Subject: LUSA: No Rush to Approve Constitution Say Belo and Gusmao

20 Feb 02 22:34 East Timor: No Rush to Approve Constitution Say Belo and Gusmao

Two of the principal figures in East Timor`s independence struggle, Xanana Gusmao and Bishop Carlos Ximenes, have advised the Dili Constituent Assembly not to force the pace of approving the territory`s Constitution.

Gusmao and Belo were taking part in a debate Wednesday transmitted by East Timor Television (TVTL). Bishop Belo, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1996, said the whole of March should be used for public debate on the Constitution. Limiting debate between Feb. 26 and March 2 was "mocking" the people, he added.

"This is our constitution, our life, our future and our faith. Therefore, we should not hurry", the Catholic prelate said.

Xanana Gusmao said he had recently transmitted identical sentiments to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. It was not imperative that the Constitution should be ready by May 20, the day of independence, he added.

"There are countries that become independent without having a constitution", said the ex-resistance leader.

The text of the Constitution to be presented to the Timorese was debated for more than four months and approved on Feb. 9. The timetable approved by the Constituent Assembly states that after public consultation and possible amendments, the final text will be voted on and approved on March 16.

CJB/ASP -Lusa-

Text of Feb. 9 Draft Constitution:  Original Portuguese: PDF, MSWord, Official translations:  English: PDFMSWord. Official Bahasa Indonesian: PDF, MSWord. Tetum: PDF, MSWord. Original draft: English, Portuguese

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