|REFORMING THE SECURITY SECTOR :FACING CHALLENGES, ACHIEVING PROGRESS IN TIMOR LESTE|
|Written by Júlio Tomás Pinto|
|Tuesday, 18 August 2009|
I ask the agencies listed in this article to take my words as food for thought rather than negative criticisms. I trust this article will contribute to strengthening cooperation between Timor-Leste and other countries, as well as between Timor-Leste and the UN.
The State of Timor-Leste, through the President of the Republic, the President of the National Parliament and the Prime-Minister, created last year a strictly Timorese team called Group for the Reform and Development of the Security Sector. It is expected that the Reform of the Security Sector will enable the development and consolidation of the existing agencies, so that they may perform their tasks with efficiency, legitimacy and accountability, thereby ensuring safety to all citizens. It would do well to remind that this reform of the Security Sector is directly linked to the Government's policy concerning the development of its Program. This is why the Group for the Reform of the Security Sector was assembled in the first place. As such, the team is coordinated by two Secretaries of State, namely the Secretary of State for Security and the Secretary of State for Defence.
The said team has been doing an excellent job along with the advisor to the President of the Republic, Dr Roques Rodrigues. The so-called High Level Meetings on the Reform of the Security Sector, where issues concerning the Reform of the Security Sector are debated, involve the President of the Republic, the President of the National Parliament and the Prime Minister, in addition to the two Secretaries of State and some advisors. The UN has also put together a team to support Timor-Leste regarding the Reform of the Security Sector, under the cooperation agreement with the Government of Timor-Leste signed in June 2008. Despite positive reviews by some friends who think the program has been developing for the past year, I do believe that they do not have a Security Sector Reform implementation program. I feel that this is due to the fact that the UN only takes part in the context of "assistance" in conformity with is mandate, which would be important to understand in terms of a peacekeeping vs. peacebuilding dualistic analysis. Indeed, during this period the UN team has held a seminar, placed advisors at the Ministry of Defence and Security in a unilateral manner and has been carrying out mentoring and retraining actions in the PNTL. It seems that the mandate of the UN is only to work alongside with the Secretary of State for Security, particularly with the PNTL. Effectively, in the Sector of Defence it seems that they only work alongside us to speak about training in Human Rights, separation between the roles of the Police and of the Military, advisors and Military Liaison officer training. I myself have requested them to provide training to the F-FDTL in terms of Peacekeeping Forces, but so far no plan has been submitted to us.
When I, in my capacity as Secretary of State for the Defence, meet with a representative from the UN or any country, I tell them two things: firstly, that advisors must present me (in my capacity as Secretary of State and Timorese citizen) several options, as well as their negative and positive implications, so that I may make my decision. This means that no advisor can present me a single option and ask me to follow it, claiming it is the only possible choice.
If on one hand we live in the age of globalization, where the classic concept of State sovereignty has become dimmed, as a result of the need for transparency, cooperation and even the right of interference, where the Timorese sovereignty is limited to the Flag and the National Anthem, as well as some gestures of courage to make decisions without pressure by other States, on the other hand Timor-Leste is a small country but is nevertheless a sovereign State. Consequently its position in relation to any issue has the same value as that of any other State. Accordingly, other States must respect Timor-Leste as the sovereign Nation that it is.
Secondly, I always tell them that the development of the Sector of Defence must be based on bilateral cooperation. This is important for Timor-Leste to be able to set the military system format it wants to establish. This format surely does not include a myriad of different training actions provided by various countries. Should this come to pass, I do not know what the Timorese military system would become. This is why the F-FDTL command has decided that presently the basic military training provided is to be based on the Portuguese system, which is in accordance with the NATO standards, with the possibility of specialized training being based on the systems of other countries. The purpose of this is to provide uniform training so as to enable an efficient Timorese military system in the future. This is preferable to having each country implement its system in the F-FDTL, which would create considerable confusion.
