Dili, 21 February 2002


The Constituent Assembly has begun distributing drafts of East Timor's Constitution ahead of a next week's nationwide public consultation on the fledgling country's legal framework, the Assembly's Secretariat said today.

More than 25,500 copies of the Constitution - 18,000 in Indonesian, 5,000 in Portuguese and 2,500 in English - were distributed Wednesday. An additional 35,000 copies in Tetum, the lingua franca of East Timor, will be shipped out Monday.

The distribution is the first step in an effort to gain nationwide feedback on the historic document. Assembly members today began travelling out to East Timor's 13 districts to organise the 26 February to 2 March public consultations.

The 88 Assembly members have been divided into 13 groups for the consultations. Each group will hold public meetings and write a report containing the public's criticisms and concerns. Those reports will then be presented to the full Assembly for debate ahead of a final vote and signing ceremony on 16 March.

The popularly elected Assembly will transform itself into the nation's first legislature upon East Timor's 20 May independence.


Two East Timorese commissioners have been elected to serve as chairperson and vice-chair of the Independent Electoral Commission's Board of Commissioners, the IEC announced today.

In a Wednesday meeting, the five-member IEC Board elected Maria Aurora "Lola" dos Reis as its chairperson and Benjamin Corte Real as its vice-chairperson. Walter Rigamoto of Fiji was chosen to be the secretary of the Board.

The five Commissioners - three East Timorese and two internationals - were appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan last week to supervise the presidential elections in East Timor, set for 14 April. The Board will remain in session until 20 April, when the certified results will be announced.

The Board will settle disputes related to the electoral process, ensure respect for the electoral regulation and international standards for a democratic election, and certify the election results and transmit them to the Secretary-General through his Special Representative in East Timor, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

"Lola" Reis is the Director of the Christian Children's Fund in East Timor; Corte Real is the Director of the University of East Timor; and Walter Rigamoto is the Supervisor of Elections in Fiji.

The other two members of the Board are Antero Benedito da Silva, former head of the NGO Forum in East Timor; and Argentine Horácio Boneo, former director of the United Nations' Electoral Assistance Division and currently an electoral and governance consultant.

The emphasis on this election - the third UN-sponsored ballot in East Timor - is on the "Timorisation" of the process. Unlike the previous two polls, East Timorese hold a majority of seats on the IEC Board, control all 13 district electoral offices and will participate in the counting of the ballots.


The USS Juneau arrived today in Dili harbour, bringing infrastructure and medical aid that will boost the humanitarian efforts of the US military's Support Group East Timor (USGET) in the territory.

In East Timor, the USS Juneau's crew is scheduled to assist in the refurbishment of two public buildings in Dili, the 30 August Junior High School and the Dom Aleixo sub-district administration office.

The medical section of the American ship - a doctor, a medical technician, a dentist and a dental technician - will also provide medical services to East Timorese at Dili and Ataúro Island clinics.

Additionally, the USS Juneau will host a picnic lunch for group of East Timorese orphans during its stay. There will also be a separate luncheon for East Timor, UN and diplomatic officials.

The visiting US Navy ship is a "landing dock platform" vessel, which acts as a mother ship for smaller landing craft filled with troops, vehicles or equipment, depending on the mission.


Trial proceedings in the "Lolotoe case" - one of East Timor's 10 major Crimes Against Humanity investigations - have been delayed until 4 March, the Serious Crimes Unit said today.

Opening arguments were originally scheduled to be heard when the trial opened on 8 February, but they were postponed to tomorrow, 22 February, by disagreements on whether witness lists must be submitted by the prosecution and defence.

Resumption of the trial was further delayed to 4 March because 22 February is a holiday and the Special Panel for Serious Crimes is booked with other cases over the next two weeks.

The Lolotoe trial involves two pro-autonomy militia commanders and a former village chief accused of participating in a campaign of deadly terror that surrounded the 1999 UN-sponsored ballot on the future of the Southeast Asian territory.


UNTAET and the East Timorese government met for the first time today to discuss a joint strategy to address the domestic violence problem and ensure that different government departments work together on the issue.

The chair of the meeting, Maria Domingas Alves, Advisor for the Promotion of Equality to the East Timorese Chief Minister explained that the meeting aimed to establish a partnership within the various concerned departments and create a governmental working group. She also stressed that domestic violence "is not a private matter."

The four-hour long meeting was also attended by the United Nations Civilian Police, Human Rights and Legal Units; and Health and Social Services departments.

UNTAET Civilian Police Commissioner Peter Miller briefed the participants on how his force is working closely with the East Timor Police Service and is training the East Timorese police officers on domestic violence situations.

The need to improve legislation on domestic violence and to change mindsets at a grass root level was also discussed.

A follow-up meeting is expected to take place next week.


In the 20 February 2002 UNTAET Media Briefing Note titled "Agenda for talks with Indonesia and Australia approved," funding for two proposed national monuments was incorrectly reported. A proposed independence monument is in fact to be funded by the Portuguese government, not the Australian government, as was reported. Also, the Portuguese government does not have plans to fund a proposed monument to slain East Timorese resistance leader Nicolau Lobato.