27 February 2013

Dili Court hears violence, rape, land disputes and theft cases

ETLJB 27 February 2013 -  Summary of the trial process at the Dili District Court January 2013 The East Timor Judicial System Monitoring Program has released the English translation of its report on proceedings in the Dili District Court during the month of January 201. The report follows.

On 16 January 2013 all of the courts recommenced their operations after a judicial recess of one month. This summary describes hearings that took place at the Dili District Court. 

During January 2013 JSMP observed hearings related to 19 cases. These cases comprised 16 criminal cases and 3 civil cases.

These criminal cases comprised 10 cases of ordinary maltreatment, 1 case of serious maltreatment, 1 case of rape, 1 case of attempted rape, 1 case of serious maltreatment of a spouse, 1 case of aggravated property damage and 1 case of aggravated theft. There were also 3 civil cases, comprising 2 cases involving land disputes and 1 case of breach of contract.

In several of these cases a final decision was issued, and other trials were delayed for a range of reasons. Several trials were adjourned because defendants, victims and witnesses did not respond to court summons, one case was adjourned because the court did not follow the schedule for court hearings, and one case was adjourned because the judge was unable to appear due to an illness.

The following information provides a summary of cases tried:

1.      Crime of simple offence against physical integrity – Case No. 369/C.Ord/2012/TDD

Dili District Court      

Judge Composition : Single
Judge : Edite Palmira
Public Prosecutor: Vicente Brites
Public Defenders: : Joãozito Cardoso, and Sergio Lobo (trainee lawyer)
Conclusion: : Case closed

This matter was tried on 16 January 2013.  The public prosecutor alleged that the defendant committed the crime of a simple offence against physical integrity by punching and kicking the victim. This case allegedly occurred on 15 December 2011 in Becora, Dili.

During the trial, the victim Luis Mendes and the family of the deceased Avelino Pereira withdraw their complaint. Therefore, pursuant to Article 145 (2) of the Penal Code, the court decided to close this case.

2.      Land Dispute - Case No. 134/Civil/2010/TDD

Dili District Court      

Judge Composition : Single
Judge : Jacinta Correia
Lawyer for the plaintiff : Pedro Aparicio (private lawyer)
Lawyer for the respondent : José Gutteres (private lawyer)
Conclusion : Trial adjourned

On 16 January 2013 the Dili District Court adjourned a trial in a case involving a land dispute which was scheduled to be heard on the aforementioned date. The object of the dispute is located in Becora, Dili.

The trial was adjourned because the court failed to adhere to the schedule of hearings that had been prepared in advance and therefore the lawyer decided to go home. The adjournment occurred because the judge presiding over this matter was attending to another duty that could not be interrupted.

The land at the center of this dispute had been occupied by Chin Qoe Lien since Portuguese times and then in 2005 the land was sold to Fernando Silva.   However, a third party identified as Lay I Fa claimed that the land in dispute belonged to him.

26 February 2013

English translation published on-line: Traditional Knowledge of Timor

Image of cover of book entitled Matenek Lokal, Timor Nian!” (Traditional Knowledge of Timor!
ETLJB 26 February 2013 - The English translation of the book “Matenek Lokal, Timor Nian! (Traditional Knowledge of Timor!)” is now published on-line. 

The book was edited by Demetrio do Amaral de Carvalho and co-published by the Haburas Foundation, Timor Leste National Commission for UNESCO, and the UNESCO Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific in Jakarta.

The nine (9) papers in the book explore the various aspects of local and traditional knowledge and its relation to nature conservation, land management and natural resource management, and industry.

The book ends with a set of recommendations for promoting local and indigenous knowledge and how to it could be integrated into developmental policies.

The original book (entirely in Tetum language), its English translation, and a summary of the English translation can be downloaded from this link: http://portal.unesco.org/geography/en/ev.php-URL_ID=15178&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

Lawyers Disciplinary Management Council inaugurated

ETLJB 26 February 2013 - On Monday 11 February 2013 the Ministry of Justice inaugurated the Lawyers Disciplinary Management Council at the Legal Training Centre in Caicoli, Dili.

Seven active members were inaugurated: Nelinho Vital, as President; António Gonçalves; Fernando Lopes, Manuel Tilman; Pedro Aparício de Oliveira; and two other alternate members: Francisco de Araújo Almeida and Helena Pereira.

In accordance with the Minister of Justice, Dionísio Babo, ‘Timor-Leste has marked yet another milestone in the justice sector, for no Lawyers Council had been established so far. Thus, it is the intention of the Government to establish a Lawyers Disciplinary Management Council so that lawyers may legally provide legal assistance to our people who want peace so vehemently’.

Minister Dionísio Babo also stressed that ‘this Council was established with the financial support of the Government, through the Ministry of Justice, and that, in the future, there will be a Public Defense Office also financed by the State’.

Nelinho Vital, elected President of the Council, underlined that the ‘objective of the Lawyers Disciplinary Management Council is to defend the right of lawyers and to simultaneously take on the duty and responsibility in the face of the promotion of the lawyers disciplinary management. Since this is an independent profession, lawyers professional ethics needs to elevate the level of the services provided to the community, in accordance with law and public order.

After the inauguration, one of the activities of the Council will be to organize the functioning of the lawyers service through the registration and issuance of the lawyers professional cards. Source: Government of East Timor

Meeting of the Council of Ministers 23 January 2013

ETLJB 26 February 2013 - The V Constitutional Government of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste met on Wednesday January 23, 2013 in the meeting room of the Council of Ministers, Government Palace, in Dili, and approved the following:

1. Government Resolution approving the Rules of Procedure of the Council of Ministers

The objective of the statute is to render the meetings of the Council of Ministers more effective. The meetings will now be held on a fortnightly basis and there shall be preparatory meetings aimed at thoroughly analyzing and discussing technical issues relating to the legislative statutes. The need to provide a detailed explanation on each and every project has also been established so that the latter can be more easily understood by Government Members at the time of their discussion, including by the population for which the statute is intended.

It should be recalled that the Rules of Procedure of the Council of Ministers is an essential legal tool for the organization and the smooth functioning of the Government as a collective body and for the approval of quality legislation, i.e., a legislation deemed to be necessary, complete and understandable.

2. Government Resolution approving the extinguishment of the Commission for the Reverification of the Cases of Internally Displaced Persons in Timor-Leste

The Council of Ministers analyzed and discussed the work of the Commission for the Reverification of the Cases of Internally Displaced Persons in Timor-Leste. The Council concluded that no need exists for such Commission to persist and decided to extinguish it.

The following was also analysed by the Council of Ministers:

1. Household Income and Expenditure Survey – 2011

The Ministry of Finance presented to the Council of Ministers the Study on the Household Income and Expenditure Survey conducted in 2011.

The purpose of such survey is, on one hand, to assess the economic status of the families at the national level and, on the other hand, to collect data on the internal demand and improve the contents of the basket of goods and services used to calculate the Consumer Price Index.

The study was conducted over a period of one year and is aimed at mitigating the effects of seasonal variations in the results.

2. Development Policy Coordination Mechanism

The Council of Ministers analyzed the governing structure of the national development policy coordination mechanism and readjusted the new sectors in accordance with the guidelines of the Development Strategic Plan. The objective is to render the planned and executed measures more effective and efficient, including the dialogue between governmental authorities and development partners.

3. Update information on g7+, New Deal and Fragility Assessment

The Ministry of Finance provided the Council of Ministers with an update on the g7+, the New Deal and the Fragility Assessment following the achievements registered in 2012, notably the parallel meetings held during the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the meeting of the g7+ Ministers of Finance with the President of the World Bank in Tokyo, and the g7+ ministerial retreat held in Haiti.

The New Deal draws the attention of donors, governments and civil society to the State Building and Peace Building Goalsby applying a coordinated approach and establishing mutual trust between governments and donors in the development of a New Vision, a Plan for all countries that are part of the group. Initially, the New Deal will be implemented in seven countries, notably the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste, Liberia, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic.

The Minister of Finance, Emília Pires, who presides over the g7+, also provided the Council of Ministers with a progress report on the implementation of the New Deal in Timor-Leste, including the agenda of meetings to take place in 2013 in the framework of the g7+, the High Level Panel and the International Dialogue.

4. Collection of Inter-Ministerial Information on the process of Timor-Leste’s adhesion to ASEAN

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation provided the Council of Ministers with an updated account on the study conducted on the process of Timor-Leste’s adhesion to ASEAN. The study focused on the impact of the treaties and agreements which have already been signed and those yet to be signed, as well as on the need to strengthen areas such as the legislative system, infrastructures, small and medium-sized enterprises, agriculture and fisheries, food security and foreign economic relations.

