was a positive step to assist creating good administration of justice in Timor-Leste.

23 October 2012

Land dispute triggers more violence in Timor-Leste

Tasi Tolu, Dili, East Timor
ETLJB 23 October 2012 - Timor Post reported yesterday on an incident that occurred in the area to the east of Dili known as Tasi Tolu (Three Lakes) in which the community suspects a police officer identified as Jose Valente as the mastermind in a land dispute in the sub-village of Besi Mean in Tasi Tolu.

A spokesperson for the families of the three victims, Cicilia Barbosa, said that the incident occurred last Thursday night (18 October) when two groups attacked each other over the land dispute. Cicilia Barbosa as a represent of the three families' victim said the problem happened on Thursday night when two groups attacked each other because of the land dispute.

"They come to the suburb in a car and fired guns three times and caused panic amongst the people in the suburb of Tasi Tolu.

Meanwhile, Suara Timor Lorosae reported that people were appealing to the government to enact a law on land and property and to implement it soon in order to resolve the chronic problem of land disputes in the country.

"I am calling on the Government, especially the Minister for Justice, to create law for land and property and implement it, then people can have right to live in a place," Marito Soares as a person of the young generation told Suara Timor Lorosae.

The State Secretary for Veterans Affairs, Virgilio Smith, also called on the Government to create law for land and property shortly in order to resolve the dispute land problems.

Author: Warren L. Wright BA LLB

Related stories
Land disputes a continuing cause of violence in Timor-Leste
Murder in East Timor the result of land dispute
Violence flares as police beat protestors over land dispute

Anti-Corruption Commission trained by Police

ETLJB 23 October 2012 - Investigators from the East Timor Anti-Corruption Commission (CAC) participated in a three-day joint operations training with the police in Bobonaro last week

The joint-training was led directly by PNTL General Commander Longuinhos Monteiro and was assisted by several national police instructors from the Crime Investigation Service, Border Patrol, Maritime Unit and three other special police units: Special Operation Group, Public Order Battalion and Close Protection Police as well as CAC advisers.

According to a  CAC press release on 19/10/2012­, the training emphasised police operations which involves basic specialized skills on how to conduct operations in the field such as, police shooting, chasing, arresting and handling of suspects, vehicle interception and check-points.

It is not exactly clear why the Anti-Corruption Commission staff would need to be trained in such matters but fortunately, more appropriate joint-training was included in the operations.

On the second day, for example, the investigators were exposed to a simulation of problem solving involving an organized crime about money laundry activities­. The investigators were asked to work with the Crime Investigation Service performing the entire process of handling a corruption case from gathering and analyzing information for court proceedings.

The physical training continued on the third day including refreshing on some of the basic skills learned earlier.

Commissioner Aderito de Jesus Soares said at the closing ceremony that “Corruption is an organized crime and as such we (CAC and the police) need to be more organised in order to be more effective at handling corruption cases. We need to learn and work together to carry out this important mission of combating corruption.”
Police Commander Monteiro said: “We (CAC and the police) should be proud of what we have done together in terms of joint-training to capacitate our human resources­. This is just the beginning, the police will continue to open our door to provide support and cooperate with CAC in any circumstance as needed.”

More join-operation trainings between CAC and PNTL are expected to take place in the future.

Edited by: Warren L. Wright BA LLB. Source: The East Timor Anti-Corruption Commission Press Release 19 October 2012

Indonesians and Mozambiquans arrested on suspicion of importing 8 kgs of methamphetamine to Timor-Leste

ETLJB 23 October 2012 - East Timor security officials have arrested several Indonesians and some Mozambiquans because of their alleged involvement in importing drugs through East Timor. Tomorrow, at 12.00pm, the government will hold a press conference about the matter in Dili.

According to information that has been obtained by Tempo Semanal, the suspects who imported almost 8 kilograms of methamphetamine (shabu-shabu) from Africa via Singapore will be handed over to the Indonesian National Narcotics Agency (Badan Nasional Narkotika) tomorrow.

On Saturday, Tempo Semanal was able to take photographs of one of the Indonesians arrested in Dili while picking up the drugs that were transported in baggage from Singapore. More information will be published in the Sunday edition of Tempo Semanal which will issue tomorrow morning.

