National Police of Timor Leste (PNTL) Development

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Press Release

National Police of Timor Leste (PNTL) Development

In Mahein nia Lian 21, Fundasaun Mahein has carried out in-depth research in to the state of police development in Timor Leste.

Developing the police in Timor Leste, like many other aspects of national development, is tremendously challenging. The most important thing to develop within the police is the police themselves. Policing is a complex, difficult task, which requires a good knowledge of law and procedure, as well as excellent interpersonal skills. Despite much effort to increase capacity by both national and international actors, many PNTL officers are still found wanting.  In Mahein nia Lian 21, FM finds out why.

In order to support the work of individual police officers, the PNTL needs to provide them with adequate support. Police officers need offices from which to work, cars with which to respond to incidents and computers with which to record crimes. Buildings, equipment and individuals need to be supported by strong administrative systems to ensure sustainability. In Mahein nia Lian 21, FM finds that police buildings are not being built, cars are in the wrong place and the administrative systems that support the police are weak.

The PNTL is tasked with upholding the law and seeing to the protection and safety of the people of Timor Leste. In order to carry out this responsibility, they are entrusted with the power to arrest and to use potentially lethal force.  To legitimately hold this responsibility, the PNTL must ensure that they themselves are beyond reproach. However FM finds that of the hundreds of PNTL disciplinary cases every year, very few make it to court.

Despite the Police Organic Law stating that community engagement is the preferred policing model of the PNTL, the PNTL continue to engage in large scale and militaristic policing operations as seen with Operation Ninja in Bobonaro and the recent Operation 88 in Baucau. FM asks why the Police from four districts were required to deal with a local case of intimidation and theft? FM asks why an incident that occurred in 2010 requires a response in 2011? FM asks if aggressive and well-publicized police operations of this type are the best response to these problems?

FM argues that PNTL’s work would best directed at building an effective police force. A police force which maintains strong relations to the community and is responsive to their needs. This work, rather than large, expensive operations to chase ghosts, will be of most benefit to Timor Leste.

For more information please see the following:


Nélson Belo,

Fundasaun Mahein Director


Email: direktor.mahein[at]

Telephone:         +670 737 4222

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