The following ministries and secretariats of State took part in the study: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Environment, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Ministry of Tourism, Secretariat of State for Professional Training and Employment Policy, Secretariat of State for Support and Promotion of the Private Sector.

Source: Presidency of the Council of Ministers V Constitutional Government Dili, January 23, 2013 Press Release

25 February 2013

The Complexities of Timor-Leste-Indonesia Border Control

ETLJB 24 February 2013 - Following a series of incidents at the border between the East Timorese enclave of Oecusse and the Indonesian provice of Nusa Tenggara Timor over the last few months, including clashes between communities, the assault and murder of an East Timorese man and unknown groups running amok, Indonesian and East Timorese officials have met to discuss enforcing security along this particularly porous section of the international border.

The Jakarta Globe has reported (20/02/2013) on a meeting that was held on 19 February 2013 between officials from both countries to discuss enforcing security along a particularly porous section of their shared border.

Felixiano da Costa, the Timor Leste consul in Kupang, conceded that the situation on the border between Oepoli ward in Kupang and Oeccuse ward in Timor Leste was "quite complex" as it entailed longstanding cultural and family ties.

Ayub Titu Eki, the Kupang district head, said that due to the border splitting a community that for decades had lived together, simple enforcement of border integrity was not the best solution for addressing the high number of unauthorized crossings, intermarriages, social interactions and even property transactions.

"We can't rely just on the prevailing rules and regulations to resolve this border problem," he said. "We have to ensure that families split by the border can still meet one another."

The Oepoli-Oeccuse border runs through farmland along the Noel Besi River that is technically considered terra nullius — a Latin term meaning "land belonging to no one."

Residents living there continue to freely pass between the two countries.

"For instance, there are cases of Oepoli residents farming in Oeccuse, and vice versa,"  Ayub said.

"You also get people from one side getting married to someone from the other side, and similarly people who die in the area are sometimes buried on the other side of the border." Source: The Jakarta Globe 20/02/2013, ETLJB. Edited by Warren L. Wright

Related posts
More trouble at border with Indonesia as unknown group terrorises local residents 
TNI soldiers illegally enter Naktuka
Indonesian army attacks and destroys state facilities in Timor-Leste
Naktuka border dispute needs diplomacy, says MP Carmelita Moniz
More shootings by Indonesian military at Timor-Leste citizens engaging in illegal trade 
Border between Timor-Leste and Indonesia closed following torture and murder of Timorese man by "foreigners"
Border between Timor-Leste and Indonesia closed following torture and murder of Timorese man by "foreigners"
Indonesian TNI raises Merah Putih flag in Oe-cusse

24 February 2013

2013 State Budget of Timor-Leste unanimously approved

East Timor Parliament House. Image: ETLJB
ETLJB 24 February 2013 - On Monday the 18th of February the State Budget for 2013 was approved by the National Parliament with the vote of all 64 MP’s present, only one MP was absent at the time of the vote. This occasion marked a new era of cooperation and maturity in the Budget Process of Timor-Leste with all four parties represented in the 65-seat parliament voting in favor. The one abstention was due to the absence of one member from the house at the time of the vote.

Following the vote to approve the Budget in Generality taken on the 6th of February, discussions turned to the specific budgets for each entity of Government. On the 7th of February, in an effort to promote consensus, a proposal to create an inclusive committee to consider proposals for amendments to the budget, was accepted by members of Parliament. This committee consisted of the President and Vice President of National Parliament, six representatives of the opposition party FRETILIN, one representative of each of the three coalition parties and Presidents (or Vice Presidents) of the Standing Committees. Government members were able to participate in the work of the committee with the constant presence, as much as possible, of the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.

The committee had three days to collect, discuss and decide by consensus various proposals and amendments to the 2013 Budget in order to present suggested amendments to the plenary. Their proposed changes in the Budget Law, presented on the 14th of February, were accepted by Parliament and led to the unanimous final vote on Monday evening, the 18th of February.

The budget now stands at US $1.6 Billion, $150 Million less than the original proposal. This net reduction is the result of $193.3 Million in cost cutting plus $43.3 Million in additional funding. The biggest reduction was a $150 Million cut to the Infrastructure Fund. The additions totaling $43.3 million were made to support areas including the District Integrated Development Plan (PDID) for small local infrastructure, special needs of the PNTL and improvements to legal services in Díli. Planned withdrawals from the Petroleum Fund during 2013 have now been reduced to be in line with the Estimated Sustainable Income (ESI) amounting to $787 Million. In addition to these changes a clause has been placed within the Budget law stating that the Government must inform National Parliament when they approach an expenditure level of $1.3 Billion.

The Spokesperson for the Fifth Constitutional Government, Minister of State H.E. Ágio Pereira, noted “the constructive and inclusive approach of Budget deliberations over recent days has lead to an historic unanimous vote of approval in National Parliament. In this event we see evidence of a maturing political process in Timor-Leste, one which underscores the commitment across all parties to prioritize inclusive and sustainable development for the Timorese people. With the budget approved, we now focus on effective and efficient implementation to deliver quality services and benefits for all the citizens of our Nation. Beyond the budget process, this new conjuncture highlights the fact that, on matters of national interest, the Timorese are able to stand united above the interests of respective political parties.” Source: Government of East Timor Press Release 23 February 2013. Edited by Warren L. Wright

Parliament to expand oversight of Government in Timor-Leste

East Timor Parliament in session. Image: ETLJB
ETLJB 24 February 2013 - The National Parliament of East Timor will expand its oversight of the executive by regularly communicating with all Ministers about the implementation of programs.

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao was reported by Televizaun Timor-Leste on 22/02/2013 as saying that in the new political state affairs the Parliament would contact each minister to explain the progress they achieved in the implementation of their programs.

“There has been consensus that every three month the Parliament will contact each minister to explain progresses of their program implementation,” he said.

Gusmao said the objective of contacting each minister was to guarantee quality of the implementation of projects. He stressed that this was a proper way to measure progress of the programs implemented and to guarantee their quality. Source:
Televizaun Timor-Leste 22/02/2013. Edited by Warren L. Wright

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21 February 2013

Justice Minister Soares hails court's decision to jail former Justice Ministry official on corruption charges

ETLJB21 February 2013 - A former high official in the East Timor Justice Ministry has been sent to jail for his part in the corruption scandal that saw the former Minister for Justice, Lucia Lobato, jailed for 5 years over a procurement contract.

Mr Freitas was the Head of the Justice Ministry’s supply department at the time that the Ministry procured a contract for the supply of prison uniforms and faced charges over that procurement at the same time as Lucia Lobato was charged.

He was apparently found not guilty at the first trial in the Dili District Court but that decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal and he was found guilty of corruption.

Minister for Justice, Deonisio Babo was reported by Independente on the same day as saying that  he was proud of the development of justice in the country because recent decisions of the Courts had improved the credibility of the justice sector and bolstered the people's confidence in the judiciary.

Mr Soares is also reported to have said that the work of the Public Prosecution had resulted in good outcomes in the judicial process in Timor-Leste to try those who are involved in acts of crime; particularly high officials such as the former Justice Minister and her cohorts in corruption. Sources:  TVTL 24/01/2013, Independente 24/01/2013, ETLJB. Edited by Warren L. Wright

Related posts
Another former Minister faces criminal fraud charges
President's wife visits jailed former Justice Minister Lucia Lobato as lawyers plan to seek executive sentence reduction 
Former Justice Minister Lobato loses appeal and is jailed
Former Justice Minister Lucia Lobato to go to jail for 5 years 
Convicted former Justice Minister Lucia Lobato still not in prison
Timor Justice Minister considers appeal
Lobato ‘Ready to Explain Truth’ as Corruption Trial Begins
Anti-Corruption Commission applies for house arrest of Justice Minister Lobato
East Timor Justice Minister Lobato Defends Husband
Public Prosecution presents new witnesses for Minister Lobato's case
Former East Timor justice minister receives jail sentence
Parliament removes Minister Lobato’s political immunity 
CJITL: Minister for Justice Lucia is Formally Made Suspect in Maternus Bere Case 
Perversion of the rule of law in Timor-Leste and its impact on State legitimacy

20 February 2013

Violations of the law by both the State and CPD-RDTL dissidents in Manufahi

HAK Image: HAK
ETLJB 20 February 2013 - The East Timor Human Rights and Justice Assocation (HAK) has reported violations of the law by both the dissident political group CPD-RDTL and the State acting through the military and the police arising out of the CPD-RDTL occupation of land in the southern District of Manufahi which began late last year. Since the occupation of the land by CPD-RDTL, tensions between it and the military have been increasing as the State has sought to assert its authority to control the group's illegal activities and restore security in the local communities affected by the occupation.