East Timorese law does not provide for the death penatly or life imprisonment so those who traffic drugs from other countries choose this country as the gate for drug trafficking.

On 20 August last, 4 Indonesians imported 5 kilograms of methamphetamine to East Timor and then went to Kupang (in Indonesia) where they were arrested on 22 August 2012.
Translated by Warren L. Wright from the original Indonesian text* posted by Tempo Semanal on Facebook on today, 23/10/2012. The original Indonesian text follows:

Tempo Semanal - Aparat keamanan Timor Leste menangkap beberapa WNI dan seorg warga negara Mozambique karena terlibat mengimpor drugs lewat TL. Menurut rencana besok jam 12.00 pemerintah akan melakukan pers konference di Dili.

Menurut informasi yg di terima oleh Tempo Semanal bahwa para terduga berhasil mengimpor sabu2 hampir 8 kilo dari afrika lewat Singapor ke Dili itu akan di serahkan kepada pihak BNN besok.

Pada hari sabtu Tempo Semanal berhasil mengabadikan gambar seorang WNI yg ditangkap di Dili sedang mengambil narkoba yg dikirim lewat bagasi dari singapor. berita selengkapnya baca di koran TS edisi mingu ini yg terbit besok pagi.

UU TL tidak memberikan hukum mati atau seumur hidup sehinga para pengedar narkoba dari negara lain memilih negara ini jadi pintu keluar masuk narkoba.

Pada 20 Agusto lalu empat org WNI mengimpor lima Kilo sabu ke TL lalu di berangkatkan ke Kupang dantertangkap di Kupang pada 22/08/2012.

*Suggestions for any improvements to the translation are welcome. Please use the "Contact Us" link at the top of the home page. 

Photo Credit: Tempo Semanal

21 October 2012

Perversion of the rule of law in Timor-Leste and its impact on State legitimacy

ETLJB 21 October 2012 - The rule of law is an indispensable concept of democracy. Without it, democracy is destroyed and a state based on the will of those who wield political, social and economic power emerges, to the great detriment of the masses who are then subject to  the arbitrary self-interests of the powerful no longer accountable under the law.

During the Indonesian occupation, which was essentially an illegal military occupation, there was, as there are in all states of martial law, a displacement of the rule of law by the rule of state violence. Uncountable violations of the municipal criminal (and civil) law, innumerable violations of the most basic of human rights, the right to life, the right to a fair trial, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, among others, were and remain, unpunished. Impunity for criminal acts perpetrated by the Indonesian military and police as well as those Timorese themselves who participated in them either willingly or under duress during the 24-year occupation was the order of the day.

In the years since the restoration of independence, there has emerged a pattern of impunity and the arbitrary overriding of the judicial organs of state by the executive along with a growing disconnect between the citizenry and the state and those who occupy and control the state apparatus. This disconnect has recently been articulated and analysed by Neve in his article Legitimate Politics and Structural issues in Timor’s Fragility.

I posit that a central element of this disconnect and the erosion of the rule of law and democratic principles, and, therefore, of the problem of legitimacy of the state in East Timor, is this pattern of impunity for serious crimes as well as the partial application of the law based upon social or political status.

As pointed out in a recent article by Fundasaun Mahein (FM), “the matter of justice and impunity for crimes is not just a matter that complicates the relationship between Indonesians and Timorese, but increasingly it is a matter of concern for relations between Timorese and other Timorese, inside Timor-Leste.”

Since the restoration of independence, there have been several prominent circumstances of serious criminal behaviour in respect of which the perpetrators have not been subject the full force of the law or, where they have been found guilty by the Courts and subjected to the penalties provided for in the criminal laws which they violated, have been released by the Executive from their legal liability to serve those penalties. All of those circumstances have undermined and dealt debilitating blows to the rule of law and the separation of powers doctrine that form the pillars of a democratic state.

FM cites several “security incidents” that have occurred in East Timor since independence that have resulted in manifestations of impunity; they being:

1.      The 2001 house burnings in Quelicai
2.      The Sagrada Familia – Colimau-2000 confrontation in 2001 in Maliana
3.      The Baucau police station attack in November 2002
4.      The Dili riot in December 2002
5.      Martial arts fighting in Ainaro in 2004
6.      The PNTL-FDTL confrontation in Lautem in 2004
7.      The March 2005 attempted armed robbery of ANZ Bank in Dili
8.      The 28 April 2006 Petitioner protest/riot
9.      The May 2006 violence
10.     The community violence in Dili from June 2006 until Feb 2008
11.     A number of police and military discipline-related crimes from 2008-2011

Furthermore, says FM, there has “a trend that sees important people not having to pay the penalty for their actions.  A number of politicians and their relatives have been involved in fatal vehicle accidents since 2004 but have never had to follow the law.”

