03 May 2009

East Timor Proposed law on suko elections focus on public consultation led by National Parliament Committee A

UNMIT Weekly United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste Issue No 87 27 April 2009 - The draft law on the upcoming village elections was the focus of a public consultation held in Suai, Covalima, last week by the National Parliament Committee A. The aim of the consultation was to explain the draft law, clarify areas of confusion and gather public opinion.

Representing the Government was Vice- President of Committee A, Mr Vidal dos Santos, and MPs Antonino Bianco, Fernando Gusmao and Natalino do Santos.

More than 120 participants including district and sub-district administrators, village chiefs, political party leaders and NGOs attended. The consultation also attracted participants from the neighbouring districts of Manufahi, Ainaro and Bobonaro.

Speaking at the forum, Committee A Vice-President dos Santos explained that “every proposal for a law enters the Parliament through a special committee according to the area of specialty. The committee’s role is to analyze the proposal and consult to gather ideas which will help in analyzing the proposed law and which will be debated in the National Parliament.”

During the lively discussion, participants asked many questions and sought clarification on areas in the proposed law, such as: what the competencies of the village chiefs would be; what incentives there would be for the elected; and if there would be any conflict of interest posed by candidates who were from the police force, government or from religious groups.

I think that police officers cannot become candidates to be community leaders, as the PNTL has another mandate to guarantee stability and security. Concerning government officials, I think that they should be allowed to be candidates,” said Mr Ergildo Periera, Coordinator of the local Youth Centre. Article 19 of the draft law permits civil servants, public administration and PNTL officers to sit on village councils, though not stand as village chief.

According to my belief, this proposed law is good as it clearly states the responsibilities of the village chiefs. I am willing to nominate myself for the coming elections as a candidate if the community still supports me,” said Luisa Guterres, the Village Chief of Suco Taroman, sub-district of Fatululik in Covalima.

Committee A of the National Parliament is responsible for constitutional affairs, justice, public administration, local power and government legislations.

The public consultation was supported by the Timor-Lorosa'e Advocacy Association and the Asia Foundation.

Image added by ETLJB - A village high in the spectacular mountains of East Timor.

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