Fundasaun Mahein, 19 June 2013
“The Development of Base Infrastructure: A Long Way to a National Police Character”
Mahein’s Voice (Mahein Nia Lian) Report No. 54 will examine the PNTL’s problems in developing a cohesive national police force because of a lack of basic infrastructure. The report focuses on the basic infrastructure issues in 7 districts – Aileu, Baucau, Bobonaro, Covalima, Lautem, and Oecusse.
The lack of basic infrastructure – particularly housing infrastructure and equipment infrastructure – has created obstacles to establishing an even and equal police presence from one district to another district, especially with respect to professionalized human resources.
One major infrastructure issue is the inadequate police housing infrastructure. While the national police (PNTL) currently have a rotational system to distribute officers across Timor-Leste, many officers cannot stay at their assigned posts because they do not have the housing support they require. Therefore, some officers commute daily from their homes in other districts. This wastes the officers’ time, wastes the officers’ financial resources, and also puts the officers’ health at risk through daily travel on a motorbike. This practice also puts the community at risk because the officer cannot be present at the post community as much as if he or she lived there permanently.
A related human resources problem with rotations is that many of the officers can only speak the local language with which they grew up and feel most comfortable. Then, they cannot do their jobs well in the local community where they are stationed.
But if the police officers are stationed in their home areas, they still have problems doing their jobs well. When the police officers intervene in a conflict near their home, they are not professional because their existing relationships with community members affect the intervention. The police officers’ family can also influence the on-the-job interventions. This can lead to the police officers failing to uphold the law, and makes the local communities and districts unsecure.
Fundasaun Mahein also found that in the current system, police officers cannot understand the nature of security within the larger context of Timor-Leste. The police officer in one district can only understand the security situation in that district, not in another district. The police do not understand the characteristics of social conflicts in other districts.
Even though the police are called the National Police of Timor-Leste, the police are a regionally-oriented force, not a nationally-oriented force. Fundasaun Mahein (FM)’s monitorization found that this means that the police do not understand the rules of the National Police, but only the rules of the regional districts.
1. Recommendation to the State Secretary for Security to rapidly develop the infrastructure like a dormitory barracks area for the police.
2. Recommendation to the Government of Timor-Leste to properly equip each station equally so that when the police are rotated, the police moving from one district to another do not have to take the equipment from one district to another. The equipment is already available in their future post.
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