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La'o Hamutuk Annual Report

Calendar year 2009

Printable English PDF File     Appendices to this report

Past reports: 2009 mid-year2008 annualindex of La'o Hamutuk reports.

Table of Contents

Appendices: Financial informationRadio programsPublic meetings and presentationsLH in the mediaStaff and Advisory Board biographies.

Vision and mission

La’o Hamutuk (“Walking Together” in English) is a Timor-Leste organization that monitors, analyzes and reports on the principal international institutions present in Timor-Leste as they relate to the physical, economic and social development of the country. La’o Hamutuk believes that the people of Timor-Leste must be the ultimate decision-makers in this democratic process.

La’o Hamutuk’s Vision

The people of Timor-Leste, women and men, of current and future generations, will live in peace and contentment. They will control a transparent, just and sustainable development process which respects all people’s cultures and rights. All citizens will benefit from Timor-Leste’s resources, and will accept the responsibility for protecting them.

La’o Hamutuk is an independent organization which works to facilitate effective Timorese participation in the reconstruction and development of the country. In addition, La’o Hamutuk works to improve communication between the international community and Timor-Leste’s people, facilitating cooperation and solidarity. Finally, La’o Hamutuk is a resource center, providing literature on conventional and alternative development models, experiences and practices.

Since our founding in 2000, La’o Hamutuk has had a policy to preserve our ability to monitor institutions objectively, as well as to avoid perceptions that we might be influenced by funders. We do not accept grants from donors with significant interests in Timor-Leste, such as the United Nations and its agencies, the World Bank, ADB, IMF, major donors to Timor-Leste, the Timor-Leste government and political parties, and companies operating here. We rely on private foundations, NGOs, governments of small countries, and individual donations.

La’o Hamutuk’s five Timor-Leste and two international staff have equal responsibilities and receive the same pay and benefits. We are committed to equal representation for women among our staff, which currently includes two women and four men, as well as two male security and support staff. Our Advisory Board includes three Timor-Leste people active in civil society and three internationals, former La’o Hamutuk staff who remain closely involved with Timor-Leste.

Situational background

Indonesia’s 24-year occupation of Timor-Leste was horrific, taking the lives of more than 100,000 Timor-Leste people. In 1999, the Indonesian military launched a wave of terror and devastation before and after the referendum. In response, the international community established the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). On 20 May 2002, sovereignty passed from the UN to Timor-Leste’s government, but foreign governments, international financial institutions and multinational corporations continue in major roles.

During the years after 1999, international organizations provided resources and expertise, but coordination was often poor, with international workers insensitive to local needs and capabilities. Some decisions were poorly thought through and have returned to haunt Timor-Leste. More than $5.2 billion dollars in aid has been pledged to Timor-Leste, but only about 10% of this money has ever reached the domestic economy. Ten years later, much remains unreconstructed and massive skills shortages remain.

Timor-Leste began its nationhood as a post-colonial, post-conflict, nonrenewable-resource-dependent, underdeveloped, impoverished nation. Consequently, the country faces multiple challenges today, including:

  • Reconciling with the past – including ending impunity, strengthening the democratic rule of law, rebuilding devastated infrastructure, and restoring environmental and agricultural resources

  • Overcoming the legacy of conflict – trauma, violence, human rights violations and meeting the needs of veterans, victims and returning exiles

  • Avoiding the resource curse which afflicts countries that depend on converting nonrenewable mineral wealth into cash

  • Engaging people in an equitable and inclusive development process

  • Overcoming the economic and political challenges faced by small developing states in an era of globalization.

2009 marked the tenth anniversary of the popular referendum, when Timorese people voted overwhelmingly to end the Indonesian occupation and restore independence. It was a time to reflect on developments since 1999, and the challenges that lay ahead.

People across the country long for justice, but the international community has failed to fulfill its promise to end impunity for crimes against humanity. Sadly, Timor-Leste’s leaders gave in to Indonesian pressure, and illegally released indicted mass murderer Maternus Bere without bringing him to trial. This reinforces the pattern of impunity which has grown over the past few years in Timor-Leste and globally, including undercutting justice for past crimes, failure to prosecute current criminals, and numerous Presidential pardons and sentence commutations.

La’o Hamutuk joined with other Timorese and international solidarity activists to host a major conference on the referendum anniversary, strengthening support from international solidarity to independent Timor-Leste. Timorese activists also discussed solidarity and justice. Many expressed their desire to give back, and acted in solidarity with justice struggles in Gaza, Sri Lanka and West Papua.

Unfortunately, many international institutions and Timorese officials have been unable to effectively address crucial issues of health, education, water and rural livelihoods. The gap between the impoverished rural majority and the decision-making Dili elite is growing. Policy-makers see young people as a problem of unemployment or gangs, rather than a human resource essential to nation-building. Donors and the UN focus on a limited “security sector” priority, as if intimidation by uniformed men and women with guns can establish security – rather than freeing the population from fear of starvation, disease, unemployment, poverty and violence.

Government and international institutions continue to use “budget execution” (how much money the state spends from its budget) as a measure of performance, rather than provision of services or developing human or physical infrastructure. Timor-Leste is by far the most oil-export-dependent country in the world (the oil economy is currently four times as big as the non-oil GDP), yet planners do not think realistically about the post-petroleum future which will come in two generations, exaggerating the size of the embryonic non-oil economy and ignoring the immense challenges of developing it. Import dependency is intense: during 2009 the country imported $283 million in goods, while non-oil exports (nearly all coffee) were only $8 million. At the same time, subsidized Vietnamese rice overwhelmed local markets, damaging farmers’ livelihoods.  

La’o Hamutuk is working to help Timor-Leste avoid the resource curse brought on when easy oil income (and the pattern of binge spending) runs out in a generation, if authorities continue not to plan and invest wisely and realistically. Poverty, economic polarization and conflict can only be avoided if a well-informed public understands the balance of long and short-term needs, thinking about the future while facing day-to-day pressures of hunger, growing families, illness and economic hardship.

Unable to implement its ill-conceived heavy oil electricity project on schedule, the Government reallocated $70 million from it to the “Referendum Package” of poorly planned, poorly implemented small infrastructure projects in September. The following month, Parliament passed a Budget and Financial Management Law, enabling the Minister of Finance to bring the country into debt, and loan negotiations with Portugal and China. These events continue ill-conceived economic policies which began with mammoth budget increases in 2008, and are discussed in more detail in the Economics section of this report.

Land is a critical issue in Timor-Leste, as most people depend on land for food, shelter and livelihoods. The Portuguese and Indonesian regimes violated land rights, and Timor-Leste people’s displacement in 1999 and 2006 compounded these effects. In June 2009 the Government began consultation on a transitional Land Law, which will decide who owns land. As described below, La’o Hamutuk has taken a leading role in this process, informing people of their rights and the possible consequences of a poorly managed land system. We have encouraged broader consultation, and the discussion and development of policies before they are frozen in legal documents.

Current land and economic policies often focus on short-term demands. Some development approaches are copied from Suharto-era Indonesia – resulting in corruption, nepotism and paternalism. Economic development is seen as rooted in fiscal policy and foreign investment – rather than connected to broader human development objectives such as education, health and livelihoods. La’o Hamutuk continues to encourage more attention to long-term sustainability, as well as economic and social justice.

La’o Hamutuk provides a vital service in offering independent and reliable information on key development issues. Our radio program reaches every district and our Bulletin has a circulation larger than any newspaper. During 2009, people read an average of 6,057 pages on our website every day, and it is the most extensive on-line library about development in Timor-Leste. La’o Hamutuk’s information is used in an increasingly broad range of analyses and reports nationally and internationally, as shown in Appendix IV. People in civil society, government and international agencies tell us that our work is essential to their analysis, information and policy formation, and we expect to continue and expand that role.

Goals and objectives

The principal objective of La’o Hamutuk is to increase the Timor-Leste people’s knowledge and participation in the development of their country. We implement this with these Strategic Goals:

  • To monitor, analyze and provide information on the development of Timor-Leste, and to help make that process more just and responsive to Timor-Leste’s needs and desires

  • To empower the people of Timor-Leste, especially women, to participate more effectively in the development process

  • To facilitate relationships between the people of Timor-Leste and international solidarity networks

  • To provide information on alternative development models

  • To increase communication and understanding between the people of Timor-Leste and international institutions

  • To advocate for improvements in transparency, economic and social justice, human rights, democracy and sustainability

  • To help Timor-Leste learn about the pitfalls of globalization, petroleum dependency and “free market” policies

  • To strengthen La’o Hamutuk’s effectiveness and internal organization.

