F-FDTL in the Era of Independence, 2002 to 2010

Fundasaun Mahein, October 28, 2010

Press Release

Falintil-Forca Defensa Timor-Leste (F-FDTL) in the Era of Independence, 2002 to 2010.

In the 13th Mahein’s Voice (Mahein Nia Lian No. 13 in English) focuses to Forças Armadas da Libertação Nacional de Timor-Leste (FALINTIL) showed its dedication and commitment during the Indonesian occupation and became the foundation for F-FDTL, a national defense force that has the principle of neutrality within the democratic political system of Timor Leste. Although F-FDTL’s roots come from the FRETILIN party the organization that produced the name FALINTIL- the transformation of FALINTIL to F-FDTL must have the principle of impartiality, in order to guarantee independence and truly submit itself to the regulations and laws of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste. Timor Leste has entered a new phase that searches for the right place and function of the defense force so that there is no conflict of security policy in the country. For the first time in the history of Timor Leste, national security institutions such as F-FDTL and Timor Leste National Police (PNTL) became a major source of conflict and instability in 2006.

Timor Leste surely knows that celebrating their aniversary every year is not the fundamental objective of the military, but that the military institution needs to focus on how during eight years of becoming a formal military institution in a democratic country, they have continued to strengthen the foundation of discipline and military professionalism of their members, with a purpose of creating a military with a mentality of defending the interests of the people, not the interest of the institution (Institutionalism). An institution should not represent groups or institutions, but do its duty as the constitution requires. “Military duty is to follow the order of the Constitution”. This legal basis is very important for military members when they carry out their military duties as this can prevent politicians from intervening with military organisations. This article attempts to examine the role of F-FDTL since the day it acquired responsiblity as Timor Leste’s national defense force from 20 May 2002 until the present.

When the National Assembly approved the constitution and the East Timorese declared Timor Leste a sovereign nation-state on 20 May 2002, the F-FDTL also formally became the military representative of this country. With a very limited professional capacity and a lack of facilities, Timor Leste managed to form a military institution with the belief of considering the national interest over other things and guaranteeing the sovereignity of Timor Leste. In FM’s report also found that, “develop a force to protect the people of Timor Leste from outside threat, help the governmental agencies, and build our country”. The goodwill of Timor Leste in forming a military institution recieved positive feedback from the international community through the assistace of many countries – bilateral agreements with Portugal, Australia, the United States, China, Malaysia, and Thailand regarding both in-country training and training abroad, providing equipment, building facilities, and training about logistic assistance

In FM’s report said that, politically, the leadership structure of F-FDTL to this date is still dominated by the ex-members of FALINTIL and a majority of them learned and received professional military training for only a very short time after Timor Leste gained its independence. This is an obstacle to really developing a military institution that is independent and professional because it is diffcult to separate FALINTIL and F-FDTL. Edward Rees explains that “the moment of F-FDTL transformation was too soon so it is quite difficult to separate F-FDTL from its root FALINTIL because separating them could cause negative interpretation and wrong interpretation to its future direction.” From this case, it could be said that F-FDTL has not achieved its function completely as a professional military institution because emotionally and psycologically members of ex FALINTIL have difficulty adapting and putting themselves under the regulations of the military institution. The history of FALINTIL has the ability to influence the behavior and politics of F-FDTL at any time.

In the report FM also recommends that, the State or governent of Timor Leste has forced their army institution in some ways to become a more professional military that bows to the interest of the people, especially by putting the military under civilian control. This case will be fully applied in Timor Leste when all the members have the political willingness to hold the military to the principles of a democratic country. Timor Leste needs to create a condition where its’ people can control the military. Civil society can contribute to the development of military activities. “In a democratic country, civil society should be able to think about how to give supportive ideas to control the military. Along these lines, the government that makes defence force policy also needs to involve civil society more, in order for them to know more about defense policy.The Ministry of Defense, as well as civil society, is making defence policy. It could be said that civilians can also take part in the process of development of F-FDTL in Timor Leste. This process could be interpreted as civilians begining to control military activity through budget allocation to make policies that build and strenghten the military institution according to the regulations of democratic Timor Leste.

The military institution needs to improve the mentality of its members, moving from that ofa resistance organization to that of a professional military, who think in the context of international standards. They need to increase their knowledge through training and also attend university where they can study law, justice, rights, health and other things. Universities in this country and abroad can also work together with the military institution to have an interaction between students. This could involve seminars, research, sports, social services, and other components. The military institution needs to be open when receiving public criticisms and suggestions, and increase their direct interactions with the people so that they know and get close to the institution. Open debates and seminars about the role of F-FDTL in a democratic country are also useful in helping the public understand what F-FDTL actually does.

For more informasaun on this issue, please see the following:


Nélson Belo,

Director of Fundasaun Mahein

Web: www.fundasaunmahein.wordpress.com

Email: direktor.mahein[at]gmail.com

tlp : +670 737 4222

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