Dili, 3 January 2002


The Constituent Assembly today returned from a three-day New Year’s break to continue debate on East Timor’s first draft Constitution, passing five articles contained in the section on the status, election and appointment of the President of the Republic.

The assembly has now passed 79 of the Constitution’s 151 articles.

Deliberations began today with the continuation of discussion on presidential immunity. Following on from the debate held on 29 January, a team of jurists had drafted a new article, 75a, on the issue of immunity. The new article states, in part, that the President enjoys immunity in the exercise of his or her functions, but that this immunity can be challenged by an initiative of the Parliament in conformity with the Constitution.

Article 76, also passed today, states in part that the President shall not be absent from the national territory without the authorisation of the National Parliament, or of its Standing Committee if Parliament is not in session. The President’s private visits not exceeding 15 days shall not require authorisation, although he or she should notify the National Parliament of such visits in advance.

Article 77 states that the President may resign from office by a message addressed to the National Parliament. When the President resigns from office, he or she shall not be eligible to stand in presidential elections immediately after their resignation nor in regular elections to be held four years later.

Article 78 states that in the case of death, resignation or permanent disability of the President, his or her office functions shall be taken over on an interim basis by the Speaker of the Parliament. The election of a new President will take place within the subsequent 90 days, with the interim President being ineligible to run.

Article 79 states that during any temporary impediment of the President, presidential functions shall be taken over by the Speaker of the National Parliament or, in case of the impediment of the latter, by his or her Deputy.

Constituent Assembly President Francisco “Lú-Olo” Guterres said before Christmas that he expects the assembly to pass the Constitution by the 25 January deadline.