Program activities

Our main work is to research, monitor and analyze international institutions and global systems which affect people here. We disseminate the results through several tools:

Bulletin and reports

Our findings are published in the La’o Hamutuk Bulletin in English (circulation 1,500) and Tetum (circulation 3,500 - larger than any of Timor-Leste’s newspapers). The Bulletin is distributed free to the public, as well as to schools, churches, government offices, and NGOs throughout Timor-Leste. Within Dili, we distribute to embassies, IFIs, the UN, government offices, hotels, restaurants, libraries, and other public places. The Bulletin is also circulated by email and posted on our website.

Since 2000, we have published 40 Bulletins, ranging from eight to 24 pages. Each has a main topic, a few other articles, reports from activities and editorials. During 2009, we published only one Bulletin, although we distributed research findings in many other ways:

Bulletin Vol. 10, No. 1 (June)

  • Issue focus: Heavy Oil Power Plants: Project without process

  • Petroleum Fund: Estimated Sustainable Income

  • Diversify Petroleum Fund investment? Not now.

  • Enhancing EITI implementation in Timor-Leste

  • Consolidate La Via Campesina in East and Southeast Asia

  • Editorial: It takes more than a commission to end corruption

The tenth anniversary of the August 1999 independence referendum brought renewed attention to Timor-Leste from international activists and media. To help them better understand the past and current context here, we published four fact sheets in Tetum and English:

La’o Hamutuk produces many other reports and analyses, circulated privately and publicly. We write submissions and letters, or give oral testimony to legislatures and other policy-makers. We often lead coalition lobbying efforts, and were again chosen to represent the NGO community at the 2009 Development Partner’s Meeting, but declined in order to give the chance to another local NGO. However, we helped write the joint statement and circulated the outcomes.

Surat Popular

We have decided to not produce our four-page Tetum popular education pamphlet Surat Popular as regularly as we had in the past. However, during 2009 we produced on Surat Popular on Agrofuels development (the jatropha factory in Carabela), which was distributed in the local community and served as the basis of a discussion with dozens of local residents.

Website and email lists

La’o Hamutuk’s English and Tetum website includes many La’o Hamutuk reports, statements, analysis and press releases, as well as those from coalitions and organizations we work with, totaling more than 3,300 files. A topic index makes it easy for researchers to find material many specific issues, such as Justice and Human Rights, Oil and Natural Gas, Environment, Global Trade and Markets, Timor-Leste Government Finances, Aid to Timor-Leste, Land Rights, the United Nations, Militarization and War, Agriculture and Solidarity. The website also includes audio files of many of our radio programs and other materials. During 2009 we added a search engine to the website, to make it easier for people to find what they are looking for.

On average, people access more than 6,000 pages on our website every day, peaking at 12,500 when we posted the proposed state budget in October. During the past year, the readership increased by more than 50%, and we served as the principal global source of information on issues as diverse as the State Budget (including the Petroleum Fund and future borrowing), the Heavy Oil electric power plants, justice and impunity, land rights, development partners meetings, climate change, and UN reports and resolutions related to Timor-Leste. We lent part of our website to the Klibur Solidaridade events which brought people from around the world to celebrate ten years of liberation from Indonesia’s occupation. Our compilations of facts, commentary and media reports on the illegal release of Maternus Bere proved the depth and width of the gap between the Timorese people and a few leaders who support impunity.

Each yellow circle in the map at right shows how many people in different places read La’o Hamutuk website.

In addition to advocating transparency, we implement it. Our website and list emails circulate and explain essential documents like the government budget, draft legislation and UN agreements, even when the responsible agency has not published them.

La’o Hamutuk maintains an email list with around 150 subscribers. In addition, we circulate many of our materials to other lists and information sharing networks, reaching thousands. Our online materials are frequently picked up by other websites, new outlets and bloggers; Google Alerts finds several new references to “La’o Hamutuk” on news and blog sites every day.

Radio program

Radio is the most effective medium to reach most people in Timor-Leste. During the first half of 2009 La’o Hamutuk’s program Radio Igualdade was broadcast in Tetum most Sundays on the national radio station, RTL, which has transmitters across the country, as well on community radio stations in Viqueque and Oecusse. This program reaches many listeners who have no other access to the information in our broadcasts. La’o Hamutuk staff members discuss topical issues with knowledgeable guests, often presenting diverse views. We post podcasts of Radio Igualdade to our website to reach an international audience.

Appendix II lists the 18 programs La’o Hamutuk produced and broadcast during 2009. We produced programs until July, but suspended production for the rest of the year after RTL evaluated their overall programming and asked us to improve the technical quality. Our programs will be reinstated in RTL’s program list in 2010.

Public meetings and discussions

La’o Hamutuk public meetings bring together people from government, international institutions, media and civil society to discuss and debate key policy issues. Decision-makers, including Ministers and heads of international agencies here, appreciate these opportunities to engage with the public, and citizens and civil society organizations use them to inform and express themselves.

La’o Hamutuk staff often give talks or serve on panels at public events and conferences organized by other organizations and institutions. Over the past year, we have shared our knowledge and research by training groups including the Core Group on Transparency, the NGO Forum, and other organizations and coalitions.

Appendix III lists the nine public meetings and discussions La’o Hamutuk organized during 2009, as well as 26 events when other organizations invited La’o Hamutuk staff to speak. We organized fewer public meetings than planned this year, but have increased our discussions in rural areas to disseminate information from our research.

Resource center and library

Our resource center includes books and audiovisual materials in several languages which students and visitors can use, as well as to inform our own research. Our internal computer “intranet” includes hundreds of documents, websites and reports, helping to overcome difficulties with internet access.

International and national media

Media is very important for advocacy, and La’o Hamutuk frequently gives interviews or provides information to visiting journalists or those who contact us, which was virtually every day during August and September. La’o Hamutuk staff and materials were interviewed and cited in such global media as Al Jazeera, BBC, Associated Press, the Financial Times and PBS News Hour (USA) during 2009, as well as in many other local also international media.

We also continue to disseminate information by writing articles for local newspapers. Appendix IV contains a partial list of articles by or referencing La’o Hamutuk.

Principal areas of research, monitoring and advocacy

Our research takes a holistic approach, looking at issues strategically and exploring how international systems and institutions interact with them. We also actively engage with policy development processes. Monitoring donor projects remains part of our work, but our scope is broader than the assumptions made by the donor, and we focus on systems and policies rather than individual wrongdoing.

When addressing an issue, we consult with experts and with people directly encountering the impacts and/or working to alleviate them in Timor-Leste and elsewhere; we make special efforts to involve the consequences for and perspectives of women and rural people. We also provide information on alternative models.

La’o Hamutuk tries to include a gender perspective in all our work, as women are often discriminated against. Although we don’t have a separate gender research area, we explore the impacts of policies and programs on women and children. In early 2009, La’o Hamutuk received a United Nations Award in recognition of our “leadership and dedication in promoting gender equality and the empowerment of the women of Timor-Leste.”

We organize our monitoring and advocacy into four principal areas:

  • Natural resources, especially oil and gas. This includes petroleum dependency, revenue management, regulation of oil companies, environment, transparency, accountability, sustainability and how extractive projects affect human and community rights.

  • Agriculture and food sovereignty. This includes agriculture policy, agrofuels, land rights, corporate technologies, permaculture/agro-ecological farming, markets and climate justice.

  • Governance, including justice, security, rule of law, human rights, civic education, corruption, elections, legislation, state institutions, decentralization and government administration.

  • Economics, including macroeconomics, donor activities, tax and budget policy and trade agreements. This will be expanded to include foreign investment, privatization and trade.

La’o Hamutuk has teams working on Agriculture and Natural Resources. Our Economics and Governance work is shared among people on other teams, although Adino Nunes focused on governance during the part of 2009 he was with us. We hope to fill out the Governance team and to create a separate Economics team during 2010.

The rest of this section discusses work done during 2009; the results are summarized below.

