03 November 2015

Fundasaun Mahein: The Many Police Institutions of Timor-Leste. What makes them different?

ETLJB 3/11/2015 Source: http://www.fundasaunmahein.org/2015/09/30/instituisaun-polisia-barak-iha-timor-leste-saida-maka-halo-sira-diferente/

The term “police” in Timor-Leste makes people think only of the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL), because the PNTL works in and amongst the community every day. Another police force operating in Dili is the Military Police (PM) of FALINTIL-Defense Force of Timor-Leste (F-FDTL). Because the PM is often seen within the community, it is sometimes contacted by the population to provide police services. Indeed, people often prefer contacting PM because of its perceived rapid intervention compared to other police, including the PNTL (particularly in Dili). With various active forms of ‘police’ beyond the PNTL, the concept deserves further discussion.

As already mentioned the PNTL is well known amongst the population in terms of uniforms, weapons and other equipment which it has used since it was established in 2000.

However, more confusion was created in the last few years, when investigators from the Commission of Anti-Corruption (KAK) received weapons training from the PNTL – and thus being perceived more as a police force. Furthermore, the Scientific Police of the Criminal Investigation (PSIK) has recently been established and is considered as the supreme corps of the criminal police. According to its organic law members of PSIK can carry and use their weapons. So KAK and PSIK can also be considered as Police? Timor-Leste presents both as a small nation, yet one that possesses many police institutions.

With many police forces comes many interpretations of duty, so what makes them different? Only the law defines the difference according to their nature, mission and competency of the institution as written on the organic statute of each institution: The PNTL is a security force with the mission to defend the democracy legality, ensure security ad rights for citizens based on the established terms on the constitution and laws.

KAK is an organ of the specialized criminal police independently to intervene based on the legality criteria and objectivity ordered by the law. It possesses the qualities as the criminal police organ and focuses on the prevention and investigation of corruption.

PSIK is the criminal police corps that organized according to the hierarchy under the Ministry of Justice. PSIK’s mission is to support judicial authorities develop, promote, coordinate and centralize preventative action, detention, investigations and criminal information, including working with international police (particularly in complex cases).

On the other side, PM constitutes a unit inside the F-FDTL directly responsible to the Chief State Major General of the Army Force (CEMGFA) with a clearly defined legal jurisdiction to secure order and internal discipline of the F-FDTL and also to ensure the security of infrastructure, material and military members. Simply put, the PM is designed as a police force for the military only.

Therefore, FM recommends to:

1. The National Parliament and Government to create a law in order to define and distinguish the nature of each criminal investigation institution or “police” force.

2. The Government to socialize and clarify the role of each police institution in the community, to resolve confusion and allow for better interaction.

East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin Legal news from East Timor in English
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