Illegal groups and illegal weapons in Timor Leste

Fundasaun Mahein 7 June 2010

Press Release

Illegal groups and illegal weapons in Timor Leste

Fundasaun Mahein is a national NGO whose purpose is to monitor, conduct research, and advocate policy options for the Timorese security sector. This month Fundasaun Mahein (FM), is going to release a report to the public with the title: “Illegal weapons and illegal groups in Timor Leste.” This report will focus on Ninja activities, and the Illegal groups and illegal weapons incident which occurred during February 2010, up to the recent PNTL operations in the districts of Bobonaro and Suai.  This report will also talk about the escalation of rumors that were spread in the community about a confrontation and shootout between an illegal group and the COE (Especial Command Operation) of PNTL on May 16, 2010 in the district of Ermera.

We all know that illegal groups and illegal weapons are not new in the history of Timor Leste.  Many such groups and weapons are left over from when the Portuguese departed in 1975, with the proliferation continuing all throughout the Indonesian military occupation which lasted up to the time of the referendum in 1999.  During the political-military crisis of 2006 we saw again the deployment of illegal weapons to civilians.  We consider the recent Ermera situation, as a sad continuation of the past.

Based on the facts that Fundasaun Mahein has collected, we can conclude that there are serious problems of instability in the nation.  But, at the current time there are no relevant government institutions that have formally declared who belongs to these groups and how many weapons they possess.  After Timor Leste achieved independence, these institutions of government did not make much effort to collect all the illegal weapons still scattered around the country.

FM recommends to both Ministers of Defense and Security for them to order an annual audit of the weapons in the armories of both PNTL and F-FDTL.  This audit should be carried out through the National Parliament Commission B and should include a list of the missing weapons and the existing inventory of weapons in both armories.

Fundasaun Mahein also acknowledges that there is a need for more adequate communication among the security institutions, and recomends the establishment of an intergrated system of sharing information which enables better coordination between PNTL members in the districts, PNTL Headquaters in Dili, and the National Intelligence Service (SNI). This type of coordination is important so that when an annoucement is made by PNTL to the public, it has already been shared with and vetted by other relevant  security institutions, and is based on concrete data, so there is no confusion, and we avoid the possibility of a public panic.

Fundasun Mahein recommends that in the future the Government must give their full attention to PNTL, especialy PNTL’s Community Police Unit and make sure they comply with their duties and establish close links with the community in order to attend to their issues and prevent future conflicts.

FM also highly recommends that in their every day operations, PNTL show full respect to the private property of individuals in the community, including plantations and gardens to pet animals and livestock for which people are the owners and caretakers.

For further information regarding this report, please see the following:


Nelson Belo, Director, Fundasaun Mahein ,

tlp +670 737 4222

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