17 January 2013

Judicial System Monitoring Program receives $817,587 in grants

ETLJB 17/01/2013 East Timor's peak judicial system monitoring civil society organisation, the Judicial System Monitoring Program, has received new financial support from Norway and the United Nations Democracy Fund totalling US$817,587 in grants to continue its work.

In separate press releases on 15 January 2013, JSMP disclosed that it had received financial support through the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta for the next three years (2012 - 2015) totalling US$542,587.00 and a further US$275,000 from the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF).

Tne Norwegian government's grant will be used to support programs from the Women’s Justice Unit (WJU) to continue to facilitate women’s access to the formal justice system.

 “This financial support shows the ongoing commitment from the Norwegian Government to strengthen the Timor-Leste justice sector, especially in regards to promoting women’s rights and women’s access to the formal justice system” said Luis de Oliveira Sampaio, the Executive Director of JSMP.

This funding will finance court monitoring, the dissemination of legal information and training to village authorities and women’s communities in remote areas, as well as high school students, regarding gender issues relating to the Law Against Domestic Violence, the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code.

Previously, from early 2009 to November 2012, the Norwegian Government provided financial support totaling US $ 560,266.00 for a program promoting women’s access to the formal justice sector.  

The funds from UNDEP will support JSMP's programs in the area of promoting the public's access to the formal justice system.

This program will be achieved by improving public understanding of and confidence in the formal justice system. This fund gurantees JSMP's program in the future, particularly over the next two years.

"JSMP is grateful to receive this support because it will continue to strengthen JSMP's work of overseeing the functioning of the justice system and democracy in Timor-Leste," said Luis de Oliveira Sampaio, Executive Director  JSMP.

This fund will support JSMP's Legal Research Unit and Parliament Watch Program to monitor the courts and the National Parliament.

In addition, it will support legal education in rural communities in 6 Districts - Ainaro, Baucau, Ermera, Liquica, Manufahi and Oe-Cusse. JSMP believes that UNDEF's support will help JSMP to continue its work of promoting  justice for all. Sources: JSMP Press Releases 15 January 2013. Edited by Warren L. Wright

15 January 2013

Marriages in Timor-Leste

ETLJB 15 January 2012 Guest Poster: Matthew Libbis BA (Hons) Anthropology* - Marriage is the most socially cohesive institution in Timorese society. The indigenous taxonomies around marriage include terms such as fetosa-umane, tunanga and be manas ahi tukan. There is bridewealth amongst some, which occurs in an imbalance, so that the man’s family give the woman’s family gifts of greater value (buffalo, goats and gold or money), while the woman’s family give the man’s family items of lesser value (pigs, tais [textile]).

Fetosa-umane is the relationship between the two families of the marriage: the fetosa, wife taking clan, or husband’s family; and the umane, wife giving clan, or wife’s family. It has wider implications than just the pecuniary exchange; it establishes a bond of obligation between the marrying families. 

Tunanga allows – indeed, prefers - a man to marry his mother’s brother’s daughter, but forbids him from marrying his father’s sister’s daughter, as her mother is his aunt (an aunt is paternal, either father’s sister or mother’s brother’s wife). 

Be manas ahi tukan is the occasion on which engagement gifts are exchanged: for a bride’s parents, wine, cigarettes and cash, all presented in a traditionally woven basket; the wife’s family give the man tais, and he becomes known as mane foun, or new man, once the couple marry. 

Van Wouden spoke of an asymmetric connnubium, which encompasses these arrangements, where the wife’s family has higher status than the husband’s, particularly where the unequal exchange of gifts between the families of the marrying couple occurs; and where cross cousin marriage only occurs in one direction, but not the other. 

Increased urbanisation because of relocations has forced this change to marriage patterns. Cross cousin marriage is frowned upon by the church, and has ceased in the towns, but continues in more remote areas in the mountains, away from the eye of the church.

The Tetun eschew the notion of bridewealth: they see its absence as respect for daughter’s dignity; they do not “trade women like buffalo”.  The only gift is that of a belak, or breastplate, to the uma lulik (sacred house) of the wife’s family, where the marriage is discussed.  The parents’ house is central, with the married daughter’s houses surrounding them. The wife’s family give the husband land, but this is not considered to be part of bridewealth exchange; it is so he can prove his ability to provide for her and the family. Sometimes a man will not move in with the wife’s family, but where he is deemed to be marrying in, the wife’s family still give him land to work on and provide for her family.

The notion of bride wealth and bride service is not an economic one, rather it compensates for or replaces the reproductive potential of the woman (Schulte Nordholt 1971:137). In both uxorilocal and matrilineal systems, this is not necessary, because in the first instance, the women remain in the village; and in the second, the children of the marriage belong to that village.  This practice occurs amongst the central southern Tetun of East Timor, according to whom the practice spreads as far as Wehale in West Timor, but not as far as Viqueque in the East.

Uxorilocality occurs with the failure to pay bridewealth. In such cases, the children of the marriage belong to the lineage of the wife’s father. In Mambai areas of the mountains of Manufahi, if a man’s family cannot pay the woman’s family bridewealth, the first child of the marriage is returned to the wife’s father’s village. Matrilineality is a result of several successive generations of uxorilocality (Schulte Nordholt 1971:435).  

In a remote and rural uma laran, people say that in their grandparents’ time, one child would go to live in the father’s village (the husband moves in to wife’s family’s house); now, two children will go. It is decided at birth which children will live where, and they are named accordingly: given their father’s family name if they are to live in father’s village.

Should I stay or should I go?
In contemporary context, where a couple live once they are married may simply be a case of living where there is employment – either on spouses’ land or to a place to which there is no affinal connection. This will be increasingly common as people move into the formal economy. However, people continue to belong to that village, and are expected to return on ritual occasions and to offer assistance with infrastructure, to care for their grandparents and, where applicable, assume ritual authority  and custodianship of the sacred goods and sacred house. The bond of marriage means helping when the village needs food, building houses, fighting with and for, providing goods or animals for rituals and ceremonies and helping the sick. 

When a man and woman from separate sacred houses in the same Tetun village marry, the wife will move into the husband’s sacred house, because when the wife’s father dies, his brother can move into the sacred house, but the husband’s father’s brother may not, and it must be passed to the son. The belak must stay in the sacred house. Elsewhere amongst the Tetun, men move in with the women. Children of the marriage are evenly distributed to the couple’s parents’ villages. This is divided by gender, so that if there are two boys and two girls, one boy and one girl will live in the mother’s village, the other boy and girl in the father’s village.

Where Bunak, Mambai and Tetun live in hamlets close to each other in the same village, there will be a tendency for young people from in those areas to form relationships. Some of those will lead to marriage; and marriage has different traditions for each group. How they will proceed is discussed in the sacred house; but first, whose sacred house in which will be discussed must be decided. In some cases, the family is happy for the woman to move to the man’s land, provided the discussion takes place in the woman’s sacred house; in others, it is the marriage that must take place on the woman’s land if she is to live on the man’s land; but where marriage to a woman from a Tetun area, the men will move there.

There was one village that offered an interesting illustration of how people adapt to potentially conflicting traditions.  The village comprises Lakelai people from Fahenian, Tetun from Welaluhu, and Mambai from Turiscai and Same who had moved onto the disused prison farm to cultivate the land. They have no shared tradition, being three distinct ethnolinguistic groups with different marriage patterns and practices. When marriages occur, they conform to patterns of villages they marry from or into, so a man marrying a woman from a Tetun village will go there, and no bridewealth will be exchanged; but if they marry from a Mambai area, the woman will go to live with the man, and the male’s family will give a buffalo to the wife’s family. It doesn’t matter where they marry from, or where they live after marriage, as long as some children from the marriage are returned to the village.

