PORTUGUESE DEFENSE MINISTER TO PAY OFFICIAL VISIT
Portugal’s Minister of Defense is scheduled to arrive in Dili tomorrow for a three-day official visit during which he will meet with top UNTAET and Government officials and formally hand over two modified Albatross patrol boats to the East Timor Defense Force (ETDF).
Defense Minister Rui Pena, accompanied by Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Manuel Alvarenga and Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Vieira Matias, is also scheduled to visit with Portuguese peacekeepers based in East Timor.
The 22-meter boats to be formally handed over on Saturday will soon be manned by 50 specially trained East Timor Defense Force Marine Officers who have been undergoing training with Portuguese specialists since last February.
The patrol boats are part of a US$2.2 million Portuguese aid package to the East Timor Defense Force Navy.
COUNCIL MINISTERS HOLD OPEN MEETING IN ERMERA DISTRICT
An estimated 350 people turned out in Ermera district this morning for an Open Meeting hosted by East Timor’s Council of Ministers.
“These meetings are very important,” Foreign Minister José Ramos-Horta said today. “Once again [the Open Meeting] has allowed the Council of Ministers to get acquainted with the people, their problems, and their expectations, [and] to clarify its policies and correct misinformation.”
This was the fourth Open Meeting that the Council has held outside Dili as part of its plan to decentralize its activities and consult directly with local communities.
The main themes discussed today included agricultural issues—particularly the low international market price for coffee—the ongoing dollarization campaign; improving the district’s infrastructure; and means to provide better access to educational facilities for district residents.
Ramos-Horta, who heads the Independence Day Celebration Committee, also explained the preparations underway for East Timor to mark its independence in May.
Similar Open Meetings have so far been held in Baucau, Liquiça and Manatuto districts, and another is scheduled to take place in Bobonaro district on January 17.
CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY PASSES FOUR FURTHER ARTICLES
The Constituent Assembly today passed a further four articles of East Timor’s 151-article draft Constitution.
The articles, all passed by significant majorities, are the following:
Article 106 states that the Government will be dismissed when a new legislative term begins; the Prime Minister resigns; if the Prime Minister dies or is permanently disabled; or if its programme is rejected by Parliament for the second consecutive time. The Government can also be dismissed if a motion of confidence is rejected, or if a vote of no-confidence is passed by an absolute majority. This Article also says the President of the Republic can only dismiss the Prime Minister for the reasons mentioned above in order to safeguard the proper functioning of the democratic institutions.
Article 107 states that when a member of the Government is charged with an offence punishable with a sentence of more than two years imprisonment he or she shall be suspended so that legal proceedings can proceed.
The assembly members also introduced a new section, Article 107a, that says no member of the Government shall be detained without previous authorisation from Parliament, except for crimes punishable with sentences of more than two years.
Article 108 outlines the key responsibilities and competencies of the Government. These include defining and implementing the general policy of the country, guaranteeing the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens and ensuring public order and social discipline. Other competencies outlined in this section relate to State security, economic and financial issues, foreign policy and labour.
NEW DEPUTY GENERAL PROSECUTOR SWORN IN
Norwegian Siri Frigaard was sworn-in today by Transitional Administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello to become UNTAET’s Deputy General Prosecutor and head of the Serious Crimes Unit.
Prior to taking up her position, Frigaard was a Director of the Regional Public Prosecutor’s Office of Oslo and previously served as Special Legal Adviser to the General Prosecutor of Albania and has represented Norway in the Baltic Sea Cooperation concerning international legal aid.
She has also worked as Deputy Chief Commissioner at the Oslo Police Department and is a lecturer at the Norwegian Police Academy.