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East Timor: UN registration effort reaches 93 per cent of population

East Timor: UN registration effort reaches 93 per cent of population

Approximately 93 per cent of the estimated population in East Timor have been registered in advance of upcoming elections, the United Nations mission in the territory announced today.

Data collected by over 500 people working at 350 registration sites shows the final number of the population at 737,811, according to the UN Transitional Administration for East Timor (UNTAET).

"This is yet another answer to those who are casting doubts on our ability to do our job and who said that we would not do this on time," said UNTAET chief Sergio Vieira de Mello as he announced the results in Dili.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette, who arrived in East Timor today for a four-day visit aimed at reviewing preparations for the upcoming elections and ensuring optimum coordination within the UN system, welcomed the effort. "I am very pleased to see that [electoral] preparations are on schedule, and think there will be an active and important debate over the next few weeks over what form the Constitution should take," she said.

"Clearly a lot of groundwork has been done to make sure the elections take place in the best possible circumstances," said Ms. Fréchette, expressing hope that the electoral process would be carried out peacefully and "with the best interests of East Timor in mind."

According to the final report from the Transitional Administration's Civil Registry Unit, half of the population lives in four of East Timor's 13 districts: Dili, Baucau, Ermera and Bobonaro.

The report also reveals that 54 per cent of the population is below the age of 20, while only 2.4 per cent is over the age of 65. The oldest person in East Timor was born in 1899.

Underscoring the significance of the exercise, Mr. Vieira de Mello said the registration "has provided the Timorese people with an identity, which in many instances had been lost." He noted that the data would also serve an important function in terms of economic and social planning.

The new data will form the basis for electoral rolls to be prepared by the Independence Electoral Commission for elections slated for 30 August.