Natural resources (petroleum development)

Approximately 95% of Timor-Leste’s state revenues come from converting oil and gas wealth into dollars, and the country has many plans for exploiting its non-renewable resources. With oil revenues four times the size of the non-oil economy, Timor-Leste the most petroleum-dependent country in the world, yet its oil and gas resources will only last a few decades. Averaged out over the next two generations, the total likely oil income of Timor-Leste is less than two dollars per citizen per day. As a result, the country is susceptible to the “resource curse” which damns nearly every other impoverished, oil-dependent country.

La’o Hamutuk has long been the leading organization in Timor-Leste providing information and alternatives for officials and civil society about these dangers and possible solutions. This includes not only revenue management and transparency, but also macroeconomic policy, effective regulation, and the environmental, social, political and economic dangers of petroleum dependency. Our Natural Resource work has two fundamental objectives:

1.       Preventing the resource curse in Timor-Leste, which includes:

  • Promoting intergenerational equity by opposing overspending and risky investments

  • Teaching about the effect of import dependency on local production and the consequences when petroleum revenue falls

  • Protecting the environment from the impacts of petroleum exploitation

  • Supporting transparency to prevent corruption, corporate avarice, and unsustainable policies.

2.       Avoiding unjust and/or predatory relationships related to oil and gas exploitation:

  • Safeguarding human and community rights from extractive projects

  • Preventing ruthless companies taking advantage of Timor-Leste’s lack of effective regulation

  • Securing just maritime borders and arrangements with Indonesia and Australia

  • Ensuring transparency and regulation of international, domestic and state-owned companies

  • Enabling local communities to participate in decision-making about their petroleum birthright.

We follow offshore activities in the Joint Petroleum Development Area and Timor-Leste’s Exclusive Economic Zone, and also future plans for onshore petroleum extraction and processing activities. We monitor petroleum sector development, oil and gas funds’ use and transparency, policy decisions, agreements relating to petroleum activities, and these activities’ impact and benefits to Timor-Leste’s people. This year, our main focus was on income from the Bayu-Undan field, and how it moved through the Petroleum Fund into the annual State Budget, and the future impacts of fiscal and budgetary policies.

In addition to the specific areas of work discussed below, La’o Hamutuk tries to anticipate legislation and policies which could help avert, or bring on, the resource curse. In this regard, we monitored the future creation of a National Oil Company for Timor-Leste, including actively participating in a government-organized conference. We also analyzed and educated civil society, Parliament and the public on the sustainable use of petroleum wealth, the impact of borrowing, petroleum fund investment strategies, and other issues.

We continue to analyze, advocate, and share information regarding the unresolved maritime boundary dispute with Australia, involving such groups as the East Timor Action Network, the Timor Sea Justice Campaign, and others who campaign for Timor-Leste’s rights to its maritime resources. We published a fact sheet on the boundary debate and discussed the issues with many journalists.

In 2008, Timor-Leste created its National Petroleum Authority (ANP), with responsibility for managing petroleum development, including contracting with and supervising the profit-driven transnational petroleum industry. We monitor the ANP’s work, including its subsidy from the State Budget. When opposition MPs challenged the constitutionality of establishing the ANP by decree law (rather than Parliamentary law) in the Court of Appeals, we wrote a letter to the court explaining that La’o Hamutuk had raised similar issues in our submissions in 2007 and 2008. (The court rejected the challenge.)

We continue La’o Hamutuk’s original mission of monitoring international institutions. To that end, we wrote brief critiques of documents including the 2009 UNDP Human Development Index report (explaining inaccuracies in the local media), the World Bank “Paying Taxes 2010” report (pointing out that the Bank’s praise of Timor-Leste for essentially abolishing business taxes was misguided), and the ADB's November 2009 "Pacific Economic Monitor" (which erroneously reported that Timor-Leste  has a positive trade balance). We were the only organization which reported the final dismissal in 2009 by the U.S. Court of Appeals of the five-year-long Petrotimor v. ConocoPhillips lawsuit.

During 2009, we broadcast one radio program about the resource curse itself, as well as several on related topics, and the cover article of our June Bulletin analyzed the ill-conceived, poorly-managed, very expensive heavy oil power plant project.

Proposed Sunrise Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant

Our comprehensive 2008 reportSunrise LNG in Timor-Leste: Dreams, Realities, and Challengescontinues to be the principal reference on the topic, and La’o Hamutuk is monitoring developments as the project evolves. We meet regularly with representatives of the Woodside company, the Government and the National Petroleum Authority, and provide information to journalists and others.

During 2009, we produced a radio program on the topic, and gave a seminar to more than 150 students and faculty at the Dili Institute of Technology. We continue to update our website. The Sunrise debate is likely to heat up during 2010, as the Joint Venture intends to submit a development plan which will propose an LNG plant elsewhere than in Timor-Leste. This will not follow the Timor-Leste’s government’s preference, and La’o Hamutuk is recognized as the main source of accurate, objective information.

Petroleum Fund

We have engaged with the Petroleum Fund since it was proposed more than six years ago. We continue to support the principles of intergenerational equity underlying the Petroleum Fund Act, to advocate for transparency and accountability, and to reiterate the risks of petroleum dependency.

Transfers from the Petroleum Fund pay for nearly 85% of state expenditures. La’o Hamutuk continues to attend the Banking and Payments Authority’s (BPA’s) quarterly press conferences and to analyze their reports. We often ask the only concrete questions. On two occasions, we identified discrepancies in published information that led to corrections by the relevant authorities, and we continue to work with the ANP and BPA to ensure future accuracy.

We track the sustainability of the Estimated Sustainable Income (ESI) in view of varying petroleum prices and Timor-Leste’s increasing population, and, together with the Ministry of Finance, gave a training on this topic for civil society.

In our presentations and submissions, we emphasize the importance of preserving future generations’ rights to some of Timor-Leste’s non-renewable petroleum wealth. We therefore welcomed the Government’s promise (in the 2010 budget documents) that they would not spend more than the ESI in 2009. However, two weeks later, the Ministry of Finance directed the BPA to transfer $104 million more than the ESI from the Petroleum Fund, and La’o Hamutuk informed parliament and the public of this unfortunate event, the first time in the five-year history of the Petroleum Fund that spending has exceeded sustainable levels.

In June, the BPA appointed the Geneva-based Bank of International Settlements to manage 20% of the Fund, diversify its portfolio to bonds issued by government other than the USA. As further diversification continues, possibly into equities, La’o Hamutuk will continue to analyze and circulate information.


Transparency is widely recognized as one way to reduce the danger that oil income will be misused. La’o Hamutuk believes that transparency is a means to an end, and that informed, independent analysis of published information is necessary if it is to be useful. To that end, we continually compare reports from the National Petroleum Authority, the Banking and Payments Authority, the Ministry of Finance, EITI and the oil companies, calling discrepancies and inconsistencies to the attention of the relevant agency.

We actively participate in civil society networks that monitor oil revenues, including the CGT (Core Group on Transparency, for which we gave two workshops), and worked with Oxfam Australia on their research for how to improve civil society engagement on these issues.

La’o Hamutuk is part of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Multi-Stakeholders Working Group, with the goal of advocating for and defending national interests for transparency in the extractive sector. As Timor-Leste neared EITI compliance, we also engaged with the evaluators and publicized relevant reports. In addition to Bulletin articles, we broadcast one radio program on EITI and another on the Petroleum Fund.

Heavy Oil Power Plant and National Electric Grid

During 2009, La’o Hamutuk’s Natural Resources Team monitored the plan of the Government of Timor-Leste to “electrify the nation,” including spending nearly $400 million of public money to build 630 km of transmission lines and 180 megawatts of heavy oil-fueled power generation. La’o Hamutuk is worried about this project’s environmental and socio-cultural impacts, as well as its economics, technical details, tender processes and lack of transparency.

Throughout the period, we researched and lobbied on this project through formal and informal meetings with staffers and advisors in many parts of Government, as well as Parliamentarians and other decision-makers. We obtained and published the proposal from Chinese Nuclear Industry 22nd Construction Company (CNI22) with technical details about the project, and repeatedly asked relevant authorities for additional information.

