Synopsis The purpose of this dissertation is to study the legal nature of the Sucos of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. In the present work we show that, although they are ancient community based organizations, whose existence largely precedes the arrival of the first Portuguese navigators and missionaries to the coast of Timor Island in 1515, the Sucos, as currently recognized by the Timorese legal system, are truly public associations, constituting the expression and the implementation of the principle of administrative decentralization, as provided by the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. Based on the analysis of the constituent elements of the Sucos and their variation throughout history and by reviewing the literature produced on this matter as well as on the evolution of the regulatory framework regarding their attributions, competencies, organization, activity and financing, it will be demonstrated that the Sucos do not fulfil the fundamental criteria that would allow their qualification as territorial corporations, being their legal qualification as public associations correct, as previously decided by the highest judicial body of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste – the Court of Appeal – , an understanding that has been followed by the National Parliament through the new Suco’s Law. Taking as a premise that Sucos have the legal nature of public associations and are a manifestation of the principle of administrative decentralization, it is finally alluded to the role provided for Sucos in the scope of a Local Government that will comprize the existence of municipal corporations as determined by the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.
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