In a further effort to reduce lawlessness in Timor Leste, particularly after two people were killed in the capital earlier this week, the United Nations will now have prime responsibility for police operations throughout the small and impoverished South-East Asian nation, after signing an agreement today with the Government.
This is the first ever such arrangement between a sovereign nation and the UN, and details the operational arrangements and command and control procedures through which the police component of the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) will take responsibility as the interim law enforcement agency, the mission said.
“UNMIT is delighted with the signing of this document, which provides the men and women of UN Police (UNPOL) with an appropriate legal framework to continue doing their job,” said Eric Tan Huck Gim, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Security Sector Reform Rule of Law in Timor-Leste.
“That job is to restore and maintain public security to the people of Timor-Leste and to assist with the reform, restructuring and rebuilding of the Timorese National Police, and the strengthening of the Ministry of the Interior.”
The Security Council created UNMIT in August to help restore order after deadly violence, attributed to differences between eastern and western regions, broke out in April and May in the country that the UN shepherded to independence from Indonesia just four years ago.
One of its key aspects has been bringing in UN police officers to rebuild and support the local force as well as enforcing law and order, particularly in the capital Dili, which remains beset by tensions following this year’s violence that led to the deaths of at least 37 people and forced about 155,000 people – or 15 per cent of the population – to flee their homes.
“[Today’s] arrangement will allow UNPOL to work hand in hand with the PNTL (the national police force) to ensure public security for all individuals and communities and help to restore the rule of law in Timor-Leste.” Antero Lopes, the UN’s Acting Police Commissioner, said.
“The agreement guarantees the Timorese can secure the support and leadership of UNPOL in policing operations as well as the long term reform of restructuring and rebuilding the PNTL under a common integrated framework.”
Council resolution 1704, adopted on 25 August, calls for a robust police presence of up to 1,608 qualified UNPOL officers coming from various nations to help Timor-Leste improve all aspects of policing operations including leadership, community-policing, investigations, traffic, public order and administration. There are currently 966 UNPOL officers in Timor-Leste.