Rabu, 29 Maret 2017

Traditional Power Structures and Local Governance in East Timor

Traditional Power Structures and Local Governance in East Timor, A Case Study of the Community Empowerment Project (CEP)
Sofi Ospina dan Tanja Hohe
Graduate Institute of Development Studies
Tahun Cetak

The Community Empowerment and Local Governance Project (CEP) was set up under an agreement between the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) and the World Bank with funding from the multidonour Trust Fund for East Timor. It aimed to provide support for poverty alleviation and to strengthen the capacity of community institutions. Democratic elections for Village Development Councils were to introduce a ‘bottom-up’ method of community empowerment, after years of ‘top-down’ decision-making by the Indonesian government. The councils were to be integrated into the local governance structure at a later point.

In October 2000 the Anthropology Research Team of CEP was established to study the interplay between local Timorese power structures and CEP. Its aim was also to provide a more culturally informed background for the development programme.

The study required an analysis of traditional power systems and their historical development. It examined how far these and related traditional concepts are of relevance for the present local communities and how much they influence governmental and other development programmes. One intention of CEP was to take a ‘bottom-up’ approach to communal empowerment and local governance. To examine the appropriateness and cultural sensitivity of this approach, the study team explored the interplay between local power structures and the system of councils set up by CEP.

It is a challenging task to inquire into and report on power structures and local governance in a time of socio-political turbulence and change in a young nation like East Timor. After such a long period of foreign rule (Portuguese, then Indonesian) and in a stage where a new nation is being formed, many different ideas about power on the local level have appeared. Therefore, summarizing existing ideas has required considerable simplification of the findings. As power concepts at the local level are still very much dominated by traditional ideas, this report has to provide and be read as an introduction to traditional Timorese concepts and ideas. Similarly, as local power structures are often forgotten when considering national issues, our concern here is to emphasise how relevant they continue to be. They are especially important to the Timorese in rural areas, who still make up the majority of the population in the country.

To implement development projects, especially if implemented or influenced by foreigners, a culturally informed background can be of help. This report aims to provide such a background. It does not aim to promote traditional ideas, nor try to give them greater importance on the national level. It aims only to show the richness and complexity of Timorese political concepts and power structures at the local level and to demonstrate how these ideas have survived hundreds of years of outside rule. Nor does it argue for the preservation of traditional values and ideas; how far the Timorese decide to preserve or change their traditional ideas should be determined by the dynamics of the society itself.

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