People can marry anywhere and any way they like; the only prohibition is tunanga. People do not need to fulfil the requirements of the marriage agreement, as long as they adhere to them in principle; those who spurn to notion are themselves shunned, and their marriage considered if not illegitimate, then inferior. 

Men who move into their wives’ families’ houses are variably thought of as inferior (Schulte Nordholt 1971:122-3) or conquering for having displaced the wife’s brother, who must leave the house (Therik 1995:119). Men do not play ‘an active part in society of the southern plains’ (Francillon 1967:391). They are considered passive by their patrilineal neighbours in the mountains.

Where will the children play?
Marriage can occur between people from anywhere; what is important is where the children of that marriage belong.  This determines the continuity of lineage.  It also acts as superannuation, to ensure care for the elderly is entrenched in custom. The imperative is the potential of progeny to perpetuate the family.

The negotiations that occur before marriage serve to keep a balanced population – in size, as well as proportion. An examination of data reveals a symmetrical accuracy across gender and generation that would win plaudits from demographers and bookkeepers . In Tetun areas, if one’s spouse moves in to the household, then a sibling will move out when they marry. An equal number of each will move in as well as out when marrying. This is most simply explained by the notion that half the number of children from a marriage will belong to the household or village of the parent who has moved in.  Some of the children of the marriage will belong to this house; others will belong to the father’s parent’s village.

At birth, each child will be named after either the mother’s or father’s parents, and will belong to that grandparent’s village accordingly.  The number of children so named varies between sub villages, from one to two for the father’s village, to equal division to both parents’ villages. The child once so allocated will then be expected to live in that village after marrying (although the spouse may come from anywhere and need not be from that village). They will have responsibility for the health and welfare of those grandparents, and will be expected to contribute to weddings in the village involving that family, and for the grandparents’ funerals. It also involves taking over the sacred relics when the grandparents die.

If a partner to a marriage leaves, the children stay with the remaining parent; if that is a man, then the man’s mother will take charge of the child or children. This is more problematic in a matrilineal organisation.  Legend has it that a woman who abandons her betrothed for another man will be doomed to remain forever childless, barren. I tested this notion while travelling with the Timorese police, hearing a Tetun song about a man’s lover leaving for another, I said she won’t have children, and they said ‘ah, o hatene! (you know!)’

While I was busy prying on their lives, they asked me about my own. I had children from a previous marriage, and while I was undertaking fieldwork, my long term partner had left me and taken up with someone else. In explaining this I may have been careless with particulars, as it became apparent that they conflated my recently ex partner with the mother of my children. They asked why my children were not therefore living with my mother, or with my grandparents, as that is what would happen with the children of a marriage if a wife left her husband.

They also asked if I was not concerned for my ‘wife’s’ welfare, no, I wondered; why should I be. Was I not afraid that my brothers would kill her? Not really, no. They hastily huddled into a discussion, and returned, relieved, to tell me that I need not be concerned, as it is only when the husband leaves the wife for another woman that the wife’s brothers have to kill him: once married, women never leave for another man, so I needn’t be concerned; effectively, there was no precedent that my brothers had to follow.


Francillon, G (1967) Some matriarch aspects of the social structure of the southern Tetun of middle Timor, unpublished PhD thesis, Canberra:ANU

Hicks, D (2012) Compatibility, resilience and adaptation: the barlake of Timor-Leste, in ‘Local-Global: Identity, Security, Community’, vol 11: Traversing customary community and modern nation-formation in Timor-Leste (D Grenfell, ed), Melbourne: Globalism Research Centre, RMIT University, pp 124-137

Schulte Nordholt, H (1971), The Political System of the Atoni of Timor, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff

Therik, G (1995), Wehali: the Four Corner Land: The Cosmology and Traditions of a Timorese Ritual Centre, unpublished PhD thesis, ANU, Canberra

van Wouden, FAE (1968), Types of social structure in eastern Indonesia, The Hague:Nijhoff  

[i] Where ‘one or more children are incorporated into the mother’s’ house, bridewealth is modest, and is often replaced with brideservice’ (Schulte Nordholt 1971:117). Because this involves the husband living in the bride’s household, the first born child(ren) will assume their mother’s name and lineage. His family must pay the bridewealth before they can claim any of the children of the marriage to their lineage.

[ii] The notion of Barlake is used by some, but I never heard it used by the Timorese cohort amongst whom I conducted research. 

[iii] Amongst the Tetun of Wehale, ‘feto sawa has not the same importance as among the hill kingdoms...the south plain people put a great emphasis on the distinction between women who are prohibited partners and marriageable women’ (Francillon 1967:465).

[iv] Husbands ‘have little or no rights in the house into which they marry in virtue of the matrilineal and uxorilocal principles’ (Francillon 1967:406).

[v] The northern Tetun of Wehali are patrilineal, and do not have an asymmetric connubium; furthermore, the cross cousin marriage proscribed in pretty much the rest of Timor is allowed amongst this group (Therik 1995:10, 165; Wouden 1968:48). It is interesting to note that the Tokodede of Liquica district in north western East Timor, who migrated from Wehali around between 1522-1759 (Francillon 1967:67-8) are now patrilineal.

[vi] Their patrilineal neighbours, however, accuse the Tetun of being cheap or paupers.

[vii] When children who are given the name of their father’s marry, it is discussed in custom house (uma fukun) of father. Amongst the matrilineal southern Tetum, after a husband’s death, a child of the marriage then enters his father’s descent group (Wouden 1968:47). 

[viii] Hicks describes uxorilocal residence as one of three main marriage systems amongst the Tetun of Viqueque. Both Therik and van Wouden state that the northern Tetun of the mountains of Wehali are patrilineal, and the southern Tetun of the plains are matrilineal. Francillon’s account of the matrilineal Tetun corresponds most closely with the Tetun of Manufahi.

[ix] Data collected by the author in Manufahi district, 2002

*Matthew Libbis conducted anthropological fieldwork from 2000 to 2002 in East Timor, focusing on how the population was making the transition from occupation into independence. In addition to exploring socially sustaining institutions such as marriage, ritual and customs, his research was guided by prevailing issues that most concerned and affected the community, such as tensions between food production and participation in the formal economy, as well as more pressing issues of housing and reconciliation. He returned to East Timor from 2006 to 2008 following the Crisis that ripped the country apart to work in rebuilding the shattered civil society and governance structures. He has more recently been working in community resilience, social inclusion policy implementation, and humanitarian and disaster management, mitigation and recovery.  He may be contacted at malibbis-at-gmail.com  

Major General Lere's threat to arrest Indonesian citizen sparks outrage in Indonesia

Grim coat of arms image
GRIB Coat of Arms
ETLJB 15 Jnauary 2013 - Recent comments by the East Timor Defence Forces Chief, Major-General Lere Anan Timor about the recent visit to East Timor by an Indonesian citizen have sparked outrage in Indonesia.

The Major General was reported by the Timor Post on 8 January 2013 as saying that he would arrest the Indonesian citizen, known as Hercules, if he ever stepped foot in East Timor again. Hercules, whose real name is Rosalia Marshal, was born in Ainaro in East Timor and was part of the Soehart regime's violent repression of the East Timorese independence movement. He retained his Indonesian citizenship after East Timor broke away from Indonesia in 1999.

Indonesian news portal plasamsnberita reported on 14 January 2013 that the  Central Board of the Indonesian New People's Movement (GRIB) which is chaired by Hercules, deplored the threats made by the Timor-Leste Defence Chief, General Lere Anan Timur against GRIB Chairman Rosalio Marsal aka Hercules. The report continues:

"An army leader in a democratic society should not make such a statement that openly that harms organizations or agencies in other countries. GRIB strongly rejects the statement of Chief of Army Major-General of Timor-Leste Lere Anan Timur, accusing GRIB Chairman of wanting to intervene in Timor-Leste," said GRIB Vice Chairman Ghazaly Ama La following the release of these details on Sunday (01/13/2013).

