17 October 2014

Casual Corruption in the East Timor National Police

ETLJB 17/10/2014 From Fundasaun Mahein Blog 15 Oct 2014 - There are many hard working members of the police who want to serve their community and their country. Unfortunately they are at risk of being drowned out by members who only want to serve themselves…

As part of its mission FM undertakes a number of community forums in different parts of the country each year. These meetings provide an opportunity for members of the community, community leaders and local civil society organization to meet with PNTL members to discuss common security issues, learn about the security sector and resolve any problems. The meetings are mutually beneficial for all parties and both the community and police have acknowledged the advantages of building stronger relationships.

So when undertaking a community forum last week FM was somewhat surprised when a regional PNTL commander (jointly responsible for coordinating the meetings) asked us for a “tip”. When we refused his request was later repeated in terms of “money for fuel and Pulsa”, and yet again as “money for extra catering”. Perhaps the officer in question forgot what the role of FM is – as he most certainly forgot what his own role is!

Having such obvious benefits, it is a shame that some members of the PNTL view events fostering better communication with the community as a burden on their resources, or worse, an opportunity to profit themselves. Worse still is that in this instance it was a senior commander who seemed not to be aware of his responsibilities (what hope is there for those who serve under him?). It should come as no surprise that FM actually receives many complaints of this type of behaviour from junior officers who are frustrated with the ‘comfortable’ relationships and casual corruption of their superiors.

That’s not to say that the junior officers are themselves perfect. FM has heard of cases where members of the PNTL are asking victims of crime for the use of their cars in order to conduct their investigations. The apparent lack of PNTL vehicles is somewhat surprising considering the number of official motorcades that speed down the streets each day.

These incidents raise several questions for the PNTL command:

Is there such a lack of resources within the PNTL that its members have to ask members of the public or civil society organisations for money and transport?

Why don’t senior members of the force understand the difference between proper conduct and that which is corrupt or unprofessional? Is it that those promoted aren’t suitable people for their jobs?

Why is it that junior officers have so little faith in internal complaints and anti-corruption systems that they turn to us with information rather than reporting it officially? 

Further to these questions we ask that the PNTL takes the following actions:

Investigate our claims of corruption by a member of the PNTL.

Educate their members (and particularly leaders) on what is and is not appropriate behaviour in regards to corruption and professionalism.

Develop an effective and transparent internal complaints system that protects the informants and not the perpetrators of corruption.

Institute a zero-tolerance disciplinary system for those members still unable to act professionally. Source: http://www.fundasaunmahein.org/2014/10/15/casual-corruption-in-pntl/

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