FIRST CANDIDATE NOMINATION SUBMITTED FOR PRESIDENTIALS
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) opened its doors today for registration of candidates for East Timor’s first presidential election, giving politicians 19 days to be nominated by political parties or run as an independent.
PARENTIL (Partai Republik Nacional Timor Leste) issued its nomination, selecting Francisco Xavier do Amaral, a Deputy Speaker of the Constituent Assembly from the ASDT party (Timorese Social Democratic Association/Associação Social-Democrata Timorense) and a former FRETILIN leader.
Independence leader Xanana Gusmão, widely expected to be the front-runner in the campaign, is currently out of the country.
A politician can be nominated by a political party or collect 5,000 signatures and run as an independent. More than one party can choose the same candidate. The deadline for nominations is 23 February, the campaign is slated to begin on 15 March, and polling day is 14 April.
New political parties can also register and submit presidential nominations during this phase. The 16 parties that contested the 30 August 2001 elections for the Constituent Assembly are already considered registered.
Great emphasis in this poll – the third administered by the United Nations in East Timor – has been placed on the “Timorization’’ of the electoral body ahead of the 20 May Independence Day.
Unlike last year’s elections, East Timorese will hold a majority of seats on the IEC’s Board of Commissioners, control all 13 district electoral offices and participate in the counting of the ballots.
RECONCILIATION COMMISSION HOLDS FIRST MEETING
The seven National Commissioners who head East Timor’s Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation today held their first formal meeting in Dili.
At the meeting, which was chaired by Acting SRSG Dennis McNamara, the Commissioners elected Aniceto Guterres Lopes as the commission’s chairman, and Father Jovito Araújo as its vice-chairman.
The group also decided to create a small advisory body of respected East Timorese figures to serve as an independent source of guidance, and appointed Pat Walsh, head of the Interim Office of the Commission, to be a special advisor.
The commissioners also launched an official website (www.easttimor- reconciliation.org) and discussed preparations to send representatives on a familiarization trip to Oecussi district on 6 February, and a commissioner to Kupang, Indonesia, on 25 February.
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.
MEMBERS OF JUDICIAL SERVICE COMMISSION SWORN IN
Acting SRSG Dennis McNamara today swore in the five members of the Transitional Judicial Service Commission.
The Commission is the body responsible for making recommendations to the Transitional Administrator in relation to the appointment and dismissal of judges and prosecutors, both international and national, and evaluating their performance.
The Commission comprises three East Timorese and two internationals: Ancieto Gutteres Lopes, Father José Monteiro, Manuel Abrantes, Siphosami Malunga and Patrick Burgess.
Aniceto Guterres Lopes is director of Yayansan Hak, a prominent East Timorese human rights NGO. He was also recently appointed as a National Commissioner on the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, and was a member of the National Council of East Timor from October 2000 to July 2001.
José Monteiro is a Father of the Dili Diocese of the Catholic Church. Manuel Abrantes is a Dili lawyer, member of the Jurists Association and President of the Commission for Justice and Peace (East Timor) and was the Executive Secretary between 1994 and 1999. Siphosami Malunga is an UNTAET Public Defender, and Patrick Burgess is a Sydney barrister who heads UNTAET’s Human Rights Unit.
BISHOP INAUGURATES DOLLARISATION CAMPAIGN IN BAUCAU
Baucau Bishop Basílio do Nascimento led the opening Saturday of a government-run money exchange centre in East Timor’s second largest town – a facility designed to speed the transition from the Indonesian rupiah to the nation’s new official currency, the U.S. dollar.
The Baucau Fixed Centre for exchange was opened by the Banking and Payments Authority (BPA) after Baucau lagged behind the nation’s capital, Dili, in the currency transition. BPA officials believe the “dollarisation” of Baucau’s markets is critical in getting the eastern districts of the country to completely switch to US dollars.
Nascimento recalled the initial confusion by locals struggling to make sense of the dollar and its decimalised system of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. The rupiah – currently trading at about 10,000 to one dollar – is not divisible into a smaller monetary unit. When the bishop tried to buy a bunch of bananas from a Baucau shop keeper several months ago, he said he was asked to pay either 1,000 rupiah or a hefty $4.
“But I think now the people are understanding about the value of this (new) money,” Nascimento told a crowd of district representatives, BPA officials and UNTAET staff.
Eleven months after the dollarisation campaign began in March 2001, 90 percent of transactions in Dili are made with dollars, compared to 60 percent in Baucau. The central districts of Liquiça, Manatuto, Ainaro and Ermera also now use dollars in the vast majority of transactions, but the new currency has been slow to take root in the Oecussi enclave and western districts that border Indonesia.