Fundasaun Mahein, 18 December 2013
The F-FDTL’s Internal Security Activities
Mahein’s Voice report No. 65 discusses the FALINTIL Timor-Leste Defense Force (F-FDTL), which is responsible for maintaining internal security through civil-military cooperation and maintaining order during presidential and parliamentary elections. The existence of the F-FDTL as an institution is guaranteed according to the national constitution and other legal frameworks including the F-FDTL “organic law”, national security legislation, national defense legislation, and internal security legislation.
This report describes the F-FDTL’s role in maintaining internal security in a post-conflict environment by operating in the districts as well as at the border. One of the F-FDTL’s main objectives is to provide civil-military services such as school-building reconstruction, constructing houses, assisting communities in fixing irrigation systems, road construction, and the upkeep or construction of other important infrastructure.
While the F-FDTL’s general mission is clear, further clarification of the F-FDTL’s activities is needed to avoid misunderstandings between the respective roles of the F-FDTL and the PNTL. There have been cases when members of the F-FDTL deployed in the districts have responded directly to criminal cases, resulting in the victimization of some community members. Many people interpreted these incidents as the F-FDTL doing a task that should be reserved for the PNTL. To date, the F-FDTL commander has been adamant in rejecting this criticism and declaring that the F-FDTL’s actions are lawful and carried out in the interests of national security and stability.
This report also discusses the F-FDTL’s oversight during the2007 general election. Additionally, specific requests were made for the F-FDTL’s presence during the 2012 general election. While the government authorized the F-FDTL’s security presence on both occasions, there is a need to clarify whether such a responsibility should be designated specifically to the PNTL, as they are better trained for such situations and have a track record of controlling crowds with more tact and restraint than the F-FDTL.
Fundasaun Mahein’s Recommendations:
1. Recommend to the government to continue strengtheningthe civil-military engineering effortsthrough human resourcessupport andby providing the proper equipment in order to respond immediately to risks and threats as they arise.
2. Recommend to the governmentto provide a clear definition of the role and jurisdiction of the F-FDTL in order to avoid misunderstanding or conflict between the F-FDTL and the PNTL. Additionally, an explanation should be publicized regarding the role of the F-FDTL in the districts, so community members are aware of the distinct missions and jurisdictions of both the F-FDTL and the PNTL.
3. Recommend to the government to clarify, through legislation,the role of F-FDTL in conducting security during elections. This will work to avoid future misconceptions that the F-FDTL is overstepping its boundaries and assuming responsibility for the the PNTL’s internal security activities.
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