New Security Attaché in Canberra Advances International Defence Cooperation

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FM applauds the appointment of Afonso de Jesus as Security Attaché at the Timorese embassy in Canberra. Appointed on February 1st, de Jesus is the first person to act as a Timorese Security Attaché in a foreign country. This new position represents a step forward for Timor-Leste’s security partnership with a key neighbouring country. FM hopes that de Jesus’ posting can serve as a model for developing further overseas defence partnerships focused.

Having served as the 2nd Commander of the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL), de Jesus brings a thorough knowledge of Timor-Leste’s security challenges, such as illegal fishing and drug trafficking. Timor-Leste can only address these issues effectively via cooperation with its neighbours. At a time when the Pacific Patrol Boat program promises to enhance Timor-Leste’s maritime security capacities, the Security Attaché can work together with Australian officials to design a coordinated policy that addresses international crime, terrorism, and other security issues that affect both Timor-Leste and Australia. Furthermore, the new Security Attaché can help deepen Australia’s cooperation in supporting the PNTL’s development. Such support has already been occurring for several years as part of Australia’s Timor-Leste Police Development Program (TLPDP), which focuses on specific areas such as investigative procedures, traffic control, and administration. This program gives de Jesus a foundation to further develop cooperation between these two countries.

The new Security Attaché position in fact represents a milestone for the PNTL, which has improved markedly in discipline and capacity over the past decade. Having largely overcome the politicization that generated chaos during the 2006 Crisis, the PNTL has now become mature enough to represent Timor-Leste’s security interests abroad. However, in order to continue fulfilling this role, the PNTL must address its remaining shortcomings. In particular, corruption persists in the police force, eroding the organization’s legitimacy. The political and PNTL leadership should work actively to address these issues and complete the PNTL’s transformation into a fully professional, modern police force.

The newly created Security Attaché position in Canberra exemplifies the kind of security diplomacy that Timor-Leste should conduct with a wider range of countries. In particular, this Attaché role should be replicated in Indonesia. In addition to Timor-Leste’s immediate neighbours, FM hopes that PNTL officers can have similar roles in other ASEAN member states. Issues of terrorism and drug trafficking tend to affect all the countries in the region. The recent confiscation of suspected narcotics at the Dili Port—part of a cargo the suspects brought from Singapore and intended to smuggle into Indonesia—highlights the inherently interconnected nature of security in Southeast Asia. Security Attachés can therefore play a key role in developing a regional approach to these pressing challenges.

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