Together with others in civil society, including HASATIL, the Haburas Foundation and individuals, we wrote a petition to the National Parliament (PN) and the President of the Republic about this project. We supported a citizen’s petition to the Provedor regarding the lack of open tender and environmental impact assessment for the project. We also sought concrete information about the tender for a supervising consultant for the project, but did not receive clarification, reinforcing our impression that it would not be well-supervised. When the consultant was hired, we met with him several times.

We prompted and circulated a report on the project’s environmental consequences by the Australian National Toxics Network, and we wrote several newspaper articles and a comprehensive Bulletin report.

Land clearing began for the Hera plant in February 2009, and we visited the project site many times, talking with workers and local residents and posting pictures of the construction on our website. We organized a public meeting with the community in Hera to share information on this project’s impacts on the environment, local society and culture, health and the community, and met with teachers from a nearby school. When the project was prematurely reported stopped by international media in March, we clarified that it was still going.

In August, work on the project was quietly suspended, with $70 of the $87 million allocated to this project in the 2009 budget reassigned to the Pakote Referendum. We debated these issues with national MPs at an event organized by the International Centre for Journalists.

We learned that the suspension was because of design errors made by CNI22, and in November 2009 the Timor-Leste government announced major revisions, cancelling the planned Manatuto generating station and enlarging the Dili-centric Hera station. Total generating capacity was increased from 180 to 250 MW, and 164 km of transmission lines were added for a total of 794 km. Partly in response to issues raised by La’o Hamutuk and others, the project will no longer use second-hand generators, and the government claims that equipment being purchased will be adaptable to use diesel or natural gas in addition to heavy oil.

The redesign will significantly increase the total project cost, perhaps to $500 million or more. Yet, as La’o Hamutuk pointed out in our submission, the funding allocated in the 2010 State Budget is only about one-tenth of what is needed, and we continue to ask for clarity on how it will be paid for. Nevertheless, Parliament approved the budget, and construction is expected to resume early in 2010.

La’o Hamutuk has become the principal source of information and analysis on the Heavy Oil Project, and journalists, researchers, international advisors, students and diplomats rely on us. We continue to seek information and disseminate it as widely as possible.

Economics and Trade

State Budget

In December 2008 and continuing into 2009, La’o Hamutuk analyzed, educated and lobbied on issues around the proposed General State Budget for 2009, which escalated public expenditures beyond the 2008 mid-year budget rectification. We had many meetings with officials, Parliamentarians, civil society groups and others to increase our knowledge and their understanding about the implications of budgetary decisions. Our website published documents and analysis on the 2009 and 2010 budgets months before it was available elsewhere, and thousands of people accessed our information.

We wrote and publicized a submission to National Parliament on the 2009 State Budget that highlighted sustainability, the heavy oil power project, salary increases, and the hidden budget of the National Petroleum Authority as key issues not included.

We analyzed the Ministry of Finance’s calculation of the Estimated Sustainable Income, providing more realistic assumptions and projecting further into the future. This analysis was published on our website in two languages, and formed the basis for a training we gave at FONGTIL for more than 50 civil society activists, increasing their understanding of petroleum revenue management and how the ESI is calculated. We also discussed the consequences of the resource curse which would result from the Government spending more than the Sustainable Income, and wrote three related op-ed articles published in local newspapers.

In September, the Government quietly reallocated $70 million from the heavy oil project (which had run into technical problems; see above) to the “Pakote Referendum,” a collection of short-term small infrastructure repair projects. La’o Hamutuk researched and published about this possibly illegal extra-parliamentary budget change, which represents the kind of impulsive, wasteful spending characteristic of countries suffering the resource curse. Our critique was echoed by many others, and we hope that such decisions will be more considered in the future.

When the 2010 Budget was proposed in October, Parliament invited La’o Hamutuk to present at a two day conference on Borrowing and State Budget issues. A few weeks later we wrote our submission to Committee C on the budget document, highlighting exaggerations of the growth of the non-oil economy, inflated projections of domestic revenues, the dangers of borrowing and overspending, and the failure to appropriation enough money to build the heavy oil project. Although the Committee’s report expressed many of the concerns we raised, Parliament approved the budget on a party-line vote. Nevertheless, the level of awareness and capacity on budget issues among government officials, civil society and parliamentarians is increasing, and we continue to engage with all involved.


In August 2009, Parliament debated and enacted a Budget and Financial Management Law. The law creates the mechanism for the Minister of Finance to authorize borrowing from foreign countries or institutions, with little oversight or parliamentary approval. Together with other civil society members, La’o Hamutuk made a submission describing the proposed law’s impact on Timor-Leste.

La’o Hamutuk has circulated information about the processes and dangers of indebtedness, including web pages. We published an article in the Timor Post and facilitated another article by a former La’o Hamutuk staff member on the impact of borrowing in other countries. We are monitoring ongoing loan discussions between Timor-Leste and Portugal, China, Japan and the ADB.

This issue will become increasingly important in 2010, as expenditures increase and the government moves toward borrowing. We have initiated a civil society coalition Movimentu Kontra Deve which will analyze and campaign to help Timor-Leste avoid the bad consequences of debt.

International Assistance

La’o Hamutuk was an NGO representative to the 2008 Timor-Leste and Development Partners Meeting (donors’ conference), so we declined nomination to that role in 2009. However, we helped draft and disseminate the civil society statement, and our web site on the conference, with documents from many sources, preceded the equivalent government website by several months. We also had a bilateral meeting with the Norwegian ambassador prior to the meeting, discussing how Norway can help Timor-Leste avoid the resource curse.

In March 2009, La’o Hamutuk participated in a SE Asian and Pacific consultation regarding aid effectiveness and the Community Development for Development Effectiveness program in Manila, Philippines. We also analyzed donor aid to Timor-Leste over the past ten years, and circulated the resulting fact sheet to NGOs, national and international activists, university students, and communities. It provided a foundation for several reports in global media reflecting on the decade of international support for Timor-Leste.

In April, someone leaked about 700 personnel and other files relating to a World Bank program placing advisors in financial management and capacity building in the Ministry of Finance. La’o Hamutuk analyzed the data and held several meetings with the Bank, the Minister, advisors in the ministry and civil society. Our plan to host a public meeting was unable to go ahead when the Bank and the Minister (who had initially agreed) declined to participate. Although we decided not to write publicly about this highly controversial program, our analysis and quiet discussions contributed significantly to civil society understanding and decision-makers’ recognition of its weaknesses.

Timor-Leste has not qualified for full support from the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation, but it will soon receive assistance for anti-corruption programming. La’o Hamutuk held several meetings in 2009 with delegations and consultants from MCC and USAID, suggesting how they could effectively help prevent corruption here. We also joined in an international conference hosted by the Ministry of Finance on Monitoring the Principles for Good International Engagement in Fragile States.


The Timor-Leste government is committed to joining the Association of South-East Asian Nations in 2012. This will require Timor-Leste to agree to ASEAN Free Trade Agreements among its members, as well as with China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, and India. In 2009 we began researching these agreements and connecting with international activists to lay the groundwork for activities on trade issues during 2010.

We also discussed the Cotonou Agreements with diplomats, donors and activists, to better understand the implications for Timor-Leste. Timor-Leste will not be bound by any Economic Partnership Agreements with the EU that affect Pacific island signatories to Cotonou because it plans to join ASEAN and will be bound by other trade agreements.


La’o Hamutuk helped lead Timor-Leste civil society groups in organizing solidarity for human rights struggles in other countries. We provided facts and resources for an emergency demonstration against the Israeli attack on Gaza in January, and wrote and open letter to Timor-Leste officials and others about the Sri Lanka crisis in February, and briefed a member of Parliament prior to his visit to Colombo. We also supported the Ecuadorian environmental group Acción Ecológica when their government threatened their legal status.

La’o Hamutuk played a key role in local and international civil society activities around the tenth anniversary of Timor-Leste’s independence referendum. Since February, we helped initiate and coordinate Klibur Solidaridade (Solidarity Group), a coalition of Timorese and international activists who organized a series of events to commemorate the anniversary, including visits to rural areas, an exhibition and a conference. We hosted an “open house” for local and international activists, welcoming some on their first visit to a country they had supported for decades.

The events involved more than 120 volunteers, mostly Timorese university students, passing on the torch to a new generation of activists. Prior to August, Klibur Solidarity organized monthly discussions at the National University, which included La’o Hamutuk staffer Charles Scheiner describing the history of solidarity for Timor-Leste from the United States.

