Subject: Land Network Press Release: Manatuto District: Population 34,000 gets only 59 minutes to speak on draft Land Law

Manatuto District: Population 34,000 gets only 59 minutes to speak on draft Land Law

9 July, 2009

On Monday, the Minister of Justice led a public consultation on the draft Land Law (Lei de Terras) in Manatuto. The Land Law is a historic piece of legislation that lays out criteria for deciding who owns, and who does not own land in Timor-Leste.

The Land Network, who monitored the meeting, found that participants in Manatuto had only 59 minutes to voice questions or comments on the law. (This is equivalent to 0.01 seconds for each person in Manatuto).

“The Minister complained several times that questions were all the same.” Land Network member, Pedro Viera from Fundasaun Haburas explained that “this is because people do not understand the law. Communities in Manatuto did not even have time to read the draft law before they were expected to provide comment.”

Rather than the legal experts who helped write the law, it was the Minister for Justice who answered questions. “Some of the Minister’s responses are clearly incorrect. For example, the public consultation is only 11 weeks (from 12 June until 31 August), not the 4 months suggested by the Minister.”

Several people commented that they did not understand the law as it was presented in the meeting and many others added that the consultation needed to be brought to the community level.

“The government has not allowed enough time for an effective consultation” continued Pedro, “other countries, take up to a year to consult on laws of such importance. The government knows this and tries to scapegoat civil society by saying that public consultation is our responsibility. But we cannot do the government’s job.”

Before the draft Land Law was launched, the civil society Land Network outlined the measures needed to ensure good public participation on the law. Very few of these measures have been met. “How can we help to develop a good Land Law if the government isn’t serious about public consultation?”

“There are important questions to be discussed - Who will get compensation, and how much? Who will be in a position to make key political decisions about land allocation? Why has the state been given strong rights over community lands? Who receives the money from projects run on community land? Who will help vulnerable people to claim their land rights?”

For further information and public comment please contact Meabh Cryan from the Rede ba Rai at +670 730 7800 , Ines Martins at +670 3325013 or email


Only brief thoughts from Baucau on the new Land Law 12 July

On Tuesday 7 July, the Minister for Justice continued her public consultation on the draft Land Law, this time in Baucau.

Why are we sharing communities' ‘brief thoughts’ from Baucau? Pedro Vieira land Network member explained that “participants got only 90 minutes to air their concerns at the Baucau meeting”, since Baucau has a population of approximately 110,000 this means about 50 milliseconds [0.05 seconds] for each person. Brief indeed!

“This is a law that will decide if you have land or not. It will decide how community land is managed. It will decide how land disputes are resolved.”

“It will have a huge impact on our society” says Ines Martins of La’o Hamutuk.

Land Network Members shared some of the following thoughts that came forward in the short 90 minute consultation;

“Participants felt that they needed more time to read and discuss the law before they provided comments.”

“A lawyer who works on land cases in Baucau said that even she did not understand the government’s complicated presentation on the draft Land Law” said Shona Hawkes of La’o Hamutuk.

“Several people asked the minister to write a law that was fair, that would not create new land victims, and that gave communities a real role in administering their own land,” summarized Pedro.

“People are particularly worried about the compensation structure that is not laid out in the law and about the lack of protection given to community land”.

Although the Minister assured participants that the law would re-distribute land in Timor-Leste, and guaranteed that it would give land to those who currently do not have land rights, many community members left the meeting worried and confused as there are no articles in the law that match the ministers words.

The minister arrived 1 ˝ hours late to the meeting and left 2 hours early, according to Pedro – “This reflects the government’s lack of commitment to effective public consultation on this law”.

For further information and public comment please contact Meabh Cryan from the Rede ba Rai at +670 730 7800, Pedro Vieira at +670 7269038 or email

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