BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor .........home .........August news

" ... there is something that the soon-to-be-formed Constitutional Assembly can do to correct this problem [of lack of representation]: it can produce a document that will only have interim status, one that will guarantee and facilitate a far-reaching participatory process to draw up a permanent constitution at a later date. East Timor’s Catholic Church advocated something similar earlier this year, officially recommending following the example of other countries emerging from traumatic pasts, such as South Africa, by drawing up an interim constitution." Aderito de Jesus Soares
See also: BD: Peoples' Participation / Participação Dos Povos / Partisipasaun Politika

From: The La'o Hamutuk Bulletin

Volume 2, No. 5
August 2001

Issue focus: 
Women and the Reconstruction of East Timor

Table of contents: The entire bulletin with a downloadable printable PDF version, will be available shortly at http://www.etan.org/lh/.
Editions in other languages will also be available there.



For an Interim Constitution

by Aderito de Jesus Soares

A constitution is the basic law of a country. All of a country’s other laws flow from its constitution and, as such, must respect its substance and spirit. This is a key reason why East Timor’s constitution will be so important.

But just as important as the constitution’s substance is the process of drawing up the actual document. It is through this process that the citizenry comes to feel a sense of ownership over the country’s constitution and its political institutions. Also, assuming that the process is sufficiently inclusive and participatory, it will help to lay the basis for a tolerant, democratic, and vibrant political culture.

This last outcome is especially important given the almost 24-years of experience under Indonesia in which the law and its institutions were part of a repressive apparatus. As such, there is a general lack of trust among East Timorese toward the law and political institutions.

Unfortunately, East Timor’s current constitutional process is unlikely to redress this problem. Indeed, it is totally inadequate and improper. The process simply does not allow people enough time to begin to understand the complex matters included in a constitution and to ponder and debate these issues. Unless the process as now envisioned changes radically, it will be impossible for East Timor to develop a set of political and governing institutions and practices that will be sustainable in such a brief period.

As currently planned, the soon-to-be elected constitutional assembly will have a period of only ninety days to draw up East Timor’s first constitution. In doing so, they are supposed to take into consideration the findings of an already-completed constitutional consultation, which took place over forty-five days. This process is going forward despite the fact that ten percent of East Timor’s population is still outside the country terrorized and held as virtual hostages by Indonesian military-backed militia in refugee camps in West Timor.

Various sectors of East Timorese society ranging from the country’s Catholic Church to the national NGO Forum have strongly and consistently voiced their criticisms and concerns regarding the inadequacy of the process to the territory’s governing authority, UNTAET. But UNTAET has ignored these pleas.

Nevertheless, there is something that the soon-to-be-formed Constitutional Assembly can do to correct this problem: it can produce a document that will only have interim status, one that will guarantee and facilitate a far-reaching participatory process to draw up a permanent constitution at a later date. East Timor’s Catholic Church advocated something similar earlier this year, officially recommending following the example of other countries emerging from traumatic pasts, such as South Africa, by drawing up an interim constitution.

This interim document would last for, say, 3-4 years and provide a mandate for the new government to conduct a more far-reaching and inclusive constitution-making process during its mandate. This new process should take at least one-year. It should involve various sectors of civil society, including women’s groups, religious bodies, human rights organizations, youth groups, university associations, and labor unions in addition to political parties.

During this period, the international community should retain some authority and thus responsibility for East Timor’s well-being. While there should soon be a hand-over of significant levels of sovereignty to the East Timor people by the United Nations, it should not be total. Given the interim nature of the constitution and the fragility of the institutions and practices that will emerge from the process, there should not be a sudden, but a gradual hand-over of power to an independent East Timorese government.

In this manner, the international community in the form of the United Nations would maintain some sovereignty for a limited period of time in specific areas of the government, such as the judiciary, human rights, and defense. Other areas such as foreign affairs, economic development, education and health should be the exclusive jurisdiction of the soon-to-be independent government, with international assistance. In any case, this can and should be a matter considered by the constituent assembly in its deliberations and included in the interim constitution if deemed appropriate.

In a document released earlier in the year, East Timor’s Catholic Church likened a constitution to a “house of our dreams,” one that “[y]ou cannot build . . . overnight. You need to consult everyone who will live in it so that it is properly designed to suit the interests of everyone. The design takes a long time.” As the Church contends, a satisfactory constitution must be agreeable to all major sectors of society, something that can only about through a process that is “truly inclusive, consultative, and responsive to the different perspectives to the community.”

By drawing up an interim constitution over the coming months, East Timor’s constituent assembly members can ensure that a process such as that advocated by the Church and other important sectors of civil society can actually take place. East Timor’s future as a vibrant democracy with governing institutions appropriate to the country’s history, culture, and political-economy depends on it.


