Continuing United Nations efforts to bring stability to Timor-Leste, police officers assisted by a New Zealand Defence force unit this week arrested 17 people after coming under attack at a police post in the town of Bidau, possibly linked to gang rivalries.
A large group of people allegedly threw rocks and darts at the police station on Tuesday evening, UN Police (UNPOL) spokeswoman Monica Rodrigues said in a press release, adding that when the officers tried to determine the reason for the attack they were also allegedly threatened with machetes and sling shots with metal balls.
UNPOL, with help from a New Zealand Defence Force Unit, pursued the alleged offenders, arresting 17 people and confiscating 21 weapons, the release said. The attack appeared to be motivated by an earlier arrest of a group member, who has since been charged with possessing a gas grenade and a baton in connection with a gang rivalry.
A judge in the capital’s District Court remanded the 17 in custody until their trial on a date yet to be announced.
UNPOL has been stepping up its patrols and increasing its numbers in the tiny South-East Asian nation since the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) was created in August to help restore order after deadly violence broke out in April and May, causing the deaths of at least 37 people and forcing about 155,000 people – or 15 per cent of the population – to flee their homes.
Last week, the UN signed an agreement with the Government giving it prime responsibility for policing throughout the country, which the world body shepherded to independence from Indonesia just four years ago.
August’s Security Council resolution calls for a police presence of up to 1,608 qualified UNPOL officers 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 the country.
Also in Timor-Leste, the first batch of UN Volunteers (UNV), out of a planned total of 250 to be brought in to help with next year’s elections, today showed off their Tetum skills after attending an intensive 3-week course to learn the local language.
“The purpose of the course is to give the participants a basic command of Tetum to make it possible for them to communicate with the Timorese population in the districts and to perform their duties more effectively and with increased cultural sensitivity,” said UNV Tetum Language Coordinator Bodil Knudsen.