Problems with CPD-RDTL date back to the UNTAET period when the Land and Property Directorate and the police forcibly evicted CPD-RDTL members who had illegally occupied houses in the suburb of Farol in Dili. Upon the eviction, at the direction of the then, now late, UNTAET Special Administrator, Sergio de Mello, the CPD-RDTL members were loaded on to trucks and taken back to their districts.*

Mlore recently, there have been allegations of illegal occupation of land by CPD-RDTL, intimidation of local residents, the wearing of military-style uniforms and the carrying of weapons by CPD-RDTL members and even a suggestion by the armed forces chief that the organisation has been infiltrated by former pro-automonits.

HAK conducted monitoring of the area from 1 - 4 February 2013 in the Fatuberlihu Sub-District, Manufahi District involving consultation with community leaders, local government, residents and CPD-RDTL members, and concluded that the population feels a sense of panic from the presence of large numbers of CPD-RDTL members (12,000 people) and the lack of appropriate coordination with local authorities left communities feeling uncomfortable attending to their animals and participating in cultural activities.

HAK expressed concern at the means used by CPD-RDTL members to acquire land through illegal occupation of state and community land rather than utilising regular processes under the Property Law and obtaining the cooperation and permission of the competent entities.

HAK also noted that some members of CPD-RDTL carried weapons, such as machetes and suraks (traditional long swords) when moving within the community, which also requires the intervention of the security institutions.

In this regard, HAK observed that there were not sufficient facts to show that CPD-RDTL members have the tendency to commit violent actions and crimes against other members of CPD-RDTL and the community itself, as rumours have been alleging.

"On the other hand, the HAK Association also observed that from November last year until now, the mobilisation of 300 F-FDTL Unit members, including F-FDTL Military Police, as well as 40 members of the PNTL, specifically from the Public Order Battalion (Batalhão Ordem Publika (BOP)) and the Special Operations Unit (Comando Operasaun Espesial (COE)), in order to implement security and establish checkpoints for CPD-RDTL members, including the community, with the objective to control the security situation in the area despite the fact some of these conditions imposed are not permitted by the law.

Facts show that there are twelve thousand members of CPD-RDTL carrying out cooperative activities, in particular agriculture to reclaim land and rice planting on 10 hectares, with plans to extend this to cover 210 hectares which are abandoned in the area. The State must demonstrate its capacity to manage these conditions so as to guarantee that investments which have already been made here can bring benefits to this community and the broader community of Timor-Leste."

HAK expressed further concern about military exercises that have been held in the area with 300 soldiers carrying arms and miltiary gear, including munitions, in order to conduct patrols surrounding communities and set up checkpoints for CPD-RDTL and community members from 27 to 29 January 2013 in Sub-District Fatuberlihu. HAK considers this action to violate article 147 (2) and (3) of the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (RDTL) as it does not respect the principles of separation of powers between the institutions of PNTL and F-FDTL.

"According to the law, the role for maintaining domestic security, including setting up checkpoints, is the responsibility of PNTL, not F-FDTL because this is not a situation in which the laws permits F-FDTL to act. Moreover, approaches through military force in situations such as this, for example, are not good for the future because they can minimise community trust in the work of PNTL. Futhermore, it can undermine government policies that strengthen the character of PNTL as a community police force." (see also Wilson, VE Joint Command for PNTL and F-FDTL Undermines Rule of Law and Security Sector Reform in Timor-Leste)

*The writer personally witnessed these evictions when he was the Property Rights Adviser to UNTAET. UNTAET enacted a special law to for this eviction:  UNTAET Executive Order 2/2007 On the Vacation of certain properties located in Farol, Dili, East Timor

See also
Tension between military and dissident political group CPD-RDTL grows
CPD-RDTL continues to be a thorn in the side of the Timor-Leste Government

16 February 2013

Four killed, houses burned in gang-related violence in Samalete Village, Ermera

ETLJB 16 February 2013 - Four people have been murdered and several houses have been destroyed in an outbreak of gang-related violence in the village of Samalete in Ermera District in East Timor. It is believed that so-called "martial arts groups" members are the perpetrators of the violence. The martial arts groups are essentially criminal gangs who have a long history of disturbing the civil peace and terrorising communities in East Timor which successive governments have been unable or unwilling to stop.

The violence occurred on 6  February 2013. Police have detained 34 individuals suspected of involvement in the violence and are searching for two others.The police have also set up a temporary post at Aldeia II in Samalete Village, Railaco Sub district of Ermera District to continue control and monitor the area after the incident.

The Bishop of Baucau Diocese, Mgr. Bazilio do Nascimento, is reported to have attributed the violence to martial arts groups in Ermera District.

“The objective of martial arts should not be to murder each other or destroy the property of others because both such actions are violations of our law', the Bishop is reported to have said. He accused the martial arts groups of creating instability in the country and appealed to the youth who are involved in the groups to reconcile because criminal acts do not resolve any problems.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Lasama, has also called on the police to arrest everyone involved in the case.

Sources: Radio Televizaun de Timor-Leste 14/02/2013; February 14, 2013; Suara Timor Lorosae 15/02/2013,  Diario 13/02/2013. Edited by Warren L. Wright

13 February 2013

Meeting of the Council of Ministers on January 16, 2013

ETLJB 13 February 2013 - The V Constitutional Government met on Wednesday, January 16, 2013, 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 Health

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

This structure of the Ministry of Health adapts to new realities of the Ministry in order to raise the quality of health care and better meet the needs of the sector.

2. Decree-Law that approves the Organic Law of the Ministry of Justice

Under the Organic Law of the V Constitutional Government (Decree-Law n.º 41/2012 of 7 September) the Ministry of Justice submitted the new structure and the agencies of the Ministry to the Council of Ministers in order to ensure the implementation of the Program of the Government in the areas of law and justice.

Therefore, the Organic Law of the Ministry of Justice reflects the solid commitment of the V Constitutional Government to improve the quality, the effective functioning and efficiency of services and public administration structures, by proceeding with the improvement and reorganization of its departments and agencies to achieve these objectives.

Also considered by the Council of Ministers:

1. Presentation on the Establishment of the Agency for the Cooperation of Timor-Leste,  ACT-L

The creation of the Agency for the Cooperation of Timor-Leste, ACT-L, which will seek to provide foreign aid to developing countries, through actions directed in particular to the area of technical cooperation.

2. Presentation of the Program on "Special Zone of Social Market Economy" in Oe-cusse Ambeno

The Council of Ministers reviewed the proposed creation of a "Special Zone of Social Market Economy". This is a pilot project to be implemented in Oe-cusse Ambeno, with the aim of providing to this district a new perspective for the future, particularly with regard to economic development, peace and stability.

It is recalled that the n.° 3 of art. 5.° of the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste provides that Oe-cusse Ambeno enjoys special administrative and economic treatment.  Source: Presidency of the Council of Ministers V Constitutional Government Press Release 16/01/2013 Edited by Warren L. Wright.

Tension between military and dissident political group CPD-RDTL grows

ETLJB 13 February 2013 - Tensions between East Timor's military and the dissident political group known as CPD-RDTL which reached a new stage when CPD-RDTL members occupied land in the southern district of Manufahi last month, have increased in recent days with rhetoric between the military chief, Lere Anan Timor, and the leaderhsip of CPD-RDTL becoming more conflictual.

State leaders such as the President and former military chief, Taur Matan Ruak, the Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, as well as the Parliament and the present military chief have been urging CPD-RDTL over the last several weeks to leave the lands they have occupied in Manufahi, to stop wearing military-style uniforms, carrying weapons and intimidating the local residents.

The military has already mobilised to the area. TVTL reported on 22 January 2013 that the Timorese Defence Force (F-FDTL) soldiers conducted a two-week "Cobra" Exercise in the southern district of Manufahi to help increase skills of the defense force soldiers.

Speaking to journalists on that occasion, the Deputy Commander of F-FDTL, Bridger General Filomeno Paixao, said "This is not a military operation, but it is exercise or training to try capacity of F-FDTL's soldiers which has been in the plans."

Earlier last month, Independente reported on 18 January 2013, that the Prime Minister (PM) Xanana Gusmao announced to CPD-RDTL members at Welaluhu in Same District that he would evacuate them from there himself, if necessary.  “I believe they will go back to their home because after debating the state budget, I pledge to go with cars to pick them up to their home,” he said.

Gusmao also warned that if CPD-RDTL did not want to move from that place he would evacuate them through force by sending in the military and the police.

On Friday, 8 February 2013, TVTL carried a report that quoted Major General Lere as describing the concentration of CPD-RDTL members in the sub-district of Fatoberliu as a situation that "may give others the opportunity to create instability in the country and has implicated influences from Indonesia.

