On her first district visits since assuming the top United Nations post in Timor-Leste, Ameerah Haq this week saw first-hand the strides made by the Timorese police force, who are gradually assuming responsibility from the world body’s peacekeeping force.
Ms. Haq, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, stopped earlier this week at police stations in Lautem, the easternmost district in the country and the first in which the UN mission, known as UNMIT, handed over responsibilities to the Timorese National Police (PNTL) last May.
“I am impressed by the level of organization and professionalism displayed by PNTL officers in Lautem district, as well as the continuing working relationship with UNPOL [UN Police] officers who now focus on monitoring and mentoring their PNTL colleagues in that district,” she said.
The official also visited neighbouring Baucau, which is set to assume responsibility over policing duties pending final preparations by the Government. There, she met with the local Acting District Administrator Antonio Guterres, judges, lawyers, prosecutors and court officials.
“The courts and police are part of one justice system,” she underscored. “For citizens to have confidence in the rule of law, both aspects of the justice system need to function well and be responsive to the needs of communities.”
The UN has been handing over policing responsibilities to Timor-Leste as part of the gradual transfer of the security functions it assumed in 2006 after dozens of people were killed and 155,000 others – or about 15 per cent of the population – were driven from their homes in an eruption of violence in the newly independent country.
Last month, the PNTL resumed responsibility over the Police Intelligence Service, the seventh police entity that UNMIT has handed back.
PNTL has already resumed responsibility in four districts – Lautem, Oecusse, Manatuto and Viqueque – as well as for the Police Training Centre and the Maritime Unit.
UNMIT, set up in 2006 to replace several earlier missions in the small South-East Asian country that the UN shepherded to independence in 2002 after it voted to separate from Indonesia, currently has some 1,550 police and 30 military liaison officers on the ground.