Timorese police forces have taken over law enforcement duties from the United Nations in a third district of the fledgling country, the UN peacekeeping mission reported today as it continues to gradually hand over responsibility to local officers.
The hand-over in Manatuto district, located in the centre of the country, follows similar changes last month in the Oecussi district and in May in Lautém district in the far east.
Atul Khare, the Secretary-General's Special Representative to Timor-Leste and the head of the mission (known as UNMIT), presided over a ceremony today in Manatuto with Timorese Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão to mark the change.
Members of the national police force (known as PNTL) will now have primary policing responsibility, while UN Police will maintain a presence for a time so that they can monitor, advise and support the PNTL.
Manatuto district has a population of nearly 40,000 people and is renowned for its salt production and for an abundance of tamarind.
UNMIT and the Timorese Government are working together to progressively hand over policing responsibilities district by district, based on rigorous assessments of whether the PNTL is ready to assume responsibility.
UN Police took over law enforcement duties in 2006 after fighting – attributed to differences between eastern and western regions – erupted following the firing of 600 striking soldiers, or one-third of the armed forces. Ensuing violence claimed dozens of lives and drove 155,000 people, or about 15 per cent of the total population, from their homes.