Subject: E. Timorese Fear Being Sidelined By Political Elite: Survey

Also: NDI Press Release

Full Report: Carrying the People’s Aspirations: A Report on Focus Group Discussions in East Timor, (PDF) National Democratic Institute, University of East Timor (UNTIL) (2/1/2002)

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

E. Timorese Fear Being Sidelined By Political Elite-Survey

DILI, Feb. 7 (AP) -- As East Timor prepares for full independence in May, voters lack information about the draft of the country's new constitution, according to a survey released Thursday.

The survey, conducted by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, found that many East Timorese were concerned about how the new national charter would impact the interests of ordinary people.

It said that although the most people were optimistic about the future, they feared an elite-driven political process that isn't accountable to the people.

"It is not a question of whether the East Timorese are ready for democracy, it is whether they will be given enough opportunity to participate," said Jim Della-Giacoma, country director of the U.S.-funded democracy advocate group.

After voting for independence from Indonesia in 1999, East Timor is currently under the administration of the U.N.

In August last year, an 88-member assembly was elected to draft the country's new constitution. The constitution is expected to be completed in March, ahead of full independence on May 20.

Although the assembly's proceedings are open to the public and broadcast on national radio and television, the majority of East Timorese outside the capital don't have access to information about it.

NDI said a representative group of 85 voters were polled for the survey. Participants were asked their opinion on the constitution, elections, political groups, local government and security.

No margin of error was given for the survey.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, 7 February, 2002

CONTACT: Helder da Costa (0417) 866-710

Jim Della-Giacoma (0417) 755-359

EAST TIMORESE DEMAND MORE INFORMATION ON CONSTITUTIONAL PROCESS FROM ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES

DILI, EAST TIMOR: Research conducted by The National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Social and Political Sciences Faculty of the National University of East Timor (UNTIL) has found that the people of East Timor are demanding to be better informed about the constitutional process directly by their elected representatives. The findings of the focus group research report were released today as part of a joint seminar hosted by the National Research Centre (CNIC) and NDI. Commentators on the findings were Mr. Manuel Tilman (Member of Constituent Assembly) and Mr. Valentim Ximenes, MA (Dean of Social and Political Sciences, UNTIL).

"The focus group results clearly indicate that the people of East Timor have enthusiastically embraced democracy. Participants are eager for a better political and economic future and they look to their leaders to take them there," the 32-page report, released in four languages, said.

"However, participants expressed no blind faith in political leaders after a traumatic 24 years of Indonesian occupation and resistance, the people of East Timor are an alert and demanding constituency. Focus group participants acknowledged that they have high expectations from their leaders and that they want their interests represented by their elected representatives," the report said.

The report, published in English, Tetum, Portuguese and Indonesian, is the second such research supported by NDI in East Timor and follows a similar study published in March 2001. The focus group discussions that form the basis of the latest report were conducted late last year in five districts including Dili.

The report's major findings cover areas such as national mood, the constituent assembly and future parliament, past and future elections, political parties, security and transition, local governance as well as women and politics. It lists implications from the research for elected representatives, civic educators, electoral officials, political parties, presidential candidates, the future government of East Timor and the United Nations Transitional Administration (UNTAET).

Focus group discussions are semi-structured discussions on specific topics conducted by a trained moderator. They are a qualitative research method helpful in gaining a more in depth understanding of public attitudes and attitude formation.

The team of 15 facilitators who conducted the final research were all East Timorese political science students. The report was jointly written by NDI East Timor's Resident Representative Jim Della-Giacoma and UNTIL lecturer Alarico da Costa Ximenes.

The full text of the focus group discussion report in four languages will shortly be available on the NDI web site at www.ndi.org


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