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13 January 2009

East Timor Government Response to Fretilin on Police Weapons Silencers

Response to Fretilin on Silencers

REPÚBLICA DEMOCRÁTICA DE TIMOR-LESTE

Dili, January 12, 2008 Media Release

Fretilin launches 2009 with a bang

The joke in Dili is that Arsenio Bano must have been asleep in the Commission B debate on the $161,000 budget request for the ‘Rapid Intervention Unit’. Within the budget under “equipment to maintain public order’ was a $500.00 USD inclusion for the purchase of 10 silencers used when firing rubber bullets into riotous crowds.

The Secretary of State for Security of Timor-Leste, Dr. Francisco Guterres explained, “In a public riot where the situation is out of control, it had been recommended that silencers be used when firing rubber bullets under extreme circumstances to maintain public order. The concern is that the sound of rubber bullets could be confused with the sound of real bullets which has the potential to escalate a situation that is already volatile.

This was fully discussed in the Commission B proceedings with full transparency. The $500.00 inclusion was then debated and excluded from the budget. It was a joint and collaborative decision which included members of Fretilin. The debate was open, on the record and a very productive part of the democratic process.”

Dr. Guterres continued, “In response to Fretilins’ media release dated January 9, 2008, I can only respond by saying it is time for the PNTL to be respected as a non political entity and praised for their efforts in stabilizing the nation rather than being used in political manipulations. The AMP Government, UNPOL, The Australian Federal Police, the GNR and many other international contributors have worked tirelessly to strengthen our security forces. Collectively, we have made giant strides in professionalizing the force. Fretilin should join the Government in applauding their efforts in maintaining law and order.”

Since the IV Constitutional Government took over in August of 2007, reform to the security sector was the main priority in stabilizing the nation. Reforms to the PNTL emphasized both professionalizing and depoliticizing the force by increasing wage structures, implementing an international ranking system for advancement of officers while providing expert training and education on a range of activities to ensure best practice public safety management, including rapid intervention to prevent civil unrest reminiscent of the 2006 crisis.

The successes are evident in that fact that while UNPOL is present in the thirteen districts of Timor-Leste, the PNTL is now responsible for the 64 sub districts and 442 sucos of the nation. Guterres concluded by saying “Since August 2007, our record thus far is strong in public safety and while we have made giant strides, we have a long journey that should be supported as a bipartisan effort.” Meanwhile, Fretilin’s recent media efforts claiming the 10 silencers for rubber bullets were meant for clandestine hits”, “dark operations”, and to “arm a police state” full of Government “spies” and “special agents”, has been a source of great amusement for the IV Constitutional Government.

ENDS

For More Information please contact: Dr Francisco Guterres, Secretary of State for Security, Ph: +670 723 0038

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