30 May 2014

LH ba Prezidente TMR: Favor veto Lei Komunikasaun Sosiál

Iha loron 6 Maiu 2014, Parlamentu Nasionál aprova ona Lei Komunikasaun Sosiál ne’ebé sei limita diretu Konstitusional ba liberdade espresaun no imprensa. Liu semana tolu ona. Parlamentu seidauk haruka ba Prezidente Taur Matan Ruak, ne’ebé sei iha loron 30 atu promulga ka veto lei ne’e bainhira nia simu ona.

Iha 29 Maiu, Lao Hamutuk no organizasaun sira seluk husu ba Prezidente atu veto lei, “tanba Lei ne’e sei estraga demokrasia no direitus umanu, esklui ema barak nia direitu ba liberdade espresaun, fó de’it podér ba grupu ida de’it atu fó lisensa ba ema balu no limita ema seluk atu fahe informasaun. Ami konsidera ida ne’e viola Konstituisaun no Konvensaun Internasionál ba Direitu Sivíl no Polítika."

Karta ne’e iha Tetum no Ingles, no mós informasaun no analiza sira bele hare online iha internet. Tuir mai rezumu hosi karta.

LH to President TMR: Please Veto Media Law

On 6 May, Timor-Leste's Parliament passed a law which would severely restrict Constitutional rights of freedom of speech and of the press. More than three weeks later, they have not yet sent the law to President Taur Matan Ruak, who will have 30 days to sign or veto the law when he receives it.

On 29 May, La'o Hamutuk and other organizations urged the President to veto the law, "because it will harm democracy and human rights, restrict many people's rights to freedom of expression, and give power to a single group to issue a few licenses while limiting other people's rights to share information. We believe this violates Timor-Leste’s Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."

Update: On 25 June, 50 days after they passed it, Parliament sent the proposed media law to President Taur Matan Ruak, who has to decide whether to sign or veto it. Download the latest version here.  On 14 July, TMR asked the Court of Appeals to give him an advisory opinion on whether it is Constitutional. On 11 August, the Court advised the President that several articles of the proposed law did indeed violate Timor-Leste's Constitution, and he transmitted their opinion to Parliament on 19 August.  More detailed and updated information is on La'o Hamutuk's website.

The civil society letter is online in Tetum or English translation, as well as information and analysis. The following is abridged from the letter:

14 May 2014

Mai Selebra Hamutuk / Come Celebrate Together

Ami kontente tebes se kolega sira bele mai partisipa La’o Hamutuk nia aniversariu no diskusaun ho tema “Fronteira Maritima” hamutuk ho ami iha La’o Hamutuk nia edifisiu.

We are very happy to invite our friends to come together to celebrate La'o Hamutuk's anniversary in a discussion about Maritime Boundaries at La'o Hamutuk's office ... and a party.

Loron Kinta, 22 Maiu 2014
Thursday, 22 May 2014
14.00-16.30: Aprezentasaun no diskusaun nakloke ho tema “Fronteira Maritima”
16.30-16-45: “Tinan sanulu resin hat ezisténsia La’o Hamutuk nian” liafuan husi staff no belun La’o Hamutuk nian
16.45-19.30:Han hamutuk no palku nakloke

14:00-16:30: Presentation and open discussion about "Maritime Boundaries"
16:30-16:45: Brief comments from staff and friends on "Fourteen years of La'o Hamutuk"
16:45-19:30: Eat, drink and make music together, and enjoy!

Ami ne’ebe Konvida,Adilsonio, Alexandra, Armindu, Celestino, Charlie,  Ines, Francisco, Juvinal, Luciana, Mariano, Odete, Rosmenio

09 May 2014

Private Public Consultations

Although many people are discussing Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) as a new model for developing infrastructure in Timor-Leste, Private Public Consultations (PPCs) have been with us for a long time. One example is the "Public Consultation" announced by the National Petroleum Authority (ANP) and Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources on this banner, which has been displayed across from the Foreign Ministry for about a week.