Public Holidays in Timor-Leste 2013

ETLJB 13 February 2013 - Law No 10/2005 of 10th of August determines national public holidays and the official commemorative dates in East Timor. The Government of East Timor, through the Presidency of the Council of Ministers' Press Release of 28 January 2013, has announced the official public holidays for 2013 as follows:

a) 1st of January – New Year’s Day (fixed date public holiday);
b) 29th of March – Holly Friday (variable date public holiday);
c) 1st of May –World Labour Day (fixed date public holiday);
d) 20th of May – Restoration of Independence Day (fixed date public holiday);
e) 30th of May – Corpus Christi (variable date public holiday);
f) 8th of August – Idul Fitri (variable date public holiday);
g) 30th of August –Popular Consultation Day (fixed date public holiday);
h) 15th of October – Idul Adha (variable date public holiday);
i) 1st of November – All Saints Day (fixed date public holiday);
j) 2nd of November – All Souls Day (fixed date public holiday);
k) 12th of November – Youth National Day (fixed date public holiday);
l) 28th of November – Proclamation of Independence Day (fixed date public holiday);
m) 7th of December – National Heroes Day (fixed date public holiday);
n) 8th of December – Day of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception and Timor-Leste Patroness (fixed date public holiday);
o) 25th of December – Christmas Day (fixed date public holiday).

Source: Government of East Timor Press Release 28/01/2013. Edited by Warren L. Wright

07 February 2013

More trouble at border with Indonesia as unknown group terrorises local residents

Map showing location of Naktuka. Image: The Dili Insider
ETLJB 7 February 2013 - There have been more disturbances at the East Timor-Indonesian border at Naktuka village in the border area of the East Timorese District of Oecusse.

Newspaper Suara Timor-Lorosae reported on 1 February 2013 remarks by the Bene Ufe village chief, Simao de Carvalho that an unknown group had been entering East Timorese territory at Naktuka and intimidating local residents.

According to an English translation of the report published by Suara Timor Lorosae, Village Chief Carvalho said that the unknown group had tried to burn down a house belonging to one Mrs. Tereza Elu’s and had destroyed the door of her house.

“I feel unhappy with the situation because Indonesia and Timor-Leste have commitment to resolve border security issues but in fact the recent situation in Naktuka shows that there is still a threat to the people,” Carvalho said. He added the people in the area were feeling unsafe and he therefore called on the Government to provide community police in Naktuka to provide security at night.

The dispute between local Indonesian and East Timorese residents has been festering since at least 2006 but the governments of the respective countries have failed to settle the demarcation of the international border in this area.

The Jakarta Globe reported on 13 June, 2009 that the local Indonesian leader of the remote Indonesian subdistrict of East Amfoang bordering East Timor says his people were ready to take up arms if the ownership of a disputed piece of land was not settled. The Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) had barred a community in the subdistrict in the Province of  East Nusa Tenggara, from using the land in disputed Naktuka village.

At that time, Robby J. Manoh, a village head on the Indonesian side of the border, said he did not understand why the East Timorese were allowed to remain in Naktuka. "People from East Timor are starting to plant on Naktuka soil, but our government has done nothing to stop them," Robby is reported to have said.

"This is not fair. If this injustice continues, we have no choice but to force [the Timorese] to leave the area."

Police in East Amfoang confirmed the Timorese presence in Naktuka, but were told last month by the military that such cases were common along the border. Daud Saul Ndaumanu, the subdistrict chief of police, said then that the problem had persisted since 2006.

The sub-district police chief was also reported at that time as saying that regulations state that [Naktuka] should be clear of any establishments or activities initiated by either country, but for some reason, that hasn't stopped the people of East Timor from staying in these disputed areas. I think the government should intervene in this matter."

Robby also appealed  at that time to authorities to look into the situation. We're in a tough position because we cannot take care of our own land," he said. "We've brought this up with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but nothing has been done to settle this issue."

On 13 June, 2009, The Jakarta Post reported that legislators in East Nusa Tenngara (NTT) had urged the Indonesian military (TNI) to expel hundreds of Timor Leste people who have "unilaterally" built settlements along a the disputed area.

"The TNI should act firmly. If there is already an agreement that the neutral zone still under the status of dispute should be clear of any civilian activities, the two countries must abide by it," senior NTT legislative council member was reported to have said. Jonathan, who was the deputy chairman of the council's security affairs commission, said that unless the TNI took firm action, the disputed 1,069-square-meter area, "rich in mining resources", could be occupied by Timor Leste.

Council deputy speaker Kristo Blasin asked the Foreign Ministry to pay serious attention to the issue. "Never let bloodshed break out. This problem can actually be settled through diplomacy," he was reported to have said. Kristo also called on the two countries to involve communities in finding a solution to the disputed border at Naktuka village in East Amfoang subdistrict in the NTT capital of Kupang. Timor
Leste claims the area as part of its Oecusi district.

Earlier, Indonesia's security border force lodged a protest with Timor Leste police, which had allowed its citizens to build settlements in the disputed area.

Adding to the tensions, an East Timorese man was murdered at the locality in January 2013. It is believed that members of the Indonesian military were responsible for the murder after they tortured the man.

Related reports
TNI soldiers illegally enter Naktuka
Indonesian army attacks and destroys state facilities in Timor-Leste
Naktuka border dispute needs diplomacy, says MP Carmelita Moniz
More shootings by Indonesian military at Timor-Leste citizens engaging in illegal trade 
Border between Timor-Leste and Indonesia closed following torture and murder of Timorese man by "foreigners"
Border between Timor-Leste and Indonesia closed following torture and murder of Timorese man by "foreigners"
Indonesian TNI raises Merah Putih flag in Oe-cusse

Sources: Suara Timor Lorosae, The Jakarta Post, The Jakarta Globe, East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin. Edited by Warren L. Wright 

Another former Minister faces criminal fraud charges

Gil Aves. Photo: MTCI (East Timor Government)
ETLJB 06/02/2012 -  According to a report in the Timor Post published on 6 February 2013, the Public Prosecutor has accused the former Minister for Tourism, Commerce and Industry (MTCI) Gil da Costa Alves with the crime of fraud alleging he used US$195,000 of the political party, ASDT*, party funds for his personal benefit.

The proceedings are being presided over by the judicial panel comprised of Judges Jose Maria de Araujo, Duarte Tilman and Julio Gantes. The Public Prosecutor’s office is being represented by Prosecutor Jose Ximenes who has accused the former Minister Gil Alves of this crime during the time he assumed the position of Secretary General of the party at a time when the now-deceased ASDT President Francisco Xavier do Amaral was still alive.

After the former ASDT President passed away, the accused became entitled according to the party constitution to assume the post of President until an extraordinary party congress elected the new president.  Upon assuming the presidency on the 12th of April 2012, it is alleged that the accused sent a letter to the National Electoral Commission (CNE) directing it to transfer the campaign assistance funds ASDT was entitled to receive to an account opened by the accused and his group.

The CNE transferred the funds accordingly to the bank account in question, but in the time leading up to the ASDT party extraordinary congress held in Dare on 27-28 April, it is further alleged that the accused and others decided not to participate in the congress and authorised the transfer of the amount of US$195,000 from the account, and on 31 May 2012 continued to transfer funds from the party’s bank account held with the Indonesian bank Mandiri in the amount of US$45,000.

The accused persons had previously been notified by the Court of Appeal of its decision that the Extraordinary Congress that had been convened by the accused was not valid and that the deliberations of the Congress held in Dare on 27-28 April were valid and that Joao Correia was elected president of the party. However, the accused continued to ignore the court’s decision and allegedly withdrew the party’s funds from the bank account and used the funds for other purposes.

Based on the alleged facts, the Public Prosecutor charged several persons of the crime of fraud under article 267, line 4 of the Criminal Code.  Gil Alves chose to remain silent and let his lawyer speak for him after having heard the charges read out against him by the court, but one of the accused named Henrique decided he wanted to make representations on his own behalf to the court.

It is reported that Henrique said that some of the accusations were correct, but there were also many that were not, because the moneys had not been withdrawn to be used for private purposes but for party activities.

“We used this money to pay debts that had been incurred through party activities for over the previous year, and though we knew that the Court of Appeal decision had been made, our signatures remained on the accounts so we continued to withdraw money to pay for the party’s debts,” the accused declared to the Dili District Court on Tuesday 5 February 2013.

The accused Henrique added that although some of the money had been used to pay for party activities, they were able to hand over the remainder to the President of ASDT Joao Correia the amount of US$45,000.00 in cash, and US$5,000.00 credit balance that remained in the Party’s bank account. Original text in Tetum. Source: Timor Post 6/2/2013. Edited by Warren L. Wright

*Editor's Note: Associação Social-Democratica Timorense (Timorese Social Democratic Association). Both the original ASDT of the 1970s (which became FRETILIN) and the current party of the same name were founded by first Timorese President Francisco Xavier do Amaral. ASDT lost its representation in the Parliament in the 2012 election.

