The United Nations today handed over police duties to local authorities in the Lautem district of Timor-Leste, the first such locality to have full responsibility for overall security and law enforcement.
Speaking at a ceremony in Los Palos to mark the hand over from the UN Police to the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL), the head of the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET), Kamalesh Sharma, said the transfer was a "historic day for Lautem District and indeed Timor-Leste itself."
Although seven of the country's 13 districts are now under the responsibility of the Timor-Leste police, Lautem is the first to be granted such complete security and law enforcement authority by UNMISET.
Mr. Sharma told the assembled officers that "[you] must demonstrate to the people that this truly is a new, democratic Timor-Leste in which police and other security forces are not feared but respected." He also stressed that "without the rule of law, and the effective enforcement that it entails, Timor-Leste cannot hope to achieve the peace and stability its people so richly deserve after a quarter century of struggle and suffering."
President Xanana Gusmão said in a statement read out at the ceremony by PNTL Commissioner Paulo Martins, the hand-over shows "the trust that the international community has in our police." In addition, he reminded the law-enforcement officers that they are the most visible symbol of the country's independence.