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East Timor: assembly slates 20 May 2002 for UN to hand over sovereignty

East Timor: assembly slates 20 May 2002 for UN to hand over sovereignty

The President of East Timor's Constituent Assembly signed today a resolution recommending 20 May 2002 as the date on which UNTAET, the United Nations Administration in the territory, will hand over sovereignty to elected Timorese Government institutions.

The signing of the resolution by Assembly President Francisco Guterres follows the Assembly's passage late on Friday of a proposal put forth by the leaders of a coalition of political parties, led by Fretilin, which holds a majority in the constitutional body. The proposal was accepted by 73 of the 88 Assembly members, representing a 97 percent approval rate.

During Friday night's debate Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri argued that East Timor would be ready to take the reigns of power by next May, and that providing a date for the power transfer would reassure the international donor community. Opponents of the resolution, led by the Social Democratic Party (PSD), contended it was ill advised to name a date for the power transfer without already having a timetable in place.

Acknowledging this, the Constituent Assembly pledged to move quickly to put such a timetable in place, UNTAET said.

On 20 May 1974 the first East Timorese political party, the Associação Social-Democrata Timorense (Timorese Social Democrats Association), was formed. The Fretilin independence movement stemmed from the ASDT.

The official text of the signed resolution will be presented to UNTAET chief Sergio Vieira de Mello, who in turn will inform the UN Security Council when it holds its quarterly session on East Timor on 31 October.