Ghazaly also rejected Lere’s accusations that Hercules was carrying weapons when he entered Timor-Leste territory. He said that these allegations against GRIB, which is an organization that is part of the National Body Politic of the State of the Republic of Indonesia, were baseless.

"For us, the statements by General Lere, are highly tendentious because most of the people of Timor-Leste and the majority of the citizens of Timor-Leste, formerly a part of Indonesia, are proud of him," he said.

Lere failed to exercise good judgment in accusing Hercules of attempting to intervene in Timor-Leste domestic politics, because it is also an accusation against Indonesian sovereignty.

“We reiterate, Hercules has always abided by the law of the country when entering it.  He cleared immigration and had clear legal status from immigration, which proves that Hercules arrived in Timor-Leste without the agenda that Lere has blamed on him,” Ghazaly said.

GRIB asked General Lere Anan Timur to apologize to Hercules for the remarks he made. "We also strongly object, GRIB being equated with the separatist group," he stated.

Since it is considered to be damaging to the relations between the two countries, the Government of Timor-Leste were also asked to apologise specifically to the Government of Indonesia for these statements."

In addition to the response from Hercules' own organisation, Indonesian news portal Inilah.com also reported on 13 January 2013, observations by the Vice Chairman of Commission I of the Indonesian People's Representative Assemby (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat), TB Hasanuddin made in Jakarta on Saturday (12/01/2013) criticising the comments by Major General Lere. Mr Hasanuddin was the military secretary during the administration of the government headed by Megawati Sukarnoputri.

An english translation of the report on Inilah.com noted that Mr. Hasanuddin said that "You can not arbitrarily arrest citizens of other countries, including Timor-Leste soldiers trying to arrest Hercules. Of course we find this regretful." He further noted that there are rules and regulations for arresting anyone.

"There should be a political decision between the two countries. Anyway, why has the East Timorese Military Commander spoken like this?"

Source: Timor Post 08/01/2013, East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin 15/01/2013plasamsnberita, Inilah.com Edited by Warren L. Wright

Military continues inappropriate interventions in public affairs in Timor-Leste

ETLJB 10 January 2013 - The chief of the East Timor Defence Forces, Major General Lere Anan Timor, continues his rampages of inappropriate interfere in public affairs with more extraordinary statements regarding East Timorese citizens who were supporters of autonomy who are still in Indonesia but who may wish to return to their homeland.

According to an English translation of a report published by Timor Post on 08 January 2013, the Major General has publicly stated during his speech at a certificate award ceremony for members of the clandestine resistance organization “Sacred Family”, held at Suku Bidau-Santana, Dili, Saturday 6 January last that “I have heard that our fellow Timorese who are living in Atambua [Indonesia] want to return to Timor-Leste.  I do not agree with this, despite some of our political leaders strong desire to use this as a means to promote national unity,” declared General Lere

The Timor Post report continues : "The one time guerrilla commander stated that his reason for disagreeing with the return of pro-autonomy Timorese living in Atambua is his concern it will lead to conflicts over land ownership and other issues between Timorese who currently live in and those wanting to return to Timor-Leste.

He is reported further to have said that those Timorese who return from Atambua to live in Timor-Leste no longer have a right to claim any resources they left behind in Timor-Leste or their birthplace."

This is the latest outburst from the leader of East Timor's military in a series of reported comments on matters of public policy which have been reported by ETLJB including, in addition to earlier remarks about East Timorese returning to their homeland,  the declaration of an unconsitutionally-discriminative recruitment policy for the armed forces and the torture and deprivation of basic rights of citizens accused of creating instability.

Image of Hercules
At the same time, Major General Lere also made more inappropriate public comments regarding the entry into East Timor of a former East Timorese name Hercules. Hercules has been described as "the king of the gangsters" who was involved in protection rackets, extortion, gambling and prostitution in Jakarta in the 1990's. He had close links with Soeharto-era generals - including an officer charged by the United Nations with orchestrating the destruction of East Timor after the 1999 independence ballot as he and his gang served as enforcers for the Soeharto regime, intimidating political dissidents and East Timorese independence activists.*

Hercules was also implicated in the attempted assassination of the then President Jose Ramos Horta and the attack on Prime Minister Gusmao in 2008. Hercules visited Dili with a high-powered Indonesian business delegation three weeks before the attempted assassination.

Following his recent visit again to Dili this month, Major-General was reported by Timor Post on 8 January 2013 as "strongly lamenting" Hercules' arrival on a flight at Comoro Airport. According to Major General Lere, Hercules was received by police "as if he were a President".

“To me, he (Hercules) has never been anyone of note. He may be as rich as rich can be but when you have never defended our struggle for national independence, then he is just another Timorese.  As for the police receiving him as if he were a President (head of state), that is just too much, and diminishes the dignity of Timor-Leste as nation,” Lere is reported to have said.

Further, according to the Timor Post report,there has been information circulating that this former autonomist supporter, who is now an Indonesian citizen, entered Timor-Leste carrying a firearm but was allowed to do so by the police despite them having known of this fact.

In this regard, Major General Lere is reported to have "promised that the next time he (Hercules) comes through, he will order that he be apprehended, and he (Lere) will assume all responsibility for having done so afterwards.

Of course, this would also be an entirely inappropriate and unconstitutional intervention by the chief of the defence forces because the military has no lawful role in enforcing the civil law.

*Source: Suharto's Infamous Gangster Hercules 'Link' to E. Timor Attacks The Sun Herald (Sydney, Australia) Sunday, March 16, 2008 Soeharto's Man Suspected By Lindsay Murdoch and Tom Hyland. Image: Timor Hau Nian Doben blog.

Source: Timor Post 08/01/2012, 26/11/2012, 03/01/2013, The Sun Herald 16/03/2008 and East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin.. Edited by Warren L. Wright

12 January 2013

Naktuka border dispute needs diplomacy, says MP Carmelita Moniz

ETLJB 12 January 2013 - Member of the East Timor National Parliament, Carmelita Moniz from the CNRT Party was reported by Suara Timor Lorosae on 8 January 2013 as saying that the issue of the border between East Timor and Indonesia at Naktuka in the District of Oecusse, needed to be resolved through diplomacy.

Ms.  Moniz appealed to both the Timorese and the Indonesian governments to settle the case by diplomacy to avoid conflict.

"The government of these two countries should resolve border dispute through diplomatic ways," she said.

Her remarks come following the torture and murder of an East Timorese man near Naktuka in which the Indonesian military (TNI) is suspected of involvement. Indonesia's National Army (TNI) members are suspected of being engaged in murdering one Timorese at Naktuka border recently.

The border between the two countries has been closed at the area in which the murder occurred while the case is being investigated.

For the purposes of the investigation, the Border Police Unit has proposed the establishment of temporary border posts in Naktuka as a way of avoiding more conflicts in the area. The Police Commissioner was reported by Radio Timor-Leste on 11 January 2012 as stating that the East Timor police command has already contacted the Indonesian National Army (Tentara Nasional Indonesia) to schedule a meeting to later this month to discuss security in the area as well as the establishment of temporary border posts.

Police Commissioner Monteiro said the aim of setting up the temporary post in Naktuka was to guarantee the security for the people and that "[the East Timorese} government has given a positive response to the proposal to establish a new temporary post." He added that the police were already deploying officers to the area to provide security for the local residents in Naktuka.

But the Commissioner also stressed that the incidents at the border near Naktuk were not only a matter of scurity bu also one of policy.

