LANDMARK TRIPARTITE MEETING SCHEDULED FOR 26 FEBRUARY
East Timor will participate in a landmark tripartite meeting with the governments of Australia and Indonesia on 26 February, one day after bilateral talks with Indonesia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced today.
Special Representative of the Secretary-General Sergio Vieira de Mello, Chief Minister Marí Alkatiri and Foreign Minister José Ramos-Horta will meet with Indonesian Government representatives in Jakarta for the bilateral talks on 25 February.
The subsequent tripartite meeting – the first of its kind – will provide an opportunity for all three neighbouring nations to discuss issues of common concern.
Ramos-Horta described the upcoming meeting as “a milestone both in the history of East Timor and in regional relations.”
“The East Timorese side pledges that, as a new country in the region, that we will work constructively with our neighbours to promote peace, stability and cooperation in this part of the world,” the minister said today.
The 25 February bilateral meeting aims to resolve issues that have been discussed between East Timor and Indonesia for the past two years. The meeting will define a new agenda of cooperation in light of East Timor’s upcoming independence on 20 May.
COUNCIL OF MINISTERS MEETS IN LOSPALOS, VIQUEQUE
The Council of Ministers held open meetings in Lospalos and Viqueque districts late this week as the East Timor Government continued efforts to decentralise its activities and consult directly with local communities.
The Lospalos Gym in Lautem town overflowed Thursday with people eager to meet with the 13 Ministers and three Secretaries of State. Participants – including community leaders, church representatives, women’s groups, youth groups and NGO workers – raised issues on topics ranging from agriculture to sanitation to security.
The most frequently asked issues were about education, healthcare and the recruitment process for police officers. Several participants called on the Second Transitional Government to hire more teachers and build more classrooms.
Chief Minister Marí Alkatiri said he supported continued development in the education sector, while reminding listeners that 40 per cent of the nation's US$63.4 million budget already goes to public education, and that 60 per cent of Government employees are teachers.
Several participants made critical comments about the Government. One questioned why the ministers were appointed by the United Nations as a result of the Constituent Assembly elections of 30 August and not general elections.
Alkatiri encouraged the frank comments. He added that a legislative election would be held within five years. An election for the first President of the Republic is scheduled for 14 April.
The ministers held a similar meeting today in Viqueque. Details were not immediately available.