Nearly 50 activists came from overseas for the August events. The exhibition “Solidarity through the years, 1974-1999” was open for two weeks, attracting more than 400 attendees and closing with a candlelight remembrance. Through photos, flyers, films and materials from personal collections, it demonstrated the global breadth and tactical depth of the many activities through which people from around the world participated in Timor-Leste’s struggle for self-determination.

In order for international visitors to better understand Timor-Leste today, Klibur Solidaridade organized visits to local communities in Ermera and Maubisse. The culmination of the activities was the three day conference “Strengthening Solidarity, the Struggle for Justice Continues,” which was opened by President Jose Ramos-Horta and drew more than 200 people from 18 countries, ranging in age from 15 to 85. After re-establishing old friendships and creating new alliances, the conference issued a declaration: “In addition to ending impunity for those who committed crimes against humanity and other human rights violations during Indonesia‘s illegal occupation, participants developed proposals to address current issues, including economic justice, gender justice and West Papua.”

The anniversary referendum was also an occasion for La’o Hamutuk and others to reflect on Timor-Leste’s situation today, which we did by publishing background papers (see above) and in numerous discussions with journalists (see Appendix IV) and activists.

Governance and democracy

Governance incorporates several topics: justice, security, rule of law, international influence and democracy, as opportunities and challenges arose.

Ending impunity

Our main objective is to keep the justice issue alive until an international tribunal is established to try the principal perpetrators of crimes against humanity during the 24-year Indonesian occupation of Timor-Leste. Together with other local and international movements, we give voice to the widespread popular concern that accountability is critical to effective law enforcement in Timor-Leste for the past, present and future. The lack of justice was a major contributor to crises during 2002, 2006 and 2008, and it continues to disrupt Timor-Leste as a democratic state governed under the rule of law.

2009 included the tenth anniversary of the massacres and terror campaigns that surrounded the referendum in Timor-Leste, and La’o Hamutuk amplified the voices of victims and others calling for justice. Unlike high government and United Nations (UN) officials, we attended the memorial events for the April massacres in Liquiçá and at Manuel Carrascalão’s home in Dili, translating and circulating the statements of the survivors on our websites and through other media. We produced a radio program on these memorials, as well as a briefing paper “Justice for Timor-Leste Remains an Unfulfilled International Obligation.” We continued to pressure an international tribunal, through various means, together with other members of the Timor-Leste National Alliance for an International Tribunal (ANTI) and international human rights organizations. (See above for our solidarity work around the referendum anniversary.)

On 30 August, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão and President José Ramos-Horta decided to release accused mass murderer Maternus Bere from prison. Maternus Bere was indicted by the UN-backed Serious Crimes Unit in 2003 for leading the 1999 Suai massacre. This decision violated Timor-Leste’s constitution and strengthened impunity for accused war criminals. Bere, who had been arrested a few weeks earlier and was pending trial, was turned over the Indonesian ambassador and eventually freed in West Timor.

La’o Hamutuk became the principal reference on this controversial issue. We wrote a statement and organized a public meeting. We also made English and Tetum web pages with information about Bere’s accusations, historical background, analysis of media coverage, information from Interpol, official letters, photos, and other material concerning this matter.

La’o Hamutuk discussed the Bere case with many ambassadors, journalists, parliamentarians and officials. We attended the Parliamentary debate on a “no confidence” motion which was rejected along party lines. In October, La’o Hamutuk wrote the UN Security Council, and we organized for about 50 citizens of Timor-Leste to write personal letters to the Council.

For International Human Rights Day, we counted how many times “impunity” and other key words were spoken during Security Council debates and resolutions regarding Timor-Leste in the past ten years, pointing out that their words were rarely accompanied by effective action.

Although short-term “transitional justice” processes have some value, we continue to press for an end to impunity, maintaining a focus on personal accountability for crimes against humanity which accompanied Indonesia’s 24-year, illegal occupation and repression in Timor-Leste.

Preventing Corruption

Timor-Leste’s Government proposed a law to form a one-person Anti-Corruption Commission, trying to show they are serious about ending corruption. La’o Hamutuk concluded that the draft law was worse than the status quo. We discussed this with other NGOs, presented testimony to Parliament, and published an editorial in our Bulletin. A revised version of the law, incorporating some of our suggestions but still very weak, was enacted in early July. (La’o Hamutuk advisory board member Adérito de Jesus Soares was nominated as Commissioner, but partisan politics delayed his confirmation until 2010.) We met with many advisors, researchers, journalists, ambassadors and officials about what Timor-Leste should do to strengthen its resistance to corruption.


In late 2008, the newspaper Tempo Semanal published an article including evidence of corruption by the Minister of Justice, and the Minister brought criminal defamation charges against editor Jose Belo. La’o Hamutuk provided personal and international networking support for Mr. Belo and freedom of the press, as well as issuing a statement, producing a radio program, and creating a web page with links to statements and documents. In June 2009, Timor-Leste adopted a new penal code which has no provision for criminal defamation, and the case was eventually dropped.

International Stabilisation Force (ISF)

The ISF, International Stabilisation Force led by Australia and including some troops from New Zealand, was invited to Timor-Leste during the 2006 crisis and continues to have several hundred soldiers across the country, cooperating with the UN but not under their command.

La’o Hamutuk met with the Australian-led (ISF) several times in 2009 press for a Tetum translation of the Status of Forces Agreements and clear, written, complaints process. We provided comments to the Nautilus Institute for their “Australian forces in Timor-Leste” online briefing book, which includes material from La’o Hamutuk. The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), the voluntary national association for aid and development, also cited La’o Hamutuk’s information in their June 2009 report to the Australian Government National Human Rights Consultation.

After armed ISF soldiers were observed drinking alcohol in Aileu district, we helped write reports and held discussions with the Australian Ambassador, activists and others, leading to disciplinary action against the offending soldiers.


Land Rights

In 2009 La’o Hamutuk began working on land issues, taking a highly active role in the civil society Land Network. On 12 June the Justice Minister launched a draft Land Law, and this took the focus of our activities in the second half of the year.

Because of Timor-Leste’s history of colonialism, war and crisis in 1999 and 2006, land issues are very complex. One way to ensure the best workable solution for land is to advocate for people to have the opportunity to participate in decision making on land policy making. A key advocacy objectives was to ensure that the government held an accountable and meaningful public consultation on the draft Land Law. Although the consultation had many problems, it was much better than most law consultations in Timor-Leste.

In June we developed a Public Consultation Monitoring Process for the Land Law. We trained Land Network members in this process – trialing it at the government consultations in Manatuto and Baucau. It was then perfected and coordinated by Pedrito Viera of Haburas Foundation. Together with the Land Network mentor and FONGTIL District Liaison Officers we produced a list of Minimum Requirements For An Effective Public Consultation. We then lobbied international and national groups to endorse them. Monitoring the consultation was an important strategy that provided clear evidence that participants had few opportunities to speak, especially women. The process also recorded community concerns to ensure more accountable decision-making (the Ministry of Justice later lost their notes of the consultation). La’o Hamutuk wrote and circulated almost all Land Network consultation press releases in two languages. Following this effort government then moved to meet, or partially meet, some of the Minimum Requirements including doubling the consultation time, holding some sub-district meetings and providing non-legal information materials. The draft law was changed to address two key concerns raised in consultations – closing a loophole to allow non-Timorese people to own land, and strengthening community land rights.

We also analyzed the pilot Ita Nia Rai data collection program, as well as broader land justice issues (which will appear in our February 2010 Bulletin). Throughout the year we gave many interviews, presentations, workshops and trainings on land issues (see Appendices III and IV). We met regularly with a broad range of decision makers, participated in government workshops, learnt from others’ experience overseas and held a public meeting on land issues. We also produced web pages on land issues and Ita Nia Rai containing references to many other documents.

Experience elsewhere shows that land laws themselves will not guarantee land rights. More powerful people exploit the law to their own interests, with others lacking access to information, support and assistance to access their rights. During 2009 La’o Hamutuk lobbied donors, government officials, and NGOs to support the many other activities needed to strengthen land rights - this includes financial education and planning, legal aid, community land use planning, mediation services, access to independent information, connecting local communities with national advocacy efforts and fair land lease agreements. Some international NGOs are exploring if they could incorporate some of these activities into their work, and policy advisors have incorporated some of our suggestions into their recommendations to government. Our talks with community groups emphasized that community themselves are central to protecting their land rights, and we discussed different strategies for how this could occur.

