20 February 2013

Violations of the law by both the State and CPD-RDTL dissidents in Manufahi

HAK Image: HAK
ETLJB 20 February 2013 - The East Timor Human Rights and Justice Assocation (HAK) has reported violations of the law by both the dissident political group CPD-RDTL and the State acting through the military and the police arising out of the CPD-RDTL occupation of land in the southern District of Manufahi which began late last year. Since the occupation of the land by CPD-RDTL, tensions between it and the military have been increasing as the State has sought to assert its authority to control the group's illegal activities and restore security in the local communities affected by the occupation.

Problems with CPD-RDTL date back to the UNTAET period when the Land and Property Directorate and the police forcibly evicted CPD-RDTL members who had illegally occupied houses in the suburb of Farol in Dili. Upon the eviction, at the direction of the then, now late, UNTAET Special Administrator, Sergio de Mello, the CPD-RDTL members were loaded on to trucks and taken back to their districts.*

Mlore recently, there have been allegations of illegal occupation of land by CPD-RDTL, intimidation of local residents, the wearing of military-style uniforms and the carrying of weapons by CPD-RDTL members and even a suggestion by the armed forces chief that the organisation has been infiltrated by former pro-automonits.

HAK conducted monitoring of the area from 1 - 4 February 2013 in the Fatuberlihu Sub-District, Manufahi District involving consultation with community leaders, local government, residents and CPD-RDTL members, and concluded that the population feels a sense of panic from the presence of large numbers of CPD-RDTL members (12,000 people) and the lack of appropriate coordination with local authorities left communities feeling uncomfortable attending to their animals and participating in cultural activities.

HAK expressed concern at the means used by CPD-RDTL members to acquire land through illegal occupation of state and community land rather than utilising regular processes under the Property Law and obtaining the cooperation and permission of the competent entities.

HAK also noted that some members of CPD-RDTL carried weapons, such as machetes and suraks (traditional long swords) when moving within the community, which also requires the intervention of the security institutions.

In this regard, HAK observed that there were not sufficient facts to show that CPD-RDTL members have the tendency to commit violent actions and crimes against other members of CPD-RDTL and the community itself, as rumours have been alleging.

"On the other hand, the HAK Association also observed that from November last year until now, the mobilisation of 300 F-FDTL Unit members, including F-FDTL Military Police, as well as 40 members of the PNTL, specifically from the Public Order Battalion (Batalhão Ordem Publika (BOP)) and the Special Operations Unit (Comando Operasaun Espesial (COE)), in order to implement security and establish checkpoints for CPD-RDTL members, including the community, with the objective to control the security situation in the area despite the fact some of these conditions imposed are not permitted by the law.

Facts show that there are twelve thousand members of CPD-RDTL carrying out cooperative activities, in particular agriculture to reclaim land and rice planting on 10 hectares, with plans to extend this to cover 210 hectares which are abandoned in the area. The State must demonstrate its capacity to manage these conditions so as to guarantee that investments which have already been made here can bring benefits to this community and the broader community of Timor-Leste."

HAK expressed further concern about military exercises that have been held in the area with 300 soldiers carrying arms and miltiary gear, including munitions, in order to conduct patrols surrounding communities and set up checkpoints for CPD-RDTL and community members from 27 to 29 January 2013 in Sub-District Fatuberlihu. HAK considers this action to violate article 147 (2) and (3) of the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (RDTL) as it does not respect the principles of separation of powers between the institutions of PNTL and F-FDTL.

"According to the law, the role for maintaining domestic security, including setting up checkpoints, is the responsibility of PNTL, not F-FDTL because this is not a situation in which the laws permits F-FDTL to act. Moreover, approaches through military force in situations such as this, for example, are not good for the future because they can minimise community trust in the work of PNTL. Futhermore, it can undermine government policies that strengthen the character of PNTL as a community police force." (see also Wilson, VE Joint Command for PNTL and F-FDTL Undermines Rule of Law and Security Sector Reform in Timor-Leste)

*The writer personally witnessed these evictions when he was the Property Rights Adviser to UNTAET. UNTAET enacted a special law to for this eviction:  UNTAET Executive Order 2/2007 On the Vacation of certain properties located in Farol, Dili, East Timor

See also
Tension between military and dissident political group CPD-RDTL grows
CPD-RDTL continues to be a thorn in the side of the Timor-Leste Government

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