Brussels (March 28, 2011) – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday welcomed the transfer of responsibilities for all police operations in Timor-Leste from the United Nations mission to the country’s national force, calling it an important step for the young nation.
The UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) and the Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL) have worked together for more than four years to build the capacity of the national police to maintain law and order.
The UN police assumed security functions following the deadly violence that broke out in 2006 in which dozens of people were killed and 155,000 others, or 15 per cent of the population, were driven from their homes.
Mr. Ban congratulated the Government for the achievement that this resumption of responsibilities represents in enabling the maintenance of law and order in the country, which the UN shepherded to independence in 2002 after it broke away from Indonesia.
“He sees this event as an important step in the institutional development of the PNTL nearly five years after the 2006 crisis,” his spokesperson said in a statement.
The handover of responsibility from UNMIT to the PNTL that took place on Sunday in the capital, Dili, marked the culmination of a process that began two years ago, when the PNTL resumed policing responsibilities in the district of Lautém.
UNMIT will continue to provide advice and support to the Timorese Government to address any remaining gaps and weaknesses and to support the further institutional development and capacity-building of the national police.
“PNTL and UNMIT have worked together for more than four years to rebuild and develop PNTL’s abilities to maintain the rule of law in Timor-Leste,” said Ameerah Haq, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNMIT.
“We will continue to work side-by-side. However, PNTL will be squarely in the driver’s seat, and the UN will focus on providing the training and support Timor-Leste’s police service needs to further strengthen its capabilities over the long term,” she added.
Ms. Haq also noted that the resumption of policing responsibility by PNTL at this time has the advantage of enabling the force to assume its role before next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections and well before the anticipated withdrawal of the UN mission at the end of 2012.
Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão voiced his appreciation to all those who made it possible for the PNTL to resume policing responsibility from the UN mission, which assumed authority for policing at the request of the Government of in 2006 after a period of instability. “I extend my thanks to the United Nations and the international community for its assistance in strengthening our nation’s policing capabilities.”
UNMIT was set up in 2006 after an outbreak of deadly violence to replace several earlier missions in the small South-East Asian country that the world body shepherded to independence in 2002 after it broke away from Indonesia.
It will maintain a police presence of up to 1,280 personnel to support the PNTL until after the 2012 elections, when the mission is planning to withdraw from Timor-Leste.