Subject: LUSA: Draft Constitution Debate Begins Friday

29 Nov 01 21:49 East Timor: Draft Constitution Debate Begins Friday

East Timor`s draft constitution is now completed and its discussion begins Friday in the Constituent Assembly in Dili. The draft, which Lusa had Access to Thursday, contains 152 articles and although the document could still undergo some changes, sources in the Constituent Assembly revealed that, "most of the work is done".

After its approval in the assembly, there will be a week of "socialization and consultation", with some suggestions being incorporated before the draft is given its definitive approval in December. At least 66 of the assembly`s 88 members will need to back the proposal.

The document establishes that the new nation`s sovereign bodies are: the president of the republic (who will be directly elected), the national parliament, the government and courts.

Presidential candidates must be simultaneously: Timorese nationals, over 35 years-old, in full command of their faculties and have a minimum of 5,000 supporting signatures. The presidential mandate is for four or five years and can only be renewed once.

The document seen by Lusa also confirms the transformation of the Constituent Assembly into a National Parliament, with a reduction in seats from 88, to between 52 and 65. The prime minister will be chosen by the majority party and nominated by the president.

One controversial part of the draft is its declaration that "the state of East Timor will adopt single citizenship". A Timorese living in Macau told Lusa Thursday that a petition is being organized by Timorese resident overseas to protest at the possible prohibition of dual-nationality.

There will be no death penalty in the new nation or life sentences as human ife is considered "inviolable", with the state recognizing and guaranteeing the "right to life". There is no mention of abortion in the text and extradition from East Timor "for political motives" will not be sanctioned.

The document also determines that "tetum and Portuguese are the official languages of East Timor", although it is noted that "the Indonesian language and English are working languages used in administration - on a par with official tongues - while necessary".

CJB -Lusa-

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