Dennis Shoesmith visits Timor-Leste for election 

Associate Dennis Shoesmith at a polling booth in a church precinct in Becora, Dili, next to UNHCR shelters for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who have been given refuge in churches in Dili.

Charles Darwin University (CDU) political science Associate Professor Dennis Shoesmith traveled to Timor-Leste recently as part of the Victorian Local Governance Association’s Election Observer Delegation.

As part of a United Nations accredited Observer Mission, the volunteers observed the polling process in the Parliamentary Election held on 30 June, to ensure that the Election was free and fair.

Dr Shoesmith has a strong interest in Timor-Leste. He has been a United Nations and a USAID consultant there and since 2006 has been attached as an occasional consultant to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.

Dr Shoesmith was an electoral observer at two polling booths in Dili and one in Aileu district, in the mountains above Dili.

“The process was orderly and the Timorese, who turned out early and in large numbers, were seriously intent on exercising their democratic rights,” Dr Shoesmith said.

VLGA CEO Rae Perry said: “We are delighted that over 60 VLGA members have volunteered for this delegation. This is another chapter in the ongoing success story of ‘Friendship Groups’ from all around Australia who have been working hard to support East Timorese communities over the last 8 years.”

Ms Perry highlighted the role that Australian local governments and communities have played in supporting East Timorese communities. She said, “Forty-five local Councils in Australia have been working carefully and co-operatively with communities throughout Timor-Leste over the last 8 years to assist in their re-building and to establish friendship relationships based on understanding.

“Australian local governments believe very strongly in open, transparent, fully participatory democratic elections. The VLGA has had observer teams at the 1999 Referendum and at both 2007 Presidential ballots. Indeed, our observer team at today’s ballot is one of the largest international observer teams at this election – all volunteers, all paying their own fares and costs, all remaining independent of party politics and all committed to assisting in maintaining open, transparent, fully participatory democratic elections.

“This amounts to a $250,000 contribution to building democracy in Timor-Leste.”

Ms Perry also gratefully acknowledged the support of Defence Minister Brendan Nelson in offering Australian Defence Force aircraft to transport some of the observers to Timor-Leste.

For more information contact Dr Dennis Shoesmith on (08) 89466751 or VLGA Chief Executive Officer Rae Perry on (03) 9347 2233 or 0419 750 508.