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Transitional Land Law

21 April 2010

Liga ba pajina ida ne'e iha lian Tetum

For more on land issues see our other web pages:

Who will get land under the draft transitional Land Law? – Provides information on who will get land under the Land Law, major changes since the first draft, and issues of concern.

Land CompensationExplains compensation processes under the draft Land Law and Expropriation Law. Also outlines La’o Hamutuk’s concerns with the draft Real Estate Finance Fund law.

Civil Code (English/Tetum)

When is it fair for the State to take private Land? (also Tetum) – Analysis on the draft Expropriation Law which allows the State to take land for public purposes and private companies, with few limitations.

RDTL Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030Threatening Land Rights section explores the government’s plans to claim over 22,000 hectares of land, which many people depend on for daily needs.

La'o Hamutuk Bulletin February 2010 (also Tetum) – Articles on Land Justice in Timor-Leste, Transitional Land Law, and Public Consultation on the Land Law.

Land Processes in Timor-Leste (also Tetum) – An overview of land-related processes currently taking place. This includes documents, commentary and analysis from various sources.

Can distributing Effective Registration Certificates resolve the land problem? (also Tetum, December 2011)

President Vetoes Three Land Laws March 2012

Update on the Land Law Packet process (Tetum) October 2017


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 more, see the February 2010 La'o Hamutuk Bulletin (also Tetum) which includes articles on The Transitional Land Law, Land Justice in Timor-Leste and Public Consultation on the Land Law.

Parliament approved the three laws in February 2012, but they were vetoed by President Jose Ramos-Horta.

For background documents see our Land Processes in Timor-Leste webpage.


The draft Land Law describes the process for agreeing who has the right to compensation. The Real Estate Finance Fund will then pay this money based on an Official Table of Land Values (which does not yet exist). The proposed Real Estate Finance Fund goes beyond this function. It creates a slush fund which government can use to pay for everything from staff training to public housing. It will also foot the bill when the State expropriates land. Combining compensation with these extra functions reduces transparency, increases opportunity for corruption and shifts responsibility from existing ministries. This will encourage “raiding” of the compensation fund as occurs in many countries.

The draft Law on Expropriation defines how the State can take people’s land for the “public good”. Expropriation is necessary in some cases – such as to build ports or other infrastructure when there are no alternative sites. This needs a rigorous and transparent process to avoid abuse by corrupt officials who expropriate prime land to give to private interests. A Law on Expropriation should offer every possible incentive for the State to avoid taking land. Under the draft law a separate fund - the Real Estate Finance Fund - will pay for damages or relocation. However money to pay costs to avoid expropriation – such as building a road around a village, not through it – still comes out of ministerial budgets. This creates little incentive for project planners to avoid taking people’s land, even when it is the cheapest option.

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.

Submissions to the Government consultation on the draft Land Law

Public Consultation

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.

Preparations for the draft transitional Land Law


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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