Subject: STL: Not Yet Clear what legal system will be adopted in East Timor

From Suara Timor Lorosae 24 July 2002

Not Yet Clear what legal system will be adopted in East Timor

Dili - This is still no clarity about the legal system which will be adopted in East Timor. This observation was made by Dionisio Babo Soares, SH, M Phil when confirmed at the Dili District Court on Monday 22 July 2002.

The General Coordinator of Anmeftil (East Timor National Makaer Fukun Association) said that because there is still no clear legal system in East Timor, the civil law system would continue to be used.

According to him, the civil law legal system must be adapted to accommodate adat (customary law) law. The reason is that there are groups in society which are not yet regulated by the law because it is customary to settle problems through adat. Therefore, he hopes that when the legal system is formulated, the government can take heed of this reality in developing the legal system.

"If necessary, when the legal system is constituted, a degree of faith will be given to adat law as long as it is not contrary to international law and the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of East Timor" he said.

To speak about the legal system means to speak about a concept of an all embracing legal system. Does that legal system deal with criminal procedure, civil as well as state administration? The legal system itself is an abstract concept" said Dionisio.

The consideration of some people who state the civil law legal system which is applied in East Timor now is no good, the General Coordinator of Anmeftil said that such commentaries are untrue. The system which is used in Indonesia is not Indonesia's own system. It is clear to Dionisio that the legal system which is applied in Indonesia originates from Holland. Even the Dutch system comes from the France which was guided to canonical law (Catholic law) because the French were colonised by the Romans.

So, according to Dionisio, if it is said the civil law legal system in East Timor is no good, that is not true. "Because that civil law system or civil law tradition which for thousands of years has been honoured for truth and legitimacy. So there is no better law, it all depends on its application" he added.

Legal Practitioners now thinking about it Cirilio Jose Cristovao, SH in the Dili Court, last Monday, said that as a member of Anmeftil principally in the field of legal practice in East Timor, consideration is being given to how to set up a good legal system for East Timor.

It is said that the concept is how to set up a legal system which is consistent with the culture of East Timorese society. "What will the system be, civil law or Angol-Saxon or an amalgam of these two legal systems" he said.

However, to discuss such matters needs a lot of time for more investigation more dialogue and more research.

"Sources of adat law exist in East Timor to set up a legal system which has good outcomes for the East Timorese community in the future" explained the member of Anmeftil and who is a judge in Dili District Court. (Lambertus)

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