02 July 2014

Security in Timor-Leste: A great leap backwards and growing dysfunction of security forces, says Fundasaun Mahein

ETLJB 02/07/2014 From Fundasaun Mahein - Last Friday (27/06) marked a great leap backwards for the security of Timor-Leste. Not one but two incidents show the growing dysfunction of the security forces towards each other and to the people of this land.

The first incident seems to be an indictment on the attitude that now seems to pervade the PNTL.

Around the afternoon of the 27 June 2014 a deranged man wielding a chain entered Timor Plaza and proceeded to run amok. He damaged at least some stores, threatened numerous people and created a general panic in the mall. Police after detaining the suspect for a brief period allowed him to go free. Their explanation for letting him go; he had mental problems, was on drugs and was also the son of a PNTL commander. They left soon after but not before suggesting that Timor Plaza tighten up their security.

This indecent suggests that PNTL have become either unwilling or too lazy to do their job when presented with an “open and shut case”. There were numerous complainants, witnesses and victims in this case that could have testified very easily against the suspect. Also as the police themselves noted the suspect was on under the influence of drugs, at last check, a crime in Timor-Leste. The last excuse given by police, that the suspect was the son of a commander, has confirmed what many of us have long suspected; that justice depends on who you know or who you are related to.

The second, more serious incident, of the day came from a breakdown of discipline in the PNTL Battalion Order Public (BOP) station in Ai-Mutin. In this incident junior officers attacked senior officers in a very serious breakdown of military discipline and hierarchy in this battalion.

Fundasaun Mahein, through its ongoing monitoring of the security sector, is aware that a lot of smaller incidents of excessive force against civilians goes unreported in the districts. We believe that this latest breakdown in the discipline of the PNTL-BOP comes as a direct cause from this culture of violence to resolve issues that has been allowed to pervade the security forces.

We are also very concerned as the last great breakdown of discipline in the security sector was one of the main causes of the 2006 crisis.

All together the main consequence of these two incidents is the breakdown of trust between the public and the security sector organisations. If a citizen does not trust the security organisations to be able or willing to provide that security to them how can they trust the government that oversees these organisations either.

Fundasaun Mahein believes that these two incidents need to be addressed as quickly as they can to stop any further erosion of confidence in the security sector as well as to stop any further lapses in discipline in the armed forces.

Fundasaun Mahein recommends the following

1) For the PNTL and PNTL-BOP to immediately conduct inquiries into the incidents that occured on the 27/06

2) For PNTL-BOP to punish all junior officers responsible for attacking senior officers.

3) For the officers responsible for letting the suspect that attacked Timor Plaza to be held accountable for their actions. Source: Fundasaun Mahein http://www.fundasaunmahein.org/2014/07/02/growing-insecurity-in-timor-leste/

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