Behind this impunity and exemptions from the application of the law by blind justice, is, according to FM, the “socio- economic hierarchy [that] drives the decisions behind how and when the legal rules will be bent in order to maintain harmonious relations or to “protect” people from the law.”

FM cites the following cases as examples of this trend:

1.      The case of F-FDTL (East Timor Armed Forces) solider Armindo da Silva convicted in killing PNTL officers on 25 May 2006 at the terrible height of the 2006 disintegration of the rule of law. This soldier only spent some time under “house arrest” and was then forced to retire from the army.  However the army ensured that his retirement was effected in an honourable manner so as to protect his reputation.  This was because he was veteran of the 24-year armed struggle in FALINTIL and a close associate of the senior F-FDTL leadership despite his relatively low rank.

2.      In the case of former Minister of Justice Lucia Lobato convicted of abuse of power in June 2012 and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment by the Dili District Court, she was made an example of for a number of reasons.  She was politically weak and the establishment sought to punish not only her but also her political party the PSD.  Her immunity from prosecution was readily removed by the Parliament to allow the proceedings against her to go ahead. PSD subsequently imploded in the July 2012 election and is no longer a political force in Timor-Leste. 

However, Lucia Lobato comes from a senior and important political family in Timor-Leste and she is the niece of the first Commander of FALINTIL and the second President of Timor-Leste Nicolau Lobato.  As such, imprisoning her for the 5 years that she was sentenced to is proving politically difficult and she continues to walk free to the present.  Interestingly, her husband has also been convicted of company embezzlement and is also at large. Her appeal to the Court of Appeal is still pending some 4 months since the initial conviction. The Court of Appeal continues to say that it must study the appeal.

3.      Other examples are that a number of high level former soldiers, armed civilians, and the PNTL officers actively engaged in the violence of 2006/2007 have become members of Parliament, senior civil servants, Ministers, and business people.  For some – crime has been good business and highly profitable.

ETLJB would also like to highlight the following further cases of impunity and/or lenient application of the law based on the status of the accused or convicted person:

1.      On 14 May 2011, a Falintil Defence Forces (F-FDTL) soldier beat an elderly woman to death for engaging in witchcraft. The soldier was convicted of murder and was dismissed from the F-FDTL following a disciplinary process. The investigation into the 2010 case of F-FDTL soldiers who beat a civilian to death in Laivai, Lautem, is not known.

3.      The failure of the authorities to charge now President Taur Matan Ruak and other high-ranking military officers over their involvement in the 2006 illegal weapons distribution case (see paragraph 3 of the FM cited cases above). After the 2006 violence ended, the Report of the United Nations Independent Special Commission of Inquiry for Timor-Leste stated:

“The evidence relating to the unlawful movement, possession and use of F-FDTL weapons is described in paragraphs 95 and 96 and demonstrates that those weapons were distributed by and/or with the knowledge and approval of the following persons: Roque Rodrigues, Taur Matan Ruak, Tito da Costa Cristovao, aka Lere Anan Timor, Manuel Freitas, aka Mau Buti, and Domingos Raul, aka Rate Laek Falur. The Commission recommends that these persons be prosecuted for illegal weapons transfer.”

At least 36 people were killed in the 2006 violence. None of the gentlemen referred to in the UN Report were ever prosecuted and, as FM, points out, some have come to occupy significant positions in the state apparatus. For example, Lere Anan Timor replaced Taur Matan Ruak as Commander of the East Timor Defence Force after Taur resigned his commission to run for the presidency to which he was elected.

Rogerio Lobato, former Minister for the Interior under the I Constitutional Government and a relative of Lucia Lobato also enjoying the same familial connections, was pardoned by the then President Jose Ramos Horta after beingsentenced to jail for criminal violations after the armed Rai Los group claimed he was the one responsible for the distribution of weapons to civilians in the 2006 crisis.

