05 June 2012

Fundasaun Mahein (FM): PNTL Embroiled Yet Again in Gun-Related Incident

The East Timor police at work
5 June 2012 - On Friday 1st of June, a member of the Public Order Battalion (BOP) in Vani-Uma in Kaibada Village, Baucau District shot three young men, which has left three young men wounded. Following a disagreement over a private matter with a number of individuals, the off duty officer was allegedly attacked and retaliated by shooting and wounding three people.

Regardless of whether, the officer acted in self-defense or not, the fact remains that the police officer was off duty at the time of the incident and therefore was unlawfully carrying his firearm.

This is not the first time that PNTL officers are caught in gun related incidences while off duty. The carrying of weapons by off duty officers is an unfortunate regular occurrence within the PNTL and this has led to the use of weapons for wrongdoing. A previous fatal example of this was the murder by two off duty PNTL border patrol Unit officers of a young girl on 4th November 2011 in Bobonaro district.

Luckily this time, no one was killed, but Fundasaun Mahein (FM) has repeatedly called for stricter controls over the weapons in use in our security institutions, notably in the case of off duty officers. Once again, FM calls on PNTL commanders to have more stringent control over the carrying of guns by their officers when off duty.

Furthermore, this incident comes at a time when high levels of discipline are required by security actors. With the parliamentary elections just a month away, this is a sensitive period for Timor-Leste, and reckless incidences such as this one, threaten the stability in the area and possibly strain community-police relations. This may undermine the PNTL’s ability to properly secure the upcoming elections and this in turn, may jeopardize people’s ability to practice their democratic right and elect the next government of this country.

Securing the parliamentary election represents a significant challenge to our security forces. To do so effectively, the PNTL command needs to been seen cracking down seriously on such offenses and as a result FM hopes that the PNTL command and state leaders address this incident appropriately. The officer in question must be taken into custody and be subject to the laws of this country.
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