Firstly, at a legislative level, we can highlight the Decree-Law approving the Organic of the Ministry of Defence and Security, the Draft National Security Law regulating the cooperation between the PNTL, the F-FDTL and Civil Protection, the revision of the Military Service Law and the Decree-Law on its regulation, the Draft National Defence Law and the Remuneration Regime for the F-FDTL; currently being prepared we have the Legal Regime for the Retirement of Soldiers, the Military Programming Law,the Military Justice Code and the Decree-Law on the Promotion to General in the F-FDTL. This Decree-Law is important because there have not been promotions from lieutenant-colonel to general for nine (9) years. Finally, the Secretariat of State for Defence, according to the Government Program, is preparing the necessary changes to the Defence Policy, in order to enable the implementation of the National Defence Law proposed to the Parliament.
Secondly, at a structural level, we highlight that the organic law of the Ministry of Defence and Security enables a clear distinction between the political level of defence and security, as a structure constituted by the Minister of Defence and Security, from the military level of the F-FDTL, as well as the autonomous structure that is the National Defence Institute (NDI).
Fourthly, at an administrative level, the Secretariat of State for Defence has already achieved some goals, consubstantiating the legislative drafting process, particularly in changing the concept of recruitment from a mandatory to a voluntary one, improving the subsidies to the F-FDTL, improving the promotion regime for soldiers, implementing the Remuneration System for Soldiers and reviewing the size and capacity building required for the human resources of the Secretariat of State for Defence.
Fifthly, we must highlight the importance given by the Government to F-FDTL infrastructures and equipment. This is a relevant aspect, as previously FALINTIL worked in Aileu beneath canvases. Even when they were moved to Dili they continued to work in containers, and after the 2006 crisis they were transferred to Tasi Tolu, where they continued to work in containers. As such, it was considered important to repair the Military Training Centre of Metinaro. Also in relation to infrastructures, the Government requested financial assistance from China in order to construct the Headquarters and the Building for the Ministry of Defence. In conformity with this, the Chinese Government presented six months ago the project for the Headquarters and the Building for the Ministry of Defence to the Secretary of State for Defence, which was approved by the latter. Therefore the Headquarters for the F-FDTL is scheduled for construction in 2010. Furthermore, this bilateral cooperation with China will also include the construction of 100 houses for F-FDTL members starting next September.
Within the scope of infrastructures, the Government of Timor-Leste has already allocated an amount in last year's budget for constructing Warehouses, the Military Police Building and the Metinaro Armoury.
In addition to this, and according to a review made by Timor-Leste in relation to information on the problem caused by the entry of an enormous number of illegal fishermen in the Timor Sea, the Government has decided to acquire two patrol vessels from the Chinese company Poly Technology. In fact, the previous Government already had plans to purchase patrol vessels. In 2006 the Government had allocated a sum of 10 million dollars for purchasing the vessels, one million dollars for training and three hundred thousand dollars for fuel, but these amounts were suddenly removed by the 2006 mid-year budget. In 2007, responding to a letter by the F-FDTL, the then Prime Minister Dr José Ramos-Horta stated in a dispatch that the vessels might be acquired in 2008. The purpose of purchasing the vessels is firstly to provide resources to the F-FDTL, the Naval Component and other bodies. Secondly it seeks to enable control of the Timor Sea along with neighbouring countries, especially in the South Coast. Politically it seems positive for Timor-Leste to buy these two vessels.
In relation to bilateral cooperation, agreements were signed with Portugal and Canada. Timor-Leste is also discussing and reviewing agreements with Australia, Indonesia and other States wishing to cooperate with Timor-Leste.