Aderito de Jesus Soares  Added June 14  see also
Aderito Soares is the Coordinator of SAHE Institute for Liberation and the East Timor Jurists Association. He is 31 years old, has a degree in Law from University of Salatiga in Central Java. After graduating he worked as a lawyer for the NGO ELSHAM (Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy) in Jakarta where he focussed on the indigenous people of West Papua and labour issues in Kalimantan. Aderito lectures in human rights and legal subjects at the East Timor National University. He has considerable international experience, having represented East Timor at the Vienna +5 Human Rights Conference in Ottawa in 1998 (with Jose Ramos Horta), was one of seven international judges for the Peoples’ Tribunal in Puerto Rico in November 2000, and had an internship with OMCT, a NGO focussing on Torture) in Geneva for three months in 1998. He acted as a facilitator for the CNRT training campaigners for independence, and during his time in Jakarta worked with the pro-democracy movement. He is a Board member of the NGO Forum and another NGO, Lao Hamutuk. Aderito comes from Maliana District, and speaks Kemak (the local language), Tetum, English, Bahasa Indonesian  and Portugese.
Email:  Sahe_Lib@yahoo.com


Tetum: (the most common East Timorese language)
La’o Hamutuk, Institutu Timor Lorosa’e ba Analiza no Monitor Reconstrusaun / Institut Permantauan dan Analisis Reconstruksi Timor Loro Sa'e  Updated Aug 18
Saida mak La’o Hamutuk? La’o Hamutuk organizasaun klibur Ema Timor Lorosa’e no Ema Internacional ne’ebe buka atu tau matan, halo analize ho halo relatorio kona ba hahalok (actividade) instuisaun internacional ne’ebe oras ne’e haknaar iha Timor Lorosa’e, liu-liu hahalok sira ne’ebe iha relasaun ho rekonstrusaun fizika no social Timor Lorosa’e nian. La’o Hamutuk fiar katak Povo Timor Lorosa’e mak tenke hakotu iha procesu rekonstrusaun ne’e nia laran no procesu rekonstrusaun ne’e tenke demokratiku no transparante duni.
Staf Timor oan: Inès Martins, Fernando da Silva, Thomas Freitas; Staf Internasional: Pamela Sexton, Mark Salzer; Kuadru Ejekutivu: Sr. Maria Dias, Joseph Nevins, Fr. Jovito Rego de Jesus Araùjo, Aderito Soares Durubasa: Benjamin Sanches Afonso, Tomé Xavier Jeronimo, Maria Bernardino, Manuel Tilman, Djoni Ferdiwijaya Ilustrador: Sebastião Pedro da Silva, Nan Porter Design Jeronimo Staf Monitoriu Projektu Judiciariu JSMP: Christian Ranheim, Caitlin Reiger, Rayner Thwaites
Local Contact:  P.O. Box 340, Dili, East Timor (via Darwin, Australia)  Mobile fone: +61(408)811373;  Telefone Uma: +670(390)325-013
International contact: +1-510-643-4507 Email: laohamutuk@easttimor.minihub.org  Homepage: http://www.etan.org/lh
Boletim La’o Hamutuk: [Tetum PDF format]
Vol. 2, No. 3 Junho 2001 Fundu Monetariu Internasional (IMF) iha Timor Lorosa’e: http://www.etan.org/lh/PDFs/bulv2n3T.pdf
Vol. 2, Nos. 1-2 Abríl 2001 Vizaun Jeral Hosi Fundu Ba Rekonstrusaun Timor Loro Sa’e: http://www.etan.org/lh/PDFs/lhbl2n1t.pdf
Vol. 1, No. 4, 31 Dejembru 2000 Banku Mundial iha Timor Loro Sa’e: http://www.etan.org/lh/PDFs/lhbul4tm.pdf
Vol. 1, No. 3, 17 Novembro 2000 Hari Sistema Saude Nasional iha Timor Lorosa’e:  http://www.etan.org/lh/PDFs/LHbul3tm.pdf
Vol. 1, No. 2, 17 Julho 2000 Protesaun ba meio ambiente iha TL: http://www.etan.org/lh/PDFs/bulletin02tetum.pdf
Vol. 1, No. 1, 21 Juñu 2000 Rekonciliasaun: http://www.etan.org/lh/PDFs/bulletin01tetum.pdf

English:
La'o Hamutuk: East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis  Updated June 24
La'o Hamutuk (Tetum for Walking Together) is a joint East Timorese-international organization that seeks to monitor, to analyze, and to report on the reconstruction activities of the principal international institutions. It believes that the people of East Timor must be the ultimate decisionmakers in the reconstruction process and that the process should be as democratic and transparent as possible ...
East Timorese staff: Inès Martins, Fernando da Silva, Thomas Freitas; International staff: Pamela Sexton, Mark Salzer Executive board: Sr. Maria Dias, Joseph Nevins, Fr. Jovito Rego de Jesus Araùjo, Aderito de Jesus Soares Translators: Maria Bernardino, Tom‚ Xavier Jeronimo JSMP staff: Christian Ranheim, Caitlin Reiger, Rayner Thwaites
International contact: +1-510-643-4507  Email: laohamutuk@easttimor.minihub.org  Homepage: http://www.etan.org/lh
La’o Hamutuk Bulletin: http://www.etan.org/lh/bulletin.html
Mar 23 2001 LH: Job announcement for La'o Hamutuk in East Timor: http://www.pcug.org.au/~wildwood/01marjob.htm
Activity Report: Mar 16 2001 LH: http://www.pcug.org.au/~wildwood/01marlhreport.html


See also:
BD: Peoples' Participation / Participação Dos Povos / Partisipasaun Politika - A collection of recent media releases, reports and articles


BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor .........home .........August news
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