In 2009 we also analyzed the Ita Nia Rai data collection program, and supported members of the Land Network to prepare for field research in Liquiçá. The program incorporates many good aspects by building on community knowledge of land boundaries, and sharing information in Tetum and through visual materials that people who are not comfortable reading can understand. However, it has several shortcomings. There is no process for community evaluation and feedback – which will lead to problems in the future. For example, family plots can be registered in an individual family member’s name, and people with unresolved disputes are given no further support to information (this is a particular problem in disputes with the State). Project timelines are often rushed, with the display period for claims reduced to 30 days. So far Ita Nia Rai has not incorporated our suggestions.

Throughout the year we met with various stakeholders from government, donors, academia, NGOs and communities. We monitored changes to the Land Law, as well as developments on related laws such as the Civil Code, compensation arrangements and a Community Land Law. We learnt much about interlinked land processes and experience in other countries. In 2010 we plan to build on our 2009 work by publishing much more extensively on land issues now that we understand the complex legal framework - with developments of at least seven laws underway simultaneously in December 2009, policy framework - with many new services and supports not yet in place and advocacy needs - we now have good links to monitor developments, we also emphasize avenues to provide information to communities and the economic relationship to land and its influence on decisions to sell or rent out land.

Climate Justice

La’o Hamutuk’s work on Climate Change is based on the principle of Climate Justice. We realize that the government of Timor-Leste’s position in the international negotiations on climate change reflects some principles of climate justice, but still there are some points need to be clear in term of the negotiation on REDD+. Realizing the importance of the December UNFCCC 15 conference in Copenhagen to the global climate change policy, La’o Hamutuk organized a public meeting in November with the Minister of Economy and Development and the UN to facilitate discussion on government position to the conference.

In December 2009, two La’o Hamutuk staff members, Juvinal Diaz and Inês Martins, went to Copenhagen for the UNFCCC and civil society events. They participated in delegations linked with Oilwatch, La Via Campesina and Focus on the Global South, and met and networked with a broad range of climate justice activists from across the world. Despite a massive turn-out by global civil society, as well as a strong voice from developing countries, no accord to combat climate change was reached in Copenhagen – largely because of the refusal from per capita high-polluting countries to change their ways. We will follow up the Copenhagen Conference by urging the Prime Minister to reject the Copenhagen Accord, as it clearly undermines the responsibility of industrialized countries for what they have done in past. We will continue to convene the Working Group on Climate Change and engage in global climate justice networks.


La’o Hamutuk continues to monitor major agrofuels agreements with foreign companies. Three of the agreements we investigated in 2008 have now been cancelled. Prior to confirmation of the cancellation of the EDA jatropha contract, we met with the Carabela community to discuss this project. We also met with Suai communities in November 2009 to discuss the GT Leste Biotech MOU for 100,000 hectares of sugarcane plantation – with the company still negotiating with government over a possible 50,000 hectare land concession. We also learned more about State land ownership under the Portuguese and Indonesian regimes, and the implications of the RDTL State claiming this land under new Land Laws. Even though major agrofuels projects appear not to be going ahead, many of the issues for these projects are similar to other private sector large-scale cash crop monocultures likely to occur in future.

Food Sovereignty

Food sovereignty is different from “food security” which focuses on guaranteeing access to food without distinguishing if it is grown locally or imported.

Although many groups are working on food sovereignty issues in Timor-Leste, there is little influence on government and donor policy-making. In the first half of 2009 we took part in many activities to raise the profile of agricultural issues in Timor-Leste. In the second half we began surveying national groups working on food sovereignty and related issues. This survey aims to identify existing resources and work on food sovereignty issues, identifying weaknesses, and see how La’o Hamutuk can best contribute to research and advocacy in this area. We also took part in the government’s National Priority Working Group, and tried to strengthen the role of local civil society organizations in this process. Many of the working group suggestions promoted food sovereignty objectives, such as food diversification and sustainable land management.

NGO coalitions

To share information, strengthen advocacy and reinforce local and global civil society movements, La’o Hamutuk joins with many other organizations in international and local coalitions or networks whose focus overlaps the topics we monitor. During 2009, we worked with the following:

Timor-Leste coalitions

Core Group on Transparency

The Core Group on Transparency (CGT) formed in 2005 to monitor the RDTL state budget, and to advocate for transparency and accountability, especially regarding oil and gas revenues. The Core Group includes about 10 local NGOs, and also works with organizations and networks such as Oxfam Australia, CAFOD, Global Witness, Revenue Watch Institute and Publish What You Pay (PWYP). La’o Hamutuk is an active and well-informed member, providing research, leadership, training and coordination for the CGT and wider civil society. During 2009, La’o Hamutuk gave several briefings and trainings to CGT members (sometimes coordinated through the NGO Forum) on budget and petroleum revenue issues, and we coordinated submissions to Parliament on the Anti-Corruption Commission Law, Decentralization Law, Budget and Financial Management Law, and 2009 and 2010 State Budgets.

Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Working Group

This semi-official body includes representatives from Government, oil companies, IFIs and civil society. Since 2007, La’o Hamutuk staff have been elected to represent civil society, and we continue to engage in the Working Group to push for greater transparency and accountability. During 2009, LH staffer Viriato Seac attended an EITI training in Germany, and Timor-Leste produced its first EITI report. At the end of the year, we reduced our participation in EITI because our human resources are limited, but we continue to support transparency in oil industry and revenue management, which we believe must be broader and stricter than the minimum EITI standard. 

National Alliance for an International Tribunal (ANTI)

La’o Hamutuk is one of the most active members of this coalition of Timor-Leste human rights NGOs who push to end impunity for crimes against humanity committed during the 24-year Indonesian occupation. Our work in this coalition is described above. La’o Hamutuk serves on ANTI’s Board with responsibility for liaison and advocacy with international solidarity, human rights, and justice movements. During Klibur Solidaridade activities and the controversy surrounding Maternus Bere’s release, La’o Hamutuk and ANTI members coordinated closely together.

Rede ba Rai (Land Network)

Operating from 2001 to 2005, the Rede ba Rai network was re-established in 2008 and includes local and international NGOs in Timor-Leste. It monitors, advocates and raises awareness regarding land processes in Timor-Leste (in which many international agencies are active). Land rights became a major focus for La’o Hamutuk during 2009, and our work in this area is described above.

HASATIL (Sustainable Agriculture Network)

HASATIL is a network of about 30 local organizations including NGOs, community groups and the agriculture faculty of the National University of Timor-Leste, working to strengthen sustainable agriculture in Timor-Leste. It is the member of La Via Campesina. In 2009, La’o Hamutuk participated in several HASATIL conferences and organized discussions with members on various advocacy issues. La’o Hamutuk works with HASATIL to share information, facilitating knowledge, advocacy and coordination. La’o Hamutuk will continue to work with HASATIL to build a national movement for sustainable agriculture.

Housing Rights Network (Rede Direitu ba Uma Timor-Leste)

Rede Direitu ba Uma Timor-Leste (RDU-TL) monitors and advocates on communities’ rights regarding house confiscation, and to guarantee that nobody will be a victim of coerced evictions. This year RDU-TL did an assessment of adequate housing in Timor-Leste, which will be published and form the basis advocacy on housing rights and eviction. La’o Hamutuk is part of the policy monitoring and analysis group.

Working Group on Climate Change

The Working Group on Climate Change was initiated by La’o Hamutuk in September 2009, with the principal objective of increasing its members knowledge on Climate Change and how they can integrate Climate Change in their work. In 2009 the working group wrote a press release about the Global Day of Action against Climate Change and, with La’o Hamutuk, organized a Public Meeting on Climate Change. There are about ten active organizations: Fongtil, Oxfam Australia, Trócaire, Timor Verde, Santalum, Farmer Study Group, Hasatil, KSI, Etadep and La’o Hamutuk.

International Coalitions

As discussed in the program work above, much of La’o Hamutuk’s research and advocacy relies on informal partners in other countries. The coalitions listed here are ones we relate to more formally.


