Mr. Francisco “Lú-olo”
Dili, East Timor
Dear Mr. Guterres:
It is with great honor and respect that we write to you now after so many years of struggle to achieve the nationhood you have won. As fellow legislators, we have been following political events as they unfold in East Timor and watching with keen interest the advances you and your colleagues continue to make in the Constituent Assembly.
As lawmakers, we understand the very difficult process of writing a fundamental and complex document such as a constitution. We also understand that, because of the particular hardships confronting East Timor, your challenge is great. Since the beginning of the process, you have had to work under very tight time constraints. You have also had to contend with the legacy of Portuguese and Indonesian colonialisms that for centuries systematically denied your people the right to participate effectively in government. It is with this in mind that we hope you will grant us the privilege of making the following suggestions.
Although the Constituent Assembly recently voted to extend its deliberations on the draft constitution until January 25, we are concerned that external pressures are forcing the Assembly to rush the process. From our end, we want to assure you that we would like the Constituent Assembly to have as much time as it needs to write the best possible constitution for East Timor. In this regard, we propose that you consider further extending the session, perhaps by two months beyond that date. Your Constitution would still be finished well before formal independence. The extra time would enable more thorough discussions and additional consultation within the Constituent Assembly and throughout East Timor. We are not aware of any legal reason for, or particular benefit in, completing the constitution before the UN Security Council meeting at the end of January. Rather, the UN meeting could be used in part to show the Constituent Assembly’s progress to date. In our own country’s history, more than one year passed between the opening of the Constitutional Convention and the ratification of the Constitution, and it took more than three additional years to incorporate the Bill of Rights.
We view a country’s constitution, both yours and ours, as a work in progress that requires flexibility, time, and revision to develop a living document that truly reflects the aspirations of the people it will govern. Thus, we would also suggest that you consider the frequently used practice of a constitutional review process within a few years of initial passage of the constitution. Such a review process could take on any number of forms from the formation of an independent commission to a parliamentary review. Again, we refer to U.S. history, in which the process of electing the President and Vice-President was redefined 16 years after our Constitution was adopted, and the election of Senators was changed more than a century later.
We thank you for allowing us the opportunity to share our thoughts with you. Please let us know if we can be of any assistance to you as you continue the constitution-making process.
We look forward to your response and to further dialogue with you and your colleagues.
Best wishes for the New Year.
Dennis J. Kucinich, Member
Barbara Lee, Member of Congress
Chris Smith, Member of Congress
Anthony D. Weiner, Member of Congress
Tammy Baldwin, Member of Congress
Bernard Sanders, Member of Congress
Lane Evans, Member of Congress
Sam Farr, Member of Congress
cc: Honorable Sergio Vieira
de Mello, Special Representative of the Secretary General
Honorable Francisco Xavier do Amaral, ASDT
Honorable Clementino dos Reis Amaral, KOTA
Honorable Mariano Sabino Lopes, PD
Honorable Arlindo F. Marcal, PDC
Honorable Armando José Dourado da Silva, PL
Honorable Aliança Conceicao de Araújo, PNT
Honorable Jacob Xavier, PPT
Honorable Mário Viegas Carrascalão, PSD
Honorable Pedro Martirez, PST
Honorable Vicente da Silva Guterres, UDC/PDC
Honorable João Viegas Carrascalão, UDT
Letter received via:
East Timor Action Network/U.S.
PO Box 15774
Washington, DC 20003-0774
202-544-6911 (tel.), 202-544-6118 (fax)
Timor Action Network U.S. Updated May 19
ETAN/US was founded following the November 1991 massacre. ETAN/US supports a genuine and peaceful transition to an independent East Timor. It also supports human dignity for the people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, sustainable development, social, legal, and economic justice and human rights, including women’s rights.
East Timor was invaded and subjugated by US ally Indonesia in 1975. East Timor chose independence in August 1999 and was soon destroyed by the Indonesian military. It is now administered by the UN.
ETAN/US provides a wide range of articles, news reports and press releases related to East Timor. ETAN has 28 local chapters. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com Homepage: http://www.etan.org
East Timor info on the ETAN site is added daily.
BD: Constitutional Process / Konsulta iha Konstituisaun - A collection of recent media releases, reports, articles and news