Subject: Lusa: Govt presents plan to reorganize violence-fractured police force

Also ETimor's police may be active again in next few months: PM

East Timor: Govt presents plan to reorganize violence-fractured police force

Dili, Aug. 23 (Lusa) - The government unveiled its plan to discipline and reorganize East Timor's shattered police force Wednesday, announcing it was setting up an Evaluation Commission to determine which officers could be quickly re-integrated into the paralyzed force.

Deputy Prime Minister Rui Ara˙jo said that Portuguese Police Comissioner Antero Lopes would oversee the reorganization process at the service of the United Nations.

The Evaluation Commission, Ara˙jo added, would "determine which elements" of the country's 3,000-strong police force had not been involved in the recent wave of violence and be allowed to continue in service.

Those found responsible for engaging in deadly factional confrontations in April and May, that also involved the military and communal gangs, would face disciplinary action or criminal charges before courts, he said, promising a "transparent" process.

The inquiry, with a first phase expected to last two or three weeks, the deputy prime minister added, would initially center on the 800 police in Dili, the vortex of the violence, and later extend throughout the country.

Later Wednesday, Interior Minister Alcino Barris presented the plan to parliament.

Barris declined to respond to questions from lawmakers who expressed "deep preoccupation" over fears that many weapons continued in the hands of civilians or irregular forces in the wake of the confrontations three months ago that killed 37 people and displaced more than 150,000, mostly in and around the capital.

He said he could only respond to such worries once the independent commission of inquiry, set up after the spiral of violence, reported to the government.

In a related development, lawyers for a dissident army officer, arrested July 25 for illegal arms possession, charged that international police had not followed due process in detaining Maj. Alfredo Reinado in Dili 24 hours after the expiration of a weapons amnesty.

Maj. Reinado and a score of soldiers deserted and clashed with loyalist troops in early May after the government ordered a bloody military crackdown against hundreds of sacked soldiers protesting alleged regional discrimination in the tiny armed forces.

The crisis led to the deployment of an international military and police force, including a Portuguese contingent, and to the resignation of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri on June 26.

Alkatiri is under investigation on allegations, which he denies, that he fueled the violence by arming political hit teams.

SAS/JCS.

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ETimor's police may be active again in next few months: PM

Samantha Brown

JAKARTA, August 23 (AFP) -- East Timor's police force -- off duty since violence hit the nation in May -- may be active again within the next few months after it is reorganised, Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta said Wednesday.

Factions from the police and military clashed earlier this year in bloody street battles that led to the deaths of at least 21 people and forced Dili to ask for international peacekeepers to be deployed.

Ramos-Horta, speaking on the sidelines of a forum in the Indonesian capital, said the more than 3,000 peacekeepers sent to East Timor had helped "avert a civil war" but now its own police had to get back on their feet.

"Yesterday (Tuesday) I authorised, signed off, on the plan for the reorganisation of the police force and for their redeployment," the Nobel peace laureate said.

"But it will take at least a month or two before some elements of our police force can then go back to work."

Ramos-Horta earlier told the forum that one of the main factors leading to May's unrest was a failure by East Timor to build up its police force appropriately.

"It became too big, too quickly, with too many weapons," he said, adding however that training provided by foreign donors had been good.

"The problem was in the policies coming from the ministry of interior that politicised the police force... This was the beginning of the unravelling of the four years of otherwise successful attempts at developing the country."

East Timor became independent in 2002 after voting in 1999 to break away from Indonesia. It was administered by the United Nations during the interim period, which quickly scaled down its operations after independence.

The remaining small mission is set to be substantially boosted again after the recent violence.

Ramos-Horta, appointed as prime minister last month after his predecessor stepped down to take responsibility for the unrest, said he did not expect the UN Security Council to agree on a complete peacekeeping plan when it meets later this week.

"No decision will probably be made yet on the deployment of peacekeeping troops because there is still disagreement among Security Council members about the peacekeeping force," he said.

"Some believe there is no need for peacekeeping in Timor, others believe that maybe Australia should continue to provide military security support, in case there is a need for that."

A proposal for more than 1,600 police and several hundred civilian advisors to be sent under a new UN mission is expected to be approved at the meeting.

He said that his own government's preference was for the current forces to gradually come under UN command in the next few months.

Small-scale violence has continued to plague the capital, with two Australian policemen injured Tuesday when they tried to break up fighting gangs, who also destroyed three of their vehicles.

Separately, the current UN mission said in a statement that as it wound down operations it was arranging for additional prosecutors to be deployed to help courts deal with recent arrests.

"It is also anticipated that, with the arrival of the UN police, the number of arrests will further increase under the new UN mission in Timor-Leste," the UN statement said.

At least 268 people have been detained so far by international police patrolling Dili.


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