Home Notisia Visually-impaired citizens remain discriminated in Elections

Visually-impaired citizens remain discriminated in Elections

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Diretor RHTO Joazito halo a\esplikasaun konaba pbstaklu nebe EhD hasoru iha eleisaun. [Foto: Zevonia | 22.11.2022]

By Santy Dulce (Citizen Journalist)

Visually-impaired citizens remain treated differently when casting their votes on election days over the past years.

Speaking to Community Radio of Lian Matebian, Representative of visually-impaired citizens, Agustinho da Costa Pereira from Seisal Village, the Administrative Post of Baucau Vila, the eastern Municipality of Baucau, said he had casted his vote in a numbers of elections, either presidential or legislative elections, as well as village chief election, however he did not feel free to vote secretly because they were helped and led by their colleagues or relatives.

Adding that visually-impaired citizens were not satisfied with the application of the electoral law, which said that voting at polling stations was free and secret could not be concretized because they were not able to vote themselves, saying there were no proper conditions provided for them to vote.

 “ It is known that the youths are the one who fought in the past, therefore it is their rights that we need to comply with, but now we have to think and say that visually-impaired citizens can take part in the elections, but it is hard for us to vote secretly. We are not happy with this situation because our rights are violated. This is the aspiration from the voiceless people. In reality, there is no secret vote for people with disabilities as in the previous elections we were assisted and led by our relatives and colleagues when we went to vote,” he said.

Mr. Januario urged the Government and the country’s electoral bodies to create proper conditions and provide visually-impaired citizens with accessible facilities at polling centers in a way that could help facilitate them to vote freely and secretly in the future elections.

” Therefore, as a visually-impaired citizen, what we want is that the State should do something so that this year we can vote ourselves without being led by others and that will make us happy. We fought together, but finally we have to step back, so we are not happy with this. We hope that the Government can hear our voices,” he said.

Meanwhile, Director of Raes Hadomi Timor Oan (RHTO) said there had been no proper accessible facilities provided for people with disabilities at all polling centers to help facilitate them to exercise their rights.

Mr. Zoazito affirmed that visually-impaired citizens had experienced and faced many difficulties and barriers at polling centers at the moment where they went to vote, saying there were no rampa and braille ballot papers provided by the electoral bodies.

“Generally people with disabilities face the same situation at all polling centers, mostly they are not able get access to polling stations because there is no rampa, building stairs are high, voting booths cannot be reached, the door of polling station is narrow, as well as no braille ballot papers provided for them to vote. This situation has been the major concern of people with disabilities at every election moment,” Joazito said.

In regard to the difficulties, which visually-impaired citizens experienced, Mr. Zoazito had recommended to the National Election Commission (CNE) and Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration (STAE) and also presented a report findings to both CNE, STAE and related ministry to provide proper accessible spaces and braille ballot papers for people with disabilities to cast their votes.

“I am calling on the National Parliament that we want the accessible spaces at all polling centers in this year’s legislative election for people with disabilities, ballot papers must be with braille letters, so the electoral bodies must be in cooperation with the organization of people with disabilities,” he said.

In response, Director of STAE for Baucau Municipality, Lucio Salvador Freitas said it was true that STAE had not yet provided proper conditions and accessible spaces for people with disabilities, saying STAE would convey this matter to the Government in order to seek for solutions.  

Mr. Lucio explained that in the previous elections, STAE gave the opportunity to relatives or anyone who people with disabilities believed that they could help and lead them vote in the polling booths.

Provisionally we have no proper conditions yet, it is not the competence of local STAE, but it is the competence of the Government and National STAE. The electoral law is proposed and submitted by the Government to the Parliament for approval. All the conditions are outlined in the electoral law and once it is approved, the electoral bodies can implement it. So, in the previous elections, STAE asked for family members of people with disabilities to help them vote based on their own choice,” he explained.

He called on people with disabilities who had recently reached 16 years old to register at STAE offices, so that they could vote in 2023’s legislative election.

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