A poll of more than 500 villages throughout East Timor in late January – encompassing 35,000 people – showed that 70 per cent cited education as the most important issue to be tackled by the nascent country, followed by health (49 per cent), agriculture (32 per cent) and the economy (30 per cent). One in five people said roads (22 per cent) were a key challenge, while 18 per cent noted poverty, 16 per cent named water, and 12 per cent said electricity. “No other nation on the verge of its independence has had the wisdom or faith in its people to ask these questions,” said independence leader Xanana Gusmão, who as head of the Consultative Commission for the Civil Society on Development turned over the preliminary results to Chief Minister Marí Alkatiri. “No other nation has consulted the people so widely and so systematically. This is something unique that we all, as East Timorese, should be proud of,” he added. Meanwhile, members of East Timor’s Constituent Assembly today discussed five different draft versions of the preamble to the territory’s first constitution, in anticipation of signing the document into law later this week. The drafts, presented by various political parties represented in the Assembly, will next be synthesised by the body’s Systemization and Harmonization Committee into one single preamble that will be voted on by the plenary. This morning and yesterday the Assembly considered and then rejected a number of amendments to the draft. Those proposing the changes claimed that the Committee ignored certain critical issues raised by the public during a weeklong district public consultation process.