Subject: LUSA: Lisbon says adoption of Indonesian law no threat to relations

02-10-2003 20:33:00. Notícia nº SIR-5461786 Temas: new destaque3 East Timor: Lisbon says adoption of Indonesian law no threat to relations

Dili, Oct. 2 (Lusa) - The East Timorese parliament overwhelmingly approved Thursday the adoption of former occupier Indonesia's legal system as the country's applicable subsidiary law.

The decision was taken by 62 votes to three with 12 abstentions, following a debate characterized by many negative references to Portugal`s more than four centuries of colonial rule.

The parliamentary vote capped a sometimes angry national debate on whether to adopt the Indonesian or Portuguese legal systems, an ambiguity that had led to much confusion in Timorese courts.

The debate in parliament had been "especially ugly" for Portugal, said lawmaker Manuel Tilman of the small KOTA party.

Most members of parliament, he added, had demonstrated a "very short memory" of Lisbon's aid to East Timor during Indonesia's quarter-century occupation and its diplomatic help in gaining independence.

Portugal`s state secretary for foreign affairs and cooperation, António Lourenço dos Santos, said the decision caused him "some disappointment", but it would not affect bilateral relations.

He said he regretted some of the anti-Portuguese comments made in the Dili Parliament, which were the result of "distraction" by some who did not fully appreciate Lisbon`s role in Timor`s development, noting 60 percent of Lisbon`s foreign aid budget goes to Timor. "I am even glad, as it shows that democracy in Timor works. The people are free to express their opinions", said dos Santos, who was in Timor to hone Lisbon`s aid programs and sign a three-year accord. During the national consultations ahead of the parliamentary vote, many champions of adopting Indonesia's legal system underlined the issue of language and custom, noting that few Timorese police or court officials were fluent in Portuguese or Portuguese law.

Opponents of the Indonesian option, including Dili's top judge, Cláudio Ximenes, countered by pointing out the potentially dangerous juridical "dependency" that East Timor could face in relation to its powerful neighbor.

ASP/SAS/CJB -Lusa-

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