The Monopoly within National Security Institutions: Local Communities Put at Risk
The monopolization of national security institutions has become a practiced and dangerous habit in Timor-Leste. In early 2015, Fundasaun Mahein (FM) expressed its concerns regarding the manifestation of this monopoly: the extreme bias of placement of security forces around political VIPs has come at the expense of staffing for local stations and patrols, appropriate security provisions for threats against members of Timor-Leste’s judicial system, and the larger image of national security forces as a just and equitable arm of the government.
FM has presented its recommendations in the past that the government restructure the placement of security forces and give reconsider necessary levels of security for justice officials, members of the investigation services, and local communities. However, the monopolization of security forces around political and military leadership has continued unabated. FM monitoring has revealed that the unequitable provision of security for executive leadership extends outside of government offices, as well—many security resources are similarly dedicated to security details for the leadership’s homes and families. FM has documented a number of cases in which security forces have been personally leveraged by members of the elite leadership for cultural ceremonies, wedding parties, and feasts.
This monopolization of security forces has a correlative negative impact on security in local communities. FM has identified multiple instances of shortages of police officers during community incidents and crises due to reassignment to provide basic security for innocuous events with local leadership. One such scandal occurred on June 4th, 2016, when a violent confrontation broke out between two groups of youth from Baucau and Sika, Lautem. When the fight unfolded in Sika, resulting in several injuries, there were no police in the Lautem Station available to respond to the call because several officers had been called away to provide security for a ceremony (aifunan moruk) involving executive leadership in Lautem.
Following the incident, FM collected testimony and presented the information to the Lautem police station, requesting that a patrol be extended to the area. FM was informed by one of the police officers at the station that they simply didn’t have resources at the time of the incident due to reassignment for the ministerial ceremony in Lautem that day. FM was told that the station has a total of only ten officers. If the station commander doesn’t have an operating plan for patrols, and if Village Police Officers (OPS) aren’t permanently posted in local communities, local security from threats continues to be compromised.
Fundasaun Mahein recommends that:
1. The command of the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) coordinate with municipality commanders and stations to maintain patrolling plans in order to avoid and prevent conflict in the field, and to additionally focus on the OPS objective of maintaining daily security in each village.
2. Executive leadership (i.e., members of government) stop the monopolization of the police force for their private interests at the expense of the state, as these practices actively compromise security for the greater population.