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09 January 2009

FRETILIN Media Release: Gusmao's Budget Plan on Silencers for Timor Police

FRENTE REVOLUCIONARIA DO TIMOR-LESTE INDEPENDENTE FRETILIN Media Release Dili: Friday, January 9, 2009 Silencers for police guns – another step towards a secret police state

A move to equip Timor-Leste police with firearms silencers is more evidence of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao's intention to establish a police capability to undertake secret operations, FRETILIN warned today.

FRETILIN Vice President and MP, Arsenio Paixao Bano, said the party would oppose a government proposal to buy silencers for the police "Rapid Intervention Unit".

"As Minister for Defence and Security Gusmao is in command of and directly responsible for the police.

"He apparently intends to give his police force the capability to undertake clandestine 'hit' or 'dark' operations. Why would you seek to acquire the capability to shoot people quietly, unless you did not want the shooters identified?" asked Bano.

Bano said the proposed budget for 2009, approved by Gusmao's Council of Ministers, contains a request for USD $421,000 for the purchase of "equipment to maintain public order" described as "special operations equipment" such as "laser illuminator", "night vision optical" and "silencers" noting this "equipment to be used by the Rapid Intervention Unit" (see Item 830 Security Equipment, in the Minor Capital section of the 2009 Budget Proposal for the Ministry of Defence and Security).

Bano, a leader of Timor-Leste's youth resistance during the Indonesian occupation said PM Gusmao seemed intent on creating a "secret police state" as the main law and order authority, by-passing the rule of law and human rights.

"In January last year Gusmao threatened to arrest journalists for writing against him and his government (see 'Gusmao threat to arrest E Timor media', The Australian, January 18 2008). The following month the police, under Gusmao's ministerial responsibility and command arrested a senior FRETILIN MP without cause, illegally and in breach of an MP's parliamentary immunity.

"Police use of excessive force against peaceful student demonstrators drew a protest from Amnesty International on July 7 last year. Then on September 28 Gusmao threatened on television to arrest any person participating in FRETILIN's planned lawful Peace March.

"Gusmao's proposed gun law would give the police commander the discretion to authorise civilians to obtain and carry weapons, including automatic weapons. That legislation was twice defeated in parliament last year, but is still on the table. Now we find a budget proposal to buy silencers for police weapons," Bano said.

"The PM has shown himself ready to use the police against anyone who lawfully dissents against his regime. We know that networks of 'special agents' or 'spies' have been planted around the country to collect 'intelligence' for the Gusmão administration and that many of these persons are armed."

Bano said the proposed purchase of silencers for police weapons should be seen in the context of a leaked United Nations report describing the Timor Leste police force (PNTL) as "dysfunctional".

The report by UN Assistant Secretary General, Dimitry Titov was revealed by The Australian newspaper on 23 December 2008: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24835967-31477,00.html

The UN report said attempts to create a credible and unified national police force following the breakdown of the police force and law and order in May 2006 had failed. "Tremendous institutional gaps persist, including weak management and command and control, lack of core capacities (e.g. investigations) and an almost total absence of logistics and systems maintenance capacity," it said.

Bano said: "There is a lot of frustration within the police force with the way the government is mishandling and strongly politicising the role of the police. There are many good and dedicated police officers who just want to do their job and they complain to us almost daily that they have all sorts of political barriers placed in their way in their attempt to do their job independently and professionally."

He said the Gusmao government was pressuring the UN to hand over full police powers when the UN mandate expires in March this year.

"But the PNTL is not institutionally ready to take full responsibility for policing. It is highly politicised and the government has failed to address critical institutional problems such as putting in place a strong and professional command untainted by allegations from the 2006 crisis," Bano said.

"Right now only the Timor Leste army (F-FDTL) and the UN Police are providing a positive influence for the maintenance of law and order. We certainly need a UN police presence for another year or two."

Bano said FRETILIN was particularly concerned that local authority elections due to be held in September this year would not be free and fair because the PNTL under Gusmão's complete control would engage in and permit intimidation and harassment of opposition parties and their supporters.

"There can be no free and fair elections with the PNTL under Gusmao's total and sole, armed with automatic weapons and silencers. People are already talking about the fear and intimidation that would mar the elections. I and many of my colleagues lived under an authoritarian police state during the Suharto years and I fear we will be living under a similar state soon unless there is some progress towards reforming the police."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT ARSENIO BANO M.P. ON +670 741 9505 or fretilin.media@gmail.com

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1999 East Timor Crimes Against Humanity - Sign the petition to the United Nations.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fretilin seems to be reliving its past and should be reminded who brought in the guns in the first place.....