The Portuguese support to Timor-Leste is based on a Technical and Military Cooperation Agreement that includes, inter alia, support through the provision of advisors to the Training Centre of Metinaro, the Naval Component in Hera and to the F-FDTL Headquarters. Presently a Portuguese Language Centre is being established in Metinaro. Portugal is also assisting in the assessment for border demarcation and maritime authority system for Timor-Leste. In addition, they are providing funding for the maintenance of the two vessels they previously offered to Timor-Leste. They have also offered training opportunities in Portugal for sergeants and officers.
Military cooperation with Australia is also very good. We should highlight Australia's assistance to Timor-Leste through the DCP (Defence Cooperation Program). A clear example of this is the Military Training Centre of Metinaro, where almost all the investment comes from Australia. On 17 April 2008 Timor-Leste and Australia held a forum called Defence Cooperation Talks, where both countries agreed on assistance to the construction of an armoury for the F-FDTL and to the construction of a Specialized Training Centre in the Training Centre of Metinaro. So far, however, only the latter has been completed.
On 26 June 2009 Timor-Leste and Australia met again within the scope of the Defence Cooperation Talks in order to review the 2008 Project and the new projects for 2010. Speaking for myself, I was happy to see that Australia wishes to continue providing assistance to Timor-Leste.
Cooperation with the United States of America is also clearly positive. On 18 August Dili will host a Military Conference between Timor-Leste and the United States of America, also designated as USA-Timor-Leste Bilateral Military Conference. Cooperation is also favourable with the US Command in the Pacific, and we find some agreement points for working together.
The experience with the United States of America has been a positive one, as almost all their activity in Timor-Leste has been approved by the Government, corroborating the idea that, as a sovereign State, any activity done by a foreign State, including the United States of America, must be authorized by the Timorese Government. Accordingly, the sending of US Navy vessels to carry out training exercises in our territory under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), existing between both countries since 2003, requires authorization by Timor-Leste. As such, and since the US plan foresees that 3,000 US marines will travel to Timor-Leste, it would be desirable for these training exercises to take place in coordination with the F-FDTL, in order to enable transfer of knowledge to the Timorese forces.
Out of the several activities already mentioned, I would like to highlight the importance to Timor-Leste of the National Security Law and the National Defence Law, as they regulate the role of the President of the Republic as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, as well as the connection between the F-FDTL and the Secretary of State for Defence, the Prime Minister, the National Parliament and other holds of high public bodies. This is a particularly important matter as it helps the Government to "prevent anyone from politicizing the F-FDTL and prevent the F-FDTL to interfere in politics". Indeed, it strengthens the constitutional idea that the Armed Forces must be nonpartisan, according to the principle that "the F-FDTL understand politics but must not participate in political meetings or display their political convictions". I should stress that I learned a great deal during my work with the F-FDTL, as the commanders told me "not to give them anything that they were not supposed to do". This expression serves to show in a clear manner the justification for separating politics from the military establishment.
The National Security Law is also indispensible because it regulates cooperation between the F-FDTL, the PNTL and Civil Protection in emergency situations. In fact, the Organic Law of the Ministry of Defence and Security, which has already been approved, foresees an Integrated Crisis Management Centre. Therefore we must be organized to provide assistance to the population in emergency situations, e.g. caused by some natural disaster. Although I have received no such official information, rumours have it that the National Security Law is not appreciated by the UN, as they say it militarizes the police. I hope that this information is not accurate.
After receiving that information from some Timorese citizens, I told them that foreigners always think that what Timor-Leste does is wrong. Only others do things right. There are events from which we can conclude that Timor is always wrong and the UN is always right! Let us consider the crisis caused by the attack on the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister. Some of the distinguished gentlemen of the UN conveyed to the media that the Timorese were in charge of security. Perhaps they forgot that so far there are two Police Commanders, one from the PNTL and the other from the UNPOL. And it is the UNPOL Commander who is in charge! It was only recently that responsibility was turned to the PNTL in three districts, namely Lospalos, Oecussi and Mantuto.
