07 October 2013

Fundasaun Mahein (FM); Undisciplined PNTL Threatens Timor-Leste’s Security

ETLJB 07 October 2013 - A breakdown in discipline within the district of Covaima’s PNTL office has highlighted the more institutionally pervasive problems that are compromising the legitimacy of our National Police Service and the security of Timor-Leste.

Fundasaun Mahein has received reports alleging that one member of Cova-Tima’s PNTL force abandoned his post after failing to pass his promotion test, but has kept possession of his weapon and government issued motorbike with him in defiance.  The ex-officer is a veteran and has not received any disciplinary action to date.

This officer is just one of numerous PNTL members dissatisfied with the government’s process of granting rank promotions.  Out of the 134 PNTL officers stationed at Cova-Lima District, only 40 members have been granted a promotion, a number that is noticeably lower than rates of promotion in other PNTL offices.  This discrepancy has decreased discipline among the Cova-Lima’s PNTL staff and has undermined the Police Service’s system of hierarchy.  The absence of morning PNTL parades in Cova-Lima, which is a routine protocol carried out in every other district, demonstrates the lack of respect Cova-Lima’s PNTL commander garners from his subordinates.

How could the PNTL central command allow one of their district offices to exhibit such a blatant disregard for policy and protocol?

Fundasaun Mahein is particularly concerned about Cava-Lima’s law-enforcement capacity given its location on the border.  If  Cova-Lima’s  District PNTL Service continues to exist in its fractured state of operation, the region will present itself as an easy gateway for criminals to infiltrate Timor-Leste and  will run a high risk of becoming a safe haven for organized crime. If discipline is not restored to the Cova-Lima District PNTL, a very dangerous precedent will be set and officers from other districts may perceive no repercussions to breaking PNTL polices.

What would happen to Timor-Leste if every border-district PNTL office exhibited the same lack of discipline displayed by the Cova-Lima district PNTL office?

Fundasaun Mahein recommends that the PNTL central office conduct a monthly evaluation of district commanders to monitor performance and stay informed on the challenges being faced by each district.  Some factors to be evaluated may include discipline among officers, crime rates, and the overall state of security within each district.  Districts falling below a certain performance level should receive assistance.  Additionally, district commanders not fit for command should be demoted or relieved from duty.

Fundasaun Mahein also recommends that the government review and revise the PNTL promotion process.  The current process, in which the government chooses which officers to promote, is unrealistic and ineffective.  Government officials do not work in the PNTL and therefore have no ability to monitor and accurately assess candidates for promotion.  Good officers should be promoted based on factors such as merit and experience, not on political connections or luck.  Fundasaun Mahein urges the government to eliminate the politicization of promotions by permitting the PNTL autonomy in deciding which of its officers to promote. Source: Fundasaun Mahein 24/09/2013 http://www.fundasaunmahein.org/2013/09/24/undisciplined-pntl-threatens-timor-leste%E2%80%99s-security/ Edited by Warren L. Wright

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