5.      In August 2011, members of the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) were accused of beating a woman in their custody in the district of Baucau. The PNTL denied the accusation, but an official investigation opened by the Ministry of Justice continued at year's end.

6.      In 2010 the police detained individuals who were alleged members of the Popular Council for the Defence of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (CPD-RDTL), as part of a larger operation against “ninjas” in the Bobonaro and Covalima Districts. Accusations that some of the detained were beaten were not investigated.

The pardoning of criminals by the President was criticised by the Judicial System Monitoring Program and the issue of presidential pardons and how the president exercises his constitutional prerogative to pardon and give amnesties remains unsettled. In June 2008, prominent citizens presented a petition to the Court of Appeal seeking a declaration that other pardons granted by the President were unconstitutional.

ETLJB has also published a critique of the pardon process as it has been exercised to date and its impact on the rule of law (see further The Rule of Law in East Timor: Death by a Thousand Cuts). Pardons for serious crimes undermine the rule of law because it subverts the judicial process.

Pardons, as well as the impunity (lack of prosecution) for the perpetrators of crimes, also impact on the legitimacy of the state that claims to be democratic but which too frequently acts in violation of the fundamental principles of democracy. It would be an incredulous and profoundly disappointed community that would witness these phenomena and cause them to ask the questions, as Fundasaun Mahein poses:

What do our ancestors think of us? Do they smile with pride, or do they cry with shame? Is this what 200,000 of our fellow citizens died for?

Author and Photo (c): Warren L. Wright BA LLB

20 October 2012

Legitimate Politics and Structural issues in Timor’s Fragility

Palacio do Governo, Dili
ETLJB 20 October 2012 Guest Poster: Guteriano Neves - Introduction: “Legitimate Politics” is the first goal of peace building and state building, agreed upon by the g7+ members in Monrovia. This is referred to later on as the Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals, which were adopted at the Busan High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, in November, 2011, as part of New Deal. Based on these goals also, the performance of so-called “fragile states” is measured against these goals. The basic assumption is that when state institutions do not enjoy legitimacy from their citizens, the perceived level of fragility increases.

If we frame legitimacy in the context of fragility, this implies that fragile states do not have legitimacy or at best only weak legitimacy from their citizens. Indeed, in order to progress beyond fragility, fragile states must strengthen their legitimacy. But the history of the developing world tells us that acquiring legitimacy has proved to be a difficult pursuit. Even countries that have been independent for more than half a century still struggle with political legitimacy. This article discusses some issues related to political legitimacy in Timor-Leste by critically reflecting on our experience since 1999, and the current economic and political development.

Citizens’ Lack of Ownership towards the State

In Timor, a country that just went through foreign occupation and a violent struggle against foreign rule, political participation goes beyond the notion of liberal democracy. During the resistance, people from the entire spectrum of social classes, including the intelligentsia, and multiple generations participated in the struggle to liberate their homeland from foreign occupiers. Many revolutionary organisations existed during the struggle but these groups were merely symbols that facilitated the process. Therefore, reflecting critically on the struggle of the Timorese people and the current state of development, our struggle towards a common goal is embedded in the Timorese consciousness as a nation. This is the factor that unites the Timorese to imagine themselves as one nation, to refer to Anderson’s “Imagined Community.” The positive implication is that people had a sense of ownership and responsibility towards common goals because they felt that these goals belonged to them and what they were doing was a part of achieving these goals.

But after the country finally won its independence the situation changed dramatically. The United Nations led the international community in nation-building in Timor-Leste, unraveling Timorese unity in the process, especially at the grassroots level. Even the small number of elites found it hard to find space for political participation. Many international efforts to “empower” the community resulted in the erosion of existing local authority, which was driven by the presence of a multitude of international advisers.

The situation did not change much after the restoration of independence in 2002. The process then came to be dominated by local elites, most of whom reside in Dili. The failure of political parties to channel the aspiration of their constituents into the development process meant that political parties only had real significance during election cycles and the parties became merely stepping stones for elites to acquire power.

Before the massive flow of oil money began accumulating in the state coffers, many NGOs played the role of facilitating popular political participation on a small scale, allowing the people’s voice to be heard through advocacy efforts. But after the flow of petroleum money began in earnest, and as the state budget increased, and donor's contributions decreased, the influence of NGOs began to wane. On the other hand, the state, dominated by a few elites, grew more powerful. In other words, the increase in oil money empowered the state, and at the same time reduced the public sphere for political participation.

