UN Volunteers finalize preparations for East Timor elections

The group from the UN Volunteers (UNV) programme is attached to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). There are a total of 820 UN Volunteers serving with UNTAET. According to UNV district electoral officer Idah Ndunge Muema of Kenya, the UN Volunteers are ready for the challenge of helping the nation-building process in the territory.”We are prepared,” she said. “I believe this is a big step for Timorese people, a step ahead of what they voted for in 1999.”Over 400,000 Timorese men and women would take part in the vote that would come exactly two years after a majority of East Timorese chose independence from Indonesia. They will elect 88 representatives to a Constituent Assembly that will write and adopt a Constitution, thus paving the way for the territory’s full independence.Along with other UN Volunteers, Ms. Muema visited one of Dili’s neighbourhoods where residents listened carefully to ballot procedures and went through a role-play to simulate the voting process. The first phase of the UNVs’ work was to spread the basic message about the elections. “Polling staff have been recruited and polling kits went out to the districts last week,” said American UNV Mauricio Claudio, who is working as an IEC political party and observer officer. “It is just a matter of the last stage of training for polling officials who will work in polling stations on elections day. Everything is on schedule.” UNV extends hands-on assistance for peace and development in nearly 150 countries. Created by the UN General Assembly in 1970 and administered by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UNV works through UNDP country offices to send volunteers – two-thirds of them from developing countries – and promote the ideals of volunteerism around the world. In other news from East Timor, the Deputy Prosecutor General for the Special Panel for Serious Crimes, Jean-Louis Gilissen, said his office had evidence in 674 cases of killings believed to be connected to the violence of 1999, and has already investigated 300 of them.Speaking to the press in Dili, Mr. Gilissen said the Serious Crimes Unit had carried out considerable work despite its small size, with only 31 investigators. The Unit had targeted 17 particular events and constructed 10 priority cases. Among its successes, he pointed to East Timor’s first trial for crimes against humanity, concerning allegations that 10 defendants took part in orchestrated killings in Lautem District.That trial, which began in July, will adjourn for a brief recess at the end of this week before resuming on September 12.

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