11 October 2012

Crime in Dili on the rise or not?

Dili - City of Peace?
ETLJB 11 October 2012 - People are speaking of a a change in the security environment at the neighborhood level in Dili according to a report by the peak civil society security monitoring organisation, Fundasaun Mahein (FM).

However, because of a lack publication of the statistics on criminal activities that are kept by the police, it is difficult to say whether the crime rate is rising or remaining static.

It may be that crime is in fact on the rise or it may be that crime is being reported more frequently by the media.

In any event, says FM, there is unease in the community and this situation is not satisfactory for a people who have a history of traumatic experience.

FM reports that there has of late been a spate of highly publicised crimes in Dili.

FM cites the following cases: 

1. A soldier was killed on 12 August 2012;
2. A journalist was stabbed on 12 August 2012;
3. The house of the Rector of the Dili Institute of Technology was burgled on 28 September 2012;
4. A man was stabbed in Comoro on 27 September 2012;
5. A priest's residence at Motael church was burgled on 27 September 2012. The priest was attacked and wounded; and
6. A young man was stabbed in Bairo Pite on 29 September 2012.

If there is a rise in the crime rate, FM posits some possible causes:

1. It is the end of the dry season and people are unable to sleep due to poor living conditions in the heat.
2. Dili’s population has increased by 100% since 1999 when it was 120,000, and now in 2012 it is 230,000.  Every year the numbers increase, and we see new bairros being populated every year.
3. Urbanisation is greatest among young males coming to Dili to look for work.  Many do not get work, but even those that do are not being paid enough to adequately support their needs in the rising cost of living in Dili.
4. Basic infrastructure is badly damaged – water, electricity, waste removal, sewage.  Living conditions are very poor for most of Dili’s population.
5. Social jealousy is on the rise as some people are getting rich whilst most are struggling to survive – especially in young male demographic.
6. The dramatic increase in commercial activity is seeing a rise in land usage for business activity – creating disputes and putting pressure on poor people as they become pushed off land.

FM urged the police and the State Secretary for Security to publish crime rates monthly and annually and provide full details to Parliamentary Committee B on Foreign Affairs, Defence and National Security.

Others have expressed concern that the security situation in the country will deteriorate when the International Stabilisation Force and the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste withdraw at the end of the year and that there are already signs that this is happening. The United Nations police (UNPol) who have supported police operations will begin withdrawing from all thirteen of the country's districts next month.

Timor Post reported yesterday comments by the Defence Force Commander Lere Anan Timur that people who wanted to create instability in the country after the UN mission has ended will be considered as enemies of the country.

"People who want to create instability do not want independence and if they do not want independence then that means that they are enemies of the country," he said.

Commander Lere added that when UNMIT left the country all Timorese should maintain peace and stability.

But  Member of Parliament Aderito Hugo da Costa was reported by Suara Timor Lorosae on the same day as saying that the increase in the level of crime in the capital city has no relation with the forthcoming end of the United Nations Integrated Mission in East Timor.

Mr. da Costa said that he did not want to make any speculations about the increased acts of crime committed in the capital and link it to the UN mission in the country.

He added that the country's security forces, such as the defence force and the national police should move professionally to respond to such a situation.

Warren L. Wright BA LLB

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