Subject: East Timor: Constitution OK`d But Ramos Horta Critical of Dissenters

22 Mar 02 20:22 East Timor: Constitution OK`d But Ramos Horta Critical of Dissenters

The chief United Nations transitional administrator in East Timor has praised the approval of the territory`s constitution, saying it was "another auspicious day and stage for this country and its people".

Sergio Vieira de Mello was speaking Friday to Dili`s Constituent Assembly during the formal signing of Timor`s new 170- article charter which has been debated in the 88-member assembly and publicly during the past six months.

The text, drafted in Portuguese, received 72 votes and 14 against, with one abstention. "All of us are living a day which will stand out for ever in the history of the Timorese nation", said Vieira de Mello, who added that the Constitution was both "elaborate and simple" and what Timor needed.

Timor`s Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta told Lusa by phone from London, "today is a day with enormous symbolism. He said he believed Timor`s constitution to be one of the world`s most progressive and it should have been approved unanimously.

The fact that some assembly members voted against the charter would have a "negative impact for the Timorese people and the parties and members who opposed it", Ramos Horta said.

Those who rejected the Constitution would "go into history as having voted against the first constitution", added the minister, who was in transit to the United States.

The 14 "no" votes and the abstention came from three opposition parties, which, among other objections, opposed the frequent references in the constitution to the governing Fretilin party´s role in the struggle for independence from Indonesian occupation.

Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri´s Fretilin holds 55 seats in the Constituent Assembly, which will become the country´s legislature at independence.

Alkatiri rejected the opposition censure, saying Friday at the signing ceremony, "With our majority in any other part of the world there could be denial of democracy. What we did was a major exercise in democracy, both inside the chamber and out".

CJB/ASP -Lusa-

© 1997 Lusa Comentários e Sugestões para Agência Lusa

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