ETDF FURTHER NARROWS SHORT LIST FOR SECOND BATTALION
The East Timor Defense Force’s Selection Panel today began the second phase of its process to choose 250 candidates to become members of the force’s second battalion.
A total of 500 applicants – of whom 65 are women – have been short listed and invited to attend interviews and undergo a range of physical, medical and psychometric tests at Hera, near Dili.
The short listed candidates are all between 18 and 21 years of age and come from throughout East Timor. The process is expected to be completed within the next few days, and the six-month basic training course for the 250 selected candidates is expected to begin in mid-February.
The East Timor Defense Force (ETDF) will eventually consist of a light infantry force of 1,500 regulars to be recruited and trained over a three-year period. The first 600-member ETDF battalion – comprised of former FALANTIL soldiers – has already been formed and is currently preparing to be deployed to the eastern Lospalos district.
COUNCIL OF MINISTERS STUDIES FUTURE OF OLD “POUSADA”
In its second meeting of 2002, East Timor’s Council of Ministers today again studied a Ministry of Internal Administration proposal for the reconstruction and economic development of an old “Pousada” (inn) in Maliana district.
The Council asked the Ministry to reformulate its proposal in to two components. The first will tackle legal issues related to the attribution of the building; while the second will spearhead the funding and reconstruction of the project and registration of the civil society associations to manage it.
In addition, the Council today also looked into the UNDP-supported “Ainaro and Manatuto Community Activation Project” which was outlined by the Ministry of Agriculture.
The project – for which a US$5 million agreement will soon be signed between the Government and the UNDP – aims to improve the productivity of lowland and upland farming in the two districts by rehabilitating irrigation systems and establishing a seed laboratry.
US CONGRESS MEMBERS ADVISE ASSEMBLY TO EXTEND DEBATE
East Timor’s Constituent Assembly this morning received a letter from eight members of the US Congress proposing that the assembly extend its deliberations beyond its current 25 January deadline.
“From our end, we want to assure you that we would like the Constituent Assembly to have as much time as it needs to write the best possible Constitution for East Timor. In this regard, we propose that you consider further extending the session, perhaps by two months beyond [the 25 January] date,” the letter said.
The letter, dated 10 January, was signed by Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, Chris Smith, Anthony Weiner, Tammy Baldwin, Bernard Sanders, Lane Evans and Sam Farr.
“Your Constitution would still be finished well before formal independence [and] the extra time would enable more thorough discussions and additional consultation within the Constituent Assembly and throughout East Timor,” the letter added.
The US Congress members also advised the assembly to consider what it said was “the frequently used practice of a constitutional review process within a few years of initial passage of the Constitution.”
Upon receipt of the letter the assembly members discussed its contents and subsequently agreed to formulate a response based on input from each of the political parties represented in the 88-member body. However, no decision was taken regarding a shift in the deadline.
The Assembly has now passed 123 articles of the 151-article draft Constitution.
The articles passed since early last Friday include Article 112, which incorporates the principal of judicial independence and mandates that judges are expected to be independent in the exercise of their functions, and obedient to the Constitution, the law and their conscience. An amendment to the article was passed stating that judges are not legally liable for their judicial decisions, except in situations provided for by law.
Article 113 provides that judges may not perform other functions except teaching or legal research, and Article 114 provides that the courts shall not apply laws that contravene the Constitution or the principles contained therein.
Article 115, passed on Monday, provides for three categories of courts: The Supreme Court of Justice and other courts of law; Administrative courts and a High Administrative, Tax and Audit Court; and Military courts.
The Supreme Court of Justice is established by Article 116 as the highest court of law. Its President will be chosen from among judges of the Supreme Court and appointed by East Timor’s President.
Article 118 provides that the Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to make declarations of illegality or unconstitutionality upon application by the Prime Minister, President, President of Parliament, Attorney General, Ombudsman, or one fifth of the members of Parliament.
Article 119, passed today, says that only career judges of original East Timorese nationality may become members of the Supreme Court.
Article 120 says the Superior Council for the Judiciary is the organ of management and discipline of the judiciary. It will be presided over by the President of the Supreme Court of Justice, and other members will include one person designated by the President of the Republic, one member elected by Parliament, one appointed by the Government and one elected by the judges from among their peers.
Article 121 says the High Administrative, Tax and Audit Court is the highest body in the hierarchy of administrative, tax and audit courts. This court’s functions include ensuring the fiscal legality of public spending, judging actions arising from legal, fiscal and administrative matters, and ruling on contentious appeals against decisions made by State organs.
Article 122 says military courts will have the competence to judge military matters, and with Article 123, members agreed that court hearings will be public unless the court rules otherwise to safeguard personal dignity, public morality and national security.