Independente reported on 11 January 2013 remarks by the Commissioner that the recent murder happened because the PNTL Border Unit (UPF) and the Indonesian National Army (TNI) failed in securing the place but also because of political issue in which the two countries had not yet finalised the demarcation of the border..

According to Independent, the Commissioner said that "the incident happened not only because of security issues but also the political issue which has not yet been  resolved regarding the border area in Naktuka. We therefore hope that in addition to resolving the security issue, the two governments will resolve the political issue regarding this part of the land border between Indonesia and Timor-Leste".

Sources: Suara Timor Lorosae 08/01/2013, Radio Timor-Leste 11/01/2013, Jornal Independents 11/01/2013  Edited by Warren L. Wright

Positions Vacant in East Timor with Counterpart International

Counterpart International, a global development organization, is seeking candidates for an upcoming USAID program in East Timor which will focus on local government. Positions include Finance Manager, Governance Team Manager, Access to Justice Manager, and Human and Organizational Capacity Building Specialist.

For nearly 50 years, Counterpart International - a global development organization - has been forging partnerships with communities in need to address complex problems related to economic development, food security and nutrition, and building effective governance and institutions.

Meeting of the Council of Ministers on 9 January 2013

ETLJB 12 January 2013 - The Presidency of the Council of Ministers has has released a press release summarising the Council's meeting of 9 January 2013. The press release follows:

The V Constitutional Government met on Wednesday, January 9, 2012*, in the meeting room of the Council of Ministers at the Government Palace in Díli, and approved the following:

1. Decree-Law that approves the Organic Law of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Environment

This law establishes the structure of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Environment, in compliance with Decree-Law n.º 41/2012 of 7 September, which approved the Organic Law of the V Constitutional Government and the Program of the V Constitutional Government of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.

The structure of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Environment adapts to new realities and missions of the Ministry in respect to economic development and provision of quality public services.

2. General cleaning Initiative in Dili on 11 January

The V Constitutional Government, following the work undertaken by the previous Government, decided to continue to invest in preserving the environment and improving the quality of life of residents in Díli, and approved a day dedicated to general cleaning of the capital.

On January 11, the Government hopes to have the cooperation of all State organs and institutions, as well as the general population to, in this joint initiative towards declaring in the future that Díli is a clean city and free of rubbish.

Also considered by the Council of Ministers:

1. End of the mandate of the National Elections Commission

Following the cessation of the mandate of the National Elections Commission (CNE) members, the Council of Ministers reviewed the art. 5. °, n.° 1, c), of Law n.° 5, 2006 of December 28 and the options for appointing CNE members for the term 2013-2019.

ETLJB Editor's Note: It appears that this date should be 2013.

Post author: Warren L. Wright

11 January 2013

Kirsty Sword-Gusmao recovering well following cancer surgery

Kirsty Sword-Gusmao with Xanana in Melbourne hospital after cancer surgery
Kirsty Sword-Gusmao with Xanana
ETLJB 11 January 2013 - Kirsty Sword-Gusmao, the Australian-born wife of East Timor's Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, is recovering well after surgery for cancer in a Melbourne hospital on 4 Janaury 2013.

Mrs Sword-Gusmao's prognosis is very good with pathology tests showing that she is completely clear of the cancer after having a tumour removed from her left breast along with most of the left lymph nodes. According to her doctors, the tumour was removed with a clear margin and only one lymph node was diagnosed as affected by the cancer.

It is likely, however, that she will undergo radiotherapy and hormone treatment in the months ahead in order to ensure that there is no recurrence of the cancer. Chemotherapy is also a possible additional treatment that she may have to undergo.

Prime Minister Gusmao was in Australia during his wife's treatment and returned to Timor-Leste on Monday, 7 January 2013.

We wish Mrs Sword-Gusmao a speedy recovery and the best of health in the future.

10 January 2013

Border between Timor-Leste and Indonesia closed following torture and murder of Timorese man by "foreigners"

Map showing location of Oecusse District in East Timor
Map showing Oecusse District
ETLJB 10 January 2012 - Following the torture and murder of an East Timorese man in the enclave of Oecusse in East Timor in which the Indonesian military has been implicated, the border between the two countries at Naktuka has been closed pending the investigation into the death.

An English translation of a report published by Jornal Independente on Wednesday, 09 January 2013, stated that the governments of Timor-Leste and Indonesia have temporarily closed off movement through the Naktuka Border Crossing, in the Subdistrict of Nitibe, District of Oecussi.

Movement by citizens of the two nations through the border crossing will not be allowed while the police search for the perpetrators of the killing a Timorese man and the burning of a number of houses recently at the Naktuka border area.

Last month, a “Lia Nain” (Tetum for traditional “lore man”) named Fisen Falo was killed in the border area in question while working in his field and a number of houses were also burnt by unidentified persons.

The Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Constancio Pinto, said that the government still has no knowledge of the identity of the killer or killers.

“We do not know who it was who killed him, and this matter is still being investigated the police,” Constancio told journalists is his office on 8 January last.

Constancio also appealed to the people of Naktuka to remain calm because the identity of the perpetrators of these crimes will only be established through an investigation.  Constancio said that currently the Border Patrol Unit and the Indonesian National Armed Forces have closed the border area around Naktuka so as to prevent movement from one side to another by the population of both the Indonesian and Timor-Leste sides of the border.

“It is to temporarily prevent dislocation from the other side (NNT) to our side (Naktuka) as well as from Naktuka to the other side (NTT),” said Constancio.  Nor have the perpetrators of the arson of the homes of the Naktuka residents been identified, Constancio added.

The border area at Naktuka has been the subject of contention on previous occasions. On 4 March 2011, Diario Nacional published a report that MP Duarte Nunes from the East Timor National Parliament's Committee B for Defence and Security said that Indonesian National Armed Force (TNI) soldiers had illegally entered the country in the area of Naktuka.

Nunes said that the TNI soldiers entered the border calling on local residents there not to hold any activities in the disputed land area and further said that he had been informed by the Timorese National Police (PNTL) commander that the TNI soldiers had twice crossed the country's border illegally. At the time, the MP called on the Government to speed up the process of resolving the border demarcation between Timor-Leste and Indonesia, so that local residents in the area could remain calm.

Sources: Jornal Independente 9/01/2013 and Diario Nacional 04/11/2011. Edited by Warren L. Wright

09 January 2013

Governance and Authority in Timor-Leste

ETLJB 09 January 2013 Guest Poster: Matthew Libbis BA (Hons) Anthropology* - East Timor has its own system of governance structures that are consistent across different regimes and ethno-linguistic groups. The resistance to Indonesia was built upon these, and added a few of its own. The incoming government also sought to draw upon customary authority as well as positions in the resistance as a basis for civil society along with local non government organisations.

The traditional authority roles include the liurai, king or overlord, liman badain, healer, matan dook, seer and lianain, the keeper of the words, or storyteller, who may also look after the sacred house, the uma lulik, in which sacred rituals are conducted, and sacred goods kept.

The keeper of the sacred house may be called katuas lulik nain or katuas do fukun (the famliy’s central house, where their ancestral goods are kept). The ritual leaders are responsible for the tara bandu, which proscribes certain activities and prescribes others, There is also the katuas ai kemili, the keeper of the sandalwood, in areas where it still grows. In the past, all produce from the land was owed to the liurai of the area. People also had to perform service for him.

Resistance organisations included Organização Popular de Mulher Timor (the Popular Organisation of East Timorese Women, OPMT), Organização de Mulher Timor (Organisation of East Timorese Women, OMT), Renetil, the Resistencia Nacional dos Etudantes de Timor Leste (National Resistance of East Timorese Students), OJETIL, Organização da Juventude e Estudante de Timor Leste (Organisation of East Timorese Youth and Students) and the Student Solidarity Council.

