Dili, 31 January 2002


The Constituent Assembly voted today to transform itself into East Timor's first legislature upon final approval of the Constitution.

The overwhelming vote for the transformation - 65 in favour, 16 against, two abstentions and five absent - ended a heated debate on whether or not legislative elections should be held in concert with the 14 April presidential election or shortly after East Timor marks its independence on 20 May.

Chief Minister of the Second Transitional Government Marí Alkatiri declared during the plenary session that majority party Fretilin was in favour of the transformation and a full, five-year term.

João Carrascalão, president of the UDT party, called for the dissolution of the Assembly after promulgation of the Constitution and for legislative elections to be held 90 days after independence. During the vote, he vowed to resign from Assembly/legislature once the Constitution was promulgated.

Alkatiri warned that he would not participate in any provisional government if the Assembly voted to hold legislative elections after independence.

The idea of transforming the Constituent Assembly - the 88-member body popularly elected on 30 August 2001 to draft and pass the Constitution - was first proposed in late 2000 by the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), an umbrella organization of political parties and civil organizations formed in 1998. The proposal was adopted by the National Council - an interim legislative body that preceded the Assembly - and included in Article 151 of the Assembly's draft Constitution.

SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello has supported the transformation, and UNTAET's Independent Electoral Commission previously warned that legislative elections would have been impossible to organize ahead of independence.

All 151 articles of the original draft Constitution have now been debated by the Assembly. However, several articles forwarded to committees for reworking and an as-yet-unwritten Article 152 - expected to call for certain sections of the Constitution to come into force before independence day - have yet to be passed.

Articles passed since late Monday include:

Article 148a, which states that transitional judicial bodies charged with trying serious crimes committed in 1999 shall remain active until the trials are completed. It adds that the existing transitional judicial system shall remain in place until the installation of East Timor's official justice system;

Article 148b, which states that the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation shall carry out its functions as stated in UNTAET regulation 2001/10;

Article 149, which states that the until the installation of the Supreme Court of Justice, the Appeals Court shall be the highest court in the nation;

Article 150, which states that laws and regulations in force shall continue to be applicable to all matters unless they are inconsistent with the Constitution;

Article 151, which states that the Constituent Assembly shall be transformed into a national legislature upon approval of the Constitution of the Republic. In its first term of office, the National Parliament shall be comprised of 88 members on an exceptional basis.


SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello yesterday, 30 January, briefed the UN Security Council in New York on East Timor's transition towards full independence and on the Secretary-General's plan for a successor mission to UNTAET.
Please find attached the prepared text of the SRSG's statement.


A group of 261 young recruits has been selected to form the second battalion of the East Timor Defence Force (ETDF).

The recruits - of whom 30 are female - were chosen from among 428 candidates after undergoing a range of physical, medical and psychometric tests.

The Office of the ETDF today sent notification letters to the recruits, and basic training is expected to begin at Metinaro, near Dili, in the middle of next month.

The ETDF will eventually consist of a light infantry force of 1,500 regulars to be recruited and trained over a three-year period. The first 600-member ETDF battalion - comprised of former FALINTIL soldiers - has already been formed and is now deployed in Lospalos district, where the battalion will tomorrow hold a ceremony marking its first anniversary.