Subject: Age: Claims East Timor democracy is threatened

Also: GLW: Campaign launched for new elections

The Age Friday 25 January 2002

Claims East Timor democracy is threatened


A group of dissidents has accused the governing Fretilin party of trying to usurp democracy and remain in power for five years beyond its elected mandate.

The Group to Defend Democracy, Peace and Stability has staged a series of small but rowdy demonstrations, and says UN inaction is legitimising the Fretilin push.

The latest demonstration this week outside the UN's headquarters called for early elections, less than six months after the vote of August 30 last year.

"We didn't fight for this result ... We don't want an authoritarian system," said 36-year-old Lucia Lobato, an opposition Social Democrat party deputy.

The group has written to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan over their concerns, and have the public support of Bishop Carlos Belo.

At issue is article 151 of the draft constitution, the working document of the 88-seat Constituent Assembly elected by last year's vote.

It allows those elected - who in this case are overwhelmingly from Fretilin - to perpetuate their own power for up to five years. Fretilin has confirmed that when it reaches article 151 it will set the period for the changeover from constituent to Legislative Assembly at the maximum permitted, five years from now.

Many East Timorese believed when they voted last August that the deputies they were electing had to abandon power after they approved East Timor's first democratic constitution to make way for a parliament to run the country.

Nancy Lutz, a field officer for the Carter Centre, the American human rights watchdog, said that soon after last year's poll, her organisation issued a report that was "very critical" of voter education, stating that people did not know what they were voting for.

At a press briefing last week, UN administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello said the dissidents had the option of lobbying for early elections once article 151 was passed. He said that some of the dissidents had earlier supported the idea of the Constituent Assembly transforming itself into a legislature.

Proposals call for parliamentary elections to be held with the presidential elections on April 14, or on May 30.

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Green Left Weekly, Australia's socialist newspaper Issue 477January 23, 2002

EAST TIMOR: Campaign launched for new elections


As East Timor's Constituent Assembly draws closer to finalising the nation's constitution there is increasing debate over whether fresh elections should be held for the proposed Legislative Assembly. Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri is adamantly opposed to such a move, stating that "opting for new elections is openly to want to provoke crises".

On January 17, United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor chief administrator Sergio de Mello announced that presidential elections would take place on April 14. When questioned on the issue of elections for the legislature, he stated that this was a decision solely for the Constituent Assembly.

Under regulations adopted by UNTAET in March 2001 for the August 30 Constituent Assembly elections, the assembly has the option, in the process of drafting the constitution, to transform itself into the Legislative Assembly.

A universal complaint from election monitors, East Timorese NGO's and from many of the country's political parties was that many voters did not fully understand the implications of the ambiguous electoral regulation permitting the Constituent Assembly to convert itself into a permanent legislature.

The call for fresh elections to the legislature has come from both radical and conservative sides of East Timorese politics. Popular leader and president-to-be, Xanana Gusmao, has publicly stated his support for legislative elections, as has religious leader Bishop Carlos Belo. Avelino da Silva, secretary general of the Socialist Party of Timor (PST), told Green Left Weekly that "new elections would serve to strengthen democracy and accountability".

An alliance called the Group for the Defence of Democracy, Peace and Stability in East Timor (GDDPE) issued a public statement and petition on January 3, calling for the "simultaneous holding of presidential and legislative elections" by May 20 (the date set for the formal transfer of power from UNTAET) or "legislative elections soon after independence, preferably on August 30".

The GDDPE is headed by Manuel Carrascalao, former head of the National Council, and includes representatives from the PST, the Democratic Party (PD), the Social-Democratic Party (PSD), the Timorese Democratic Union (UDT) plus a number of independents. The PD and PSD form the largest bloc in the Constituent Assembly after Fretilin. In response to the formation of the GDDPE, Alkatiri claimed the group was merely "dreaming of better results than at the last elections".

Da Silva told Green Left Weekly that the GDDPE plans to continue to lobby members of the Constituent Assembly and organise public meetings and rallies in support of legislative elections.

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