20 August 2013

Organised crime in Timor-Leste responsible for rise in violence, says Fundasaun Mahein

ETLJB 20 August 2013 Security sectory monitoring NGO, Fundasaun Mahein says that "the recent increase in violence and crime in Timor-Leste reflects a growing effort by organized crime to recruit Timorese for participation in illegal activities.  Timorese citizens of all backgrounds are turning towards organised crime in the midst of an economy that leaves them little hope or opportunity. The groups most heavily recruited from include government employees, taxi drivers, gang members, security guards on the border, and airport security guards and personnel.

The increased presence of organized crime within Timor-Leste has been marked by an increase in theft, murder, and sexual assault.  Sexual assault in particular has been marked by two recent high-profile cases.   A young man and woman were recently kidnapped in Tasi-Tolu and forced to perform sexual acts while being filmed.  In a separate event, a woman taking a taxi near the US embassy was abducted and gang-raped.  These cases highlight the disturbing rise of violent incidents in Timor-Leste in which both the perpetrators and victims are Timorese.

The Timorese economy is stagnating and Timorese have fewer places to turn for career opportunities.  With inflation rising, high unemployment, low salaries for government workers, and minimal government oversight of criminal activity, the temptation to participate in organized is too attractive for many Timorese to resist.

What incentive do Timorese have to make honest livings when the reward for participating in organized criminal activities can be so much more lucrative?  If the government does not focus its efforts on a preventative framework to fight the underlying causes of Timorese involvement in organized crime, the problem will never be resolved.

Furthermore, why should only one government ministry be responsible for combating this problem when the causes behind the rise in organized crime are so widespread and diverse?

Fundasaun Mahein urges various government departments to unite in fighting this important and growing problem.  The ministry of Defense should collaborate with the ministries of Social Solidarity, Labor, Education, Youth and Sports, State Secretary for Women and Equality, as well as others.

Fundasaun Mahein recommends that people travel in groups and exercise extreme caution when traveling through areas associated with organized criminal operations.  These areas include Dili Beach Road, Liquica up to Tiber, the beach of Tasi-Tolu, and the area from Area Branca all the way up to Metinaro (One Dollar Beach).  Criminals have mainly targeted young couples or single women passing through or sitting in these areas, but it should be noted that anyone passing through could be a potential target.

Fundasaun Mahein also recommends that police increase their presence and visibility in these areas with regular patrols and monitoring.  If people encounter trouble they should notify the police immediately.

Finally, more stringent monitoring of people traveling in and out of Timor-Leste is needed to crack down on travelers conducting operations for organized crime.  The increasing number of Timorese students studying in Indonesia involved in smuggling stolen motorbikes into Timor is just one example of organized crime’s presence along Timor’s border.  As part of this effort, the departments of Immigration and Foreign Affairs should work together to conduct more effective background checks of people traveling to work in Timor-Leste on tourist visas. Source: Fundasaun Mahein (FM) Press Release 15 August 2013 http://www.fundasaunmahein.org/2013/08/15/organized-crime-increases-civilian-recruitment/ Edited by Warren L. Wright
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