Cablegate: Timor-Leste: Security Situation Update

DE RUEHDT #0285/01 2890748
R 160748Z OCT 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A) DILI 86, B) DILI 283

DILI 00000285 001.2 OF 003

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The security situation in Timor-Leste has
improved dramatically following the political crises and
violence in 2006, 2007, and early 2008. Infrastructure has been
rebuilt, the internally-displaced persons have been resettled,
and the incidence of serious and even petty crime is low. While
much of this is due, of course, to the presence of international
police and peacekeepers, significant measures have also been
taken to professionalize the Timorese police and military and to
delineate their respective roles. The successful management of
the tense security situation following the February 2008
assassination attempts on the President and Prime Minister and
the recent transfer of policing responsibilities in three
districts from the United Nations to the Timorese police are
important indications of improvement. In addition, the ongoing
progress in developing national security legislation and a
national security policy is yet another positive indicator.
That said, Timor-Leste will need to make good use of the
"breathing space" afforded by the U.N.'s planned continued
presence over the next three years to further strengthen its
security institutions and ensure that the current stability is
sustainable. END SUMMARY.



2. (SBU) Timor-Leste has an unfortunate history of repeated
cycles of violence and instability dating back for decades.
Following the Timorese vote in the U.N. Popular Mandate on
August 30, 1999, the Indonesian military and pro-Indonesian
militia unleashed a wave of widespread violence that claimed
thousands of lives and destroyed as much as 90% of the country's
physical infrastructure. A mutiny by about half of the Timorese
military, and disputes among the military and the police, led to
another massive wave of violence in 2006 that destroyed much of
the infrastructure that had been rebuilt since 1999, displaced
150,000 people from their homes, and set off a nearly year-long
period of lawlessness especially in the capital of Dili.
Despite the redeployment of U.N. police (UNPOL) and
international peacekeepers, additional violence accompanied the
2007 elections and the President and the Prime Minister were the
targets of assassination attempts in February 2008 by some of
the disgruntled mutineers.

Weathering the February 2008 Crisis


3. (SBU) Following the February 2008 assassination attempts,
however, Timor-Leste has enjoyed one of its longest periods of
peace and stability in recent history. In the immediate
aftermath of the attacks, the Prime Minister convened the
Council of Ministers, reached out to the Parliament, and
instituted a state of emergency. State institutions responded
effectively and an often volatile public remained calm. Perhaps
most significantly, the Council of Ministers mandated the
creation of a Joint Command that integrated members of the
Timorese military (F-FDTL) and the Timorese police (PNTL) to
coordinate operations to apprehend the perpetrators of the
attacks. After the mutineers surrendered or were captured, the
state of emergency was lifted and the Joint Command was
disbanded. Since then, the F-FDTL and the PNTL have enjoyed
good relations and have even actively cooperated on certain
issues, although accusations of human rights violations against
members of both institutions are unfortunately raised all too

UN Phased Handover of Police Responsibility


4. (SBU) Since the return of U.N. police and international
peacekeepers in 2006, UNPOL has exercised formal responsibility
for interim law enforcement in Timor-Leste. UNPOL includes
nearly 1,500 police from over 40 countries, many with limited
law enforcement capacity, modest English language skills, and no

DILI 00000285 002.2 OF 003

knowledge of local languages or culture. The core of UNPOL's
force is four formed police units (FPU), detachments drawn from
single countries numbering approximately 140 officers, from
Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Portugal. The FPUs are
based in Dili, the eastern town of Baucau and the western town
of Maliana.

5. (SBU) UNMIT's latest reauthorization instructed it to begin
a phased transfer of policing responsibilities to the Timorese
police once the PNTL in a given district demonstrated the
ability to fulfill command responsibilities. In particular, the
PNTL must: (1) be able to respond appropriately to the security
environment, (2) have at least 80 percent of its eligible
officers certified as proficient, (3) have minimal operational
logistical capabilities, and (4) demonstrate sufficient
institutional stability, including proper command and control
and acceptance by the local community. Since the handover
process began in May 2009, authority has been transferred in
three of the country's 13 districts (Lautem, Oecussi, and
Manatuto), all of which are considered especially low-threat
areas. Maintaining proper logistical support from Dili has
proven the most difficult task in the first phase of the

6. (SBU) The second phase of the police handover is expected to
begin by the end of the year. It is likely to include three
additional low-threat districts (Manufahi, Ainaro and Aileu),
which did not have the institutional capacity to be included in
the first batch, and Viqueque and Baucau, two eastern districts
that are traditional hot spots of political violence. The
decision to move forward in Viqueque and Baucau is motivated in
part by the UN's desire to phase out the Baucau FPU by the start
of its next budget cycle beginning in July 2010.

