East Timor sees flurry of political activity ahead of UN-sponsored elections

East Timor sees flurry of political activity ahead of UN-sponsored elections

East Timor's transitional administration saw a flurry of moves today and over the weekend as political activity began to heat up in the half-island territory ahead of the United Nations-sponsored elections next month.

Cabinet Member for Infrastructure João Carrascalão on Monday became the third high-ranking official to resign his position to run in the 30 August elections for an East Timor Constituent Assembly. Last week, Cabinet Member for Internal Administration Ana Pessoa and Cabinet Member for Economic Affairs Mari Alkatiri also gave up their posts to stand for election.

The moves are part of a long-agreed process of political transition and are intended to promote the fairness of the electoral process by ensuring that Cabinet Members do not gain any advantage during the campaign.

The Cabinet portfolio for Political Affairs was also dissolved today with the departure from the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) of the Cabinet Member for Political Affairs and Timor Sea, Peter Galbraith. The ministerial portfolio is being transformed into a Political Office; an office to support the Constituent Assembly; and a Timor Sea Office.

A new Transitional Cabinet composed entirely of East Timorese will be appointed after the Constituent Assembly elections and will be expanded to more closely reflect the structure of an independent government.

Meanwhile on Saturday, East Timor's National Council was formally dissolved but not before it referred eight draft regulations to the head of UNTAET, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who must now determine whether to promulgate these regulations before the new Constituent Assembly is formed by 15 September.

Late Friday, Mr. Vieira de Mello had promulgated a regulation establishing a Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, that will look into the pattern of human rights violations in East Timor committed between 1974 to 1999 within the context of the political conflicts. The Commission, which was approved by the Council will also create a community reconciliation body to facilitate agreements between local communities and the perpetrators of non-serious crimes and non-criminal acts committed over the same period.

The Commission, initially set up for two years with a possible six-month extension, is expected to begin work this autumn.