The result for the Timorese people is that they find themselves marginalised because their voices are barely heard and reflected in the development process. Although it is easy to call this situation undemocratic, it is hard to swallow for a society that just underwent a brutal popular struggle. It is like taking away the destiny of the nation from them.  This loss of their voice erodes their sense of being part of a community. After losing their ability to participate, the Timorese people feel that the process no longer belongs to them. This ultimately leads to an erosion of the sense of responsibility of ordinary Timorese citizens toward the social transformation of this new country.

This is the lesson we should learn from our experience of nation-state building over the past ten years. Although we have earned the praise of many international observers, we still have to reflect critically upon our flaws in nation-building.  There are clear lessons to be learned from our own history.

Invisibility of the State

The modern state we intended to build is not an institution embedded in our history, nor in the history of other third world societies. It is a relatively new institution that comes to us through Western colonialism. Given its novelty in Timor, it is hard for this new institution to claim legitimacy over citizens who previously lived in small communities, and who acted according to community-agreed upon norms and regulations.

Meanwhile, as a post-colonial and post-conflict society, Timor is also facing multi-dimensional problems. Some of these are high rates of illiteracy and malnutrition, poor infrastructure, subsistence agriculture, land-ownership, law enforcement, a culture of “Big Brother,” and many others. In this circumstance, rather than monopoly over coercive power, as  the Weberian notion of state suggests, the capacity of the state to solve problems inherited from colonialism is what determines political legitimacy. Thus, the expectation from the people toward the state is very high. The state is expected to provide social services such as education, health, water, and sanitation, to develop the economy, to build infrastructure, to protect citizens’ rights. And the list goes on and on.

It is common in the history of developing countries after independence that he invisible hand of state is everywhere and the state played a part in every aspect of the society. That was how the state made itself visible to its citizens and fortified its existence.

In Timor-Leste, after independence, we Timorese expected a similar significant role of the state. We wanted the state to provide social services, health services, water and sanitation, enforce the rule of law, to  protect the basic rights of its citizens, public works, and so on.

But these expectations have not been met, and of course, it will not take a short time to fulfill them. State visibility has remained very low. Most of state apparatus is located in Dili. Police, judges, prosecutors and civil servants are all located in Dili. This is totally disproportionate because only about around 21% of Timorese live in Dili, but most of public servants are centralised in Dili.

Consequently, in the districts, especially in the villages and remote areas, the state remains almost invisible to citizens. Although health and education are frequently criticised, in rural areas we see the state only when our children go to school or when people receive services at community health centers. How can one honestly speak of “state legitimacy” to these rural citizens?

Exclusive Economic Growth

What is important for Timor-Leste is to have an economy where everyone can contribute to growth, everyone is part of it, and everyone can benefit from it.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case since independence. Timor’s economy has been dominated by an influx of international capital that came through foreign aid and by selling the country’s natural resources. Through this, the state finances all the large infrastructure projects, pays more than 40,000 civil servants, and keeps the state machine functioning.

On the other hand, the agricultural sector - the source of income for 75% of Timorese - continued to decline 0.8% every year between 2002 and 2010. At the same time, the public sector, which employs more than 40,000 people, increased 1% every year. Services and industry are still stagnant. (Source:  Ministry of Finance statistics.)

This tells a lot about the economic structure of Timorese society. First, it implies that 75% of Timorese who depend on the agricultural sector are getting poorer and more vulnerable to poverty, whereas those involved in the public sector are doing better. Second, it implies that 75% of Timorese are less participative and less productive in contributing to national economic growth. Consequently, people began to shift away from the agricultural sector and seek jobs in other sectors which also proves difficult.

In a country where the state does not heavily depend on exporting its natural resources, the burden of the state to provide good services is very high, because the state relies on citizens’ contribution in various forms. But in a country like Timor-Leste, where the state’s domestically generated revenues are only about 8% of state annual budget, the incentive for the state to provide basic services is almost non-existent. In the end, our economy is not a participatory and inclusive economy, generated by Timorese. Rather, it is driven by an influx of foreign capital from petroleum revenues. Politically, since the state does not depend on Timorese citizens to finance and maintain its apparatus, it does not feel that it has to be accountable to them. It does not need to tax its citizens, not even the rich, because the state receives a lot of money from petroleum revenues. Similarly, Timorese people do not view the State’s money as belonging to the citizens of the country.

