INDONESIA, EAST TIMOR SIGN POSTAL AND BUSSING AGREEMENTS
Trust and confidence prevailed today during high-level talks between UN-administered East Timor and Indonesia that produced two agreements and advanced key issues ahead of East Timor's 20 May independence.
Ministers from East Timor's Second Transitional Government took a central role in the talks, held in Denpasar, Indonesia, ahead of trilateral talks tomorrow including Australia, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) said afterward.
"There was an excellent climate with trust and confidence," SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello said. "But more than that, it was they (East Timor's ministers) who led the talks, as it should be three months before independence."
East Timor's Chief Minister Marí Alkatiri stressed the importance of strong relations between Indonesia and the territory it once controlled for nearly a quarter century.
"We will always have a special and very important relationship with Indonesia," Alkatiri said. "You are our closest neighbour and our people have deep common roots and a multitude of cross-border family and commercial ties. We are very anxious to build a mature, fruitful and friendly relationship between our two countries."
The two sides signed two protocols: one to establish postal links between the two neighbours; and another authorising creation of a commercial bus service linking the Oecussi enclave with the rest of East Timor.
A joint communiqué signed by Vieira de Mello and Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Hasan Wirayuda included agreement to strengthen cooperation on judicial matters; begin a joint survey in March to demarcate a common land border; and begin informal talks on maritime boundaries that will prepare the groundwork for formal negotiations.
The communiqué also stated that Indonesia will continue to pay pensions to its former East Timorese civil servants until independence. It also encouraged the international community to contribute to a special fund that will disburse pension payments after 20 May. Additionally, the document noted progress on the issue of East Timorese refugees, the repatriation of Indonesian currency, cultural cooperation, official archives and movement of goods and people across the current informal border.
Both parties also discussed tomorrow's the first-ever trilateral meeting with Australia. Indonesia and East Timor agreed that the agenda should be kept open and that the meeting should be considered exploratory in nature.
Vieira de Mello led a UNTAET/East Timor delegation in the talks that included Alkatiri, Senior Minister of Foreign Affairs José Ramos-Horta, Secretary of State for the Council of Ministers Gregório de Sousa and the Government Advisor on Human Rights Isabel Ferreira.
The SRSG remarked afterward that he reiterated to the Indonesian side UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's invitation to President Megawati Sukarnoputri to attend East Timor's independence celebrations on 19-20 May. "Nothing would be a more eloquent illustration of how far relations had come," he said.
EAST TIMORESE VOICE THEIR VIEWS ON DRAFT CONSTITUTION
East Timorese seized their chance today to participate in the drafting of their nation's Constitution at the start of a week-long, nationwide public consultation led by members of the Constituent Assembly.
A range of opinions were voiced by more than 100 people who gathered today at a consultation meeting in the town of Manatuto, about 35 kilometres east of Dili. Many took issue with the consultation process itself, saying in was too short, limited to only the end of the drafting process and targeted at local-level leadership rather than the greater public.
Some wanted more references to the Catholic Church in the Constitution, which calls for separation between church and state. Others expressed concerns that the draft Constitution may be too weighted in favour of dominant political party FRETILIN, which won 55 of the Assembly's 88 seats in a UN-administered election last August. The powers of the President, the date of independence, the national flag and the status of the FRETILIN-linked former resistance fighters, FALINTIL, were all discussed in this context.
The Assembly has split into 13 groups to tour East Timor's 13 districts during the public consultation, which ends on 2 March. Afterward, each group will contribute to a summary report to be presented to the full Assembly for a final round of debate before the Constitution is promulgated on 16 March.
TRUTH COMMISSION CHAIRMAN ON REFUGEE VISIT IN WEST TIMOR
The Chairman of East Timor's Commission for Truth, Reception and Reconciliation Aniceto Guterres Lopes, participated today in a live Indonesian radio broadcast along with leaders of East Timorese refugees living in West Timor.
The radio programme, broadcast from Kupang, West Timor, aimed to explain to refugees the functions and activities of the Truth Commission, as well as raise awareness on the importance of its role in East Timorese reconciliation. It was organised by the Centre for International Service, an Indonesian NGO.
During his two-day visit to the Indonesian half of Timor, Guterres also plans to meet with former East Timorese pro-autonomy leaders and visit a refugee camp. Information kits on the Truth Commission, including pamphlets and posters, will be distributed in the camp.
The recently established Truth Commission is charged with establishing the facts about human rights violations committed between April 1974 and October 1999. It also supports the reintegration of people who have committed minor criminal offences or harmful acts through a community-based reconciliation process.
RECOMMENDATIONS SOUGHT FOR LEGAL AID COMMISSIONERS
UNTAET is seeking recommendations for the upcoming appointment of a five-member Legal Aid Commission that will oversee the provision of publicly-funded legal assistance in East Timor, the office of the deputy transitional administrator said today.
Dennis McNamara, Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, hopes to receive recommendations from a broad range of sources, including NGOs and private citizens with an interest in legal aid issues.
The five Commissioners will oversee the work of the Director and Deputy Director of a soon-to-be-established Legal Aid Service. The service, created by UNTAET Regulation 2001/24, will offer legal assistance to persons appearing before the courts of East Timor.
UN transitional administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello plans to appoint both East Timorese and international Commissioners. The regulation stipulates that at least two of the Commissioners must be women.
The closing date for recommendations is tomorrow, 26 February, at 5pm local time. Written recommendations - including reasons why the proposed person would make a suitable Commissioner - should be sent to Natalie David at office of the Deputy SRSG.