Subject: XG: Speech to Police Seminar



DILI, 22 APRIL 2003

Your Excellency, Prime Minister

Your Excellency, Ambassador Kamalesh Sharma, SRSG

Members of Government,

Members of Parliament,

Representatives of the Diplomatic Corps

Distinguished participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen

Allow me to begin by praising this initiative, which has emerged as more than an adequate response to some or many of the problems underlying the State building process.

We still face the fact that our State is undergoing a phase of promoting the institutionalization of its bodies of sovereignty. The President of the Republic, the National Parliament and the Government of DRTL are already in place, but we still lack the Highest Court of Law of our judicial system, for the State to be structurally complete and fully carry out its constitutional duties.

I am not raising this issue without a reason. The relevance of this approach lies in the context of this Seminar, which aims to shape a ‘strategic vision for the PNTL’ (Timor-Leste Police Force).

Given the active presence and participation at this Seminar, of representatives of donor countries and various segments of our society, I have absolute certainty that the exchange of ideas will not be dominated by the fact that we have merely one year ahead of us for the TLPF to fully assume its obligations of maintaining law and order. And looking at the themes of the Seminar, I am even more certain that attention will not in any form, be focused merely on the quantitative training for the PNTL.

Many say that there is no democracy without sound justice. Many say that an important component that secures the vitalization of democracy is freedom of the press.

There has been much comment on the authority of the police in maintaining law and order, and in doing so, the public holds the impression that the police has the right to use violence indiscriminately in the name of law and order, because some believe that only through such means of actions, can it be guaranteed that the police force is strong and feared. And unfortunately, little had been said of the importance of the role of the police in the sustenance of democracy itself and in the defence of human rights.

The Timorese society has experienced during 25 years an arrogant, oppressive and corrupt police force.

We should not lose sight and memory of that experience of our society during this first phase of building a free country, in the building of a nation.

Thus, there is a pressing need to change this whole mental ‘trauma’ that often in activities to oppose actions by our police. There appears to be on the one side, a sentiment of aversion in relation to the police and this cannot happen. But, on the other hand, there are cases in which elements or agents of PNTL are assisting to create an image of an arrogant police force, which insults and is violent towards people, emerging as a police force which does not respect the citizens.

We need to know how to define what we would like the PNTL to be or become. The Police is an institution which enforces the law and establishes order. Even though it has this mission, it should not err in creating a distance with society through misconduct.

Just because the police has the mission to enforce the law, this does not mean that the police has to appear as would those who display power, those who display force, taking away the respect and reducing the cooperation that should exist with the citizens.

But one thing is certain: the police must enforce the law and must establish order. And society must understand this and must help the police! Consequently, the police should not appear to be an ‘enemy’, like one that distresses, the one that destroys because it disrespects the people.

The police must appear to be one that supports society to live without fear of robbery, without fear of their houses being broken into, without fear of being stabbed. The police must appear to be in the eyes of society as the guardian of order.

When this feeling of trust grows in the heart of the community, the relationship of cooperation in terms of reducing crime will exist and the respect for the Police will exist because there is respect for the people at all times.

Timor-Leste, fortunately and to our pride, has a very low crime rate. We need to maintain this level, in this first phase, and gradually reduce it even further, because our ambition is to have a welfare society, a tolerant and reconciliatory society that defends human rights.

From my visits to the prisons, I can identify four types of crimes and classify them as follows:

- theft and robbery by unengaged youths - domestic violence - thugs, including murderers and - murderers, by motive of traditional concepts of principles

Many cases occurred, because there was no intervention (in terms of prevention) from the village chief or from the police itself, to prevent a minor dispute from resulting in a major one or in a tragedy.

This interaction between the local chiefs (legitimate when elected by the people), the police and community must be created. This will strengthen the respect between these parties, motivate the trust the community has in the police and guarantee a collective vigilance by community, so that disputes, above all crimes, do not reach the level of murder.

This is part of the civic education of all and for all and will have to be an ongoing process and, in such an environment, the police will carry out its mission of establishing order and harmony between citizens.

We did not create a police force merely to arrest people who have breached the law but rather to help the community live in harmony with itself. But even if it has to arrest people, the police must not act in violation of human rights. Only by respecting people, even criminals, can the police gain more in terms of respect that society will consequently nurturer for it. If people who are imprisoned because of a traffic infringement or for having committed some crime speak well of the police or comment that they were treated humanely, then we know we have established a police force of principles, which we can take pride in.

Law is not enforced with insults or slaps or with mistreatment. Law is enforced through the collective conscience which is acquired - that social relations are regulated by rules for the benefit of all society.

Another important issue in the ‘strategic vision for the PNTL’, is the need for the whole police institution, from the Commissioner to the newest recruit, to constantly maintain the notion that they too are human, equal to all the other citizens.

The uniform is no guarantee that they do not or will not commit errors. Besides avoiding one or another less liked behaviour, the police should guard itself, above all, from attempts of bribery or corruption.

Just as more professionalism is demanded from our courts, greater honesty and total impartiality in the enforcement of law, the same degree of professionalism, the same notion of honesty and observance of the law is equally demanded of the police.

We are building a nation, we are building the Rule of Law. The PNTL deserves the support of all the State institutions for its consolidation, through its constant improvement and permanent correction.

Here, I would like to make a special mention to the Armed Forces, for them to know the mission and objectives of the Police, thereby eliminating all or whatever sentiment of antagonism or, worse still, pretensions of superiority because they are better armed.

Each institution must know how to place itself within its exact mission, whilst respecting the mission of each other.

We want a professional and humane police force, whose presence is motive for pride within the communities, because it exists for the well-being of the society. The PNTL was formed and established because it imposes not through fear or aversion but through the respect it has for people and consequently the respect that the police deserve from all of society.

I hope that this seminar, in addition to technical and financial questions regarding training, sheds more light to society on what we want from the National Police of Timor-Leste.

Thank You

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