This mutual lack of financial dependence might appear simple but it has highly detrimental effect.  It erodes the work ethic in the public sector because individuals lack a sense of responsibility to their fellow citizens even though they get paid by the state. It erodes the sense of belonging and responsibility of every citizen to contribute. And at the end of the day, it changes the nature of the social contract upon which the modern state is based.


When we talk about political legitimacy, our own experiences provide us with many lessons. Our struggle for independence was popular, participative, and inclusive. Everyone therefore felt that they played a role and were part of a process. However, since 1999, when we reflect critically upon how our nation-state has been built, we find that lack of Timorese ownership and the state’s lack of a visible presence outside of Dili, as well as the Timorese economic structure are very exclusive. By highlighting these issues, we realise that our structural issues undermine the political legitimacy of the state. Lastly, in order to acquire political legitimacy, all of us have to work to transform these problems.

The author is a researcher at Timor-Leste’s Presidential Research Center. Originally published on Karau Dikur Republished on East Timor Law and Justice Buletin with permission. Edited by Warren L. Wright BA LLB. Photo added by ETLJB.

Timor-Leste: Respect for the Dead - or Disrespect for a Culture?

Uma Lulik, Timor-Leste

ETLJB 20 October 2012 - (Updated 24 October 2012) A commentator on East Timor recently wrote an item under the title “Better to look after those alive than worry about the remains” [of the dead”] in which he said that “[i]n a poor country like East Timor, there is huge investment in revering remains.  In early years after liberation, whole villages might combine and hang tough to save the money for a 'suitable' burial.  Coffin making, while giving some employment, was excessive in manufacture and cost, but to suggest less was to invite outrage.  Not sure right now that people are wealthier, probably costs are proportionately higher.  And a lot of good wood wasted.”
The writer of these observations clearly has no knowledge of the centrality of the ancestors in East Timorese culture and in the everyday lives of the people and communities and does not understand why such efforts and sacrifices are made to bury the dead. To relegate the efforts and resources put to the reverence of the dead in East Timor to “a waste of good wood” would, as that writer notes, invite outrage. And for good reason - because even a cursory glance at the literature informs us of how important the ancestors are in East Timor and elucidates the behaviour which he finds so problematical.

For example, an article on the Mary MacKillop East Timor Mission in East Timor website [1] recites the words of Jose Ramos Horta when he was sworn in as Prime Minister July 2006, who stated:

“Timorese people are deeply spiritual.  Their lives are inspired and influenced by the spirits of the past and supernatural beliefs fused with Christian beliefs.  We must not impose modern secularism or Europeanism to disturb the symbiotic relationship of Timorese animist and Christian beliefs.”

The article on the Mary MacKillop Mission in East Timor website goes on:

“This symbiosis is shown in the traditional animist practices and beliefs which are still strong in Timor.

Prominent among these is ancestor worship, devotion to the souls of the dead. Matebian, second highest peak in Timor, is the Mountain of the Souls of the Dead.” (emphasis added)

Pre-Christian beliefs in Timor include “the concept of lulik, an all-pervading and powerful force, not easily classified by those outside the culture, and one which operates in the lives of many Timorese people even today.”

As Josh Trindade explains in his paper "Lulik: The Core of Timorese Values"* "lulik refers to the spiritual cosmos that contains the divine creator, the spirits of the ancestors, and the spiritual root of life including sacred rules and regulations that dictate relationships between people and people and nature." (emphasis added)

Trindade writes further that "[t]he main objective of lulik as a philosophy is to ensure peace and tranquility for society as a whole, in which it can be achieved through the proper balance between differing and opposing elements. As an example, Timorese believe that peace and prosperity can be achieved through a proper balance between the real world and the cosmic world. In this case, people in the real world should follow the rules and regulations set by the ancestors. These rules and regulations can be a harmonious relationship between individuals within family, clan and wider society. (emphasis added)

Lulik also recognizes the spirit of the ancestors (the deceased). Timorese believe that the spirit of the dead can positively influence people in the real world or curse them in negative ways if disregarded.

