(Prevention of Accidents, Crime and Underage Driving)
Timor-Leste is currently in the campaign season for the Parliamentary Election to take place on July 22nd 2017, after Francisco Guterres Lu-Olo won the Presidential Election on March 20th. During this period, all political parties are mobilizing supporters for their campaign activities in Dili and the Districts.
To prevent traffic accidents, the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL)Transit Unit is holding a rigorous joint operation with other police unitsin Dili. The operation’s purpose is to check vehicleslicense plates,rearview mirrors, signal lights, mufflers, and other important safety features. According to PNTL data releasedon March 5, the Dili PNTL Transit Unit has confiscated 199 motorbikes for violations. All in all,the PNTL has confiscated 597 vehicles—363 motorbikes and 234 cars—during the Presidential Election period (The Dili Weekly, April 17 2017).
Fundasaun Mahein’s (FM) monitoring has found that such operations tend to be problematically inconsistent.For example,this operation was conducted during the Presidential Election in March but not continued afterwards. Such inconsistency allows vehicle users to violate road rules. Therefore, infractions such as missing license plates or underage driving occur frequently. Such infractions endanger pedestrians and other drivers by encouraging lawlessness on the roads.
During the Presidential Election campaign, many minorsdrove vehicles as part of campaign activities. According to PNTL data reported on April 13 by the Independent, during March 2017 the PNTL apprehended 10 minors driving vehicles. The frequency of underage driving continues to increase in Dili, where FM has found that many children drive daily to attend junior high school. The Independent also reported that the Dili Deputy District Commander, Assistant Superintendent Euclides Belo similarly declared that “according to the Highway Code people who are under 17 years old and do not have a driver’s license will not be allowed to drive vehicles in public areas”.
To ride or drive any vehicles, people must first obtain a driver’s license according to Law no.6/2003. The Highway Code, Article 120 identifiesthe requirements for a driver’s license as follows:
2 Para obtenção de carta de conduçãosãonecessárias as seguintesidadesmínimas, de acordo com a habilitaçãopretendida:
e) Subcategoria A1: 16 anos;
f) Categorias A, B e B + E: 18 anos;
g) Categorias C e C + E: 21 anos;
h) Categorias D e D + E: 21 anos.
3 Para obtenção de licença de conduçãosãonecessárias as seguintesidadesmínimas, de acordo com a habilitaçãopretendida:
e) Ciclomotores: 16 anos;
f) Motociclos de cilindradanão superior a 50 cm3: 16 anos;
g) Veículosagrícolas das categorias I e II: 16 anos;
h) Veículosagrícolas da categoria III: 18 anos.
6 A obtenção de licença de conduçãoporpessoa com idade inferior a 18 anosdepende, ainda, de autorizaçãoescrita de quemsobreelaexerça o poder paternal.
2. The minimum ages to be able to obtain a driver’s license vary according to the following categories:
e) Sub-category A1: 16 years old
f) Categories A, B and B+E: 18 years old
g) Categories C and C+E: 21 years old
h) Categories D and D+E: 21 years old
3.To obtain adriver’s license, the minimum ages areas follows:
e) Scooter: 16 years old
f) Motorbikes with cylinders no morethan 50cc: 16 years old
g) Vehicles for agricultural categories I and II: 16 years old
h) Vehicles for agricultures category III: 18 years old
4. Obtaining adriver’s license for persons younger than 18 years of age requires written permission from aparental figure.
During the campaign, Civil Society Organizations(CSO’s) and CNE have repeatedly declared that the law forbids candidates and political parties from involving minors in their political events but nonetheless it continues to happen. FM believes that underage driversin campaign convoys endangers their own lives and those of others, due to a lack of experience and judgement.
The license plate signifies that the vehicle is legally registered with the National Directorate of Land Transport (DNTT) after a certified inspection. License plates ensure that if a traffic accident occurs it will be easy to identify the vehicle(s) involved. According to Law No.6/2003of the Highway Code, Articles 111 and 112 require the registration and identification of vehicles. However, FM’s monitoring reveals that some vehicles on the roads lack license plates. The issue of missing license plates becomes particularly important when suspects flee the scene of the accident.
The vehicles identified by FM as lacking license plates do not only belong to private citizens but also to state institutions, including the security sector. For example, on May 12th 2017 in Pantai Kelepa, a young man was shot by unknown assailants in a car without license plates, with witnesses claiming it had Close Protection Company (CSP) markings, raising suspicions that the suspects are PNTL personnel(Independent 17/05/2017).At the time of writing, the real suspect/shave not been identified, since without license plates it is near impossible to identify who was driving the vehicle at the time and whether or not they were PNTL officers.
The lack of license plates on PNTL vehicles allows criminals to utilize police resources and mislead people into blaming their crimes on the police. At the same time, undisciplined PNTL officers can use police vehicles to commit crimes due to their private motivations, or allow others to do so.
Regarding the incident in Pantai Kelapa, Parliamentary Committee B Member Cesar Valente declared that:
“I ask the Commander not to shield undisciplined members of the police. If the commander wants policemen to be professional,he should let them suffer the consequences for their irresponsible acts. Members who do not the know the rules and use weapon against civilians, sometimes they are acting because of group or private interest” Suara Timor Lorosae 15/05/2017.
This case is now being investigated, yet the public believes that PNTL officers committed this crime. Therefore, FM recommends that all of the vehicles belonging to the state and the security forces should have license plates according to the Highway Code 2003. Doing this would prevent the misuse of PNTL and state resources and ensure that the drivers of any PNTL vehicles that are used inappropriately can be held accountable.
Additionally, there is also the concern that political actors may misuse state vehicles during the campaigning period for the Parliamentary Election.
1. The PNTL should hold rigorous trafficoperations, not only during election periods but routinely.
2. Members of the security and state institutions should be disciplined in using vehicles for official state purposes only.
3. The PNTL and DNTT should continue to socialize citizens on the Highway Code.
4. Citizens,particularly parents, should promote the safety of their children by forbidding minors from driving vehicles.
5. Political parties and supporters should not include children in their campaigning convoys during election periods because such actions endanger the safety and security of minors.