ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE DISTRIBUTES NEW DRAFT OF CONSTITUTION
The Constituent Assembly moved a step closer to promulgation of East Timor’s first Constitution today when its Systematisation and Harmonisation Committee distributed the latest draft of the historic document to Assembly members.
The committee completed the full draft late Tuesday, ending weeks of work pulling together about 150 articles passed individually by the full Assembly and a handful of unapproved articles that required serious revision.
This latest text – totalling 168 articles – is now being examined by the 12 political parties in the Assembly. The Assembly will then debate and approve the entire Portuguese-language document along with a preamble that is currently being drafted.
The preamble and full text will then be translated into Tetum – the lingua franca of East Timor – before the Assembly members split up into groups and distribute the draft around the country for public review. Any public concerns or suggestions will be considered by the Assembly before a formal promulgation vote and ceremony, scheduled for 9 March.
Upon promulgation of the Constitution, the Constituent Assembly will transform itself into the first legislature of the Democratic Republic of East Timor. It will officially assume its legislative powers when East Timor becomes fully independent on 20 May.
ACTING SRSG HOLDS OPEN MEETING ON JUSTICE IN OECUSSI
Acting SRSG Dennis McNamara today led a delegation of UNTAET and East Timorese officials to Oecussi district for an open meeting with members of the community on justice and reconciliation issues.
The delegation included representatives from UNTAET’s Serious Crimes Unit, UNHCR, and two members of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation.
The delegation met with some 50 members of the Oecussi community including Suco (village) chiefs and representatives of political parties and NGO’s.
The talks focused on how best to encourage the estimated remaining 6,000 people who fled the enclave in 1999 to return home from refugee camps in West Timor, Indonesia.
UNTAET AND GOVERNMENT DENOUNCE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Representatives of UNTAET and the Government of East Timor today held a press conference in Dili as part of an ongoing campaign to eradicate domestic violence.
UNTAET’s Civilian Police Commissioner Peter Miller, Director of Human Rights Unit Patrick Burgess, and Maria Domingas Fernandes, the Chief Minister’s Advisor for the Promotion of Equality all spoke at the event.
“Domestic violence is not a problem for the police alone. As a police service, we must recognize the devastating effect of domestic violence on our communities and we must take steps to address it,” the Police Commissioner said.
Miller also quoted Chief Minister Marí Alkatiri, who last December said “Domestic violence is on the increase and lots of people consider beating a wife a private matter not to be discussed publicly…Our women and girls should enjoy their freedom without violence.”
Maria Domingas Fernandes said that it would take time to eradicate domestic violence, and called for a spirit of peace to be built beginning in the home. She also stressed the “need to stop all forms of traditional justice and create formal mechanisms based on the law to protect women’s rights.”
Patrick Burgess stressed that domestic violence is primarily perpetrated by men, therefore “men are the ones who need to change mentalities – not to be violent, but also not to allow others around them to be violent.”
According to the Civilian Police’s Vulnerable Persons Unit there were 382 cases of domestic violence reported last year. However, this figure is believed to represent only 15% of the total cases.
Today’s press conference, organised by UNTAET’s Office of Communication and Public Information, is part of a nationwide campaign using television, radio and other media to disseminate information on domestic violence throughout each of East Timor’s 13 districts. The campaign works in concert with the Vulnerable Person’s Units in each district.
THAI PEACEKEEPING BATTALION CONTINUES TROOP ROTATION
The final 175 soldiers of a major troop rotation in Thailand’s UN peacekeeping contingent arrived today at Baucau Airport as the UN force in East Timor continued its downsizing ahead of the fledgling nation’s independence.
The arriving soldiers complete a 350-strong battalion that will replace 750 personnel of the outgoing Thai battalion. The first batch of 175 new troops have already been deployed in Baucau, Lautem and Viqueque districts.
The more than 50 per cent reduction of Thai troops comes as the threat of instability and violence decreases throughout East Timor.
UNTAET’s Peacekeeping Force is currently in the process of downsizing its strength to 5,000 soldiers by 20 May, when East Timor will become fully independent. The UN force will continue to slowly shrink as battalions of the East Timor Defence Force complete training and begin the task of protecting their nation.
The new Thai troops will remain in East Timor for six months. More than 220 of their predecessors departed today, and about 280 more will fly home to Thailand on 11 February.