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Cablegate: Timor-Leste: Border Challenges Remain in Oecussi

VZCZCXRO4732
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHHM
DE RUEHDT #0208/01 2331230
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 201230Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY DILI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4067
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1200
RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY 0058
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0964
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0884
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0044
RUEHLI/AMEMBASSY LISBON 1058
RUEHJS/AMCONSUL SURABAYA 0076
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1081
RUEHDT/AMEMBASSY DILI 3528

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DILI 000208

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ASEC UN ID TT
SUBJECT: TIMOR-LESTE: BORDER CHALLENGES REMAIN IN OECUSSI

REF: A) SURABAYA 55, B) SURABAYA 58

DILI 00000208 001.2 OF 002


Summary
-------
1. From August 11 - 13, Poloff traveled to the enclave district
of Oecussi, located within the boundaries of Indonesia's West
Timor province, to attend a cultural festival and to assess
border conditions in Timor-Leste's westernmost district. Travel
to Oecussi is hampered by requirements for Indonesian visa and
vehicle permits; public reliance on a weekly ferry service to
Dili; and a lingering lack of capacity within the National
Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) and Timorese Immigration
institutions, including as lack of radios, computers, and
telephone links between border posts and Dili. These
constraints were underscored this week by mechanical failures
which caused the suspension of the ferry service, thereby
stranding in Oecussi over 100 visitors from Dili who traveled to
attend the enclave's weeklong cultural heritage festival.
Implementation of a border crossing card system, or the issuance
of Indonesian visas at the border, would alleviate some of the
transportation problems. End summary.


Red Tape at the Border
----------------------

2. The district of Oecussi, surrounded on three sides by
Indonesia and the Savu Sea to the north, is not contiguous with
the rest of Timor-Leste. The only ferry connecting the enclave
to Dili suspended its weekly service this week for mechanical
repairs, stranding over 100 passengers who traveled to attend
the weeklong Oecussi cultural festival (August 10 - 16). (Note:
In an August 18 meeting with visiting U.S. officials, Finance
Minister Emilia Pires complained the vessel had been sent to
Surabaya because that Timor-Leste has no indigenous capacity to
make even minor repairs. End note.) Travelers from Oecussi
overwhelmingly choose the ferry service due to lack of road
transportation, high fuel costs, and consular requirements (see
below).

3. For overland travel from Dili to Oecussi, travelers must
clear Timorese and Indonesian immigration posts at each of the
two borders. They must also have both an Indonesian visa and a
passenger vehicle permit; these are issued only at the
Indonesian Embassy in Dili. Travelers resort to petty bribery
when they lack these documents. Overland vehicle travel
originating in Oecussi is impractical due to the fact that the
necessary Indonesian permits cannot be obtained there.

4. Red tape is not the only hindrance to travel. On August 11,
Poloff waited for an hour and a half at the first border
checkpoint while Timorese immigration officials confirmed from
the Indonesian Embassy in Dili that the vehicle permit issued to
the U.S. Embassy vehicle was valid. Undisciplined border
personnel was also a problem. During the return trip to Dili on
August 13, we waited for two hours at the Oecussi checkpoint for
the Timorese immigration officer to report for to work. Several
PNTL officers on the scene reported that three members of the
Timor-Leste National Parliament waited the same length of time
the previous day until the immigration officer's arrival. In
spite of the presence of PNTL officers, no one was authorized to
grant permission to leave Timorese territory into Indonesia
except the Timorese immigration officer.

Security Challenges
-------------------

5. There are 34 UN Police Mission (UNPOL) officers, 120 PNTL
officers, over 12 immigration, and 78 Border Patrol officers
assigned to Oecussi. The Timorese personnel continue to face
serious basic capacity challenges. Officers assigned to the
border post between Oecussi and Indonesia lack radios and
telephone line reception. In case of emergency, they would be
effectively cut off from communications with police, military,
or immigration officials in Oecussi's district capital Pante
Maksasar or Dili. The infrastructures at the Indonesian
checkpoints were more modern and better stocked with
communications equipment. In contrast, Timor's infrastructure,
especially between Oecussi and West Timor, was dilapidated and
lacking basic equipment. One new Timorese immigration structure
erected last year in Oecussi remains unfinished, and officers
reported that construction work there was discontinued "months
ago."

DILI 00000208 002.2 OF 002

6. During conversations with Poloff, PNTL Immigration, and
Indonesian officials noted that no serious discussion have been
held between Timor-Leste and Indonesia to revamp border crossing
procedures. However, officers from both countries noted they
are aware of their duty to combat human and drug trafficking,
although they admitted that the border remains porous and
vulnerable to undetected illegal entries. They also
acknowledged that low salaries may tempt some officers to accept
bribes, although they alleged that they "personally have not
known of such a case."

UNPOL mentorship
----------------

7. PNTL officers in Oecussi are mentored by UNPOL officers, and
an UNPOL detachment is assigned to work side by side with its
Timorese counterpart. The PNTL in Oecussi lack photocopy or fax
machines, and only have one operational patrol vehicle assigned
to its unit, three computer terminals donated by the United
Nations in 2002 Accordingly, the PNTL cannot operate
independently from UNPOL assistance at this time. PNTL officers
also reported that the Oecussi detachment has not received new
uniforms since 2003, unlike other PNTL units, because it is
isolated from the rest of the country. In spite of these
challenges, UNPOL officers and the PNTL Deputy Commander
described morale within the PNTL as "good" and praised the
assistance provided by UNPOL to professionalize the force.
Women compose over one third of the PNTL force in Oecussi,
indicating evidence of more opportunities for women within the
state's security sector.
RECTOR

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