The meetings will discuss draft Technical Regulations for oil and gas operations off Timor-Leste's south coast, in the Exclusive Area not shared with Australia. The detailed rules can protect (or endanger) workers, revenues and the environment. These regulations, hundreds of pages long,   are critically important in balancing the cost-cutting, profit-seeking incentives of the companies against the human, financial and ecological responsibility of Timor-Leste's government to safeguard against such dangers.  When a similar consultation was held in 2008 on Technical Regulations for the Joint Development Area, La'o Hamutuk identified many areas which needed improvement, and we would like to be able to help this time as well. Since then, offshore oil disasters like Deepwater Horizon and Montara have been sharp reminders of the need for effective regulation.

After we saw ANP's banner, we asked them for the draft regulations, so that we could prepare for the consultation. A day later, they declined to share the documents, but did send us an invitation (left) and agenda (right). We are posting them to encourage others to join the Dili workshop, which will be at Delta Nova on Wednesday, 14 May from 08:30 - 16:00.  Four hours of presentations will be followed by 45 minutes of questions and answers.

La'o Hamutuk does not have experts on staff who can thoroughly analyze complex technical documents; we rely on experienced international volunteers.  The ANP also required outside help, and they contracted Gaffney, Cline & Associates who presented a draft in 2011, which ANP has been studying for nearly two years.

After such a long process, ANP knows that it takes time to understand these documents and give useful input. The late notice for the consultation, with no substantive information, raises doubts about its purpose. So we asked:
"Wouldn't the consultation be more effective if people had a chance to read the drafts before the workshop, and perhaps to discuss them with others to get wider and wiser input?  Or is this really a socialization, where ANP will explain what they have already decided to do, rather than expecting to modify the drafts based on people's suggestions during the consultation process?"
In response, ANP promised that "the ANP will continue receive public opinion/feedback or submissions after the workshop."  We hope that they will modify the regulations to incorporate the suggestions they receive, and that this PPC is more than pro-forma.

Update, 13 June: A week after we wrote this blog, ANP posted the draft regulations and other materials at http://www.anp-tl.org/webs/anptlweb.nsf/vwAll/PUBLIC%20CONSULTATION. They "highly encourage" and "greatly appreciate" public participation in this consultation, and recently extended the time for written submissions from 14 to 30 June. To make a submission or to ask for more information, contact anp.konsultasaunpubliku@anp-tl.org.

Update 1 July: La'o Hamutuk has made a web page about this consultation process, including the submission we gave to ANP yesterday. The main points of our submission include:

  • Timor-Leste’s interests are broader than simply maximizing production of oil and gas, but encompass state revenues, environment, sustainable development, and minimizing risks of injury, damage or corruption.
  • Many provisions on environment, health and safety should be improved, including those discussing management of discarded materials, legal frameworks, minimizing risks, banning flaring, defining “best practice” and “reasonably practical,” health and safety committees and audits, sanctions, and protecting against companies’ negligence or malfeasance.
  • Before onshore exploration begins, local communities need more consultation and protection.
  • Timor-Leste should receive more money from extracting our oil and gas, and not be so generous to the companies.
  • All revenues – taxes, royalties, fees, penalties – must be deposited into the Petroleum Fund as required by the Petroleum Fund Law.
  • Transparency is generally ignored and sometimes prohibited by these draft regulations and contracts, and needs more attention, requirement and protection.
  • Even though local content is unlikely to be a significant element in building Timor-Leste’s non-oil economy, it needs better definition and clearer requirements.
  • Obligatory monetary “contributions” from companies are inappropriate, as they violate budgetary and democratic processes.

08 May 2014

Environmental licensing – who needs it?

