Timor Leste: Thousands Return Home To Vote


By Thomas Ora and F.Pongky Seran

Thousands of people have been returning to their towns and villages from the capital Dili over the past few days in an exodus to take part in presidential elections taking place tomorrow.

Many returning to the country’s 12 districts could only do so with a little bit of help from the government.

Regulations state all eligible voters, who must be 17 years of age and above, must cast their ballots in the place of their birth.

“If we do not return home, we lose our right to vote,” said Agostinho Kelu, who studies at the National University of Timor Lorosae in Dili, yesterday.

For many the trip is long and arduous due to the state of the roads and lack of transport.

For their trip home to Oecusse district, Kelu and his friends made use of 10 trucks provided by the government. They even had a police escort to take them there.

“The order to do this came directly from the prime minister, Xanana Gusmao,” said Pedro G, one of the escorting policemen.

He said Gusmao had also asked all businessmen in Dili to help those finding it difficult to get transport to assist them getting back to their home towns ahead of the election.

Those returning to Oecusse district had to go through Indonesia part of the way.

“[We] had to negotiate with the Indonesian embassy in Dili and with immigration officers at the checkpoint
since they do not have passports,” the policeman added.

There are 12 candidates in tomorrow’s election. The campaign, which began on February 29 and ended yesterday, was peaceful.

UCA News

The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News, UCAN) is the leading independent Catholic news source in Asia. A network of journalists and editors that spans East, South and Southeast Asia, UCA News has for four decades aimed to provide the most accurate and up-to-date news, feature, commentary and analysis, and multimedia content on social, political and religious developments that relate or are of interest to the Catholic Church in Asia.

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