East Timor: constitutional reports handed over to Constituent Assembly

East Timor: constitutional reports handed over to Constituent Assembly

The head of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) today handed over the Constitutional Commission reports to the newly elected Constituent Assembly, which will draft the country's first constitution.

"The electorate has placed their trust in you, and the expectation of your people is high," UNTAET chief Sergio Vieira de Mello said as he handed over the documents. "They will no doubt be watching you closely to see how carefully you listen to, and reflect, their views in framing your nation's Constitution."

"I have every faith that they selected their representatives well and that you will repay them for the faith they have placed in you," he added. According to UNTAET, the reports from each of the territory's districts contain input from some 38,000 East Timorese on what they would like to be considered by the Constituent Assembly when drafting the constitution.

The Constituent Assembly today also elected two Deputy Speakers. Francisco Xavier do Amaral from Associação Social-Democrata Timorense (ASDT) and Arlindo Marçal from Partido Democrata Cristão (PDC) were elected with massive support from two-thirds of the Assembly. In its first formal session yesterday, Fretilin President Franscico Guterres, also known as "Lu-Olo," was elected Speaker of the 88-member Constituent Assembly with an overwhelming majority.

In other news, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today that it had helped more than 1,000 East Timorese refugees return to East Timor over the past week from the Atambua area of West Timor, the highest number in weeks. Among the refugees are supporters of anti-independence militia groups whose return to East Timor would have been unthinkable just months ago. UNHCR staff who handled the arrival on the East Timor side said those returning did not encounter problems.

In a separate development, UNHCR last Saturday managed to arrange for the return of eight separated children from east Java to East Timor. The children were separated from their parents during the 1999 exodus of East Timorese to West Timor and subsequently placed in orphanages by the Indonesian Government. Their return is seen as a breakthrough, that could pave the way for the return of up to 1,200 separated children. The UN agency commended the Indonesian Government for its cooperation on the issue.