East Timor assembly adopts two more articles of constitution

East Timor assembly adopts two more articles of constitution

The East Timor Constituent Assembly passed two more articles of its first constitution relating to sovereignty, constitutionality and citizenship, the United Nations Transitional Administration (UNTAET) reported today.

The second article states that the sovereignty of the Democratic Republic of East Timor “rests in the hands of the people” and that “the State is subordinate to the constitution.” Assembly members added that the State “would recognize customary law.” The article was approved by a vote of 72 in favour and 1 against, with 8 abstentions.

On citizenship, Assembly members decided that an East Timorese citizen is a person born of an East Timorese parent or parents; or born of unknown parents or a foreign mother or father, as long as they declare the desire to become an East Timorese citizen by the age of 17. People born outside East Timor of East Timorese parents can also become citizens.

The Assembly also eliminated a controversial paragraph that proposed limiting East Timorese to citizenship of a single country. The clause was defeated by a vote of 71 in favour and two against, with 10 abstentions.

Finally, the body defeated a motion proposing that 30 August 1999 – the day on which the UN-organized Popular Consultation was held – represent the date of national liberation. Fifty-nine members opposed the motion, 14 were in favour, and 15 abstained. However, this date may still be recognized in the constitution’s pre-amble.