06 February 2013

President's wife visits jailed former Justice Minister Lucia Lobato as lawyers plan to seek executive sentence reduction

Isabel Ferreira Photo: Tempo Semanal
ETLJB 06/02/2013 - Isabel Ferreira, the wife of the East Timorese president, Taur Matan Ruak , has held a short notice visit to the former Minister for Justice, Lucia Lobato, in Gleno Prison. The first lady handed over a book from the President of the Republic to  Ms Lobato to read while she is in jail.

Speaking to journalists, Isabel Ferreira said she visited Ms. Lobato to show her personal solidarity with the former minister and to give her the book from the president.

Televizaun Timor-Leste reported yesterday, some remarks by the First Lady saying "I came here to visit sister Lucia Lobato to show solidarity as she accepted the court's decision to stay in prison. I am pleased with her as she is brave to accept the verdict to stay in the prison," she said.

Ms. Lobato said she was happy with the visit of the first lady and thanked her  for the book from the president. Ms. Lobato is in prison after the court found her guilty of abuse of power and engaging in corruption while she was in office during the IV Constitutional government.

Meanwhile,  Radio Timor-Leste reported yesterday that the lawyer for Lucia Lobato, Pedro Camoes, would be making efforts to contact the State's leaders to reduce her sentence of 5 years in prison.

The President has the constitutional power to grant amnesties to convicted criminals; as former President Ramos-Horta did to reduce Ms Lobato's uncle, Rogerio Lobato's sentence following his conviction for his part in the illegal weapons distribution during the 2006 crisis.

ETLJB wonders if this visit might have some connection to the exercise of the President's power to grant amnesties and the efforts by Ms Lobato's lawyer to seek an executive sentence reduction through the amnesty power that is exercisable only by "the State's leaders"; namely, the President.. Sources: TVTL, RTL 05/02/2013. Edited by Warren L. Wright

Related posts
Former Justice Minister Lobato loses appeal and is jailed
Former Justice Minister Lucia Lobato to go to jail for 5 years 
Convicted former Justice Minister Lucia Lobato still not in prison
Timor Justice Minister considers appeal
Lobato ‘Ready to Explain Truth’ as Corruption Trial Begins
Anti-Corruption Commission applies for house arrest of Justice Minister Lobato
East Timor Justice Minister Lobato Defends Husband
Public Prosecution presents new witnesses for Minister Lobato's case
Former East Timor justice minister receives jail sentence
Parliament removes Minister Lobato’s political immunity 
CJITL: Minister for Justice Lucia is Formally Made Suspect in Maternus Bere Case 
Perversion of the rule of law in Timor-Leste and its impact on State legitimacy

Court provisionally imprisons husband suspected of murdering his wife

ETLJB 06/02/2013 - The Dili District Court has provisionally imprisoned Agusitnho Soares Lay who is suspected of having murdered his spouse, Rita Soares, recently.

The decision to hold the suspected murder was made at the first court hearing of the charge last Saturday (2/2/2013). At that hearing, the Mr Soares Lay explained the way in which he murdered his wife.

Televizaun Timor-Leste reported yesterday, 5 February 2013, that the police will also present the suspect's accomplice who aided and abetted the murder by helping Soares Lay dispose of Mrs. Soares' body which was discovered on the beach in the Dili suburb of Meti Aut.

Soares Lay faces between 12 and 25 years in prison under Article 139 of the Penal Code if he is convicted of the murder. as he breached the Penal Code Article 139.

Related report Husband arrested on suspicion of murdering his wife

05 February 2013

Emerging Political Apathy in Post-War East Timor

Paddy Tobias, PhD candidate, Peace Studies, University of New England and Adrian Walsh, Associate Professor, Philosophy, University of New England

Much attention on East Timor’s elections in 2012 was focused on the maintenance of peace and security. In the lead-up to the elections, one frequently heard calls from the Catholic Church, non-government organisations as well as national and international leaders for peace, calm and unity. The Church, for example, organised in February a five-kilometre peace rally of 5,000 people through Dili, which reportedly(i)  included priests, nuns, seminarians, lay people, government officials and foreign ambassadors, while a few days later UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, declared(ii) that credible, transparent and peaceful elections would be “critical to deepening peace and progress in Timor Leste”. 

Yet, while concern for electoral peace was entirely reasonable – especially given the unrest and intimidation that characterised the 2007 elections – limited attention was, and continues to be, devoted to the importance, in democracies, of elections and voting. East Timor’s Constitution(iii) recognises voting as a “civic duty” and does not legally require citizens to vote. Yet, voting is vital for any nation consolidating and maintaining a representative, popular democracy. One UN website(iv)  reads: “the will of the people is the source of legitimacy of sovereign states”. The potential of voter abstention in elections thus may be a problem for East Timor’s political development.

Figure 1: Election day, people queuing to vote in Suco Liurai in the Aileu district (Photo: Paddy Tobias, 7th July 2012)
Since the 1999 referendum, voter participation has fallen in both the parliamentary and presidential polls. When we compare the turnout for the 2001 parliamentary election(v) to last year’s(vi), voter engagement proportional to the registered voter population has shrunk by almost 20 percent. An increase in registered voters of around 220,000 over the past 11 years has translated into just 100,000 new votes, which would seem to indicate that more than half of all new eligible voters (those celebrating their 17th birthday) are choosing not to engage in the political process. In the 2012 parliamentary election alone, 162,832 registered voters did not participate.

Figure 2: Voter participation in consecutive elections since 200(vii)
One possible explanation for this drop relates to the euphoria surrounding the first election in 2001 when the first Constituent Assembly was elected. We might think that the post-war enthusiasm of the period extraordinarily inflated the average level of interest in politics and therefore 2001 is not a reliable benchmark. This is a reasonable hypothesis but we are not convinced that this fully explains why voter turnout has fallen so dramatically in just eleven years.

One alternative explanation for this remarkable 20 percent drop is the electorate’s growing disenchantment with domestic politics. We have been in East Timor a couple of times during 2012, including the campaign period of the parliamentary election (5 June – 4 July 2012), for a research project. We are investigating, amongst other things, the social impacts of a multi-party democracy in a post-war nation. Based on anecdotal information collected during these trips, we noticed a definite sense of voter frustration with the self-interest and personality-driven politics that dominate the Timorese political scene. “All the leaders are the same. In front of many people they always talk a lot, but do nothing. All the political leaders are the same”, one 25 year old explained. A senior public servant in one of East Timor’s district administrations complained, “They promise everything - it is the same everywhere - but they never deliver on their promises. So that is why I still worry about the political campaign because I never 100 percent believe them… the community is the victim.”

In the eyes of many people to whom we spoke, the opportunistic and populist tactics used by some politicians to gain political advantage have tarnished the image of Timorese politics generally. One well-educated leader of a youth organisation responded as follows when questioned whether politics was a profession of interest, “In Timor-Leste, right now we don’t have maturity of politics… Maybe in 10 or 20 years and I’ll get involved in politics, but not now.” To this young man, the State’s slow development in 10 years of sovereignty is a direct result of the self-interest and a lack of policy foresight in Dili.

Figure 3: Ramos Horta addresses the crowd at a campaign rally for Democratic Party (PD) in Aileu (Photo: Paddy Tobias, 2nd July 2012).
The 2012 campaign periods offer a further example of individualistic self-aggrandisement taking precedence over genuine policy platforms. With the exception of a few minor parties, there was a real dearth of authentic policy proposals. The public dispute in June of that year between PM Xanana Gusmão and former-President Jose Ramos Horta provides a case in point. On 14 June, the local Diario Nacional reported(viii)  Ramos Horta’s declaration that CNRT was corrupt and not fit to govern. Ramos Horta was allegedly embittered because Gusmão did not endorse him for presidency earlier in the year; instead CNRT supported Taur Matan Ruak. The following day, in response to Ramos Horta’s remarks, CNRT’s Aderito Hugo da Costa claimed that Ramos Horta was thenceforth not entitled to his 1996 Nobel Peace Prize.(ix) This was then followed a week later by a formal request from Gusmão to investigate Ramos Horta’s spending habits during his time as president.(x)