That is why Timorese treat the deceased with high respect."(emphasis added)

Another example of the importance of the ancestors in East Timor is manifest in a recent article published by Fundasaun Mahein and entitled “Impunity and Respect for Our Dead?” [2] which discusses the problem of impunity for crimes committed during and after the occupation of East Timor by Indonesia. The opening paragraph of that article reads:

“What do our ancestors think of us? Do they smile with pride, or do they cry with shame?”

Megaliths are also a manifestation of ancestor worship and are a feature of pre-Christian belief systems in East Timor and parts of Indonesia which have been traced back 6500 years.

The following extract which primarily focuses on Sumba but references East Timor as well emphasises the importance of megaliths related to, among other things, funerals for the dead and the maintenance of connections with the deceased ancestors.

“Customs or traditions that produce large stone artifacts or structures related to ceremonies or funerals are megalithic traditions. These artifacts are related to attempts by the leaders, chiefs, kings, or heads of clans to maintain their reputation and prestige. Societies that uphold megalithic traditions believe that the souls of their dead ancestors still live in the world of the spirits. They also believe that their lives are influenced by the spirits of those dead ancestors as health, safety, fertility, and prosperity of the people are decided by their attitudes towards the dead. Good treatment of their ancestral spirits therefore protects them against all and any kind of danger.

Almost all Indonesian and East Timor megaliths are used to maintain closer relationships with the spirit of dead ancestors. Marupu, or worship, of the powerful invisible forces is a prevalent element in a megalithic culture and inseparable in the daily life of many such societies [3].

But the most prominent and obvious example of the centrality of the ancestors in East Timor is the uma lulik itself. David Hicks eloquently describes the process and significance of uma lulik in East Timor in Afterword - Glimpses of Alternatives the Uma Lulik of East Timor. Hicks writes:

“[T]he construction of uma lulik not only calls for the raw muscle of up to 100 men and women for weeks on end, but also requires the attentions of skilled craftsmen, who devise the building’s architectural form, as well as input from local ritual specialists, whose duty it is to ensure that form and function correspond to ancestral-sanctioned fiat. In erecting an uma lulik , traditionally oriented families are acknowledging the authority that their ancestors command and are making a public statement of their own special and distinctive history, one that distinguishes them from other families in their neighbourhood. 

In addition, the huge amount of labour involved in building such a massive edifice pro-claims that the house and its diverse associations is one of the central driving forces in their lives. In this way, the fruit of these labours defiantly reaffirms the commitment of descent groups and families to a past when alternatives to ancestral authority were few, in contrast to the present time when, with villagers well aware of the sceptical attitudes of their more educated fellows toward all things lulik and increasingly familiar with the diversity of values they learn from their encounters with agents of NGOs, they have come to understand that there exist alternatives to traditional ‘beliefs’ whose premises may differ radically from those bequeathed to them by their ancestors.”

And so who, armed with this knowledge, would go into an East Timorese village whose residents were preparing for the funeral of a deceased member of their community and say to them: "Don't waste that good wood and your limited resources on that. It is better that you look after the living than to worry about the remains of your dead". In the end, what such observations fail to appreciate is that that respecting the dead is in fact a critical aspect of looking after the living and that failing to look after the dead is to act contrary to the inherited cultural norms. In its broader cultural context, the attention and resources that are deployed to bury the dead in East Timor can be understood as a acts that have a profound spiritual dimension that is an integral componenet of the indigenous culture.

*   Paper presented at: Communicating New Research on Timor-Leste 3rd Timor-Leste Study Asscociation (TLSA) Conference on 30th June 2011. Paper also presented at Creative Industry Conference on 16th July 2011.
[1]  http://www.mmiets.org.au/about/culture/animism.html Accessed 10 October 2012
[2] http://www.fundasaunmahein.org/2012/10/15/impunity-and-respect-for-our-dead/ Accessed 20 October 2012
[3] http://pareraz.blogspot.com.au/2011/02/sumba-megaliths.html Accessed 20 October 2012
[4] http://www.scribd.com/doc/49944272/The-Uma-Lulik-of-East-Timor Accessed 20 October 2012

Author: © Warren L. Wright BA (Soc &Anth)/ LLB Photo: Warren L. Wright © 2004