Timorese police resume primary duties in another district, UN says

Polícia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL) on parade in celebration of its tenth anniversary

7 September 2010 – The national police of Timor-Leste have resumed primary responsibility for the conduct of operations in another district of the South-East Asian nation, where it will be led by the country’s first female district commander.

Natercia Eufracia Martins now leads the Polícia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL) in the district of Liquica – the seventh district in which the national police have been restored to full functioning since the resumption process began in May 2009. It is located some 35 kilometres west of Dili, the nation’s capital.

In a ceremony today marking the change, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to Timor-Leste, Ameerah Haq, called attention to the historic appointment of Commander Martins.

“An important milestone that deserves special mention today is the appointment of Liquica District Commander Martins who, as the first female district commander in Timor-Leste, now commands a district force of 100, including 24 females,” she said.

“Your remarkable and well-deserved achievement is testament to the advances in gender equality that are being made, not only within the PNTL, but also in many spheres of government and society as a whole in Timor-Leste.”

Noting that “maintaining long-term stability in the country will require a dedicated and professional police force that is committed to upholding the rule of law and respecting the human rights of all citizens,” Ms. Haq pledged that the UN would increase its focus on the mentoring and support of PNTL officers, as requested by the national authorities and endorsed by the Security Council.

The PNTL was established in March 2000 by the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), which had been set up in 1999 to assist the country during its transition to independence, which it attained in 2002.

However, the role of the PNTL changed in 2006 after dozens of people were killed and 155,000 others – some 15 per cent of the population – were driven from their homes in an eruption of violence.

In the aftermath, and at the request of the Timorese Government, a UN police force was established to maintain law and order in the country until the national police could undergo reorganization and restructuring. The United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) was set up to oversee the process.

Since last year, the UN has been handing over policing responsibilities to Timor-Leste as part of the gradual transfer back to the PTNL.

The Timorese Government and UNMIT are working together to implement the resumption process in a gradual manner – district by district, unit by unit. The PNTL is assessed by a joint team comprising Government and UNMIT representatives that applies mutually agreed criteria to assess the readiness of the PNTL to resume primary policing responsibilities.

UN Police (UNPOL) will maintain their presence in districts where the PNTL have resumed responsibilities – to monitor, mentor, advise and support the PNTL in a partnership approach, including in the area of human rights protection.

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