Oilwatch was started in Ecuador and is now based in Nigeria, and includes organizations in tropical forest countries who are resisting oil industry activities and the underdevelopment, environmental damage and social degradation which often results. Oilwatch was one of the first advocates for “climate justice” or “ecological debt” – that nations and people who benefited from activities which cause destructive climate change must take the principal responsibility to address it. La’o Hamutuk has been a member of Oilwatch since 2002, and we are active in Southeast Asia and globally. Two La’o Hamutuk staff members participated in the Oilwatch Southeast Asia meeting in Copenhagen during the UNFCCC 15 and La’o Hamutuk will host the Oilwatch SEA regional meeting during 2010.

Climate Justice Now Network

La’o Hamutuk has participated in the Climate Justice Network since it was started in Bali in 2007, with a further meeting in Bangkok. LH has organized two public meetings on Climate Justice since 2008, and we initiated a discussion group on Climate Change which adopted the principle of Climate Justice. In 2009 La’o Hamutuk staff Juvinal Diaz and Inês Martins participated in the Klimaforum activities in Copenhagen to learn more about the issue and support the global fight for a just solution to Climate Change.

Publish What You Pay (PWYP)

Since 2005, La’o Hamutuk has cooperated with the Publish What You Pay Coalition (PWYP) which has around 300 members around the world. This coalition urges oil and mining companies to publish their payments to governments, as a way of preventing corruption in countries rich in non-renewable resources. By relating to networks whose experience are similar to Timor-Leste’s, we improve our advocacy for Timor-Leste to implement transparency and accountability. During 2009, La’o Hamutuk has somewhat reduced our participation in this coalition (although we continue to support its goals) in order to focus on broader, more local, aspects of petroleum development.

International solidarity and human rights organizations

La’o Hamutuk works closely with the U.S.-based East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN), the Australian Coalition for Justice in East Timor, TAPOL (U.K.), Focus on the Global South (which included La’o Hamutuk in their delegation to the Copenhagen conference), the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, and many other organizations and coalitions which support justice and equitable development for Timor-Leste. The Klibur Solidaridade events in August, supported by a coalition of 22 organizations, reinforced both Timorese and international commitment to struggle together against injustice, colonialism and impunity.

Evaluating and strengthening La’o Hamutuk’s work

This section described activities which La’o Hamutuk planned to do in 2009, and where we changed or were unable to fulfill our plans.

In December we signed a contract to rent a new office in Vila Verde, Dili, after a long search for a suitable building. Negotiations took three months because we needed to confirm with various authorities, family and community members that the property ownership was not disputed. We also sought several legal opinions to ensure that our organization, rather than an individual, would bear responsibility for the contract. IDA architects kindly gave us a free evaluation of the building – which will need to be renovated – and advised that we wait until the 2010 dry season to start construction.

During 2009 two of our staffers moved on. Adino Nunes left in June to work as a legal drafter with the Ministry of Justice. Viriato Seac left at the end of the year to focus on his legal studies and undertake some consulting work. Juvinal Dias began work on the Natural Resources team on the first day of 2009, and in June Mariano Ferreira, who brings a wealth of experience on agriculture issues, joined. Although many people apply to work at La’o Hamutuk we find it hard to find skilled people, especially Timorese female staff. Once in our new office we will have room for volunteers and interns, a good way to identify and train good future staff members.

We produced 18 radio programs during 2009 (see Appendix II), broadcast on national Radio Timor-Leste and community radio stations in Oecusse and Viqueque. In August, RTL suspended La’o Hamutuk’s Radio Igualdade as part of a station-wide assessment because of occasional poor quality sound recordings. Radio Timor-Leste delayed plans for a trial period for suspended programs several times, and our program will resume in 2010. Experienced sound technician Maximus Tahu is now closely mentoring other staff. Many of our programs are available on our website.

We planned to undertake an External Evaluation in late 2009 or 2010. We began preparing for this in 2009, but decided to devote more time and attention in 2010 in order to achieve the best results.

We published one Bulletin in 2009, fewer than our goal of four. We continue to look for ways to make drafting, editing and publishing our Bulletin more expeditious, and hope that our External Evaluation will help with this. In the meantime we increased our use of other media, especially newspapers and our website to provide timely public commentary.

We organized three public meetings in Dili, fewer than planned. However, we led more discussions with other NGOs and communities in the districts, as listed in Appendix III.

Strengthening staff capacity

In 2009 we worked on several of the suggestions from our 2008 strategic planning process. This included actions to reduce dependency on one or two staff members, and strengthening institutional memory.

  • We organized for board member Pamela Sexton to run a ‘Group Process’ training for staff.

  • Our first annual meeting with La’o Hamutuk’s donors gave valuable feedback on our strategic and annual plans, as well as ideas for strengthening the organization.

  • More staff members were involved in writing and preparing web pages.

  • We standardized Tetum as the language for all office documentation.

  • We better documented our activities – radio programs, public meetings and La’o Hamutuk in the media.

  • We undertook self-directed research in many issues including climate change, land rights, justice, heavy oil, debt, trade agreements and food sovereignty advocacy.

  • We participated in ‘Klibur Solidaridade’ preparations that helped to share information on advocacy and activism during the Indonesian occupation.

Our La’o Hamutuk Birthday Party, ‘Open day’ for visiting activists, and end-of-year party strengthened informal links with supporters locally and internationally. La’o Hamutuk supporters are an important resource – helping with coalition building, information sharing, technical and policy advice and other tasks, such as translation. We also strengthened our informal networks to improve information gathering on issues such as land, climate change and debt.

Staff attended:

  • Language classes (Portuguese and English)

  • Business training

  • UN two-day workshop on Housing Rights (2)

  • Three EITI trainings

  • A Development & Peace “Systemization of Experience” workshop in Bali

  • Several international conferences in Timor-Leste (June and August)

Strengthening La’o Hamutuk as an organization


At the end of 2009, La’o Hamutuk has two international and five Timorese staff members. We hope to hire four more Timorese and one or two international staff as we find good people, and plan more active recruitment outreach, especially looking for women.

We continue to improve Timorese staff members’ English and Tetum skills. We also intend to improve our capacity in Portuguese, though this is not an immediate priority.

Operations and Coordination

We tightened up our financial procedures, moving from cash payments to using checks for outlays over $100, and putting our reserve funds in a time-deposit account. Following advice from our auditor and donors, we added additional signatures and cross-checks to approval of expenditures. Our finance staff continues to improve her skills, attending a training by Trócaire and receiving support from other staff.

La’o Hamutuk last did an external evaluation in 2004, and we will do another in 2010, with an international and a Timorese evaluator. We expect this to give us a better understanding of how La’o Hamutuk’s work supports and influences civil society, international institutions, governments and the other groups and individuals, which will make our work more effective in the future. We also plan to survey the outreach and effectiveness of our publications and other outreach tools.

In 2009 La’o Hamutuk found a building in Vila Verde, Dili that, while it will be an appropriate new office, requires some renovations and infrastructural improvements. We are working with a volunteer architect and will contract to renovate the building after the rains stop, and expect to move in during 2010.

During 2009, we changed from the Indonesian external auditor we had used for the past five years to the Timor-based auditing company Haksolok Consultancy, who conducted our external audit for 2008. After feedback from our donors, we asked the auditor to amplify his initial report, which has now been accepted by our Forum, Board and all our donors. The audit report concluded “In our opinion, the financial statements referred to above present fairly, in all material respects, the financial results of the organization for the year ended,” and the only irregularities identified were those which resulted in dismissal of a staff member, as discussed in our Annual Report for 2008. We expect to continue to work with Haksolok for the next several years.

Our fundraising continues to provide enough income, with support from Hivos (Netherlands), Trócaire (Ireland), Development and Peace (Canada). During 2009 we signed new three-year contacts with Hivos and Development and Peace, and although Trócaire can only contract for one year, they intend ongoing support. We completed the Sunrise LNG research project funded by Oxfam Australia, and they accepted the project report.

Research Skills

Our work researching, monitoring and analyzing policies and international institutions and systems have improved policies, as well as bettering the lives of people in Timor-Leste. Government officials, National Parliament, civil society, journalists, students, academics and diplomats frequently use and request La’o Hamutuk’s material, telling us that our analysis and information is irreplaceable.