Figure 4: Liurai lining the road to welcome the CNRT party at a campaign rally in Dili (Photo: Paddy Tobias, 9th June 2012).
Political in-fighting such as this has been a continual problem in elections since the heady days of 2001. Political capital has effectively been sought, not based on rigorously thought through policy proposals but through emotionally-charged, populist campaign tactics. “The campaigners come from Dili; they have enough beer with them, they have enough money, they come for just a couple of days, gather the people, eat something with them… All night they have no rest, and in the morning they [the children] can not go to the school.” Typically such campaigns have centred on, amongst other things, invoking ‘the Resistance’ history and the overthrow of the Indonesians; exploiting religious affiliations; and associating one’s party with traditional culture by the parading of local kings (liurai) at political rallies. There is no doubt that these have been effective ways of engaging great portions of the Timorese population. For instance, CNRT’s campaign, arguably the most sophisticated of the 2012 parliamentary election, featured all three and they subsequently blitzed(xi) all other contending parties in terms of the election result. But there is a growing sense that this might be waning.
Figure 5: The 2012 election billboard for CNRT and Xanana Gusmão in Dili, evoking images of Gusmão's Resistance history with the military uniform. Yellow text: "Together with CNRT, we liberated the homeland. Today we together liberate the people." (Photo: Paddy Tobias, June 2012)
Many we spoke to during the 2012 parliamentary election campaign claimed that the progress of East Timor is enjoyed only by a select few, usually by those with familial ties to the government and its ministries.(xii) “In one political party, you can see that the father is president, the son is treasurer, and the daughter is secretary. This means that when they lead government, they have corruption.” Perceptions of nepotism and corruption, regardless of their veracity, are negatively affecting the image of politics in East Timor. An indication of this was in the latest Corruption Perceptions Index(xiii) which ranked East Timor 113th of 176 countries for its perceived levels of public-sector corruption. One frequently hears in the local news allegations of politicians unlawfully raising political donations(xiv), of government ministries misusing public funds , or of cronyism, such as the newly awarded contract for the Comoro Bridge(xvi).

Such cases, and many others, have gone some way towards undermining the electorate’s confidence in their political leaders. The Anti-Corruption Commission (CAC) was mandated in 2009 to “safeguard the integrity” of public institutions.(xvii)  However, its effective operation in drawing attention to these issues has, to some extent, had the unintended consequence of hardening public sentiment towards the political system. Allegations of the misuse of public power and monies have affected the reputations not only of these seemingly corrupt officials, but of all political actors and of the democratic political system as a whole.

It seems plausible that one consequence of this general frustration with populist politics, on the one hand, and perceived government corruption, on the other, has lead to an increase in electoral abstention. Many people we spoke to claimed that they were unwilling to vote in the parliamentary election because “no political leader or party is trustworthy; they are all the same”. Asked if he would vote in last year’s July elections, a 24 year old responded, “why should I participate in the elections if most of the political leaders are corrupt? What would you think if someone whom you trusted was involved in corruption?”

Such sentiment suggests there is a deep sense of betrayal and disaffection amongst the electorate. After 24 years (1975-1999) of fighting alongside those who are now in power, such perceptions of political self-interest, opportunism and corruption are causing many Timorese to become disillusioned with the State’s political leadership.

The electoral disengagement comes at a time when East Timor needs most, if not all, of its people to be involved in the political process. After 10 years of State sovereignty, basic public services still remain poor. Unsurprisingly, the community is tiring of the slow progress in State-building and of continued financial and social insecurities.

The nation of East Timor has much to celebrate last year – a decade of statehood in May; three peaceful elections (including the run-off presidential); and the completion of the United Nations Integrated Mission in East Timor (UNMIT) last December. However, if the country is to continue towards genuine sovereignty, then the State must maintain public confidence in its political institutions and leaders. Otherwise the concerning trend of abstention in elections may well undermine progress towards political maturity and democratic Statehood.
i. Seren, FP, ‘March held for peaceful election’, UCANews.com, 23 February 2012,
ii.  ‘Ban calls for peaceful elections in Timor-Leste’, United Nations Radio, 29 February 2012,
iii. Constitution, RDTL,
iv. ‘Democracy and the United Nations’, United Nations Global Issues,
v. ‘Timor Leste: Parliamentary Chamber: Constitutional Assembly’, Inter-Parliamentary Union,
vi. http://www.stae.tl/elections/2012/rezultado/parlamentar/
vii. This graph was compiled by Paddy Tobias using information from sources including Inter-Parliamentary Union (www.ipu.org), STAE (www.stae.tl) and the National Election Commission (CNE).
viii.  ‘Do not let this country be led by CNRT, says Horta’, Diario Nacional, 14 June 2012.
ix.  ‘Horta not national symbol anymore: CNRT’, Independente, 15 June 2012.
x. ‘Gusmão calls on IG to investigate Horta’, Independente, 20 June 2012.
xi. ‘Provisional Results of the Parliamentary Election http://www.stae.tl/elections/2012/rezultado/parlamentar/
xii.  ‘East Timorese Fifth Government: An Oligarchy’, Temporal Semanal, 6 August 2012,

xiii.  Transparency International,
xiv.  ‘Corruption Claims Sours Timor Party’, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 May 2012
xv.  Jornal Independente, ‘Lobato ‘Ready to Explain Truth’ as Corruption Trial Begins’, East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin, 26 April 2012,
xvi.  ‘GOPAC Calls on Investigation into Road’, Renova Timor, 24 June 2012,
xvii.  UNMIT,

Written in November 2012. Edited by Warren L. Wright BA LLB

04 February 2013

Husband arrested on suspicion of murdering his wife

ETLJB 04 February 2013 - A man has been arrested by the police on suspicion of having murdered his wife in the capital, Dili.

Televizaun Timor-Leste reported on 1 February 2013 that the National Criminal Investigation Police (SIC) had captured the man after the body of his wife, Rita, was found on the the beach at the eastern suburb of Metiaut in Dili last Tuesday (29 January 2013).

Speaking to journalists, the SIC Commander, Calisto Gonzaga, said the police had arrested the man on Wednesday night at 19.00 hrs.Gonzaga confirmed that the suspect told the police that he had murdered his wife, Rita Soares, because she was having affair with another man.

The suspect is believed to have taken the body of his dead wife and threw her onto the beach and that he was helped by a friend. The police are currently searching for the accomplice who is on the run.

Source: Televizaun Timor-Leste 01/04/2013. Edited by Warren L. Wright BA LLB

02 February 2013

Former Justice Minister Lobato loses appeal and is jailed

Photo of Lucia Lobato
Lucia Lobato Source: Opini Timor
ETLJB 02 February 2013 - The former Justice Minister of East Timor, Lucia Lobato, has lost her appeal to the Court of Appeal to overturn the Dili District Court's conviction of her on charges related to corruption in a Justice Ministry tender process. Although she was convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment by the Dili District Court in June 2012, she had remained free pending her appeal to the highest court of the country against her conviction and sentence.

After months of uncertainty, Ms Lobato was reported by Televizaun Timor-Leste on 23 January 2013 to have voluntarily surrendered herself to the Court and was then taken to the prison at Gleno in Ermera District after the majority of the Court of Appeal dismissed her appeal.

Ms Lobato had previously attacked the courts as politically biased after she was convicted by the Dili District Court.

Her lawyer, Mr. Sergio Hornai, had lodged an application for habeus corpus with the Court of Appeal that was rejected on Thursday, 31 January 2013.

However, the Court of Appeal's decision was not unanimous with the Chief Justice, Claudio Ximenes dissenting from the majority decision. In his dissenting judgement, Judge Ximenes wrote in his ruling on the habeus corpus application that the Court had erred in its previous decision to uphold the lower court's verdict. The President of the Court of Appeal delivered his reasons that the Court had made a number of errors in their decision against Lucia Lobato. In his opinion, the decision by the Court on her appeal against convicton had not been final and executable so her detention was not lawful because there had been other proceedings to be heard.
Image of Judge Claudio Ximenes
Judge Claudio Ximenes Source: Opini Timor

“In my view the applicant accused Lucia Lobato should immediately be released from prison,” Claudio wrote in his ruling on the habeas corpus which was delivered last Wednesday 30 January last.

But the two other judges on the bench of the Court of Appeal, Judge Jose Luis Gouveia and Judge Maria Natercia Gusmao, disagreed with the Chief Judge's reasons and Ms Lobato will remain in prison for the time being.

Defence counsel Sergio Hornai was reported by Timor Post yesterday (01 February 2013) as stating to journalists on 31 January 2013 at the Office of Public Defender in Balide, Dili that he thought that despite being a minority ruling, Judge Ximenes' decision was still good jurisprudence and that he had analysed the habeus corpus request in-depth.

Immediately after the Court of Appeal’s decision, the defence team held an urgent meeting with Lucia Lobato’s husband, Americo Lopes, and her son, Mauhuran, before lodging a constitutional petition with the Court of Appeal yesterday afternoon.

Approached by journalists after the meeting in question, the husband of the former Justice Minister Lucia Lobato declined to comment to the media on his wife’s case, as did her son Mauhuran.

