Dili, 11 February 2002


The Constituent Assembly debated today the possibility of a two-week delay in promulgation of East Timor’s first Constitution after provisionally approving the latest text of the document over the weekend.

The proposed revision in the Assembly’s schedule reflects the longer-than-expected time needed to pass individual Constitutional articles, compile them together and translate the full text for public distribution. If the proposal is passed, it would move the final vote and signing ceremony from 9 March to 23 March.

On Saturday, 9 February, 65 of the 88-member Assembly voted in favour of the 168-article draft that was finished by the Systematisation and Harmonisation Committee on 5 February. There were no opposing votes, 13 members abstained, and 10 were absent.

The next step is to distribute the draft for public review. Assembly members plan to divide into 13 groups – one for each of the country’s 13 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. After the vote members of different parties – including some who abstained from the final vote – were clearly moved and embraced and congratulated one another.

Separately, Assembly Speaker Fransisco “Lu-Olo” Guterres left East Timor today for a five-day visit to Portugal that will include meetings with Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio, Assembly President António de Almeida Santos, various ministers and East Timorese living in Portugal.

Lu-Olo told journalists last week that the trip offered an opportunity to study how other legislatures function. He is expected to sign a protocol of cooperation between the Portuguese Parliament and East Timor’s Constituent Assembly during the 12-16 February visit.


More than two dozen East Timorese health workers began a UN-funded training course today aimed at sharpening their ability to spread information about HIV/AIDS.

The group of 28 Health Ministry staff, health-related NGO workers, midwives and members of the Working Group on Sexually Transmitted Diseases/AIDS are expected to become the nucleus for HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention in the country.

The five-day course – organised by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health – is being taught by two Indonesian health consultants with more than 10 years of international experience in HIV/AIDS training.

There are plans for follow-up courses in specific areas of HIV/AIDS training, such as counselling and encouraging behavioural change.

There is as yet no accurate data on the number of East Timorese afflicted with HIV/AIDS, although health officials suspect the percentage is relatively low. This assumption is based on the very low HIV-prevalence detected in screened blood, and by comparing East Timor with other countries in the region.

Nonetheless, SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello reaffirmed in June 2001 the need for increased awareness of HIV/AIDS in East Timor. An all-Timorese Working Group on Sexually Transmitted Diseases/AIDS – including representatives from NGOs, the Catholic Church, women’s groups and medical associations – was set up in April 2001 to work as an advisory body for the current Second Transitional Government and the future Government of East Timor.


A team of six East Timorese graphic designers are this week beginning a five-month training course at UNTAET’s Office of Communication and Public Information (OCPI) in Dili.

The UNDP-funded course will ensure that in the future East Timor has a professional graphic design team capable of doing much of the work currently produced by international staff.

The students will learn the fundamentals of desktop publishing and design as well as the procedures involved in having materials printed or produced both in East Timor or overseas. They will receive tuition in basic business management, learn to produce websites and study other printing and production techniques such as silk screen printing.

During the course of their training they will also be producing work for organisations such as the Independent Electoral Commission and OCPI in order to gain direct and relevant work experience.