It is people's participation that guarantees peace, democracy, and human rights
14 March 2022
By Roy Trivedy, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Timor-Leste
While Timor-Leste is approaching its Presidential Elections on March the 19th, I recollect a very powerful line from Nelson Mandela's book 'The Struggle is My Life' published in 1990. One of the greatest torchbearers of peace, democracy and human rights, Mandela notes in his memoir, "… I have become more convinced than ever that the real makers of history are the ordinary men and women of our country; their participation in every decision about the future is the only guarantee of true democracy and freedom."
As one of Mandela's humble followers, my message a week ahead of the elections in Timor-Leste is to participate, participate, and participate! It is your right! Voting is a powerful tool as Timor-Leste knows very well when in 1999 an overwhelming majority of the population chose independence, exercising their right to self-determination. Voting is the expression of the voice and the wishes of the people about the future of their country.
I want to emphasise that everyone's equal involvement in decision-making processes - women, men, youth, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups, including LGBTIQ persons and the elderly - is fundamental to effective democracy, good governance and fair society that respects everyone’s human rights without discrimination. The country has made exemplary strides over the last two decades to uphold democracy. Public participation in electoral processes is key to advancing and preserving these gains.
Out of a total of 859,613 registered voters (including 75,000 newly registered) in a country of 1.28m people, more than 200,000 young voters will be heading to the ballots for the first time this year. To ensure the engagement of the youths in the election, it is essential that young people are adequately represented in political institutions, processes, and decision-making.
I also want to draw attention to the needs of elderly voters, people living with disabilities, those living with long-term illnesses and their care providers, including those receiving care at hospitals, as well as those living in difficult to reach places and those in prison facilities. The election authorities have arranged 300 additional voting stations to make it easier for all voters to exercise their rights to vote.
I urge each and every eligible Timorese to partake in the elections and vote for your candidate of choice. In exercising your right to vote, it is equally important that you also respect the rights of others. Peaceful, free and genuine elections are vital for democracy.