The case raised questions about the rule of law in East Timor and fears that Ms Lobato would not serve any of her sentence or only a part of it. Her uncle, Rogerio Lobato, who was convicted for his role in the distribution of state weapons to civilians that was one of the triggers of the 2006 Crisis in East Timor, was pardoned by the then-President Jose Ramos Horta after serving only a short term of his 7-year sentence.

In addition, the question has been raised why a high public offical should have been represented by the Public Defender whose primary role is to provide legal defence to the poor.

Related reports

Justice minister sues East Timor newspaper
Former Justice Minister Lucia Lobato to go to jail for 5 years
Timor Justice Minister considers appeal
Lobato ‘Ready to Explain Truth’ as Corruption Trial Begins
Anti-Corruption Commission applies for house arrest of Justice Minister Lobato
East Timor Justice Minister Lobato Defends Husband
Public Prosecution presents new witnesses for Minister Lobato's case
Former East Timor justice minister receives jail sentence
Parliament removes Minister Lobato’s political immunity 
CJITL: Minister for Justice Lucia is Formally Made Suspect in Maternus Bere Case 
Perversion of the rule of law in Timor-Leste and its impact on State legitimacy

Sources: Timor Post 01/02/2013, East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin 14/12/2012 and 22/12/2012. Edited by Warren L. Wright BA LLB

01 February 2013

Rituals, Sacrifice & Symbolism in Timor-Leste

ETLJB 01 February 2013 Guest Poster: Matthew Libbis BA (Hons) Anthropology* - Stories, songs, dances and tais (woven fabric) patterns each belong to regional extended family groupings, and the knowledge of and responsibility for them are passed down a determined lineage. People are reluctant to and fear telling stories that do not belong to them: some say it is not theirs to tell; others said that if they get it wrong they might die: at the very least, suffering or sickness will befall their family.

Ritual language is important as it is considered to be the words of the ancestors (Therik 1995:3). As such, to deliberately retell falsely risks death or misfortune for the community. They are concerned they will ‘”die a bad death’” (Francillon 1967:vi). Therik (1995:38) attributed a distinction between folk tales, origin myths and true stories to the person who and occasion at which they were recited. The more formal the situation, the more serious the consequences of getting it wrong (Therik 1995:39). Legitimacy of all things is imbued in the past (McWilliam 1989:59-60).

Traube recounts how the keeper of ‘trunk’ words passes the words on when death is imminent (Traube 1989:338). Where the person due to inherit those words is overly eager in attaining them, the keeper accuses them of trying to kill them by extracting the words. With the death of so many people under Indonesia, some stories, rituals and myths, and the meaning of dances have been lost; others are known, but the lineage has been truncated: people may know the stories, but are not allowed to tell them.

There was a move among the local elite to gather the remaining elders along the southern coast each side of the border between Indonesian West Timor and the newly independent Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste to piece together the narratives, to restore the trunk. The chasm of who would be custodian of the words (lianain) was resolve by creating a position of lianain as an elected official at suco (local government) level.

Autocratic societies have little discrepancy in mythology, but in competitive ones where there are conflicting versions, a specialised role of story teller emerges (Kirsch 1973:17). While Timor was by no means democratic, there wasan array of dynasties, each with varying degrees of despotism, which is reflected now in whether their hereditary title is dignified and validated by being voted into their hereditary office.

There a few variations on the story of the Giant of Manufahi. One involves the giant being cut into seven bits, one of being eaten by a serpent, one of being eaten by a serpent and the serpent being cut into seven bits and pieced back together in such a way that the giant came back to life, and one in which the giant’s widow returns every thousand years on the night of a full moon and calls out, beiala (ancestor), which only the birds can here. There is a landfall in Manufahi known as the Giant’s Footprint, where the giant is supposedly buried. Other versions have him buried on the Quiras plains, a distance south east from the landfall that not even a giant could straddle.

People rely on knowledge of the past in social reconstruction (McWilliam 1989:136). On the other hand, there are some people ‘whose potential to tell the past is greater than they let on’ (Traube 1989:340).

The Ablai militia terrorised the people of Manufahi district in 1999. People had been moved down from their ancestral village in the mountains by Indonesia. It is a five kilometre climb inland from the new village, on a broken, rocky track cut through the teak and sandalwood. I first went to the old village with a young man who cuts down the teak there to provide building material and scaffolding for the church being built in the new village. He told me how the liberation army, Falintil (Forças Armadas de Libertação Nacional de Timor-Leste), had been based here in 1999, and when the people fled the violence, pursued by the Ablai militia, Falintil protected the people in the jungle, and in a confrontation between Ablai and Falintil, one militia three guerrillas were killed. He showed me the stones that were monuments to the people buried there, and sign, ‘Villa Human Zorro’ hung from a tree. People had told the militia that Falintil were in the hills behind the village, but my ‘informant’ had been in Dili at the time, and had made the story up.*

There is a legend of warriors turning into dogs to escape detection. The word for hero, asuwain, means as or when a dog. With resistance leader Xanana Gusmão evading Indonesian capture, the myth was applied to him, saying that he transformed into a white dog, and roamed freely around a village while Indonesian soldiers searched for him.

Two rivers that cascade south from the mountain range converge at Mota Karau Ulun (Buffalo Head River) which has the appearance of buffalo horns. The local story is that two boys were thirsty and went looking for water. A dog led them to a buffalo head in the ground. When they pulled it out, a spring emerged and increased in flow until it became the river that now runs to the sea.

Van Wouden recounts a story of two brothers, one thrusting a spear that caused a spring to gush forth from the ground. In this version, the two brothers represent a division between earth and sky, and with the older brother belonging in the mountains (1968:110). Less dramatically, marriage alliance is symbolised in the convergence of rivers (Schulte Nordholt 1971:119).

To celebrate Timorese independence, Portugal sent the statue of our Lady of Fatima to tour East Timor. It was taken from district to district, and processions followed the statue from suco to suco. A buffalo horn was blown to herald the departure of the Figurina from one suco and its arrival in the next. The katuas (elders), wearing manufulun (feathers worn on the head), kebauk, belak (breastlplate), and tais woven with regional colours, sang and chanted between decades of the rosary. Women banged the dadili (gong) and beat the bakadudu (small drum), with rhythms specific to their respective regions.

A threshold woven from folded banana leaves marked the suco boundary. The procession stopped at the threshold, and the katuas from each suco faced each other. Those who were giving the statue performed their bidu (dance) and said their words. People knelt in the mud for the Christian prayers. The katuas from the receiving village performed a brief ceremony. The buffalo horn was played on a hilltop, facing the giving suco, to signal that the statue has been handed over, and a new procession began. In the next suco, young people played modern instruments and sang modern songs as the statue reached the church.

The buffalo’s importance in Timorese culture accords it sacral status. The buffalo horn is a recurring motif in Timorese and eastern Indonesian myth and ritual. The blood of a sacrificed animal restores the nourishment that crops have taken from the earth (Forth 1998:301). Nourishing the land in this way enhances claim to that land: the buffalo horns are the tangible evidence of that claim (Forth 1998:309).

Cunningham (1973:212) notes that houses are built according to a specific pattern that conforms to the Atoni numeric ritual. People who build the houses may be aware of the pattern, if not the ritual significance, which is consistent with Traube’s observations of Mambai knowledge of tip only.

A Kemak sacred house is built by all men associated with that particular lineage. One weekend a month for 11 months they will come, and a small ritual feast will be held at the conclusion of that month’s work. The sacred house will have seven levels, with four steps leading to each, and people of varying degrees of familiarity and intimacy are allowed at each level (visitors on the lower level, friends on the second, in-laws on the third, grades of neighbours, who are relatives, on the fourth, fifth and, in particular, a person marrying into the village, the sixth; with only the luliknain, the keeper of the sacred house and sacred goods, allowed on the seventh level. At the inauguration of the sacred house, a buffalo will be sacrificed, and a major feast takes place.

In the centre of a plateau of a Mambai village, bordered by twelve very solemn sacred houses, and on which it is forbidden to walk, is a sacrificial altar, with a pillar that holds the horns of buffalo that records who has sacrificed buffalo for which occasion.

Just as knowledge of the ritual word is passed down along a lineage, a healer will pass knowledge onto his descendants. Illness is a consequence of forgetting or failing to adequately or correctly perform these rituals (Lewis 1989:490-2). Disregard for these conventions carries serious social and metaphysical ramifications, and may be cited as the cause for conflict, sickness or death (McWilliam 1989:57). Pressure against departing from convention is therefore strong.

