Subject: Lusa: 1000s Taking Part In Discussions of Future Constitution

East Timor: Thousands Taking Part in Discussions of Future Constitution

9 Jul-12:32

UN administration officials consider their program to involve the East Timorese in territory-wide discussion of their future constitution a success, saying more than 20,000 people have so far participated in local meetings.

UNTAET officials in Dili told Lusa Monday that district constitutional commissions were drawing large crowds to meetings, sometimes as many as 2,000 people, including significant numbers of women.

The commissions, numbering between five and seven members, and composed mostly of Timorese, began organizing local meetings across the half-island the middle of last month.

The civic campaign runs through July 14, the eve of the start of formal campaigning for the Aug. 30 constitutent assembly elections.

It centers on informing the population on the nature of their first-ever free election and encouraging debate on and suggestions for the future constitution, which UNTAET will pass on to the 88- member constituent assembly, which will be sworn in Sept. 15.

Separately, the Catholic diocese of Dili began its own civic education campaign Sunday.

Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, a Nobel Peace laureate, said that while the dominant Catholic Church "is not a party, it does take sides", underlining its support for multi-party democracy, tolerance and peace.

SAS -Lusa-

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