New Government Should Prioritize Citizens’ Safety

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Foto FM (2)

Photo FM (2)

In the aftermath of the July 22nd parliamentary election, the composition of the incoming government remains unclear. Regardless of which parties end up forming a coalition, Fundasaun Mahein wanted to emphasize that the new government should focus on ordinary people’s concerns about security.

Recently, much political activity has focused on projects such as the ZEESM special economic zone in Oe-cusse and Atauro, or the Suai Supply Base. Fundasaun Mahein would like to remind politicians that these projects remain concerns of the ema boot (political elite). Ordinary people spend less time thinking about grand economic projects and more time thinking about the safety of themselves and their families. Consequently, FM recommends that the political elite focus on providing security for ordinary people, both in Dili and in the districts.

The lack of nighttime activity in Timor-Leste testifies to the lack of adequate security. After around 9pm, the streets of Dili become deserted. This contrasts unfavorably with other capital cities around the world, in which the nighttime streets are crowded with people visiting restaurants and nightclubs. In Dili, most people do not want to venture out at night because they do not feel safe.

Citizens who stay out at night put themselves at risk. For example, a few days ago an illegal immigrant from Indonesia began threatening people in the Kampun Alor area of Dili. This incident highlights a lack of border security as well as the prevalence of violent crime in Dili city. Similarly, reports have circulated of criminals on motorcycles attempting to snatch valuables from pedestrians.

These acts tend to target women in particular. Consequently, many women do not feel safe working after 7pm because they do not want to return home after dark. The lack of security therefore imposes significant restrictions on the lives of Timor-Leste’s female citizens.

Overall, these factors creates a climate of fear. People feel afraid sending their kids to school, or walking down the street at night. Criminality also harms Timor-Leste’s economy, as it encourages people to stay home rather than patronizing restaurants, nightclubs, and other businesses. Consequently, the poor security situation remains one of the foremost concerns of ordinary Timorese citizens. In the aftermath of the election, all parties should focus on improving the security situation. In particular FM recommends that the new government:
• Increase employment opportunities for young men to give them alternatives to criminality.
• Invest in better public lighting in dark streets.
• Continue to develop an effective model of community policing that can provide a basis for safer communities.

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