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East Timor approves draft constitution, mulls delay in promulgation

East Timor approves draft constitution, mulls delay in promulgation

The East Timor Constituent Assembly today debated the possibility of a two-week delay in promulgating the territory’s first constitution after provisionally approving the latest version of the document over the weekend in what the United Nations Transitional Administration (UNTAET) said was a moving finale to a complex process.

The proposed revision in the Assembly’s schedule reflects the longer-than-expected time needed to pass individual articles, compile them and translate the full text for public distribution, UNTAET said. If the proposal were passed, the final vote and signing ceremony would move to 23 March.

On Saturday, 65 of the 88 Assembly members voted in favour of the 168-article draft that was finished by the Systematization and Harmonization Committee on 5 February. There were no opposing votes, 13 members abstained and 10 were absent. After the vote members of different parties – including some of those who abstained – were clearly moved and embraced and congratulated one another.

The next step is to distribute the draft for public review, UNTAET said. Assembly members plan to divide into 13 groups – one for each of the country’s districts – and fan out into the countryside in search of public feedback. Each group will then draft a report that will be presented to the full Assembly for debate ahead of the final vote.