7. (SBU) UNPOL has come under considerable criticism for its
lack of progress in developing the institutional and human
capacity of the PNTL despite its now three year-long mandate.
Its inability to make more progress in professionalizing the
PNTL partially is ascribed to UNPOL's structure: peacekeepers
from 40 countries representing the same number of differing
police cultures and few with the necessary skills to be
effective training mentors. UNPOL emphasizes that it will
maintain a presence in the handed-over districts in order to
provide continued operational support and to monitor the
progress of PNTL officers. If required, UN police could also
resume interim law enforcement responsibilities. The current
Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Atul
Khare has stated that UNMIT plans to remain until at least 2012
to monitor and mentor the PNTL, a sign that the U.N. may have
learned from its mistake of withdrawing from Timor-Leste too
quickly after independence in 2002.

The National Police of Timor-Leste


8. (SBU) Despite the progress that has been made, the PNTL
continues to face challenges associated with poor resources,
weak leadership throughout its ranks, and a legacy of
politicization and indiscipline. It is taking steps to overcome
a pre-independence/post-independence generation gap but its
recruitment process is still seen by many as partisan. Basic
equipment and best practices are not in place - in some
districts, for example, officers take their weapons home because
there is no secured armory facility. In addition, although
UNPOL has invested heavily in training and mentoring the PNTL in
larger towns, some have told us that they have neglected the
PNTL units in the remote sub-district areas leaving them less
prepared to assume formal policing responsibilities.

9. (U) In addition to the United Nations, the PNTL is also
receiving considerable assistance from bilateral donors. The
Australian Federal Police have had a program to help strengthen

DILI 00000285 003.2 OF 003

the PNTL since 2004 and have committed USD 53 million to fund
their program from 2008 to 2010. They have deployed 80
capacity-builders to develop PNTL leadership and human capital,
enhance vocational police skills and accountability, and
implement a full range of operational policies, practices, and
processes. In addition to providing a formed police unit to
UNPOL, Portugal also provides extensive basic police training to
the PNTL. The U.S. provides extensive support to the PNTL
through regular training opportunities at the International Law
Enforcement Academy in Bangkok and at FBI facilities in the
U.S., INL funding for the establishment of a computer-based
training facility at the Dili Police Academy, and USAID support
for a community policing project implemented by the Asia
Foundation. Other donors, like Japan, are also engaged with the
PNTL on a smaller scale.

The Current Situation


10. (U) Despite its history of violence and instability, the
situation in Timor-Leste has steadily improved over the last two
years and is remarkably stable and peaceful at this time.
Statistics from UNPOL indicate that Timor-Leste enjoys crime
rates that are below global averages and among the lowest in the
region. The number of assaults, for example, per 100,000 people
in Timor-Leste was 169 in 2008 (compared to the worldwide
average of 250 and 795 in the U.S. and 796 in Australia) and
this year's statistics to date have registered a further decline
(see ref A). Crime rates outside of the capital city of Dili
are even lower. In addition, statistics and anecdotal evidence
suggest that almost all violent crime is committed by Timorese
against Timorese; foreigners are extremely unlikely to be
victims of violent crime (although their conspicuous wealth may
make them more likely to be the victims of robbery or theft).
Reflecting the reduced threat to Americans, the Department
removed its travel advisory on Timor-Leste in September 2008.
Australia did the same in September 2009.

11. (SBU) COMMENT: President Ramos-Horta believes the 2006
crisis marked the end of the first phase of Timor-Leste's
experience as a post-conflict state. Subsequent security shocks
(after the formation of the AMP government in 2007 and the
assassination attempts against the president and prime minister
in February 2008) have proven progressively less destabilizing.
The twenty months since February 2008 have been the longest
uninterrupted period of general stability in Timor-Leste's
history as an independent country. The continuing drawdown of
the UNPOL presence and that of the Australia-led International
Security Force (ISF) is a sign of Timor-Leste's progress, but it
will also remove an important safety net which has helped to
discourage potential instability from breaking out. In the last
few months, the PNTL has performed well in maintaining order
during the massive public celebrations for the tenth anniversary
of the 1999 August 30 Popular Consultation and during the
October 9 local elections throughout the country (see ref B).
Challenges on the horizon, including the resumption of policing
responsibilities in hot spot districts, will test Timorese
security institutions and give an indication of the country's
readiness to resume total control by 2012.

© Scoop Media

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