Dili, 22 March 2002


East Timor’s Constituent Assembly today signed into force the territory’s first Constitution after six months of drafting, consultation, and debate.

The 170-article Constitution was officially approved by a nominal role call this morning, with 72 of the 88-member assembly voting in favor and 14 against, with one abstention and one absentee.

This afternoon each of the 88 members of the assembly signed the constitution at a ceremony attended by SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello, Deputy SRSG Dennis McNamara, presidential candidates Xanana Gusmão and Xavier do Amaral (who is also a deputy Speaker of the assembly), government officials, diplomats and representatives of civil society, among others.

“We have just witnessed and participated in the founding act of this new state,” Vieira de Mello said in a speech to the assembly after the Constitution had been signed. “I would like to publicly pay my most sincere homage to the members of this assembly for their excellent work. The people of East Timor and the international community recognize and commend the personal dedication that you have given to this task. Congratulations!!”

The 88-member assembly was elected at the 30 August Constituent Assembly elections and its members sworn-in on 15 September.

The Constitution’s articles were individually approved between 3 December 2001 and early February 2002. A number of articles were subsequently amended to reflect suggestions made by UNTAET, the East Timor government, civil society organizations, and district consultation participants.


The ballot papers for East Timor’s 14 April presidential election arrived in Dili today.

The ballot papers, which list the name and depict the image of presidential candidates Xanana Gusmão and Xavier do Amaral, will be securely stored in the capital before distributed in the districts.

Starting 25 March, the ballot papers will be packed together with other sensitive polling material – such as ink, ballot stamps and forms to be used by the Independent Electoral Commission officers – and then sent to the districts for secure storage on 2 April.

There will be 282 polling centers with 933 polling stations this year. Each polling station is estimated to receive a maximum of 600 voters. Added to these 600 ballot papers, an additional reserve will be sent to each polling center as advised by the 13 District Electoral Coordinators.

All materials are now in place for the 14 April election.

In related news, Xanana Gusmão and either Xavier do Amaral (who was recently hospitalised with pneumonia) or a representative of his political platform will tomorrow record their first Direct Access broadcasts with UNTAET’s radio and television networks.

Each candidate will have 15 minutes to outline their political programs and visions for East Timor. The resulting segments will be aired by both Radio UNTAET and TVTL next week.

Both candidates will have the opportunity to record new 15-minute segments every weekend in the run-up to the 14 April presidential election.


Deputy SRSG Dennis McNamara is scheduled to leave for New Zealand on Sunday for a three-day official visit during which he will meet with a range of top government officials.

During meetings with Minister of Defence Mark Burton, Secretary of Defence Graham Fortune and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Neil Walter, McNamara plans to express thanks to New Zealand for its support of UNTAET over the past years and give an overview of the mission’s progress, including elections, independence preparations, downsizing and transfer to a successor mission.