EAST TIMOR CONSTITUTION TO BE APPROVED ON 9 MARCH
East Timor's Constituent Assembly today set 9 March as the date for completion and final approval of the nation's first Constitution.
An Assembly working commission produced a revised constitutional debate schedule over the weekend after the full Assembly voted Friday to extend its deliberations.
Seventy Assembly members voted Monday in favour of the new schedule, one opposed and three abstained.
All 151-articles of the draft Constitution are expected to be approved by the end of January. The Portuguese-language document must then be translated into Tetum and distributed to various civil groups for review. The final text is scheduled to be ready by 5 March, and a formal promulgation vote and ceremony is to be held on 9 March.
COMMISSIONERS SWORN IN TO LEAD RECONCILIATION BODY
The seven National Commissioners who will head East Timor's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation were sworn-in today at a ceremony in Dili.
SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello praised the Commissioners for accepting ``an immensely challenging and important task - that of leading the Commission and the people of East Timor along the path towards reconciliation and peace, while entrenching their already keen respect for human rights."
The swearing in ceremony featured a prayer led by the Women Survivors' Group from Liquiça district, whom Secretary-General Kofi Annan met during his visit to East Timor in 2000, and the presentation of flowers to each Commissioner by children whose families suffered as a result of the violence in East Timor.
There were also messages of encouragement from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson and Reverend Desmond Tutu, the former chairperson of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
"It is with great promise and tremendous hope that the Commission now sets out to achieve the twin necessities of accountability through truth telling, and healing through reconciliation," Robinson said in a video-taped message
Reverend Tutu said in a statement: "The search for truth and reconciliation is not a soft option but a huge challenge. …The brave decision to look into the past in order to create a better future already demonstrates the courage of the people of East Timor. Such a commitment to the pursuit of truth augurs well for the future of the world's newest country."
After the Commissioners were sworn in, independence leader Xanana Gusmão said their work would "take years of perseverance, patience and commitment," but would ultimately "give us another spirit, another state of mind, in our efforts to build this country."
The National Commissioners will be at the forefront of addressing issues of reconciliation and justice in East Timor. The Commission will inquire into and establish facts about human rights violations committed between April 1974 and October 1999; support the reintegration of people who have committed minor criminal offences or harmful acts through a community-based reconciliation process; and submit a report to the Government outlining recommendations as to how to prevent future recurrences of human rights violations.
The names and brief biographical details of the Commissioners are as follows:
Jacinto Alves was born in Manatuto district in 1957, and now lives in Dili. He has been Coordinator of the Association of Ex-Political Prisoners in East Timor since January 1999, and was a political prisoner following the Santa Cruz massacre in November 1991. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, serving seven years until his release in 30 December 1998. Alves was also a founding member of the NGO 'Commission for Human Rights in East Timor' in 1999, and was active in providing emergency assistance to displaced persons in Dili. He has been a Senior Policy Adviser to the Interim Office of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation since July 2001.
Olandina Caeiro is from Ermera district, where she was born in 1956. A businesswoman who has also dedicated many years of work to public service and especially to the prevention of violence against women, Caeiro has been the Director of East Timorese Women Against Violence and for Child Care (ETWAVE) since 1998. She also served as a member of the Indonesian Commission for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in 1998. She was Chairperson of the Public Service Commission in East Timor (October 2000 - 2001), and served as a Provincial Parliament member in Dili (1997 - 1999).
Father Jovito Araújo is from Hatolia, Ermera district, where he was born in 1963. He now lives in Dili. He has been a Catholic Priest in Dili Diocese since 1996. As President of the Catholic Youth Commission of Dili Diocese for the past three years, he has developed strong links with the youth community. Father Jovito is particularly concerned with human rights issues. He has been an active member of Resistência Nacional dos Estudantes de Timor Leste (RENETIL), a resistance organisation based in Indonesia and East Timor, since 1987.
José Estevão Soares was born in 1955 in Laclobar, Manatuto district, and currently lives in Dili. He was a founding member of the pro-autonomy political organisation Forum Persatuan, Demokrasi dan Keadilan (FPDK) in 1999. He left East Timor in September 1999, spending one year as a refugee in Denpasar, Bali, before returning in October 2000. Immediately upon his return, he became a member of the National Council of East Timor (October 2000 - July 2001). He has been a Senior Policy Adviser to the Interim Office of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation since July 2001. Soares previously worked as a civil servant for the Indonesian administration in East Timor. He was a government spokesman and Chief of Public Relations (1993 - 1997), and later worked for the Co-ordination Board of Investments for East Timor (BKPMD). He also held the position of Secretary of the Indonesian Public Servants' Organisation in East Timor (KORPRI) in 1999.
Aniceto Guterres Lopes was born in Tapo, Maliana district, in 1967 and currently lives in Dili. Director of the well-known human rights NGO Yayasan HAK (Human Rights Foundation) since 1997, of which he was a co-founder, Aniceto Guterres is a human rights practitioner and lawyer by profession. He is highly active in the promotion of justice in East Timor. He has served on the UNTAET Judicial Transitional Services Commission since January 2000, and was a founder of the Jurists Association of East Timor in April 2000. He was a member of the National Council of East Timor (October 2000 - July 2001), and previously served as Secretary General of Yayasan ETADEP (East Timor Agriculture and Development Project Foundation) from 1992 - 1996. Guterres has also been an active member of Resistência Nacional dos Estudantes de Timor Leste (RENETIL) since 1989.
Isabel Guterres was born in Viqueque in 1958, and now lives in Maliana district. She has worked with a range of organisations in the field of humanitarian assistance, most recently with the Jesuit Refugee Services in providing support to people returning to East Timor. Isabel Guterres lived for 15 years in Australia, where she practiced as a registered nurse. After returning to East Timor in November 1999, she continued to use her professional experience in the health sector in her work with Medecins Sans Frontieres and World Vision.
Reverend Agustinho de Vasconcelos was born in 1970 in Kaiualita, Baucau district and now lives in Dili. He has been a Protestant Church Minister in Dili since 2000, previously serving as Minister of the Maranatha Church in Baucau district (1999 - 2000), and the enclave of Oecussi (1996 - 99). He is an active supporter of youth activities, and is currently working as the Secretary for the Youth Department of the Protestant Church in East Timor. He has participated in workshops and trainings on reconciliation issues in West Timor and other parts of Indonesia.
PORTUGUESE MINISTER OF EDUCATION MEETS SRSG
Portugal's Minister of Education Júlio Pedrosa today met SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello and Chief Minister Marí Alkatiri to discuss issues including further cooperation between East Timor and Portugal in the area of education.
Minister Pedrosa arrived in Dili yesterday for a five-day visit that will include meetings with a wide range of UNTAET and Government officials and visits to newly constructed schools in Dili and Baucau.
This morning the Minister inaugurated the "Escola do Reino de Venilale" in the Baucau sub-district of Venilale. Attending dignitaries included Baucau Bishop Basílio do Nascimento and East Timor's Minister for Education, Armindo Maia.
Pedrosa is scheduled to a similar ceremony at the "Escola da Soliedaridade" in Dili on Thursday. Private Portuguese citizens donated the US$838,500 spent to reconstruct the two schools.
During his stay in East Timor, the Minister is also scheduled to meet with independence leader Xanana Gusmão, Bishop Dili Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo and Senior Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation José Ramos-Horta. He is also scheduled to pay visits to Ermera and Oecussi districts.