Liga ba Lisensamentu Ambientál – hodi proteje ita hotu, verzaun Tetum artigu ne'e atualiza iha Novembru 2018

Protecting Timor-Leste's fragile environment is essential for national development and improving the quality of people’s lives. It allows us to farm, eat, drink, fish and breathe. If we allow it to be damaged, we get famine, flooding, pollution, toxic waste and disease. This is recognized in Article 61 of Timor-Leste’s Constitution: “Everyone has the right to a humane, healthy, and ecologically balanced environment and the duty to protect it and improve it for the benefit of the future generations. … The State should promote actions aimed at protecting the environment and safeguarding the sustainable development of the economy.”
As the 2011-2030 Strategic Development Plan explains, “The people of Timor-Leste have a strong relationship with the natural environment. For generations, our ancestors depended on the environment for food, clothing, building materials and everything else essential for life. We lived in harmony with the environment, using it sustainably to support our families.”
To achieve these goals, and to protect Timor-Leste’s unique geology and ecosystems, projects with significant environmental risk need to be evaluated and licensed before they are built, including both assessing possible environmental impacts and planning how to manage them, during both construction and operational phases. Since 2011, Timor-Leste has had our own environmental licensing law, and before that the Indonesian AMDAL law applied here. Nevertheless, very little is known about the licensing processes for environmentally risky projects which were started or built in the last three years.  Many never even bothered to apply.

RDTL Decree-Law no. 5/2011 of 9 February on Environmental Licensing  (Portuguese original) requires projects which could have significant environmental effects to prepare Environmental Impact Assessments and Environment Management Plans (Art.4). The National Environment Directorate (DNMA, part of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Environment) creates a committee (Art.10) to evaluate the EIA and EMP, conduct public consultation (Art.11), and require improvements (Art. 12.3, 14.3) before recommending (Art.13) that a license be issued (Art.14). No one can begin implementing a project without a license (Art.23.5), subject to up to a quarter-million-dollar fine (Art.34.5). Licenses (as well as reasons for denial or special requirements) are to be published in the Jornál da Repúblika (Art.14.4, 21.4) and DNMA must maintain a public register of licenses, evaluations and other information (Art. 38).

Although the Decree-Law is not perfect, it could help protect Timor-Leste’s delicate ecosystems … if it were actually implemented. A few years ago, La’o Hamutuk participated in consultations on exploratory offshore drilling, and we also learned that the Suai Supply Base received a license last year (with no public consultation), but the Jornál da Repúblika has never mentioned an Environmental License.

Last January, La'o Hamutuk joined discussions with an ADB technical assistance project to improve environmental licensing processes, and it became clear that this law is violated far more often than it is obeyed.

We asked how many licenses had been granted, and a few weeks later ADB included a list from DNMA in a workshop presentation, showing that DNMA had issued eleven licenses, and five more were in process. Only two of the eleven were for large projects with major environmental impact (Category A under the Decree-Law): the now-abandoned Pelican Paradise resort project in Tasi Tolu, and the Suai Supply Base (SSB).

DNMA’s list said that the SSB License was “issued with political interference,” a precedent they didn’t want to repeat. As La’o Hamutuk has explained, the SSB license was issued last year without any public consultation or the required project-specific Environmental Management Plan. When we suggested that DNMA should implement clause 2.4 of this License -- “Due to serious violation of the EIA, EMP and Environmental License procedures, the RDTL environmental authority will suspend or cancel environmental license as described in Article 35(c) of Decree-Law No. 5/2011” -- everyone at the workshop smiled.

La’o Hamutuk then made a formal request (Tetum original) for information on licensing to date, and DNMA staff was cooperative. Although the public register doesn’t yet exist, in March they provided the table of licenses at right, as well as some of the licenses and other information.

Later, they told us that they were reviewing another Category A project, Esperanca Timor Oan (ETO)’s planned fuel depot in Hera, and provided the terms of reference for its upcoming licensing application.

However, we were sad to learn that many significant projects never contacted DNMA to initiate the licensing process. Multi-story buildings on two or more hectares of land are Category A, but DNMA has heard nothing from the builders of Timor Plaza (Tony Jape, Comoro), the Ministry of Finance building (Kampung Alor) or the Palm Business and Trade Center (Jackson Lay, Surik Mas), even though construction is far along for all three of these.

