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East Timor: donors pledge aid to newly formed defence force

East Timor: donors pledge aid to newly formed defence force

A donor conference chaired by the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) ended today in Dili with representatives of 13 countries indicating they will provide continued support to the newly formed East Timor Defence Force (ETDF).

In closing remarks, Deputy Transitional Administrator Jean-Christian Cady said that each country present at the two-day event had indicated support for one or more of the functions in the areas of personnel support, training, logistics, and equipment and material. He also expressed satisfaction that the presence of many Asian countries among the donors had provided for a geographically balanced outcome of support.

The amount of financial assistance to the Force will be determined only after the participants - representatives of Australia, Brazil, Japan, Malaysia, Mozambique, New Zealand, the Philippines, Portugal, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States -- have consulted with their respective capitals. While no specific timeframe was placed on the support, it is expected to be provided until the ETDF becomes fully functional.

In other news, thousands of people have so far attended Constitutional Commission hearings aimed at soliciting the views of East Timorese on what should be considered by the future Constituent Assembly when drafting a Constitution.

Among the prevalent issues being discussed at the hearings are the political system, currency, and flag that East Timor should adopt; the type of punishments that should be applied to those responsible for serious crimes; the educational system; laws for foreign investors; how the revenue from the Timor Sea should be distributed; and the official language. Women's groups have been well represented at the hearings, with many calling for Constitutional safeguards against domestic violence and for a robust family law.

The Commissions will be holding public hearings in each of East Timor's 65 sub-districts until 14 July. The Constitutional Commissioners will subsequently prepare a report from each district that will ultimately be presented by the UNTAET chief, Sergio Vieira de Mello, to a future Constituent Assembly.