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News and issues relating to women, Oe-cusse, people's participation, elections, capacity-building. 

From: The La'o Hamutuk Bulletin

Volume 2, Nos. 3
June 2001

Issue focus: 
The International Monetary Fund in East Timor

Table of contents: To read this entire issue on the internet, or to download a printable PDF version of all of it, go to:
La'o Hamutuk Bulletin:

In Brief:

Consultation on the Constitution

In a letter on 18 April to Peter Galbraith, head of UNTAET’s Department of Political Affairs and Timor Sea, the NGO Forum officially declined UNTAET’s invitation to sit on the selection panel for constitutional commissioners. The NGO Forum reiterated the concerns it raised in its letter of 17 March to the U.N. Security Council about the inadequacy of the planned process. At that time, the forum had made three proposals:

1) to establish Constitutional Commissions as a formal mechanism for consultations throughout East Timor;

2) to provide resources to a level that ensures that the Constitutional Commissions have sufficient resources to carry out their functions; and

3) to designate a timeframe for consultation of at least nine months with a further three months for reporting.

As it now stands, based on a directive from the Transitional Administrator, commissions are being established in each district with three months to carry out consultation. According to the Forum, such a period “is too short to allow for sufficient participation of a broad spectrum of East Timorese society” making it impossible “to have an effective information dissemination process and meaningful consultation.” The short timeframe also renders inadequate the processes of nomination, training and guidance of the would-be commissioners.

Moreover, the Forum calls the commissions’ objective “unclear” especially as to how they will influence the work of the Constituent Assembly (whose members East Timor’s voters are scheduled to elect on 30 August). The NGO Forum will conduct its own program of public information dissemination and consultation on the Constitution in all 13 districts and will seek to coordinate where possible with UNTAET initiatives. At the same time, the Forum will continue to highlight the need for an extension of the timetable for independence and especially the constitution-making process. Barring significant change in the timetable, the NGO grouping contends that “the new Constitution should be viewed as an interim Constitution, allowing more time for broad-based input and consultation.”

See also:
BD: East Timor National NGO Forum / Forum Nacional ONG Timor Lorosa'e - A collection of recent media releases, position-statements, speeches, petitions, reports, and news

BD: Peoples' Participation - A collection of recent media releases, reports and articles

Women's Participation

On 1 May, UNTAET’s Gender Affairs Unit in conjunction with the United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM) began training potential women political candidates. The trainings occurred throughout the month of May and early June and focused on political participation, decision making and basic knowledge on how to become a candidate in the upcoming elections for Constituent Assembly members. (On 13 March, the National Council rejected a proposal for a minimum 30% quota for women in the upcoming Constituent Assembly, which will draft and adopt a new constitution for East Timor.) Tauga Vulaono from the Pacific island of Fiji’s Community Constitutional Forum assisted with the trainings and was pleased to see concrete efforts to include women in East Timor’s constitution-building process. “It was, however, surprising,” she stated, “to see at the start of the trainings how little the participants, who may be candidates in the coming elections, knew about what a constitution is and why it is important.”

See also:
BD: East Timorese Women's Issues - A collection of recent information, petitions, articles and news

BD: Peoples' Participation - A collection of recent media releases, reports and articles


On 1 May 2001, close to a hundred workers and their supporters gathered in front of UNTAET headquarters to commemorate May Day. While 1 May is a national holiday for all UNTAET and ETTA staff, the holiday was not widely recognized outside of UN offices. The gathering was organized by the Socialist Labor Union of East Timor’s Socialist Party (PST), East Timor’s Trade Union Confederation (TLTUC) and LAIFET (the Labour Advocacy Institute of East Timor). There were ten demands forwarded to Sergio Vieira de Mello from participants in the action:

1) set a living minimum wage;

2) take action against companies and hotels that violate labor laws;

3) require payment of taxes by international staff;

4) release local staff from paying taxes;

5) place limits on the importation of vegetables and fruit from outside of East Timor;

6) require international companies to employ locals and not bring staff from abroad;

7) lower prices of ten basic need items such as cooking oil;

8) establish progressive laws to protect the rights of workers;

9) establish investment laws which would protect small East Timorese businesses; and,

10) create new jobs for East Timorese workers.

Further demands were made for both multiparty consultations in relation to the draft labour regulations and translations of the draft regulations which, at that time, were only made available in English. The rally was attended by representatives from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions - Asia Pacific Regional Organisation (ICFTU-APRO) and the International Labour Organisation - Workers Bureau (ILO-ACTRAV).

While UNTAET has been widely criticized for not establishing basic labor laws such as a minimum wage law and the establishment of an eight hour workday, the gathering provided the opportunity for many people to share related concerns and work experiences. Workers complained that many companies and international organizations presently ask them to work ten to twelve hours a day. Many female workers expressed the need for a labor law providing pregnancy leave and protection against discrimination. Additionally, workers reported a growing frustration around the highly disparate wages between locals and internationals, even for identical job positions. (In the past year, there have been several labor strikes by the staff of international companies, organizations, and UN agencies around these and other issues.)

See also:
BD: Peoples' Participation - A collection of recent media releases, reports and articles

Isolation of Oe-cusse

Sergio de Mello signed an agreement on 4 May with the Australian shipping company Haritos East Timor Shipping establishing a regular ferry service between Dili and Oe-cusse. Although a limited service for 50 passengers per week aboard a cargo vessel has been in place for the past ten months, the new service would allow for 150 passengers aboard the same ship, but upgraded to serve passengers. According to UNTAET, the Portuguese Government has donated US$200,000 to subsidize ticket prices and UNTAET will provide US$175,000 to upgrade the ship and to build port terminal facilities.