As well as the command structure of the resistance army, there were also community positions, such as coodinador jeral, head of security, and apelo, which was a card carried by the go between from the village to the guerrillas, the carrier of which also going by that title. People in the villages knew who held these positions, and those people held continued influence in the community. The United Nations security forces continued to consult with the security chief until they handed over administration to the Timorese in 2002.

Each suco, village, has a chief, as will each aldiea, hamlet, within the suco. The priest also has a significant and influential role in the community. There is a history of ritual sacrifice to crocodiles (Capell 1944:212), and although it is no longer practiced, it still provides a way of rationalising or understanding such an attack.[i] As an example of how people incorporate old ways into the new, when a child was taken by a crocodile, the village was able to explain this as the village being cleansed of its sins.

On the eve of independence, there  was talk of a tax on cockfights. Much discussion took place in the community about whether the amount of U$1 would be levied for the whole event, or if it would be for each fight, in which case would it be the winner who was liable to pay it. Further debate ensued about whether the money should go to the central government or the district administration. Some of the senior men, sitting beneath coconut palms drinking tua mutin (palm wine), considered that the collected tax should remain within the suco, or the subdistrict, if people from other suco were participating in the event.

The liurai of Timor met in Dili in 1911 to formulate a plan in which they were to invite the Portuguese to leave and assume self-rule amongst themselves. The liurai of Manufahi returned home to find that his uncle and aunty had been arrested for beheading the local administrator. According to oral histories, they did so because the administrator had molested their daughter.  Boaventura led a rebellion against the Portuguese. He did not seek to be king of all of Timor, only of his domain alongside his brother liurai.

The brothers, however, were not united, and helped the Portugal eventually crush the rebellion. The colonial government  revoked any vestiges of power that the king may have had, and even abolished the district for a time. When he died, Boaventura  had one daughter, and to assume regency, she would have to had married another liurai. This did not happen, so even without the Portuguese intervention the succession stopped according to indigenous law.

Boaventura’s daughter did marry and have children. When the Fretilin party stepped in to fill the void left by a hastily decolonising Portugal, they consulted her about what the liurais plans were for independence.  Indonesia tried to cajole her children into taking positions with them to lend the occupiers some local legitimacy. At independence, many locals wanted the offspring to assume their rightful role, but they just wanted to continue on the path towards democratic independence. Even then, there was some dispute over who was the legitimate heir, so any attempt at succession would have been fraught to invite trouble.

Marriage is the predominant regulator of the social system, with who is to marry whom, and where they shall live, and which village the children of the marriage will belong to being negotiated at length before an arrangement can be made. Marriage determines who will help whom in times of sickness, crisis or war. Marriage alliances forge obligations to help with house building, provide buffalo for ceremonies, or food during a famine, and carry out other ritual functions. It may mean killing a person who has wronged the family, or paying for a funeral.  Any breaches of these protocol are punishable by ostracism.

Not adhering to expected governance norms attracts consequences, with accusations of witchcraft, instances of conflict and a resolution required. A man who held the belak (breast plate) in the uma lulik had died, and the belak was transmitted to the son, who had moved out of the village and into his wife’s village when they married. The belak cannot leave the uma lulik; rather, the son should move into the house, as it is the house that preserves the lineage of the family, not the person. He did not want to do this, and when he took it to his home, there was a furore that this would bring bad luck to the village, and he had to return it and make reparations to the community.

Another man who tried to help corn grow by throwing dirt from a certain place amongst his crops, as his grandfather had shown him, was accused by his neighbours of black magic, of causing the death of their son by throwing soil from a place in the cemetery where the ground is sacred. After a three hour mediation, it was resolved that the man should return the soil to the cemetery and sacrifice a buffalo. The man refused, and offered a pig, but the aggrieved complained that this would not be enough to feed everyone.

When returnees from forced repatriation returned to their homes and found people living in their house, those people knew that they would have to leave, but were incensed that the owners wrote a letter to Xanana to have them removed rather than going through the correct procedure – the process of eviction should be handled at suco level: they were not perturbed about having to move, but in the way it was done.

With the dismantling of the resistance, people started forming their own organisations, or making the transition from resistance cells to civil society, often to honour their parents’ sacrifice to free their country. It became apparent in the lead up to independence that these groups were being joined by disaffected people with nothing to lose who were open to political manipulation by opportunistic politicians, and others who may be wealthy or influential, who teach them what their rights in a democratic, free and independent country are, but not what to do with those rights, or what obligations go along with those rights. These groups were not accountable to anyone: their potential was fulfilled with the Crisis of 2006.

The authority structure is elected now, although people still tend to vote the liurai into office of any way, as that is the natural order; unless they really don’t like him, which gives them a voice. There is a quota for a number of positions for women to hold office, which sits well with the groundwork laid by OMT and OPMT, who had by now begun setting up sewing and tais (textile) workshops for women, as well as English language classes. In the traditional authority structure, the liman badain for fertility is a woman, usually the liman badain’s wife.

A major problem was that the lianain had been killed without proper succession having occurred, as it is handed from father to son. Everyone knows the stories, but may not repeat them unless they are the designated owner of the words, or else they will become ill, or a member of their family may even die. The community overcame this dilemma by utilising the newly introduced mechanism of election, and voted for a new storyteller, which bestowed official authority on that person to perform that function.

In an example of self fulfilling self determination, a truck that was heading along the southern coastal road at sunset to set up for the following day’s market was overloaded with boxes and passengers, with people piled on top of produce, all unsecured,  to stop it from falling off the truck. The police stopped the truck. The UN police explained, through the East Timorese police acting as interpreters, the principles of road safety. They then let the truck continue; the people on the back of the truck, however, left laughing and hooting, to which the UN police commander took exception. He pursued the truck, and instructed the Timorese commander to tell everybody to get down from the truck, and that the driver could take the five strongest men to help unload the truck and return to collect the others. No-one moved.

The commands were repeated, with the addition that no-one would be going anywhere until everybody had gotten down from the truck. The UN commander was also explaining his reasoning to the Timorese police, that it was an exercise in respect, professionalism and leadership, and not a personal vendetta nor an abuse of power. This was not translated to the people on the truck. The UN commander told the driver that he could not go anywhere with these people on the truck, but repeated that he could take five men to unload then return for the others, and gave him U$5 for the petrol.

Eventually the driver coaxed the people down from the truck, and took off with women and children.  The UN commander followed the truck to make sure it did not stop around the corner to reload the other people. While waiting there, a number of the young men approached the East Timorese police and complained of the abuse of power, that they are now free from oppression and that the UN should not be treating them like this.  The UN commander returned and again explained through the Timorese police that it is a matter of respecting the police, and that this is an exercise in safety, and handed cigarettes around. By this time, it seemed that the Timorese commander was grasping what the UN commander meant, and explained the concept to the young men.

Their earlier response of hooting and jeering apparently had been to one of the Timorese officers who had taken an abrasive tone, a personal attack which they felt warranted a derisory response.  They complained that they would have to walk all the way to the market, because the women and children that the driver had taken with him could not unload the truck, and that by the time they got there it would be dark, which would make it more difficult, in addition to which the police had imposed a curfew on activity in the market after dark because of drunkenness and fighting.

Eventually the UN commander told the biggest men to get in his car and he would take them to the Market where they could help unload the truck. He was back five minutes later. The truck had stopped not far up the road, its load spiling over: the only way to keep it on was for the men to sit on it until they got it to market. So they did.

