Do we need a police force in Timor Leste?

Do we need a police force in Timor Leste?

I’ve just been reading the UN debate about Timor Leste. All is
sweetness and light. Just one or two slight concerns about police
behaviour, despite many media graphic accounts and films of
brutality. And one or two mentions of criminals being forgiven,
despite the Dep. PM saying that impunity will not be tolerated. Its a
charade, actually. Maybe everyone wants to protect the
extraordinarily high salaries paid to UN staff!? The UN and Interfet
and Unmit etc do so much training, and capacity building, but for
what? There is a capacity for not noticing bad behaviour. Maybe too
many countries are involved, then you can’t blame any one! Maybe the
UN trains, but does not test. Like AusAid, it seems to be about
project implementation, not project testing the end result. We need a
change, but who will bring this? The charade of the big court trial
may come to a head next Wednesday, so we are led to believe, lets see
how brave the judges are to find the truth.

OK, that is an introduction, as what follows is posted on behalf of a
concerned friend who witnessed this event.


2 responses to “Do we need a police force in Timor Leste?

  1. The Answer is No!!!
    I believe that there has been a misconception from the very beginning, when the UN started to build our institutions, including the ones entrusted with our security. The misconception, in my view, is about a Police Service or a Police Force for Timor-Leste.
    It is still vivid in our memory how the occupation forces behaved in our country. Still fresh too, in our memory, that the Indonesian Police used to part of the military. Then, they were called ABRI. The Indonesian pro-democracy movement worked so hard, and succeeded on some fronts, included in the separation of the Police from the Military. The culture may still remain, but Indonesia has attempted to remove the purely military symbols from its police.
    In Timor-Leste, the contrary was the case. At the beginning it was OK. I was very proud to see our police starting to patrol the town, standing on the streets of Dili to bring the city some order, very polite and persuasive. But that was just a nice introduction. The minute they receive the pistols and riffles left behind by GNR, they changed completely. Talk less or not at all, no smile in their face, when driving the broken cars left behind by the UN the cars drove even faster than when they were new (magical), you name it….!
    Sometimes I ask myself why? The name is actually quite nice: Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste. In English they were called Timor-Leste Police Service. The strange thing is that they kept being referred to – and calling themselves – Forca, Force! No, I do not think we have a Police Force! I think we have a Police Service! Force should be attributed more to the military. Why have we not learned from our own history?
    I belong to those who do not think too simplistically about Timorese. Some people believe that Timorese have to be faced with force, or else they will not listen, there will be no public order. I do not believe that. Timorese may be stubborn, but their hearts are not made of stone. I have seen occasions where crowd are calmed by word of comfort and compassion. I have also witnessed events where agitation of masses increase and result in violence as they were confronted with FORCE. So I do not really believe in a Police Force. I think it is necessary that one day, when our leaders become wiser, we work hard to make our fellows in the Police who have been made to think of themselves a Forcas a bit more human than what they have made to be. Seeing their actions in Atauro, I almost vomited. I almost think that they are not human!
    Well, actually, the Atauro incident brought something else to the fore. Our police agents have been quite spoiled by the fear that they spread among the population. They have been spoiled by the little hand guns they have on their side and the riffles which they can hardly carry. They are so spoiled that they never fell that need to exercise or do some fitness training. When I saw the video, it was clear that the Police agent got so frustrated – and perhaps ashamed too – that he could not immobilize the fisherman. He tried several times to fell the fisherman without success. I think it was that shame and humiliation which anger them so much that they had to bit up the fisherman so badly. What a pity!

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