Outpouring of grief ... mourners at Kuka Lebre's grave. Photo: Steve Tickner
DARWIN: The alleged killing of a popular musician by an East Timorese policeman has prompted demands for the Government in Dili to rein in heavily armed police units.
The shooting of Kuka Lebre, 25, allegedly by an off-duty policeman with a police-issued weapon, has also raised questions about the training given to East Timorese police by foreign security forces in Dili, including Australian.
The International Crisis Group has warned that the police are pursuing a paramilitary-style approach that has blurred the lines of responsibility between them and soldiers, increasing the possibility of future conflict between them.
Violence erupted between police and soldiers in 2006.
The International Crisis Group says that a police taskforce established in 2007 that provides much of the routine patrols in Dili and elsewhere has been responsible for an increase in alleged cases of excessive use of force and ill-treatment during arrest, unlawful searches of houses and abusive behaviour.
Despite the presence of hundreds of foreign police serving in the United Nations mission in East Timor, the taskforce has had only limited international oversight, the group says.
It says the UN has in effect bungled the redevelopment of the police force that collapsed amid the 2006 violence and will leave behind a weak institution when it completes the handover of formal control this year.
The UN has failed to resolve serious disciplinary or criminal charges against more than 250 still serving police officers, the ICG says.
Fretilin, the largest opposition party, will demand a parliamentary inquiry into the issue and management of police weapons after Lebre was shot at an alcohol-free party he had helped organise in Dili on December 28 that was gatecrashed by troublemakers.
Police refused for 45 minutes to allow Lebre, the youngest survivor of the 1992 Dili massacre, to be taken to hospital after he was shot in the stomach.
The UN mission in Dili has issued a statement saying a policeman had been suspended ''due to the gravity of the alleged misconduct and in order to allow an objective disciplinary inquiry''.
The death of Lebre, who was from a well-known Dili family, prompted an outpouring of grief and tightening of security in Dili.
Jose Teixeira, Fretilin's spokesman, called on the Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, who is also Security Minister, to tighten control of police weapons, including an immediate audit and inspection of arsenals.
''It is a major concern that weapons are supposed to be secured in police stations but police instead take them home,'' Mr Teixeira told the Herald.
Much of the training of the police since 2008 has been done by the Portuguese Republican National Guard, who are soldiers subject to military laws.
Australia has about 55 police and civilian advisers deployed in the police force in a wide variety of roles, including training, management and administration.
An Australian Defence Force spokesman said yesterday that it was committed primarily to assisting the East Timorese army.
The International Crisis Group recommended in a report that the Government develop independent oversight for the police force by overhauling its internal disciplinary functions, including making them transparent. Another option was to appoint an ombudsman.
The group said the Government should clearly demarcate in law and policy the roles of the police and the army.