Even if a project uses less than two hectares, it still requires a license as Category B. The Prime Minister himself laid the cornerstone for AGP Square (Tommy Winata, Arthagraha Group Peduli, Kaikoli) last November, but DNMA has heard nothing about this project. Other large projects – the Hera and Betano power plants, Comoro bridges, tourism beach developments -- have also defied  licensing requirements. We listed a few of them in the following table, and we encourage people who know of other projects which require licenses (the criteria are annexed to the Decree-Law) to tell DNMA about them.





Land Area


License status

Timor Plaza 5-story building and
several others
Comoro, Dili Tony Jape Some buildings finished, other construction
4 Ha A Never applied. Ground-breaking in 2009, opened 2011.
AGP Square 26-story building
Kaikoli, Dili

Tommy Winata, Arthagraha Group

Cornerstone laid, no work since



Not yet applied. Ground-breaking
Nov. 2013

Palm Business and Trade Centre
Surik mas, Dili Jackson Lay Mostly built 2 Ha A Never applied. Construction began in 2011, opened 2013.
Ministry of Finance 11-story
Kampung Alor, Dili RDTL MoF Mostly built 2 Ha A Never applied. Construction began in 2011, not yet finished.

Hera power station




3.5 Ha


Never applied.
Construction began in 2009, operation in 2011.
Betano power station


82 Ha


Never applied. Construction
began in 2010, operation in 2012.

Pacific Beach Resort

Tony Jape

Land clearing  started recently

22 Ha


Not yet applied

Dollar Beach Metinaro Tony Jape

Not yet applied
Trafigura fuel depot Hera Sacom Energia A Not yet applied

ETO fuel depot Hera Esperanca Timor Oan

A TOR approved, application in

Offshore oil drilling
Bayu-Undan, Kitan

Conoco-Phillips, Eni


Never applied to DNMA, new wells in 2013-4

MSS Building

Kaikoli, Dili



0.7 Ha


Never applied, already built

Comoro Bridges I+II

Comoro, Dili


70% built



Never applied, mostly built

After La’o Hamutuk’s inquiries, DNMA became more pro-active in publicizing licensing requirements, and started distributing a notification letter (right) to state agencies and private sector developers. We hope that this will be followed up with enforcement.

Among the long list of projects whose proponents have not engaged with DNMA, two are especially dangerous and worrisome. Trafigura, a European commodities trading company, plans to build a fuel storage depot in Hera, with the capacity to hold 90 million litres of oil, nine times the amount needed for Category A.
Together with their local partner Sacom Energia (headed by Abilio Araujo), Trafigura received a $73 million contract last March to supply fuel for the Hera and Betano power plants and delivered the first 12 million liters on 2 April. Trafigura comes with a long record of corruption and environmental devastation, including a recent $750 million case in Angola and one which poisoned 100,000 people in Côte D’Ivoire in 2006, and we hope that DNMA and other regulators will prevent them from inflicting similar damage in Timor-Leste.

Tony Jape, the developer of Timor Plaza, has never applied for a single environmental license. He recently began clearing more than 20 hectares of beachfront land in Dolok-oan, between Cristo Rei and Hera, for a tourist resort. Some have asked how Jape got permission to develop this public land and a similar tract at “Dollar Beach” in Metinaro (his projects in Darwin are also problematic), but this article focuses on environmental regulation. The precedents set here could protect (or endanger) many parts of Timor-Leste’s beautiful and fragile shoreline.

Timor-Leste has not had effective environmental protection during twelve years of independence, or for centuries before that. Although we appreciate the work of the State Secretariat for Environment in discouraging littering and planting trees, the most imminent dangers to our ecosystems are from large construction and industrial projects, which involve huge quantities of toxic chemicals that endanger health and could contaminate river ecosystems, ground water, agricultural land, oceans and the atmosphere.

We hope that Timor-Leste’s Government will become more effective in keeping our land and waters safe, clean and habitable, strengthening some communities’ use of Tara Bandu to protect their local areas. Government and project owners must make information available, consult with the people, and obey and enforce our laws, so that everyone can work together to protect Rai Furak ida ne’e.