The Cycle of Violence and Threat of Rama-Ambons in Timor-Leste
The cycle of violence among youth in Timor-Leste is increasing day by day, as these acts of violence between youth take place across the municipalities and even in Dili, the nation’s capital. Incidents of groups and individuals attacking each other continue to occur in the streets in all municipalities, including Dili. This violence has made citizens feel insecure while doing their day-to-day activities in the streets and suburbs.
The Constitution of the Republic Democratic of Timor-Leste (RDL) ensures our citizens’ right of life and freedom to move about in our communities across Timor-Leste, and prohibits the violation of the people’s right to life and security. However, communities continue to feel unsafe from systemic threats from groups and individuals around their areas, most notably in Dili. Fundasaun Mahein (FM) monitoring from the beginning of January to March 2016 showed that security in local communities has declined 2015, especially given more violent incidents between youths, including attacks between students in the municipalities and attacks on individual persons with rama-ambons (a deadly slingshot-like weapon) in Dili, which has caused injuries and deaths.
At the end of 2015, FM began investigating those identified incidents in Dili. A young man working as private security was loosing arrows on random victims in the Hudi-Laran area of Dili. In addition, attacks with traditional weapons between youth in the city left four youth dead. This uptick in violence has left citizens feeling unsafe in their own communities, particularly at night. The National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) has created a preventive mechanism for the violence by establishing a routine patrol to oversee and circle certain areas during ongoing patrols. However, the PNTL’s efforts have made no notable progress in mitigating the violence to the present.
In the beginning of February 2016, citizens voiced concerns regarding the dissemination over social media of photos of groups and individuals with the rama-ambon in Hudi-Laran and Fatu-Hada areas. However, the proper authorities have not made any effort to follow up on these concerns and have not treated the information and photos seriously. In mid-March, three young men fell victims to rama-ambons wherein two were shot in the Beto area (close to the police training center of Comoro) and another man was shot opposite to the Aimutin church during the Easter mass. The Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araujo voiced his personal concerns, and urged the security authorities to end this rama-ambon threat to the communities of Dili.
FM has determined that these attacks with rama-ambons taking place in Dili have strong correlation with Martial Arts Groups (GAM). In an FM online survey administered in March to FM online stakeholders and networks, at least 61% of responses indicated citizens are concerned with violence between GAM and youths in Timor-Leste. Respondents also believed the country needs an effective mechanism to prevent such acts of violence in the future, and that the PNTL needs to maintain routine patrols in Dili at night, as well as in municipalities in which certified risks have emerged to communities’ security and wellbeing.