This agreement is still viewed by UNTAET as an “interim measure.” The German and Portuguese governments have both stated their commitment to finding a permanent solution; both countries are presently in negotiations on possible long-term solutions. Ana Paula Sequeira, National Council Representative for Oe-cusse, was present at the May 4th signing. On 1 June, she told La’o Hamutuk, “I was told that the new service would be running by 23 May, a week ago, but it is not yet running. We are very tired of waiting. We are also very concerned that a ticket on the ship will cost each passenger US$10, an amount far beyond what your average Oe-cusse resident can afford. We need a permanent solution.”

See also:
Isolation of Oe-cusse, an enclave in West Timor, Indonesia:

Bishop Basilio do Nascimento

On 5 May, Catholic Bishop Basilio do Nascimento of Baucau called on East Timor’s political leaders not to rush the transition to independence, according to Lusa. “It looks to me as if things are rather short (timewise),” stated the Bishop, who warned against “putting the cart before the buffaloes.” Similarly, Joao Carrascalao, East Timor’s infrastructure minister, called for a delay of at least six months on 27 April, contending that East Timor needs additional time to reduce political and social tensions. On 16 May, however, Sergio de Mello rejected the calls for a delay, stating that “I respect all opinions but it is not possible to accommodate them all.” According to de Mello, some people argued for no elections, others wanted elections in June, and others yet wanted them to occur at the end of 2002. The UNTAET administrator asserted that the 30 August date was “consensual.”

See also:
BD: Peoples' Participation - A collection of recent media releases, reports and articles


According to a statement from UNTAET, the process of “Timorization” of the transitional government is advancing. On 9 May, Sergio de Mello, UNTAET’s transitional administrator, swore in 16 East Timorese “top-level” civil servants to the Division of Education. Thus far, the Civil Service and Public Employment Office has recruited over 8,000 East Timorese civil servants, of which more than 5,000 are in the Division of Education.

See also:
BD: Capacity Building & 'Timorisation' - A collection of recent statements, reports, articles and news

National survey of voter knowledge

On 22 May, the U.S.-based Asia Foundation released results of a “national survey of voter knowledge.” The survey, conducted in late March by the NGO Forum’s Working Group on Voter Education, involved interviews with potential voters in all 13 districts of East Timor.  Reflecting a positive mood among the East Timorese electorate, 75% of those polled felt that the country is heading in the right direction and 94% said that they would vote in the upcoming election. The results, however, also raise serious concerns about the quickly approaching election. According to the report, only 30% of those surveyed were aware that an election is scheduled for 30 August, and only 5% know that the purpose of the upcoming election is to elect a Constituent Assembly. Most people mistakenly think that the election is to choose a president or to generally achieve full independence.

The Asia Foundation report follows a report released in March by the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute based on 14 focus group discussions held in East Timor in February. The NDI report “clearly shows that the people of East Timor have many well-developed ideas about democracy and the form of government [a multi-party one] they would like to see.” Nevertheless, the study found that while there was widespread understanding that elections will take place, there “is little knowledge of the nature or the timing of the elections or of the political parties and their platforms.” According to the report, those familiar with the National Council do not consider it a representative body.” Furthermore, “participants from outside Dili believe that the existing political process is dominated by a Dili-based elite and that they have been left out.” Many opined that consultation by UNTAET has been inadequate: “Participants clearly want more local ownership of the transition process.” Other key concerns included issues of law and order, with women regularly raising the issue of rape.

See also:

BD: Peoples' Participation - A collection of recent media releases, reports and articles

Apr 2001 NDI: “Timor Loro Sa’e is our nation”  Report on focus group discussions in ETimor
"while many East Timorese citizens may not be able to say exactly what democracy is, many certainly know and are prepared to say what it is not. It is important to build upon their experience, local knowledge and cultural traditions to support democratic practices. ... the people of East Timor have many well-developed ideas about democracy and the form of government they would like to see in their emerging nation. ... They have unrealized hopes and are looking for action rather than more words. They seek proof that they are being heard and demand active participation in the development of this new nation. To ignore the demands of the East Timorese people will only add to the burden of their frustrations." National Democratic Institute for International Affairs

Tetum: (the most common East Timorese language)
La’o Hamutuk, Instituto Timor Lorosa’e ba Analiza no Monitoring Reconstrucao  Updated May 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
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:  Homepage:
Boletim La’o Hamutuk: [Tetum PDF format]
Vol. 1, No. 4, 31 Dejembru 2000 Banku Mundial iha Timor Loro Sa’e:
Vol. 1, No. 3, 17 Novembro 2000 Hari Sistema Saude Nasional iha Timor Lorosa’e:
Vol. 1, No. 2, 17 Julho 2000 Protesaun ba meio ambiente iha TL:
Vol. 1, No. 1, 21 Juñu 2000 Rekonciliasaun:

La'o Hamutuk: East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis  Updated May 16
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 Soares
International contact: +1-510-643-4507  Email:  Homepage:
La’o Hamutuk Bulletin:
Mar 23 2001 LH: Job announcement for La'o Hamutuk in East Timor:
Activity Report: Mar 16 2001 LH:

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