June 2006:
Timor minister equipped police as private army

Hamish McDonald Asia-Pacific Editor in Dili
June 19, 2006
NEW details have emerged about an East Timorese Government minister's efforts to turn police into a private army for the ruling Fretilin party and arm civilian hit squads to cow voters and rivals before next year's elections.

The former interior minister, Rogerio Lobato, arranged to secretly import high-powered weapons for the East Timor National Police, who are responsible to the Interior Ministry, on a visit to Kuwait with the Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, about two years ago, the Herald has been told. "These were not police weapons. This was serious military hardware," a well-placed source said.

The Herald has also been given a copy of an invoice showing Mr Lobato imported a massive quantity of ammunition for assault rifles at the end of 2004. A group of about 30 men in the coastal town of Liquica have displayed about 20 automatic assault rifles of the sort held by police, claiming they were supplied the weapons by Mr Lobato and Mr Alkatiri to intimidate and kill Fretilin's political rivals.

In a move that might lead to Mr Alkatiri's dismissal under constitutional emergency powers, the President, Xanana Gusmao, is sending a key ally, the Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, to Liquica today to meet Reilos Vicente, the leader of the armed group.

Mr Ramos Horta said yesterday evidence of arms distribution - "that might breach the very principles enshrined in our constitution" - could induce the President to open an inquiry against ministers.

"What is important is, we try to collect the weapons, disarming people who are carrying them through dialogue, then we move to the next step, find out who gave weapons to them," Mr Ramos Horta said. If Mr Alkatiri is cited, this would almost certainly force him to resign or step aside from his office.

East Timor observers believe Mr Lobato was preparing a show of force to intimidate voters in April's parliamentary elections, against a background of disappointment with the Government's failure to deliver the prosperity many expected after independence. Mr Lobato was dismissed three weeks ago at the height of the country's security crisis but

remains powerful as Fretilin's deputy party chief.

The ammunition order shown to the Herald will firm suspicions that Mr Lobato was trying to build the 3500-member police force as a counter to the 1800-member army. The army was built on the guerilla force Falintil, which fought the Indonesians and which Mr Gusmao, its former leader, detached from Fretilin.

The invoice, made in December 2004, shows Mr Lobato approved the $US107,940 purchase of 257,000 rounds of 5.56mm assault rifle ammunition from Cavalo Bravo, a company owned and run by Bader Alkatiri, a brother of the Prime Minister. A certificate of registration for Cavalo Bravo shows it was set up to import military and police equipment, including heavy and light arms, munitions, grenades, tanks, helicopters, boats and supplies. Bader Alkatiri said Cavalo Bravo was not a monopoly, but mainly focused on military supplies. "But I didn't import weapons, only ammunition," he said.

Mr Lobato's efforts to build police firepower started as the former United Nations interim administration handed over to the Fretilin government at independence in May 2002.

Filipe Sousa-Santos, then representing a Danish trading firm, was involved in a UN-authorised importation of a small number of automatic weapons from the Belgian arms manufacturer FN Herstal. The order comprised 129 portable light machine-guns for the army, plus 64 FNC assault rifles and seven F-2000 automatic rifles for the police.

The police imported 3500 to 4000 Glock pistols as sidearms, and were given 200 Steyr automatic rifles by Malaysia.

It was the F-2000 guns that raised eyebrows. The most powerful weapon of its size, it has a high rate of fire and good accuracy. "This is what you would want to have if you were going to give the army a go," Mr Sousa-Santos said.

The order was vetted by Australian and American intelligence agents, and queried by Belgium, but allowed when the police said the weapons would be used to patrol the then tense Indonesian border, a police responsibility.

"Then FN Herstal started to see the weapons were not being used for what they were supposed to," Mr Sousa-Santos said. "People started to see them in the hands of ministerial bodyguards and the rapid reaction police unit."

Other reports say the police gained 20 of the F-2000s, but Mr Sousa-Santos believes these could only have come second-hand from other governments, as his firm retained exclusive rights with FN Herstal.

An Australian Federal Police official said yesterday 509 firearms had been collected from civilians since peacekeepers began arriving on May 25, but it was not clear how many more there were.