Let us now consider the review of the recent events in Maliana. UNPOL presented a report stating that the F-FDTL breached human rights and threatened Philippine elements of the UNPOL by pointing weapons at their chests. After the High Level Meeting with the President of the Republic, the Government assembled a team to investigate the Maliana events. The team consisted of two officers from the State Ministry, Lieutenant-Colonel Koliati from the F-FDTL and Lieutenant Niki from the Military Police, international advisor Chandrabaland for the Secretariat of State for Defence, Inspector Domingos from the PNTL and Dr Anacleto Ribeiro from the Secretariat of State for Security. The investigation concluded that there was no indication of F-FDTL members having "pointed weapons at the chests of UNPOL members". As such it would seem that UNPOL presented an inaccurate report of the Maliana events, which can only serve the purpose of bringing discredit to the F-FDTL. However, the negative campaign to damage the image of F-FDTL continues. Notwithstanding the report from the investigation team, an article appeared in the Worldpoliticsreview.com entitled "East Timor: Security Sector Relapse?" in which it stated that "the domestic security situation improves in the months thereafter, but the police remained sub-ordinate to the army, which still involves itself in the internal security. According to eyewitnesses, UN Police attempts to intervene in a public order incident in Maliana in June 2009 near the Indonesian border, resulted in F-FDTL guns being pointed at the multinational Forces".
More recently, there was another case in the bar called "Casa Minha". Let us make a more detailed analysis of the event. Information from the police agent who was the victim and the youths who witnessed the event, affirmed that two drunken GNR members beat up the PNTL agent until he fell and for this reason the PNTL agent shot at the wheels of the GNR vehicle. UNPOL makes a report stating that the PNTL agent carried a pistol into the bar and fails to mention the intoxicated state of the GNRs.
This fact warranted the intervention of the PNTL General Commander, Longuinhos Monteiro, who strongly protested to the UNPOL Commissioner, Luís Miguel Carrilho who is from Portugal. Longuinhos Monteiro affirmed that "I ask that the two GNR members who beat up my agent be investigated thoroughly" (STL, 13 July 2009). What is known is that up until now the GNR members have been listed as unknown. Only more recently has there been an investigation initiated on this case, however, UNPOL has already issued a suspension notice to the victim, Police Agent Fransisco Magno HAU, while on the ather hand the GNR from UNPOL who beat up the victim are still free.
The PNTL General Commander, Longuinhos Monteiro, is currently working to repair all that. What we do know is that if we compare the character, self-confidence and performance of some PNTL members with some UNPOL members, ours are much better. UNPOL members are controlled by politicians from their countries but they still want to teach our PNTL that they are better professionals than we.
CONCLUSION: We all move according to the principle of "wanting to do what we (Timor Leste) want, rather than what others want". Although Timor-Leste is a small country, we have our own history, conveyed from generation to generation. As such, the Timorese must be able to choose between foreign opinions, since it would be unwise to follow those that merely seek to serve the interests of those countries.
Despite the negative aspects of international cooperation listed above, this cooperation is still extremely important and requires better coordination between Timorese authorities, the UN and foreign experts so that the Security Sector Reform project can move forward. However, this requires honesty by all. The UN and we must think on how we can improve things.
All of us who work on reforming the Security Sector have the strong support of the President of the Republic, the President of the National Parliament and the Prime Minister, seeking to enable the proper reform of the Security Sector of Timor-Leste. Here we should highlight the contributions of the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister, who have always given us the utmost support in order for us to be able to apply that which is written in the Constitution of the Republic.
Finally, under the principle of "we (Timor Leste) do it because we (Timor Leste) want to follow universal values, not because others tell us to", meaning that "we (Timor Leste) want to do what we (Timor Leste) want, rather than what others want", it is important to understand that the experience of other States should be just a reference to us, rather than trying to reproduce it. If we all want to implement the ideal concept of security sector reform, it is important to understand that it will necessarily take its time, as only so can we find what is good for Timor-Leste.