LAST DEBATE BROADCAST NATIONALLY AS ELECTION DAY NEARS
East Timor’s two presidential candidates participated today in a debate broadcast live throughout the territory by UN-run radio as preparations for this weekend’s election reached their final stage.
The first East Timor presidential election takes place this Sunday, 14 April.
Legislative Assembly Vice President Francisco Xavier do Amaral and independence leader Xanana Gusmão answered questions from a mediator and audience members during the debate, held inside a conference room at the National University of East Timor in Dili.
More than 100 students, civil society leaders, diplomats and journalists attended the debate – organised by the university, US NGO National Democratic Institute and Radio UNTAET – while hundreds more students packed a courtyard outside the venue.
The two candidates elaborated on their campaign platforms. Both include pledges to focus on development, education and improved relations with East Timor’s neighbours and the international community. At the end of the debate, both candidates urged East Timorese to go to polling centres and vote with their conscience on Sunday.
Along with the live radio transmission, UN-run television, Televisão Timor Leste (TVTL), taped the debate for an evening broadcast and provided a live feed to a nearby auditorium filled with dozens more enthusiastic East Timorese.
The UN’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) said today that 2,200 national and international observers have been registered to monitor the ballot, as have an additional 3,000 political party/candidate agents. There are 74 East Timorese observer groups alone, compared to 20 during the August 2001 election for members of the Constituent Assembly.
The IEC counting centre in the capital, Dili, is also ready for the arrival and counting of ballots from across the territory. Sensitive election material – including ballots, ink and ballot box seals – will be sent from IEC district offices to the 281 polling centres the day before the election.
Approximately 430,000 people are eligible to vote in the election, including several thousand former refugees who have returned to East Timor since the Assembly election. In that election, 91 per cent of the eligible voters cast ballots.
UNTAET FORENSIC TEAM EXHUMES MASSACRE VICTIMS FROM 1999
A forensic team from UNTAET’s Serious Crimes Unit today completed the exhumation of remains of victims of a 1999 massacre in the capital Dili.
Today’s exhumation of the remains of Manuelito Carrascalão from a private lot in Dili follows the 3 April exhumation of 11 other bodies in the town of Liquica, some 40 kilometers west of the capital.
The remains are known to be those of victims of a pro-Indonesia militia rampage on 17 April 1999 that included an attack on the home of Manuel Viegas Carrascalão, where dozens of pro-independence supporters were sheltering.
The remains will now be thoroughly examined by a forensic pathologist and a forensic anthropologist to confirm their identity and determine cause and manner of death. The Serious Crimes Unit hopes the forensic investigation will provide further evidence in the case against militia commander Eurico Guterres and 16 other militia and Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) members who were indicted by the Office of the General Prosecutor of East Timor in mid-February of this year.
COUNCIL OF MINISTERS HOLDS OPEN MEETING IN CAPITAL
East Timor’s Council of Ministers held an open meeting today in Dili as the Second Transitional Government continued its efforts to directly include local communities in the governmental process.
More than 300 people attended the meeting, the 12th since the Council began holding open meetings in November 2001. The main issues discussed included the national health care system, education, justice, the structure of local-level government, public property, East Timor’s foreign policy and the dollarisation of the territory’s monetary system.
Senior Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Ramos-Horta, also gave a presentation on the sporting and cultural events planned during a month of Independence Celebrations scheduled to begin soon after this weekend’s election. The Celebrations will climax with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s declaration of an independent East Timor at the stroke of midnight on 20 May.
The Council is expected to hold two more open meetings before independence: one in Aileu district at the end of April and one on Ataúro island, off the coast of Dili, in early May.