Home Notisia Presidential Election of 2022, Only 3263 People With Disabilities Voting

Presidential Election of 2022, Only 3263 People With Disabilities Voting

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Abílio José Osório Camões. [Foto: Domingos | 09.01.2023]

Written by Domingos Romaldo Jeronomi Guterres (Citizen Journalist)

Polling centers in each municipality and village were not accessible to people with disabilities to vote. Such a condition leads to lack of participation of the people with disabilities in the presidential election of 2022. From the total number of people with disabilities 38,118, only 3263 of them voted in the 2022’s presidential election. It shows that the people with disabilities were treated differently in the elections because many of them did not cast their votes.

A physically disabled, Nelson Barros Pereira Xavier, said the Government ought to pay attention to  the facts and situation at polling centers, saying as a person with disability he was unable to access the polling station at which he voted.

“As a person with a disability, I felt not really comfortable at polling stations because the polling centers where we voted had no rampa, but using stairs, however we had to put efforts to vote, although it was a barrier for us to vote. I do not know whether other people with disabilities also experienced the same situation or not as I was only sitting in my wheelchair because it was difficult for us to move around. For me and others, it is hard to go up the stairs as we are in wheelchairs,” Nelson said.

Nelson stressed that, “I felt a bit offended when seeing people are able to access polling centers properly. Why did the Government not set up a polling center that is accessible to the people with disabilities? This is not because of our desire; we have been disabled since we were born and all of these are from the Almighty God.”

He urged the Government and relevant entities that are responsible for establishing polling centers to take this issue into consideration, saying he believed that the Government would create proper conditions, which were accessible to the people with disabilities in 2023’s legislative election and also for other future elections. “Message from me is that my vote is not disabled, but my vote also determines the country’s future.”

On the other hands, Abílio José Osório Camões said in regard to the barrier that impeded the people with disabilities’ participation in the presidential election it was because many polling centers were not accessible to the people with disabilities like there was no rampa, no braille letters and space for the people with disabilities who are in their wheelchairs to go into polling stations, as well there were also some ballot boxes that the people with disabilities could not be able to reach them. These all have made the people with disabilities to be treated differently and be discriminated against. 

Meanwhile, Director of  RHTO (Ra’es Hadomi Timor Oan), Joãozito dos Santos said participation rate of the people with disabilities in the presidential election was low, saying it was actually high, but the Government and STAE were yet to ensure and créate proper conditions at polling centers in a way that could help facilitate the people with disabilities to vote.

Director of  RHTO (Ra’es Hadomi Timor Oan), Joãozito dos Santos. [Foto: Domingos | 11.01.2023]

He explained that it was necessary for STAE to interpret the electorates’ situation based on their characteristics as the people were different in nature and physical conditions, however the intention of the people was about either presidential or legislative elections.

Mr. Joazito affirmed that it happened over the last few years, no change had happened at polling centers, calling on STAE to créate a proper plan to set up accessible spaces for the people with disabilities, which had been their major concerns, Adding that it was necessary indeed for the Parliament to discuss the issue and allocate budget to it as a democratic country and member of the UN Timor-Leste had to promote human rights.

“Total number of the people with disabilities in Timor-Leste is 38.118, based on the census of 2015. However, according to our observation, the total participation of the people with disabilities in the presidential election 2022 were only  3.263. It is because the polling centers were not accessible to the people with disabilities, it has made the people with disabilities lose their rights in the presidential election. So, like or dislike the State has to ensure and créate proper conditions and accessible spaces at polling centers,” Director Joazito explained.

On the other hand, Director-General of STAE, Acilino Manuel Branco said the electoral process was inclusive, saying all the Timorese citizens had equal rights and opportunities, either man, women or the people with disabilities.

“How can it ensure that the people’s participation should follow the principles of fair and balance through civic education, voter education to sensitize and educate the voters in order to exercise their rights and obligations as Timor-Leste’s citizens. But it is also better to assure that the voters’ participation must be about following their conscience,” Director Acilino said.

He added that the voters’ votes determined the future of the nation, but some of the citizens did not take part in the presidential election due to improper conditions at the polling centers, saying they would put efforts and seek solutions to resolve this problem.

“On the basis of  the problems that have happened over the past years, we began thinking of resolving those issues. We have to build cooperation with some organizations working for the people with disabilities, namely RHTO and ADTL to speed up and verify the data of the people with disabilities in Timor-Leste because legislative election is about to occur. I do believe that the issues, which are related to elections will be resolved,” he said.

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