Subject: Lusa: Gov't approves plan to restructure national police force

East Timor: Gov't approves plan to restructure national police force

Dili, Aug. 21 (Lusa) - The East Timor government has approved a plan to rebuild the nation's discredited police force, including measures to determine which officers will face disciplinary action for involvement in deadly violence earlier this year, officials said Monday.

A communiqué from the Dili cabinet said the restructuring plan for the East Timor National Police (PNTL) was mainly geared to create "just and transparent" mechanisms to investigate the actions of each officer in the force during the violent unrest that erupted in the new nation last April.

These case-by-case investigations will "identify officers who can immediately return to duty and those who will face internal discipline or criminal proceedings", added the official statement.

Prime Minister José Ramos Horta's executive had been discussing the troubled PNTL's future with police commanders from the Australian- led international peacekeeping force dispatched at Dili's request late May to quell clashes between security force factions and deadly mob violence and arson attacks, mainly around the capital.

Ramos Horta had told Lusa Sunday that the restructuring of the Timorese police would be the responsibility of Antero Lopes, a Portuguese international police commissioner who will temporarily head the United Nations civil police force expected to be approved later this week by the Security Council.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for a 1,600-strong police force as part of the world body's new peacekeeping mission to the nation it established between 1999 and 2002.

This force should stay in Timor to ensure stability and security before and after general elections due in 2007, Annan and the Dili government have urged.

Australia heads the current peacekeeping force in Timor of 3,000 personnel comprising some 400 police officers, including a group of 127 Portuguese GNR paramilitary police.

Many of the problems of Timor's police force have been blamed on former interior minister Rogerio Lobato, who currently faces charges that he armed civilian militias to silence critics of former prime minister Mari Alkatiri and the dominant Fretilin party.



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