Subject: JP: Dili Urgently Needs More Police: PM

The Jakarta Post

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dili Urgently Needs More Police: PM

Chrysanthi Tarigan and Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Timor Leste Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta said Wednesday that his country desperately needed more police personnel to handle continuing violence in many areas in the newly independent state.

"We have incidents almost every day in Timor Leste. Most of them involve youths. We also have problems of killings and the illegal possession of firearms in some areas. They are difficult to handle because we lack police personnel," he said on the sidelines of a forum on Southeast Asia here.

Ramos-Horta said that they had not completely controlled the problems as Timor Leste's police force had less than 400 personnel to curb violence throughout the country.

"Our police force is completely out of action. We don't have a single unit of police officers," he said.

Despite the presence of some 3,000 international peacekeepers deployed to Timor Leste in May, when violence rocked Dili and led to 21 deaths, AFP reported that sporadic bouts of low-level unrest have continued to plague the capital.

The original fighting between factions of Timor Leste's security forces -- triggered by the dismissal of 600 soldiers -- degenerated into communal violence on the streets.

Gangs played up previously unimportant differences between ordinary people from the east and west of the tiny nation.

This gang activity appears to have persisted, with few of the 150,000 people estimated to have fled to makeshift camps returning home.

Last weekend around 200 youths -- wielding spears, knives, darts and slingshots -- torched six homes and assaulted an Australian police officer over the weekend. Twenty-five people were detained.

Two Australian police officers were slightly injured and three of their vehicles destroyed Tuesday as they attempted to break up a battle between two groups of rock-throwing youths in an area near another camp.

"Hopefully, by the end of the month or next month, there will be additional deployment of an international police force that will be integrated with our national police force," Ramos-Horta said.

He said that the Security Council would meet in New York to finalize a UN mission for Timor Leste.

"The mission will include 1,600 police personnel and several other civilian advisors. But there will still be discussion whether the UN will send peacekeeping troops to Timor Leste or Australia will continue to provide military security support," Ramos-Horta said.

He stressed that besides international troops, he would integrate and enhance the capacity of the Timor Leste police force, saying that he had authorized a plan for the reorganization of the force.

Indonesia invaded Timor Leste in 1975 and in 1976 declared it an Indonesian province after centuries of Portuguese control.

Australia led a UN-backed intervention force in 1999 to quell violence by pro-Indonesian militias after the Timor Leste people voted for independence from Indonesia. An estimated 1,000 people died in the violence. UN peacekeepers left a year ago.

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service

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