Dili, 21 March 2002


East Timor’s Constituent Assembly today passed the preamble to the territory’s Constitution, paving the way for the final passage and signing of the 170-article document tomorrow after a six-month process.

Sixty-three members voted in favour of the page-long preamble, 11 against, with eight abstentions.

The preamble is a synthesis of five different versions presented by political parties to the assembly’s Systemization and Harmonization Committee.

The assembly members are expected to approve the Constitution – which has already been debated and approved article-by-article – at a nominal roll call tomorrow morning. The nominal roll call methodology was approved today by 77 of the assembly’s 88 members this morning.

The Constitution is expected to be signed by each of the members tomorrow afternoon at a ceremony attended by SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello, senior Government officials, and members of the diplomatic corps and civil society.


UNHCR is bolstering its staff in Batugade, along East Timor’s border with Indonesia, in anticipation of a further upsurge in refugee returns from West Timor.

More than 2,500 refugees have returned to East Timor so far this month – the highest monthly rate of return since October of last year – bringing the total number of returnees to 197,000 since October 1999.

In the past week alone, UNHCR and IOM have assisted the voluntary repatriation of 1,063 East Timorese and another 500 refugees are expected to cross the border tomorrow.

UNHCR attributes the increased returns to the now completed harvest in West Timor, ongoing UNHCR and UNTAET spearheaded reconciliation activities, and continued efforts by Indonesia to resolve the refugee problem.

UNHCR officials in Dili are commending the East Timorese community for fostering the spirit of reconciliation conducive for refugees to return.