Fundasaun Mahein (FM), 24 May 2021
In relation to the implementation of the Serca Sanitária and Mandatory Confinement (lockdown) in Dili and other municipalities, Fundasaun Mahein observes that the security forces have committed several acts which violate existing rules and procedures. Fundasaun Mahein provides the following commentary to draw the immediate attention of security chiefs to this issue.
First, on 23 May 2021 in Tasi Tolu, Dili, a misunderstanding occurred between coconut sellers and PNTL members working in the same area. In this incident, PNTL officers were physically aggressive towards to two coconut sellers. Soon, a video showing the police officers’ actions was shared virally on social media, and many people condemned this act of police brutality. Despite this, several hours later the PNTL General Commander declared publicly that the officers in question were the “victims” in this incident, claiming that the street sellers had thrown coconuts at them, and stating that a complaint had been submitted to the police unit for investigation of the incident.
Second, in relation to the actions PNTL and F-FDTL members during the Mandatory Confinement in Dili and other municipalities, there have been several violent actions identified. In Covalima Municipality, PNTL and F-FDTL members were physically aggressive towards several students at the quarantine who did not cooperate with the Integrated Crisis Management Centre when evacuating a student notified as testing positive, including firing tear gas at the students inside the quarantine centre. In addition, as previously documented by FM, on 8 March in Tasi Tolu a PNTL member forced sanitation workers to slap each other while implementing the Serca Sanitária, while PNTL members were aggressive to one of the workers. Similarly, at Taibesi market in Dili on 18 March PNTL members aggressively accosted one man, and again on 22 May a PTNL officer was physically aggressive towards a man in Kulu-hun, Dili.
Third, more serious cases occurred in Kulu-hun, Dili on 29 April, when a PNTL member along with Community Policing Council (KPK) member were aggressive towards a man, and on 4 May, when a PTNL member shot and injured two people in Mascarenhas, Dili.
Parliamentary Committee B, Ministry of Interior and Commander General of PNTL should immediately intervene to address these incidents and behaviours. However, these institutions have not been adequately carrying out their responsibilities in relation to the current situation. Ironically, their public interventions have led to security forces committing violations and violence acts against citizens during the current crisis. Furthermore, the lack of adequate control from leaders in the aforementioned institutions has contributed further to the increasingly uncontrollable violent behaviour of the security forces, meaning that such violations against citizens are likely to continue.
From Fundasaun Mahein’s perspective, these violent actions by PNTL members are systemic, and reveal that the PTNL Commander General has been unable to direct PNTL members to correctly follow Laws and procedures. In addition, PNTL members have ignored existing rules and simply used the State of Emergency Law to justify their violent actions. As shown by the recent incident in Tasi Tolu, the Commander General is attempting to protect violent officers by using the excuse of the State of Emergency and Mandatory Confinement.
Finally, PNTL Commanders appear to be failing in their command responsibilities due to political interventions coming from superiors which have influenced their decisions. This has led to PNTL members being more influenced by politicians than their commanders, which is causing the institutional dismantling of PNTL and PNTL officers to not submit to the command hierarchy.
(1) FM recommends to Committee B of National Parliament to act immediately to resolve this situation, by calling the Minister of Interior and General Commander of PNTL to explain the situation faced by PNTL and its members, whose behaviour during the health crisis has become increasingly uncontrolled and even more serios violations against citizens. Regular oversight and a Parliamentary Inquiry of the Minister of Interior and PNTL’s work during the State of Emergency are also needed.
(2) We recommend to the Minister of Interior and PNTL Commander General to conduct an evaluation of PNTL members’ work during the State of Emergency, especially the implementation of rules and procedures.
(3) We ask the Minister of Interior and PNTL Commander General to study again the recommendations of the Chega! report related to the security sector, which must serve as a lesson to orient PNTL to become a police force which protects communities and human rights.
(4) We urge the PNTL General Commander to order a thorough investigation and take decisive action against PNTL members who have committed human rights violations during the implementation of State of Emergency.
To obtain more information about this issue, please contact:
Telemovel: (+670) 7756 1184