Failing to perform rituals to the ancestors properly, or not looking after the sacred objects, invokes retribution from the ancestors’ spirits which may take the form of barrenness, illness, famine and death (Forth 1998:246). Drought and crop failure are blamed on errors in ritual performance, rather than sin which would attract misfortune individually (Schulte Nordholt 1971:71). Healing is not a process of treating the symptoms, but of redressing the spiritual cause of the ailment (Lewis 1989:499).

Each year, after the rains have finished, the salt water is drained from Mota Masin Matan (Lake Salt Eye) into the sea. A big festival is held, and all the fish that are left are cooked and eaten. The crocodile is a sacred in East Timor and should not be harmed. However, if it has eaten livestock or attacked people, then it is fair game and may itself be killed and eaten by humans.

Schulte Nordholt (1971:322-3) cites an account of a young female virgin being sacrificed to a crocodile in Kupang, and Capell quotes Veth:


”believed they were descended from crocodiles, and whenever a new ruler ascended the throne, he gathered the populace with the nobles on the beach at the spot where the king was to be installed with a solemn offering to these features ... a young woman, beautifully dressed and decorated with flowers and rubbed with sweet-smelling oil, would be set right on the bank on a rock, and tied to a stone set there for that purpose. The crocodiles would then be summoned by the warriors present, and usually one of the monsters appeared quickly, and carried the girl back into the water, but according to popular belief, really married the girl” (Capell 1944:212)

When a young girl was taken by a crocodile from a river on the southern coast, the people had a precedent by which they could rationalise, make sense and explain. Accordingly, they claimed that the girl having being taken had cleansed the village of it sins.

Spirits of fertility and malevolence reside at once in the buffalo, which can represent fertility, or, in the case of sacrifice, malevolent spirits (Forth 1998:163). A buffalo is the supreme sacrificial animal, but is only used ‘in connection with funerals and the afterlife’ (Josselin de Jong 1965:284). The sacrificial blood of a buffalo given in exchange as bridewealth represents reproduction in the form of the wives’ menses (Forth 1998:308). Their potential as blood offering to the earth portends reproduction (Forth 1998:168).

Fertility rites are performed to ensure buffalos will reproduce. Buffalos are sacrificed at the most auspicious occasions, such as weddings, funerals and the inauguration of a sacred house. An offering of the buffalo’s heart and head is made to the uma lulik (sacred house). The kukuluk is a representation of buffalo horns fixed to the roof of the uma lulik; the sacred objects – tais, breastplate and headdress used in rituals - are kept in a raised chamber, kakuluk laran, in the ceiling of the uma lulik. Men wear a kebauk, metal headpiece representing buffalo horns. A fertility ritual known as Kesi karau ikun (to tie up the buffalo’s tail) is held each year. When the people want the buffalo to reproduce, they call all the buffalo that live on their lands to one place. The men call their buffalo with the fui dais (whistle). Women kill pigs and chickens and cook them in the forest with rice. They place the feathers in the trees. They cut the meat into pieces, and put each piece with some rice.

The women, wearing tais and with their hair out, play a keo, a gentle melody on the dadili, a soft beat on the bakadudu. The men wear manufulu and kebauk and dance the bidu. The ferik (female elder) enters the buffalo enclosure and throws coconut milk mixed with chicken blood around using a small black banana as a scoop. She places the cooked meat and rice around the enclosure.

The katuas (male elder) begins to chant. Seven children are called to sit outside the fence. They are covered with tais. Food is placed under the tais, and the children begin to eat using their hands. When the children have finished eating, they come out from under the tais, and people beat them with sticks. The ferik in the enclosure now slaps the buffalo on the buttocks so that they will stay on this land and produce calves every year. The people celebrate and dance the dahur.

An anchor is enshrined some 30 kilometres from the southern coast. People who live there cannot tell the tair mos (sacred story) as they are not the keepers of those words. They do not want outsiders to know about it, as this may attract tourists and visitors, and because the object is sacred, it has powers that could cause strange things to happen if too many people know about it, and it is forbidden to touch it.

The person who owns the words lives in a village 20 kilometres away. According to him, the anchor once hung from the Portuguese fort. It was used chime the hour. When the Portuguese left, the liurai decided that it had rung the time for so long it was an important part of the community so he had it moved to his house. It assumed the status of lulik (sacred) and is called Karau Dikur (Buffalo horn). It was hidden from the Japanese when they invaded; people were afraid that they would discover and take the sacred object. It now lies on a bed of rocks inside a structure built to house it.

I subsequently heard that the first priest to have arrived in the region trying to proselytise the population was ignored, shunned and spurned, and called for the anchor to be brought from the ship and placed in a well, and told the population that he was going to tow the island of Timor to Portugal, where they would have to become Catholics. At that moment, an earthquake occurred, and the people, in fear of the priest’s power, immediately submitted and converted.

Images of The Anchor
Ritual speech identifies the buffalo owners’ position in society (Forth 1989:509). Ritual language restores the correct order of things (Lewis 1989:499). Ritual speech determines the success of the process (Renard-Clamagirand 1996:201).

naran ema la bele loke'; (not just anyone can say it;

'soinnia nain maka bele loke’ only the possessor may say it)

(Liman Badain)

Rituals begin with the invocation in ritual language and conclude in offerings (Lewis 1996:111). This can take place over a period of minutes, hours - such as this fertility ritual - or months, such as the construction of the sacred house. Despite all the omens and ill winds that a mis-telling of a story portends, it seems to be acceptable to change the rules in order to send an inquisitive interloper off the scent!

*That is not to say that Falintil were not active in the area. In 1998, the chefe do Suco of a nearby village wanted the Indonesian military, ABRI, Angkatan Bersenjata Republik Indonesia, to kill 200 of the local youths as they were ‘out of control’, providing overt assistance to Falintil. This may have been in response to killings of ABRI spies who had been recognised at meeting in the area earlier that year. ABRI was reportedly stockpiling weapons at their barracks in preparation for the arrival of troops to launch an assault on the local population. Falintil staged a pre-emptive raid to prevent such a carnage. They seized what weapons were there, killed three soldiers and took about a dozen hostage.

This has given rise to its own myth in the making: a man who claimed to have been the second in command of the ABRI division said that he had met with the Falintil commander who had told him of the impending raid. This man claimed to be a witness to murder that was in reprisal for the Falintil raid, but he said that he was taken hostage by Falintil as part of the ruse so as not to betray his collusion with Falintil; but those hostages were not released until four or five on the afternoon when the murder had occurred earlier that day: he was lying about being at least one of those events and locations. He is more likely to have been a Babinsa, a liaison person in each village who was trained by the Indonesians military for this purpose. The fact that he was not trusted by the community is revealing, and the story illustrates how events may be reconstructed.

Photos courtesy of Dave Manning


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

Cunningham, C (1973), ‘Order in the Atoni House’, Right and Left: Essays on Dual Symbolic Classification, (R Needham ed), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 204-238

Forth, G (1998), Beneath the Volcano: Religion, cosmology and spirit classification among the Nage of eastern Indonesia, Leiden: KITLV Press

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

Josselin de Jong, P (1965), ‘An Interpretation of Agricultural Rites in Southeast Asia, with a Demonstration of Use of Data from both Continental and Insular Areas’, Journal of Asian Studies, 24:283-91

Kirsch, T (1973), Feasting and Social Oscillation: Religion and Society in Upland Southeast Asia, NY: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program

Lewis, E (1989), ‘Word and Act in the Curing Rituals of the Ata Tana’ai of Flores’, Bijdragen tot de taal-, land- en volkenkunde, v. 145, pp. 490-501

Lewis, E (1996) ‘Invocation, Sacrifice, and Precedence in the Gren Mahe Rites of Tana Wai Brama, Flores’, in Howell, S (ed), For the Sake of Our Future: Sacrificing in Eastern Indonesia, Leiden: Research School CNWS, pp. 111-131

Martinkus, J (2001), A dirty little war, Milsons Point, NSW:Random House

McWilliam, A (1989), Narrating the Gate and the Path: Place and Precedence in South West Timor, Canberra: ANU

Renard-Clamagirand, B (1996), ‘Sacrificing Among the Wewea of West Sumba: Dialogue with the Ancestors, Relations Between the Living’, in Howell, S (ed), For the Sake of Our Future: Sacrificing in Eastern Indonesia, Leiden: Research School CNWS, pp. 195-212

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

Traube, E (1989), ‘Obligations to the Source: Complementarity and Hierarchy in an Eastern Indonesian Society’, The Attraction of Opposites: Thought and Society in the Dualistic Mode, D Maybury-Lewis & U Almagor, eds), Ann Arbor: Uni Michigan Press, pp 321-344

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

*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 

See also the following articles by Matthew Libbis on East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin
Marriages in Timor-Leste
Land use, practice and tenure in south central East Timor: some illustrations
Witchcraft, Conflict and Resolution in Timor-Leste