Programs and Activities

Organizational Level

In March 2010, La’o Hamutuk signed a new agreement with RTL to resume our program, with better technical quality. We committed to produce 41 half-hour radio programs this year for RTL and community radio stations in Viqueque and Oecusse districts. We hope to broadcast on more community radio stations, and will distribute CDs to civil society groups, including those in the Land Network.

We hope to publish four Bulletins in 2010. In 2009 we finished shifting from Bahasa Indonesia to Tetum, and our Bulletins are now in both Tetum and English. We will also produce Surats Popular on land issues and other topics.

Issues La’o Hamutuk will address in 2010

Our Natural Resources and Agriculture teams will continue to work on Governance and Economics issues, until we hire more staff to form new teams.

Natural resources

Our work will focus on petroleum dependency, management of the Petroleum Fund, the State Budget, transparency, accountability and sustainability, with the goal of avoiding the resource curse. During 2010 we anticipate two budget cycles, revision of the Petroleum Fund law, creating of a National Oil Company and Government actions to borrow money from overseas. We expect to monitor and advocate on all of these, as well as continuing our research, public education and publications on ongoing and new petroleum-related developments.

During 2010, the Government and the Sunrise Joint Venture headed by Woodside are expected to harden their positions, with the Government insisting on an LNG plant in Timor-Leste but the companies saying that other options are more profitable and therefore preferred. Building on our past research, we will continue to try to keep this debate focused on technical, legal and economic facts, rather than partisan politics, and to help journalists, policy-makers and commentators understand the underlying issues. We also encourage Timor-Leste officials to prepare to benefit from petroleum projects, enhancing education, human resources, infrastructure, legal framework and administration which can ensure that we receive the most benefits, while reducing the risks.

We will continue to collaborate with the Oilwatch Network and other coalitions, groups and individuals working on climate justice, environment, petroleum management, and sustainable energy policies in Timor-Leste and around the world, and will host an Oilwatch international meeting during 2010, which will help people here learn from the experiences of other countries in reducing the negative impacts of oil and gas development, as well as building the movement for climate justice.

Governance and Democracy

La’o Hamutuk created its Justice Team in 2009 to deal with the case of Maternus Bere, and we will continue to provide information, advocacy and leadership at both national and international levels to end impunity for serious crimes committed during the 24-year Indonesian occupation. This work will be done in cooperation with the Timor-Leste National Alliance for an International Tribunal (ANTI) and international and local human rights and justice groups.

Economics and Trade

The 2010 budget approved in December 2009 indicates that there will be a “rectification budget” in mid-year, and we will provide documents, analysis and testimony on this and the proposed 2011 budget during 2010. As the initial 2010 budget contains less expenditures than are needed to implement all its programs, we also expect that the Government will borrow from other governments or international financial institutions. Based on the sad debt experiences of other petroleum-dependent countries, we will urge caution.

The government’s plan to join ASEAN in 2012 will require it to agree to various free trade agreements. These agreements reduce government’s autonomy, and constrain its economic and social policy options. La’o Hamutuk will, together with other NGOs, follow and educate on this. La’o Hamutuk will specifically follow trade-related issues that impact Timor-Leste’s local economy and food sovereignty. We also intend to strengthen our links with other ASEAN activist groups by attending the ASEAN People’s Forum.

We will continue to track bilateral and multilateral assistance into Timor-Leste, participating in conferences in Dili and publishing analysis and materials.


The agriculture team will continue to monitor and advocate on land issues – particularly new laws and the involvement of international institutions such as the World Bank. We will also emphasize the links between economic and land decisions, land justice, inclusive decision-making and the need for independent information and advice to inform people’s land decisions. In the first half of the year we will complete our mapping of key organizations working on food sovereignty, and share this information with other groups to better understand the weaknesses in food sovereignty advocacy in Timor-Leste and how to work more effectively. We will also look for ways to link farmers’ experiences with decision-making on agriculture policies. In 2010 we will continue to advocate for climate justice within Timor-Leste, as well as the follow-up international negotiations in Mexico. We will continue to advocate for climate change responses that empower communities to respond to the unique impacts in their local microclimate.

Results of La’o Hamutuk’s work

La’o Hamutuk’s reputation as a source of accurate, nonpartisan information and analysis is well-established. Local and international NGOs, IFIs, UN agencies, journalists, academics, donors, embassies, political parties and government agencies rely on La’o Hamutuk for facts and documents to inform their own analysis and actions.

Natural Resources

La’o Hamutuk’s public education and advocacy on the sustainable use of oil and gas income has increased awareness among organizations, political leaders and the public. Our debate and interactions with government and politicians helped inform them about sustainable management of petroleum wealth, transparency and accountability mechanisms and the dangers of petroleum dependency. Here are a few concrete examples:

  • Our information, analysis and critique of the Heavy Oil electricity project stimulated others to take up the issue, and prompted many responses – including a personal attack by the Prime Minister on a La’o Hamutuk staffer during a session of Parliament. However, in response to some of our concerns, work on the project stopped for several months, and the redesign incorporates La’o Hamutuk’s recommendations not to use second-hand generators, to be adaptable to use other fuels, and for a more robust transmission grid design.

  • Our years of work on the maritime boundaries and Greater Sunrise controversies has established us as a primary source on this issue, consulted by media, ambassadors, and the oil industry press, as well as civil society groups, parliamentarians and public officials.

Governance and justice

Our work around the tenth anniversary of the 1999 massacres, the Klibur Solidarity conference, and the illegal Bere release renewed attention to the issue of impunity in Timor-Leste and around the world, reinvigorating and strengthening activism and commitment in many countries.

The draft Anti-Corruption law was improved based on points in our submission, and the new commissioner and various advisors are increasingly accepting our recommendation to prioritize systemic prevention of corruption.


  • Increased discussion and awareness of climate change and climate justice. La’o Hamutuk remains one of the few organizations providing public information and analysis on climate change in Tetum, and has been consulted by many agencies seeking to design climate change adaptation programs here. At the Copenhagen Conference, the Timor-Leste government delegation aligned itself with those urging rich industrialized nations to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

  • La’o Hamutuk played a major role in the Land Network’s advocacy on the Land Law consultation –monitoring participation, lobbying for international endorsement of the Land Network’s “Minimum Requirements”, writing press releases and presenting on the consultation process. As a result, the Government doubled the time for the consultation, provided more comprehensible public information materials, and held additional consultations in 20 subdistricts. The Land Network keeps a clear record of what was said, including community recommendations and issues not discussed. When the Government lost most of their minutes from the consultations, they recovered the information from the Land Network’s minutes.

  • Many decision-makers and local groups have a better understanding of land as a “system” rather than a single law. Some donors and NGOs are now exploring how to integrate activities that support land rights into their work.

  • At least three agrofuels projects endorsed by the Secretary of State for Energy Policy are now stopped, including the EDA Jatropha Oil Processing Facility that was supported by the Prime Minister.


  • Our work on the State Budget has increased discussion about revenues, sustainability, and longer-term consequences of budget decisions. The Vice Minister of Finance wrote an extensive commentary in the daily newspaper responding to La’o Hamutuk’s analysis of the resource curse implications of the 2009 budget, and the paper subsequently published our rebuttal. We were also invited by Parliament’s Budget Committee to give a presentation at their workshop prior to the 2010 budget debate.

  • Our warnings about spending the Petroleum Fund too quickly are being heeded. The 2010 State Budget is smaller than the previous years, and stays within the Estimated Sustainable Income. One government advisor recently told us that he teases the World Bank for having outsourced its economic analysis work to La’o Hamutuk.

  • Institutions including the ADB and Banking and Payments Authority corrected errors in their publications after La’o Hamutuk called them to their attention.

  • La’o Hamutuk helped convince many Parliamentarians to change their initially favorable views on the “Referendum Package,” accepting our criticism that it was insufficiently planned, did not contain specifications, and violated normal budgetary and tender procedures.

  • After La’o Hamutuk made people aware that the government plans to go into debt, many civil society groups and others joined the debate, and a debt-focused civil society discussion group has emerged from our work.

Appendices (click for separate page)

The Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis (La’o Hamutuk)
Institutu Timor-Leste ba Analiza no Monitor ba Dezenvolvimentu
Rua D. Alberto Ricardo, Bebora, Dili, Timor-Leste
P.O. Box 340, Dili, Timor-Leste
Tel: +670-3321040 or +670-77234330
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