[i] Capell, A (1944), ‘People and languages of East Timor’, Oceania, 14:191-219

*Matthew Libbis conducted anthropological fieldwork from 2000 to 2002 in East Timor, focusing on how the population was making the transition from occupation into independence. In addition to exploring socially sustaining institutions such as marriage, ritual and customs, his research was guided by prevailing issues that most concerned and affected the community, such as tensions between food production and participation in the formal economy, as well as more pressing issues of housing and reconciliation. He returned to East Timor from 2006 to 2008 following the Crisis that ripped the country apart to work in rebuilding the shattered civil society and governance structures. He has more recently been working in community resilience, social inclusion policy implementation, and humanitarian and disaster management, mitigation and recovery.  He may be contacted at malibbis-at-gmail.com

Murder, attempted murder, sex crime against a minor, assaults and domestic violence hearings in Dili District Court, November 2012

ETLJB 09 January 2013 - The Judicial System Monitoring Program has released the English translation of its report on trials in the Dili District Court during the month of November 2012. The report follows.

In November 2012 JSMP continued its normal monitoring activities at the Dili District Court.

For approximately one month JSMP observed 11 cases, which were all criminal in nature. These cases comprised: 3 cases of domestic violence, 1 case of aggravated murder, 2 cases of ordinary maltreatment, 1 case of serious maltreatment, 1 case of attempted murder, 2 cases involving the crime of corruption, falsification of documents and fraud as well as 1 case involving the sexual abuse of a minor.

Just like previous editions, this summary aims to disseminate information about the trial process at the Dili District Court during November 2012.

The following information provides a summary of cases tried:

1.      Domestic Violence, Case No. 413/C.Ord/2012/TDD

On 5 November 2012 the Dili District Court conducted a trial in a case of domestic violence involving the defendant ADC who allegedly committed the crime against FG (his wife). This incident allegedly occurred on 18 October 2011, in Mascarenhas Village, Balide, Dili.

This case was presided over by judge António do Carmo. The Public Prosecution Unit was represented by Nelson de Carvalho, and the defendant was represented by Emilio Marques who was appointed by the court.

08 January 2013

Indonesian military suspected of torturing and murdering East Timorese citizen in Oecusse

ETLJB 08 January 2013 In an incident with negative implications for relations between East Timor and its giant neighbour and former occupier, Indonesia, members of the Indonesian military are suspected of having tortured and murdered an East Timorese citizen in the border town of Naktuka in the enclave of Oecusse, according to a report in daily newspaper Suara Timor Lorosae yesterday, 08 January 2012.

The State Secretary for Security, Francisco da Costa Guterres said the Timorese Government is investigating the death and it is reported that the deceased man was believed to have been tortured.

“We have not yet identified the cause of our citizen’s death, but it is believed he was tortured before being killed,” he said.

Timor Post also reported that State Secretary for Security Guterres told journalists at the Police residence at Batugade in Bobonaro on 5 January that “We have sent police officers to investigate the case, but we have not yet obtained any further information and we are still discussing the problem as the deceased was suspected of being tortured by foreigners.”

According to Radio Televizaun Timor Leste, the elderly man from Naktuka village was tortured to death by unknown people in the end of 2012. According to the community in the area, the man was in his field farming when the foreigners came to torture him.

Related report: More shootings by Indonesian military at Timor-Leste citizens engaging in illegal trade 

See also Border between Timor-Leste and Indonesia closed following torture and murder of Timorese man by "foreigners"

Sources: Suara Timor Lorosae, Timor Post, RTTL. Edited by Warren L. Wright

Defence Force Chief says those creating instability will be beaten until they bleed, dunked in water and starved in prison

ETLJB 08 January 2013 In an extraordinary outburst, the Chief of the East Timor Defence Forces, Major General Lere Anan Timor, is reported to have said that those who create instability in Timor-Leste in 2013 will be arrested, beaten until they bleed, dunked in water and starved in prison.

According to an English translation of a report in the daily newspaper Timor Post on 3 January 2013 originally published in the Tetum language, the Major General made the remarks after meeting with the President, Taur Matan Ruak (Lere's predecessor as armed forces chief).

"As Major General I agree that in 2013 we do not want to tolerate young people who make problems.  When the UN was here, we confused each other with human rights, not now.  I tell you that with Timorese, we have to slap them until they bleed before they run away, so the delinquent youth should be careful because this is the year when we will truly govern ourselves as a nation," Lere told journalists  at the Presidential Palace, Bairro Pite, Wednesday 2 January last.

The report also states that the Major General stressed that those youth wanting to create problems will be arrested, dunked in water and beaten before being jailed, but said that it would not the type of jailing where they are fed, nor where they will be able to demand bread and milk. 

In addition, unruly youth will be put into forced labour. The Timor Post report continues: "the youth of the nation should be careful not to make problems for the country, because the State will not tolerate anybody creating instability, and those doing so will end up being sent to jail in Natarbora or Betano where they will be forced to cultivate the rice paddies."

See also Xanana Threatens to Starve Youth Engaging in Criminal Conduct

Source: Timor Post. Edited by Warren L. Wright

06 January 2013

Domestic Violence Cases in the Dili District Court November 2012

ETLJB 06 January 203 The Judicial System Monitoring Program has released the English translation of the Women's Justice Unit report on monitoring of domestic violence cases in the Dili District Court in November 2012. The report follows.

In November 2012, the Women’s Justice Unit (WJU) observed 4 cases involving gender based violence that were processed at the Dili District Court.

This summary only focuses on cases of gender based violence, as the WJU works in the area of gender issues and conducts efforts to promote women’s access to the formal justice system. This summary has been made possible through financial support from the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta.

The following information provides a summary of cases tried:

1. Assault against physical integrity, Case No. 405/2012/TDD

Dili District Court
Court actors: Single Judge: Antonio Helder do Carmo Public prosecutor: Remizia de Fatima Silva Public Defender: Câncio Xavier

Conclusion: The complaint was withdrawn and the court verified an amicable settlement

On 6 November 2012 the Dili District Court tried this case. The public prosecutor stated that on 11 February 2012 the defendant choked the victim and used his nails to scratch her on the back. His actions caused the victim to suffer injuries on her back. This incident allegedly occurred at the Casaminha Disco in Dili.

The public prosecutor stated in his indictment that the defendant had violated Article 145 of the Penal Code as well as violating the Law Against Domestic Violence.  

During the trial the defendant stated that he is still single/not married. The victim also stated that she is still single. However, they explained that they had lived together in Australia and English but they were no longer living as husband and wife.

Case Summary from the Oecusse District Court for the fourth week of November 2012

ETLJB 06 January 2013 The Judicial System Monitoring Program has released the English translation of its monitoring report on the Oecusse District Court for the period 20 - 23 November 2012. The report is as follows.


For approximately one week between the 20th and 23rd November 2012 JSMP monitored six cases that were tried at the Oecusse District Court.

All of these six cases involved domestic violence. Five of these cases were decided and the other case is still being processed.

The five decisions took the form of fines ranging between US$ 30 - 45.

Just like previous editions, this summary aims to disseminate information about the trial process at the Oecusse District Court during the fourth week of November 2012.

The information below outlines the hearings conducted:

1.     Domestic Violence, Case No. 126/C.ord/2011/TDO

 On 20 November 2012 the Oecusse District Court held a trial in Case No. 126/C.Ord/2011/TDO. This case involved the defendant Silvestre Neno who was accused of committing the crime against the victim Juana Colo on 14 June 2011 in Naimeco Village, Pante-Makassar Sub-District.

The hearing started with the reading out of the indictment by the public prosecutor. The indictment stated that on 14 June 2011 at approximately 12pm the defendant was searching for a key to some drawers to get some clothes, however because the key was missing the defendant damaged the drawers. Then victim and the defendant then argued and the defendant struck the victim on the side of the head and the victim suffered bruising and swelling.

In relation to the aforementioned facts, the public prosecutor charged the defendant with Article 145 of the Penal Code on ordinary maltreatment as well as Articles 2, 3, and 35 (b) of the Law Against Domestic Violence.

