Fundasaun Mahein 6 July 2010
“The Fish is out of the Water” : The Relationship between the Military and the Civilians in Timor-Leste
Mahein Nia Lian no. 7. In this issue we will discuss the lack of serious debate in the nation regarding the military-civilian relationship. Falintil-Forca Defeza de Timor-Leste (F-FDTL), during all their events and celebrations state the slogan; ‘F-FDTL is the fish and the people are the water.’ During the resistance, this slogan was used to inspire and motivate people in the villages and towns to support the guerrilla army Forca Armadas de Libertasaun Nacional de Timor-Leste (FALINTIL).
The relationship between Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL) and civilians is not good at the moment, because there have been many incidents where PNTL used their weapons, which are supposed to be used for patrols and providing security for the population, intimidated people and also engaged in the killing of people’s domestic animals in the villages.
Many people have said that PNTL should put more effort into developing and strengthening their community policing practices, rather then their paramilitary forces. F-FDTL LTC Filomeno Paixao stated, that based on the state constitution there are very clear areas of responsibility for PNTL and F-FDTL. PNTL deals with internal security and the external security threats are the responsibility of F-FDTL, except PNTL would like to replace the role of F-FDTL.
Unfortunately, unless the relationship between PNTL and F-FDTL becomes more harmonious, problems may arise in the future. While the government has made an effort to unite these institutions, particularly in joint Command Operations such as in 2008 when they worked together to capture Gastao Salshina and his group, the PNTL operation against the Ninjas in Suai-Bobonaro, and other joint operations in 2009, they should continue to work on improving the relationship between the different security forces.
By appointing Longuinhos Monteiro as the commander of PNTL, and arming PNTL’s officers with semi – automatic rifles and submachine guns and giving them military style training, civilians have taken notice, and these actions have had a large impact on the relationship between the civilians, and the security institutions.
Fundasaun Mahein recommends that the government work on strengthening the relationship between PNTL and F-FDTL so that civilians have a more positive image of those institutions tasked with protecting them, and we can change the perception that “the fish is now out of the water”, and is back in its natural habitat.
For further information please contact Nélson Belo,
Director Fundasaun Mahein
firstname.lastname@example.org , tlp +670 737 4222