PRESIDENT ELECT, CHIEF MINISTER IN ‘COMPLETE AGREEMENT’
East Timor’s President-elect and Chief Minister Marí Alkatiri met today for the first time since Sunday’s election and are in “complete agreement” on how to proceed with island territory’s transition to independence, UN Transitional Administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello said.
Vieira de Mello, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative in East Timor, invited both leaders to the meeting. During the four-hour session, the three discussed the following pressing concerns:
“On all issues there was consensus and complete agreement,” Vieira de Mello said after the meeting.
- The final weeks of UN administration before East Timor celebrates its independence on 20 May.
- A 26 April meeting of the UN Security Council on East Timor to be attended by both Gusmão and Alkatiri.
- A conference of major foreign donors to East Timor to be held in Dili on 14-15 May.
- The setting up of the Office of the President.
- Preparations for the official Independence Celebrations, including the participation of ex-Falantil freedom fighters.
VIEIRA DE MELLO APPOINTS EAST TIMOR SECRETARY OF DEFENCE
UN Transitional Administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello today appointed Roque Rodrigues as Secretary of State for Defence of East Timor’s Second Transitional Government, creating a civilian authority for the nascent East Timor Defence Force (ETDF).
The appointment will likely be the last at the Cabinet-level before the transitional government is replaced by a full-fledged Government of East Timor upon independence on 20 May.
“Today East Timor is entering a new stage. It is now clearly defined in the structure of government that the military will be under civilian authority. This is one of the pillars of democracy,” Vieira de Mello said during a ceremony attended by Chief Minister Marí Alkatiri and ETDF Commander Brig-Gen. Taur Matan Ruak.
Rodrigues, who will also retain his current portfolio as Vice Minister of Education, Culture and Youth, pledged to “defend the peace that was so difficult to achieve” in his new role.
Soldiers for the ETDF are currently being recruited and trained to defend East Timor’s borders after UN Peacekeepers withdraw in several years. The ETDF will eventually consist of a light infantry force of 1,500 regulars.
ASSEMBLY BEGINS WORK ON HIGH-PRIORITY LEGISLATION
The Legislative Assembly set up a special committee today to consider high-priority legislation targeted for passage before East Timor gains independence next month.
The multi-partisan committee, headed by António Cardoso from the ruling Fretilin party, is expected to first consider a bill that would create an independent Public Broadcasting Service to succeed UN-run public radio and television after independence is celebrated on 20 May.
The broadcasting bill was among several pieces of legislation approved by East Timor’s Council of Ministers and forwarded to the Assembly yesterday by UN Transitional Administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello. After the special committee considers the bills they will be debated by the plenary.
The popularly elected Assembly completed its primary task of promulgating East Timor’s constitution on 22 March. It then extended its powers upon the request of Vieira de Mello to keep it working on legislative matters before its official transformation into the National Parliament upon independence.
Separately, President-elect Xanana Gusmão is scheduled to visit the Assembly tomorrow morning and meet with Assembly Speaker Fransisco “Lu-Olo” Guterres.
RECONCILIATION REPRESENTATIVES RETURN FROM KUPANG VISIT
Representatives from East Timor’s Commission on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation returned from talks in West Timor today expressing hope that refugees there can get better access to information about conditions back home.
During their two-day visit to the West Timor capital Kupang, Commission Chairman Aniceto Guterres Lopes and Executive Director João Baptista met with a number of non-governmental organizations to explain the commission’s planned work.
“We wanted to brief organizations working with refugees about mechanisms like our planned community reconciliation processes so that these groups can then inform refugees of the options available to them if they wish to return to their communities,” Guterres Lopes said after meetings with groups including Yayasan Pikul and Jesuit Refugee Services.
“People should be able to base their decisions on whether to stay or come home on accurate information, and I’m concerned there have been some extreme and inaccurate statements made by some in the West Timor refugee community about conditions back in East Timor.”
The Commission on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation supports the reintegration of less-serious offenders into their communities through community-based reconciliation mechanisms and will document the nature of and reasons for human rights violations in East Timor between 1974 and 1999.
UNDP PRESENTS REBUILT SUAI COURT TO MINISTRY OF JUSTICE
East Timor’s Ministry of Justice today formally took possession of a newly rehabilitated Courthouse in the border district of Suai.
The keys for the Courthouse – which includes detention cells and accommodation for judges and prosecutors – were symbolically handed to Justice Minister Ana Pessoa by the UNDP’s Resident Representative, Finn Reske-Nielsen, at a ceremony this morning in Suai town.
“The UNDP is delighted to hand over this Courthouse, which is not just a new building but symbolizes a new start for the people of Suai and East Timor as a whole, who now have access to a free and fair judicial system for the first time in their lives,” Finn Reske-Nielsen said at the ceremony.
The Courthouse was badly vandalized in the militia violence following East Timor’s 1999 Popular Consultation, and repaired as a cost of some US$115,000 provided by the Government of Belgium and the UNDP.