05 January 2013

Land use, practice and tenure in south central East Timor: some illustrations

ETLJB 05 January 2013 [Updated 08 January 2012] Guest Poster: Matthew Libbis BA (Hons), Anthropology* - Along the southern coast of central East Timor is a hamlet whose ancestral home is in the hills, which is where they say they are from, no matter where they live, or were born. 

The hamlet was there at the time of the Second World War, and people fled to their homelands in the hills, where most of the villagers still lived, to escape the Japanese, who were sending in fighter aircraft to strafe the Australian soldiers based near the hamlet.[i]
People returned to the hamlet after the war, but again fled when Indonesia invaded. Indonesia moved the entire Tetun village down from the hills, to prevent them assisting the resistance, and settled them along the coast. People from the hamlet that was there during WWII again fled the militia in 1999; however, the more recent arrivals from the village stayed on their new lands.

Indonesia first moved the population onto lands that had a pre-existing Mambai population. The resultant conflicts between the groups over land claims caused Indonesia to remove the newcomers to an uninhabited location further east along the coast.  Nevertheless, conflicts continued between the two villages.

When the militia started shooting livestock and burning crops and houses and trees, instead of fleeing, the village warned the militia that the resistance army, Falintil, was based in their ancestral lands, just a few kilometres up the hill behind the village, and if they did not stop their rampaging, Falintil would attack them.

Totally false, of course, as Falintil was in cantonment by this stage; but it had the desired effect, and the village, who wanted to retain the new found land, was saved from further destruction; however, some were still left homeless, and others were forcibly taken across the border to Atambua. 

In another village consisting of six hamlets that was moved down from the hills, four of the hamlets decided to return to their ancestral lands; the other two decided to stay, having formed bonds such as marriage and trade with neighbouring residents, while retaining their connection to the village. 
One man who had grown up on his parents’ plot in the hills and left to join the resistance at the age of 15 years, returned to stake his claim to his family’s land. It was rugged terrain with wild growth, but it was still fenced off. He visited the neighbours, who remembered his parents planting trees and building fences, and him living and playing there as a child, which would support his claim to traditional title. 

This former resistance fighter also established a non government organisation to cultivate fields that transmigrants had abandoned in 1999. Groups of five local members of clandestine cells collectively farmed two hectares each.

A dam had been built at a nearby river to irrigate 680 hectares, but after one good season for the NGO, the dam collapsed and the fields dried out. The people working the transmigrant land went back to their family plots; only the original Bunak inhabitants remained. But they too had come to rely on the dam to irrigate their fields. 

The neighbouring Mambai dam part of a stream with rocks and mud, and channel water into bamboo pipes to their fields. The Bunak did not, and their crops withered. They know there is a better system, so don’t want to go back to the old ways. They want someone to fix the dam and the irrigation channels that have silted up.  The Bunak say that if there is no water, the crops die, and they will die; others consider them lazy: according to a Mambai man with irrigated fields, they have the knowledge to irrigate, but would rather fuck and sleep than work.

An Australian construction company was contracted to pave the road along the coast, and employed and trained local staff to work on rotation on the project; but the people would only work near their homes. The company explained that they would collect and return the workers to their homes each day, but this missed the point that developing land by building a road gives people claim to that land. 

The company was further frustrated when it reached the border of the Mambai village from which they had recruited, and the Tetun village which had resisted the militia, as there was no way that still feuding groups were going to let each other work on their land, so the company had to recruit and train a new bunch, blowing out their budget and schedule. 

The company was collecting sand and rocks from the river, a matter which concerned a UN land and property lawyer, who requested the Environment Protection Authority investigate. The EPA found that the practice had degraded the environment, but the company argued that the work was done now, and could not be undone. The subsequent wet season washed away the road where the rock and sand had been removed, leaving the bridge crossing the river inaccessible and the residents beyond it isolated. 

The same river divides the majority of the Mambai and Bunak populations who live in that area, although some from each group do live either side of the river. When they fish in the sea, they will do so on their respective Mambai (east) and Bunak (west) sides of the mouth of the river, no matter which side they actually live on.

Spatial orientation has ritual significance: the Tetun bury their dead in an east-west orientation, with the headstone to the east so that when the soul rises it travels in that direction towards heaven. The orientation of east and west reflects a wider social behaviour, where male is represented by the right side, female by the left side. As one faces east, the wild sea of the southern coast to the right side takes the male name, tasi mane; the calm sea on the left and to the north is female, tasi feto. At a wedding, the wife’s family take the meat from the left side of the buffalo, husband’s family from the right. From the (female) interior of a house, as one faces the (male) outside, the left side of the house is female, the male side right. This is further represented by carved roof beam endings; the female ones inside, on which sacred goods are hung; the male beams outside, on which anything can be hung. In the sacred  houses overseen by women, the sacred goods are kept on the left side of the roof; in male houses they are kept on the right side. 

Secondary displacement became a problem with people being repatriated from forced evacuation to find others whose houses had been destroyed now occupying theirs. They still had the skills and materials to build wooden and thatch houses, so set about doing this. 

It takes 10 to 12 men five to seven days to build a house of 6x5 meters, five metres high. The only tool is katana (machete): straight one for the delicate work, intricate ornate decoration, as well as the male and female beams described above, which the old men tend to perform; and a large, curved katana that the younger men use for the more arduous labour – especially roof assembly, which requires tremendous dexterity and strength.

On a house of this size there are eight vertical beams of three metres in length, buried one metre in the ground, with three cross beams of six metres, and two of five metres, and a horizontal roof beam of two metres. All angled roof beams are seven metres. Twine is twisted around the beams and left to dry[ii].

Local eucalypt or teak is used for the beams; the gebang palm is folded and dried for two to four weeks to thatch the roof. Coconut palm was used for roofing in some early rebuilding after 1999 when surviving trees were scarce, but this does not keep out the water.

The construction and architecture of traditional houses in the region are illustrated in the images below.

Approximately half the population prepare their fields by burning, the other half plough the soil. Those whose houses are away from the fields tend to burn, while those who live in houses on their fields, quite sensibly, turn the soil rather than burn the unwanted growth. 

Where there is doubt over transmission of land, edlers’ memories of who has worked the land are relied upon.  Should a dispute arise, it is settled in the customary way of the contesting parties sitting down with the elders and negotiating. Animals are not sacrificed unless some wrongdoing is deemed to have occurred, and the wrongdoer is required to sacrifice a pig or a goat, or if the offence is great, a buffalo. 

A wet rice field in a Mambai area of 10 hectares supports 15 families, with enough rice to eat and leftover to sell. Trampling the fields take 12 to 15 men a month, using 20 to 30 buffalo; while women collect seedlings which they then plant in paddies.

In contrast to the above illustration of conflict and claims to land, there was one instance of a group of eight Tetun families each having a one hectare plot for wet rice cultivation in the irrigated Mambai ricefields.

Plots are divided into heban,or padis, of 30 metres by 90 metres, and cultivation is done on a monthly rotation. There is not enough irrigated land to let any plots to lie fallow. They also grow other crops and have fruit trees and are largely self sufficient. They have chickens and goats, but not pigs as they eat the rice. They hire buffalo to plough the fields from someone in their own village in exchange for rice, or use a hand tractor. They eat the produce and don’t sell any. They share the rice with family members who help them, and they help with their corn and housebuilding when not busy in the ricefields.

Men use a sabit ki’ik (small sickle) to koa (cut, harvest) the rice and sabit bo’ot (big sickle) to clear the weeds, and a hoe to build the heban walls (kabubu). Rice is planted in a small field, then the women collect the seedlings for planting in the broader area.  The families live for about a month in the huts in the fields when the most intensive work is required. 

