Subject: LUSA: Bishop Belo Adds Voice to Election Calls

11 Jan 02 15:07 East Timor: Bishop Belo Adds Voice to Election Calls

East Timor`s religious leader, Catholic Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, called Friday for the holding of legislative elections for the first post-independence Timorese parliament, instead of the planned transition of the Constituent Assembly into this body.

"Personally, I have always shown preference for legislative elections ... after the Constituent Assembly is dissolved, and holding new elections. Here they are talking about transformation, but for me this is a little strange", Bishop Belo told Lusa.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate acknowledged that there were two strands of opinion on the subject and that the situation in Timor was far from being ideal. However, he said the assembly members should make the decision, but with "sincere, gradual debate with strong arguments on both sides".

The question of whether to hold, or not to hold fresh elections for the parliament has caused some controversy in Timor in recent months. A new political movement has recently emerged which is against the merging of the current assembly into the post-independence parliament.

The Group for the Defense of Democracy, Peace and Stability in East Timor (GDDPE) is led by Manuel Carrascalao, ex-president of Timor`s first transition parliament, the National Council.

According to its leaders, the new group has emerged from within civil society and includes some opposition members, including MPs from the PSD, PD and PST.

The GDDPE sent a petition to UN Secretary Kofi Annan - so far only signed by 15 people - asking for "the simultaneous holding of presidential and legislative elections" by May 20, before independence, or "legislative elections soon after independence, preferably on Aug. 30, 2002".

Chief Minister of the Constituent Assembly, Mari Alkatiri, told Lusa last week that those seeking elections before independence, on May 20, were trying to create fresh political crises in the territory.

"Opting for new elections is wanting openly to cause crises. If they argue that not having fresh elections could create crises, demanding them goes against the majority and this is what can cause crises".

Alkatiri also pointed out that the decision to transform the Constituent Assembly into the national parliament was initially taken by the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNTR), at a time when Fretilin had already left that body.

"It is they who now turn against what they themselves defined and we who accept.

"We know why because they are dreaming of better results than at the last elections", said Alkatiri.

CJB -Lusa-

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