The following article was written by the Executive Director of Fundasaun Mahein, Nelson Belo. Responsibility of the entire contents of the article is belong to the author.

Road security is another important topic Fundasaun Mahein (FM) would like to discuss. Many of our roads in Dili and most definitely in the districts are in very poor condition. This sometimes cuts off communities all together or makes road journeys very slow and dangerous. This not only poses a threat to people’s lives, it also hinders economic activity, and impacts people’s health making it harder for some communities to access clinics and hospitals. Poor road infrastructure also delays PNTL interventions, making it a serious security concern.

With regards to the upcoming general elections, the poor state of our country’s roads also raises concerns. Efforts to secure polling stations might be compromised because of poor road conditions. The ability for voters to make their way to polling stations may also be affected. The same can be said about monitors and the secure transportation of ballot boxes therefore possibly affecting the vote counting process. These are serious concerns that need to be looked into more closely. Furthermore, political parties around election time usually mobilise their supporters from the countryside to Dili transporting them in buses and trucks. Being during the height of the rainy season, road conditions are very bad and pose a serious threat to people’s lives as road accidents become a real possibility.

FM requests that the Government through the National Transport Direction place more signs on the roads warning drivers of upcoming road collapses or damaged bridges, and reminding them to exercise caution. More signalling on our roads is essential and the government could also make use of media outlets to inform the general public about such dangers on our roads. Greater public information is needed. In light of the upcoming elections, FM would also like to recommend that the PNTL in cooperation with the electoral commission prior to each election round indentify those roads they deem as dangerous and publicly announce safe alternative routes to polling stations. This would present the public with a very valuable service.

FM would also like to bring to people’s attention the bad driving habits of some PNTL officers, who continue to drive fast on our poor roads. This not only poses a threat to people’s lives but also damages police cars. The PNTL already lacks sufficient cars therefore; FM recommends that the PNTL high command demand its officers to be more careful on the roads so that its cars have a longer working life.
FM has also been made aware of a growing number of cases of road banditry and money extortions in various parts of the country. Gangs of youth have been known to block roads and require payment in return for safe passage. This needs urgent attention before the situation gets out of hand and therefore requires greater police presence on our roads.

FM asks what strategies do the Electoral Commission, the PNTL and the government have in place to overcome all these above mentioned difficulties. FM also asks for political parties and presidential candidates to share with the public their long-term infrastructure programmes aiming at improving the security of our nations roads. These are fundamental for the development of Timor-Leste.

Road security also incorporates other issues such as matters relating to Martial Arts Groups, and drink driving and therefore FM feels that this topic merits deeper analysis. As a result, we have decided to dedicate an entire Mahein Nia Lian report to this topic, so look out for it shortly. (*/FM/CJITL).