Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: LH: NGO Forum declines to join UNTAET Constitutional Process

From: Lao Hamutuk <> Date: Mon, 14 May 2001

Dear friends,

The following letter was sent several weeks ago by the NGO Forum to Peter Galbraith in the Political Affairs Department. The letter declines an invitation for a representative from the NGO Forum to sit on the selection panel for the Constitutional Commissioners. The NGO Forum has chosen to coordinate with, but remain independent of, the UNTAET Constitution building process because of strong concerns that UNTAET's process is rushed and highly inadequate.

Some background: On 31 March, a Directive was issued by the office of the SRSG (Sergio de Mello) which established Constitutional Commissions in each district. The Commissions will have approximately one and a half months to carry out education and consultation (at least one meeting in each district) on the constitution. The Directive followed the National Council's rejection on 27 March to even discuss a draft regulation on the establishment of Constitutional Commissions supported by the NGO Forum. This draft legislation would have extended the time for consultation as well as establish a formal process on the consultation process. Xanana resigned from the NC following the defeat of this proposed legislation.

La'o Hamutuk 

see also NGO Forum writes Security Council on
Rushed Constitutional Process 

[the text of the letter follows]


Department of Political Affairs and Timor Sea, UNTAET

18 April 2001

Dear Mr Galbraith,

On behalf of the East Timorese NGO Forum, we are writing to make our views clear regarding the establishment of Constitutional Commissions for East Timor.

The process of Constitution-making requires fundamental choices being made about the type of country an independent East Timor will be. It is essential that this process is truly participatory to ensure that it reflects the aspirations and views of all East Timorese people.

The NGO Forum has already expressed our views about the Constitution making process. In our letter of 17 March to the U.N. Security Council, the NGO Forum requested the following: 1) a Constitutional Commission must be established as a formal and effective mechanism for consultation throughout East Timor on the Constitution; 2) the Commission should be adequately resourced to carry out its functions; and 3) the timeframe provided for consultation with the East Timorese people must be at least 9 months with a further three months for reporting.

Based on these views, the NGO Forum believes that the establishment of Constitutional Commissions (UNTAET Directive no. 2001/2, 31 March 2001) for East Timor will appear as a legitimate process, while being seriously insufficient both in terms of substance and process. In particular, the NGO Forum has three main concerns:

1. The period of operation of the Constitutional Commissions is too short to allow for sufficient participation of a broad spectrum of East Timorese society. It will not be possible to have an effective information dissemination process and meaningful consultation within this short timeframe. The reports from the Commissioners to the Constituent Assembly will not be representative of the East Timorese people s aspirations and should not be seen as such. It is the view of the NGO Forum that the mandate of the Constitutional Commission needs to extend beyond elections for a Constituent Assembly.

2. The process for nominations, training and guidance for the commissioners will be inadequate in such a short timeframe. Nominations for Commissioners will not be broad based if they are received through the district Advisory Councils only. It is unclear what training and guidance will be provided to the Commissioners so that they can carry out their functions effectively.

3. The objective of the Commission is unclear, in particular how it intends to influence the work of the Constituent Assembly.

The NGO Forum is very disappointed that our concerns, which have been expressed on several occasions, were not taken into account in Directive 2001/2.

The NGO Forum will be conducting our own program of public information dissemination and consultation on the Constitution. As part of this work, we will be conducting workshops in each of the 13 districts and will endeavor to coordinate where possible with UNTAET initiatives. We have no illusions that the NGO consultation process on the Constitution will be sufficiently representative either, under such a short timeframe. Therefore, we will continue to make the point that the timetable for independence, and in particular, the constitution-making process, must be extended beyond the elections for a Constituent Assembly. Without significant change in the timetable, the new Constitution should be viewed as an interim Constitution, allowing more time for broad-based input and consultation.

Based on these views, the NGO Forum wishes to decline the invitation to sit on the selection panel for the Constitutional Commissioners. We would rather remain independent from this process. If you wish to communicate with the NGO Forum in the future about Constitutional matters, please contact Aderito de Jesus Soares of the East Timorese Jurists Association (0409 263 718) as he is the NGO Forum's nominated representative on Constitutional matters.

Yours sincerely,

Aderito de Jesus Soares on behalf of NGO Forum's Board of Directors

Filomena Barros dos Reis on behalf of NGO Forum's Executive Director

Cc: Sergio de Mello, Bishop Belo, Juventude, REDE, University of East Timor, CNRT

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