Subject: KY: Independence veteran elected E. Timor assembly speaker


Independence veteran elected E. Timor assembly speaker

Christine T. Tjandraningsih

DILI, East Timor, Sept. 17

Francisco Guterres, a veteran of East Timor's long struggle for independence, was elected the territory's first speaker of the Constituent Assembly on Monday.

The 88-member assembly elected Guterres, popularly known by his guerrilla name Lu Olo, after U.N. Transitional Administrator in East Timor Sergio Vieirra de Mello, who chaired the election, named him as a single nominee in the election.

During an open vote, 68 assembly members were in favor of his election and one against, while nine abstained and eight did not determine their choice. Two assembly members were absent on the day.

According to the assembly's internal regulations, a candidate for the chairmanship can be elected if he or she gains at least 45 votes.

Guterres is scheduled to lead a plenary session Tuesday to elect his deputies.

Following his election, Guterres, who is coordinator of the presidential council of Fretilin, the Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of East Timor, asked the assembly to cooperate and work together.

'We have to be able to carry out the public interest,' he said in brief remarks after taking over the chairmanship of the assembly from de Mello.

Guterres is a veteran of the resistance struggle and a political commissar of FALINTIL, Fretilin's armed wing during the occupation of Indonesia.

He speaks Tetum, East Timor's native language, and Portuguese, but cannot speak Indonesian.

During the general election Aug. 30, Fretilin, a pro-independence party founded in 1974 that spearheaded East Timor's 24-year armed struggle for independence from Indonesia, won by garnering 57.3% of the vote to secure 55 seats in the assembly.

It won 43 of the 75 seats in the territory-wide election, and 12 of the 13 district seats.

Despite its strong showing during the election campaigns, Fretilin failed to secure a crucial two-thirds majority in the assembly that would have allowed it to draft a constitution to its own liking.

Fretilin earlier predicted it could win about 85% of the vote.

Its closest rival was the Democratic Party, which won seven seats.

The assembly, which after independence will become East Timor's parliament, will have 90 days to write and adopt a constitution that will pave the way for a presidential election followed by a declaration of independence.

More than 37,000 East Timorese turned out in June and July at more than 200 constitutional public hearings that solicited the views of the population on what should be considered by the future Constituent Assembly when drafting the constitution.

Among the prevalent issues discussed at the hearings were the political system, currency and national flag East Timor should adopt, the type of punishments that should be applied to those responsible for serious crimes, education system, laws for foreign investors and official language.

The adoption of the constitution will require the support of at least 60 members of the assembly.

The constitution itself will elaborate on the final steps to East Timor's independence. It will determine whether future elections are required before independence.

Some parts of the constitution are allowed to come into effect before independence with the consent of de Mello, who is also special representative of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. However, it will not fully come into effect until independence.

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