Subject: LUSA: National Council Rejects Bill on Constitutional Commission

East Timor: National Council Rejects Bill on Constitutional Commission 27 Mar-17:45

East Timor's National Council rejected Tuesday a draft bill regulating establishment of the National Constitutional Commission envisaged in the election law approved earlier this month.

The regulatory bill was the first entirely prepared by the political affairs committee of the Council (transition legislature). It was rejected by eight votes for, five against and eight abstentions.

The proposal was submitted by Aniceto Guterres, a Council member representing a non-governmental organization, and follows the approval last March 13 of the law regulating the election next Aug. 30 of a Constituent Assembly, which will have 90 days to debate and approve a national constitution.

Article two of that law states that the Assembly, charged with preparing East Timor's future constitution, should "take into due consideration the results of consultation" undertaken by the Constitutional Commission.

The "independent" commission rejected on Tuesday would have been responsible for consulting residents of all districts of East Timor on the constitutional process and preparing a final report for submission to the Assembly.

Members who rejected the commission during the Tuesday Council debate questioned both its relevance and the costs involved.

Cipriano Pereira of the Fretilin party called the commission "unnecessary", adding that there were doubts about whether it was "necessary or a political maneuver". He specifically criticized a section of the proposed law establishing a national planning commission to coordinate the commission's work.

Aniceto Guterres was surprised at the bill's rejection, saying it would transmit the message that the transition body "doesn't want to consult the people".

Independence leader Xanana Gusmao stressed that the people must be consulted on the constitutional process. He also rejected allegations of political manipulation and once again criticized the territory's political parties.

"It is unacceptable that every[th]ing raised by us should be taken as being political manipulation", he told Lusa.

Gusmao also criticized Fretilin for announcing publicly that the party would back him for president.

"I have already said I will not be a candidate. I have no interest whatsoever in being president. They're the ones making maneuvers", he said.

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