People who need wetland co-ordinate with people already living there to get unused land. There is no financial transaction, but it is the responsibility of those who are moving in to fence off land from marauding buffalo, pigs and goats. The people moving in still say that they are from their ancestral homeland, and even say that these plots are part of their village. This did not cause any conflict with their Mambai neighbours. In Tetun areas, only if people cultivate land does it become part of village; if people only have a house or a shop, they don’t bring the name of their land with them.

Images illustrating the construction and architecture of houses in the area of the southern coast of central East Timor. (Click on the image to see an enlarged view).

Image 1 As an alternative to using traditional and locally available materials, people flatten out tin barrels to use in the construction of walls and fences. Copyright 2002 Matthew Libbis
Image 2 A raised house with low-hanging eaves, under which cornand other produce is hung to keep out of the reach of livestock and wildlife. Copyright 2002 Matthew Libbis
Image 3 Charred walls and roof beams reveal the aftermath of ritual fires inside that accompany childbirth. The smoke is detrimental to the health of mother and child. Copyright 2002 Matthew Libbis

Image 4 The eastern doors are closed, with no access, and are only open to welcome new life (by marriage or childbirth) as is the custom amongst the Tetun (see Francillon). Copyright 2002 Matthew Libbis
Image 5 Not all houses are constructed in the traditional style, with modern planing of wood, and internal supports. Copyright 2002 Matthew Libbis
Image 6 Diagonal roof beams are carved to nestle thehorizontal beam, which are layered alternately above and below and bound with twisted twine to hold in place. Copyright 2002 Matthew Libbis

[i] Australian veterans wrote about this, eg: Callinan, B (1953) Independent Company: The Australian Army in Portuguese Timor 1941–43, London: William Heinemann

[ii] Francillon describes in intricate detail the structural purpose of houses of the Tetun of Wehale in southern West Timor, which has many parallels with the Tetun of central southern East Timor. One was the eastern window being permanently covered, which was also observed in the hamlet beginning this piece, but a meaning for which was never ascertained. (Francillon, G (1967) Some matriarch aspects of the social structure of the southern Tetun of middle Timor, unpublished PhD thesis, Canberra:ANU)

*Matthew Libbis conducted anthropological fieldwork from 2000 to 2002 in East Timor, focusing on how the population was making the transition from occupation into independence. In addition to exploring socially sustaining institutions such as marriage, ritual and customs, his research was guided by prevailing issues that most concerned and affected the community, such as tensions between food production and participation in the formal economy, as well as more pressing issues of housing and reconciliation. He returned to East Timor from 2006 to 2008 following the Crisis that ripped the country apart to work in rebuilding the shattered civil society and governance structures. He has more recently been working in community resilience, social inclusion policy implementation, and humanitarian and disaster management, mitigation and recovery.  He may be contacted at malibbis-at-gmail.com

03 January 2013

New Year: New Hopes for Timor-Leste

Fundasaun Mahein 27/12/2012 - 2012 was filled with countless remarkable political occurrences. The events were sequentially begun with the high level visits of the Secretary General of United Nations, Ban Kin Moon, to the first historical visit of the Secretary State of America, Hillary Clinton. Both of them, publicly and officially, expressed their compliments and credits to the government and the people of Timor-Leste for their inexhaustible efforts to build a strong democracy and thriving economy.

The 2 rounds of Presidential election and Parliamentary election were the evident of a growing strong democracy. As a result, the government and people of Timor-Leste were commended for a successful, free and fair election. It wasn't only elevating the image of Timor-Leste from a conflict fragile state to a growing vibrant democracy. Moreover, it was setting a strong conviction and a plausible political will that Timor-Leste is able to govern itself. This assertion certainly unfolds the International confidence and trust to the government of Timor-Leste to administer itself without the supervision of UN Mission.

In the security sector, Timor-Leste has made vast improvement. After the political crisis in 2006, Police Officers from more than 40 countries arrived to help with police duties, restore order and conduct training under UN mission.

Timor-Leste: The future and the Fifth Constitutional Government

Author: Agio Pereira, Minister of State and of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and Official Spokesperson for the Government of Timor-Leste Dili, Timor-Leste (East Timor)

It was the 8th August 2012. The appointed Prime Minister, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, after winning a historic election, and members of his government gathered in Solemn Hall in Lahane, the official presidential residence, to be sworn-in. After the two-hour ceremony was over, the Fifth Constitutional Government of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (VCG) came into being. This was around one 100 days ago; and that August the 8th also marked the complete five year mandate of the Fourth Constitutional Government. This was an important benchmark because, for the first time in history, Timor-Leste had a government that completed its full five-year mandate without interruption; and with a profound sense of optimism which the new government, the VCG, is expected to maintain, as it delivers further improvement across key areas of national development. 

It is, therefore, important to further outline some key reasons why 8 August 2012 not only marked a historic and positive occasion in the political history of the country, but also in the continued story of Timor-Leste’s development. First, this new government, the VCG, represented national stability and the promise of long-lasting peace in the context of a nation that since the 30th of August 1999had been supported by consecutive United Nations (UN) missions. At the start, it was UNAMET that organised the referendum, the Popular Consultation to determine whether the people of East Timor[i] preferred being within the Republic of Indonesia under an arrangement of special autonomy or detached from Indonesia completely to put an end to the illegal occupation, and become an independent and sovereign Nation-State. The result was unequivocal in favor of the latter

Within the realms of the May 5 Accord,[ii] the UN had to prepare the territory of East Timor for gaining full independence and sovereignty. This took two and a half years under the United Nations Transitional Authority for East Timor (UNTAET). On May 20, 2002, Timor-Leste became a sovereign and independent State. The ceremony of independence was named the Restoration of Independence, reflecting the previous unilateral declaration of independence made by Fretilin on November 28, 1975, in Díli, the capital of the territory known then as Portuguese Timor.[iii] The road towards the consolidation of independence and full sovereignty is an ongoing challenge Timor-Leste struggles with to ensure success. This is why understanding the importance of the Fifth Constitutional Government and all the challenges ahead remains crucial to the understanding the process towards consolidation of independence and national sovereignty. 

Beyond transition  

Timor-Leste commences liberalisation of telecommunications sector in 2013

ETLJB 03 January 2013 - The liberalisation of East Timor's telecommunication sector will commence this year, 2013. Since the restoration of independence in 2002, there has been only one telcom operator in East Timor, Timor Telecom but with reforms to the telecommunications laws enacted in 2012, two new operators will commence coverage of the nation this year.

Digicel (Digicel Pacific International), which is incorporated in Bermuda and provides services to the Caribbean, Central America and Asia-Pacific is well known for delivering best value, best service and best network and Telin (PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia International) won tenders to provide telecommunications services last year and it is expected that with new competition in the sector, prices will be reduced and the telecommunications infrastructure expanded to cover 90% of the population. Digicel committed to launching a mobile GSM and high speed 3G Internet networks that would provide access to over 91 percent of the population within four months.

Telin pledged to launch its services within six months and committed to reaching 94 percent of the population with its mobile GSM network as well as providing high speed 3G Internet access.

The cost of accessing telephone and internet in East Timor under the much-criticised Timor Telecom, was exceedingly high and it provided only limited coverage East Timor. The vast majority of the rural population could not access telephone and internet service because of the cost and lack of service.

Timor Telecom's outrageously high costs were US$900 per month for fixed line and 256 kbps and US$900 per month for high speed unlimited service. These prices were attributed to the cost of bandwidth on international services and the fact that Timor Telecom enjoyed a monopoly.

Sector reforms also include creating an independent regulator – the National Communications Authority – which will be charged with developing a programme to support universal access to areas that are less commercially viable and to ensure compliance with competition rules.

Source: macauhub. Edited by Warren L. Wright.

* Correction: The two new companies are, in fact, Telin/Telekomsel and Vietel - Digicel, unfortunately, declined.