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21 June 2012
One hundred and forty Australian volunteers , registered by Deakin University's Centre for Citizenship, Development and Human Rights (CCDHR) and the Australia Timor-Leste Friendship Network (AusTimorFN) are playing a critical role in Timor-Leste’s parliamentary election on 7 July.
Observer coordinator Professor Damien Kingsbury said he was pleased with the number of volunteer observers for Timor-Leste’s 2012 elections.
“It’s a great effort by ordinary decent Australians who want to help our friends and neighbours in Timor-Leste,” he said.
Professor Kingsbury said the observers were a critical part of Timor-Leste’s process of democratisation.
“The CCDHR/ATLFN observer mission will comprise around half of the total number of international observers to the Timor-Leste parliamentary elections,” he said.
“The volunteer observers make an important contribution to the process of democratisation in Timor-Leste.
“The observers help give confidence to the people of Timor-Leste that their elections are free and fair and that the results can and should be respected by all parties.”
Professor Kingbsury said the election observers share a strong common purpose for a good outcome.
“We come to appreciate our own democratic processes so much more when we see what others have had to go through to start their own,” he said.
Professor Kingsbury’s involvement with Timor-Leste’s elections grew out of previous election observation missions that he has coordinated in Timor-Leste, including the troubled 2007 elections and the 1999 ballot for independence.
“In 1999, we took 42 volunteer observers to Timor-Leste, who had the task of monitoring and reporting on the ballot process,” he said.
“Our observers in 1999 faced confronting conditions,” he said.
“But they played a critical role, based on what they had witnessed, calling for Australian military intervention to stop the escalating violence and secure the outcome of the vote.”
Professor Kingsbury observed the ballot in the town of Balibo, where five Australian-based newsmen were murdered by Indonesian soldiers in 1975.
“Happily, the 2012 election process has been peaceful,” Professor Kingsbury said.
“Political violence now appears to be a thing of the past in Timor-Leste.”
Professor Kingsbury will return to the Balibo sub-district for his own election observation.
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Local voters - democracy in action in the village of Leohitu, Balibo sub-district, next to the Indonesian border, on the day of the last presidential election.