Transitional Land Law
21 April 2010
On 10 March 2010 the Council of Ministers approved a draft Land Law which is now before Parliament. The draft Land Law will apply for a transitional period, and aims to resolve current confusion over land ownership. It will decide who does and does not own land, and who has the right to compensation. It is a major step in developing a new land regime. Such a law could reduce land-based conflict by clearly outlining who owns what land. It could also create new problems if people do not understand it or feel they lose their land unfairly. More secure land rights will also bring new challenges: increasing land values, land demand and competition, and access to loans where land is security for repayment. So far the government has done little systematic planning to identify what new housing, mediation and other needs should be in place when it implements a Land Law. Timorese people also need access to independent information and advice, financial education and legal support to navigate the new issues arising from changes to the land market.
Although the government public consultation process on the draft Land Law was more extensive than other consultations, most people have little understanding of this law or its impacts. Few Ministries or civil society groups understand how the land law will affect their work.
For background documents see our Land Processes in Timor-Leste webpage.
There have been many changes throughout the drafting of the Land Law. The Council of Ministers approved the draft transitional Land Law (Port). with draft parliamentary laws on a Real Estate Finance Fund (Port.) and Expropriation (see box). There was no public consultation on these two laws. The parliament has sent all three laws to Parliament Committee A, which will review them before presenting them to the plenary for enactment.
Committee A, together with Committees C, D and E, plans to hold public hearings on these three laws in every district during May 2010. We welcome further analysis and commentary on these laws from any source.
The government released the draft transitional Land Law (Lei de Terras (Port), also Tetum) on 12 June 2009, with the public consultation to end on 31 August 2009. On 10 June the civil society Land Network sent their Minimum Requirements for Effective Public Participation on the Draft Transitional Land Law to the Minister for Justice. This outlined basic measures to ensure a public consultation process to “help promote an effective land regime that is best suited to the needs of the people of Timor-Leste”. Most of these requirements were not met in the initial district level public consultations in July-August 2009. On 1 September the government announced it would extend the public consultation process until 1 November 2009, and consultations reached approximately 20 sub-districts. Unfortunately sub-district meetings were often poorly organized.
The Land Network monitoring process visited 11 district meetings. Monitoring volunteers took detailed notes of public questions and comments. They also noted the numbers of participants, their gender, social groups represented and the time that members of the public spoke.
The Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis (La’o Hamutuk)