BISHOP BELO AGAINST SEPARATION BETWEEN STATE AND CHURCH
The East Timorese Constituent Assembly President Francisco "Lú-Olo" Guterres today read aloud to a letter sent by the Working Group on Church-Constitution with ten suggested amendments to the draft Constitution currently being discussed. East Timorese Bishop Filipe Ximenes Belo of Dili was one of the three signatories of the letter.
The recommendations are on citizenship issues, rights of prisoners, and sexual matters, among others, and a detailed one proposing the elimination of section 12 on the "Separation of the State from the Church", which states that "the State shall be separated from the Church and other religious denominations.
The letter was also signed by José António da Costa, a catholic priest and the secretary-general of the working group, and a member of the protestant church of East Timor.
COUNCIL OF MINISTERS ENDORSE PLAN ON OFFICIAL LANGUAGES
East Timor's Council of Ministers today endorsed a plan and methodology to translate all major UNTAET regulations and directives from English into Tetum and Portuguese, the planned official languages.
The plan, presented by Chief Minister Marí Alkatiri, has five points, including the establishment of priorities according to the practical aspects of translation from English into Portuguese; the definition of a priority scale of all legislation (to be performed by an inter-ministerial commission); and the creation of a working group in co-operation with UNTAET.
"In spite of the complexity of the job, the quantity of texts to translate, and the lack of time and human resources to accomplish it, the Council considers this a feasible task," the Council said today in a written statement after the meeting. "The goal being that on independence day the most important UNTAET legislation is available in one of the official languages of East Timor."
In today's meeting, UNTAET Police Commissioner Peter Miller along with East Timorese Police Commissioner Paulo Martins presented an update on the ongoing process of transference of powers from the United Nations Civilian Police to the East Timor Police Service, a process expected to be complete by January 2004.
In addition, the Council was briefed by the Chief Electoral Officer of the Independent Electoral Commission, Carlos Valenzuela, regarding the commission's work, structure and operational plan for the presidential elections scheduled for 14 April.
Today's meeting was attended by all the council's ministers except Senior Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation José Ramos-Horta, who is currently in New York
with Special Representative of the Secretary-General Sergio Vieira de Mello to attend the United Nations Security Council open meeting on East Timor, which begins tomorrow, 30 January.
INTERNATIONAL ELECTORAL OFFICERS ARRIVE IN EAST TIMOR
The first batch of international District Electoral Officers (DEOs) arrived Monday in East Timor for training ahead of the nation's first-ever presidential election on 14 April.
The 62 United Nations Volunteers are the first of 150 international DEOs who will be placed in charge of half of the nation's 300 district polling offices. East Timorese were trained as DEOs last week to run the other half, one of several efforts since the 30 August 2001 Constituent Assembly elections to increase local capacity in the electoral process.
The UN volunteers began a week-long training program shortly after arriving in Dili. They will be deployed to their polling offices on Friday, 1 February. An additional 88 UN volunteers are scheduled to arrive on the weekend and will be trained next week.
The presidential election will be the third UN-administered ballot in East Timor and the last before the nation marks its independence on 20 May 2002.
Unlike the previous UN-run polls, East Timorese will now hold a majority of seats on the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)'s Board of Commissioners, control the 13 district offices of the IEC and participate in the counting of ballots.
MORE THAN 200 AFFECTED BY FLOODS IN BOBONARO AND OECUSSI
Flash flooding caused by recent heavy rains has forced about 230 people from their homes in the western district of Bobonaro and the Oecussi enclave, the National Disaster Management officials said today.
Twenty-seven homes in Nuslao, Oecussi, were damaged by flooding on 26 January, according to the United Nations Civilian Police based in the enclave. No injuries were reported, but 215 people affected by the damage were moved from the area by UN district officials and peacekeepers from the Republic of Korea. An undetermined number of livestock were lost or killed by the deluge.
In Bobonaro, initial police reports said that 50 people had been affected by flooding on 25 January. About one-third of these people were forced to leave their homes and are now living with other families.
Both areas suffered similar inundations late last year. A district official in Oecussi said a long-term solution to Nuslao's flooding problem was being sought.