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Questions Raised About Capacity of East Timor's Police Force

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Download  East Timor has marked the tenth anniversary of the founding of its own police force.

At a weekend ceremony, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao said he hoped the handover of all police responsibilities from the United Nations to the Timorese force would be finished by the end of this year.

But the shooting death of a popular musician in Dili in December - allegedly shot by a Timorese officer - is just one incident that's raised questions about the capacity of the force.

Sara Everingham of Radio Australia reports.


“It's almost 12 o'clock when my brother he called me and says Kuka is got shot in a party somewhere in Delta Nova.”

The brother of 25 year-old Kuka Lebre is trying to piece together what happened the night his loved one was shot dead.

“There are five witnesses for my brother; according to their story, there were people outside who tried to create a problem inside the party. The police came once they get down from the car they right away shoot.”

Lino Correia has been back to the scene to make a video to collect his own evidence.

It's alleged Kuka Lebre was shot by a police officer and his family is deeply suspicious of the internal police investigation.

Lino Correia says his brother's death was a shock.

“We start crying because it's really, really painful to hear about that.”

Kuka Lebre was a popular musician in East Timor. His death touched many people in the country.

After the shooting Timorese police patrols in Dili were put on hold and the accused officer was suspended.

East Timor police commander Longuinhos Monteiro says the matter is being dealt with properly.

“If you broken disciplinary action, there's an appropriate way, appropriate mechanism, to deal with it and it's working.”

East Timor's President Jose Ramos-Horta:

“It is, no matter the causes of the loss of a human life, most serious when a human is life is lost in the hands of police, particularly when the person is unarmed but as serious as it may be, it happened once in the year, other than that our police behaviour has improved dramatically in the last few years.”

But more questions were raised about the police force’s conduct when a video emerged on YouTube.

It appears to show Timorese police officers hitting a lone protester in the presence of United Nations police.

The Timorese police Commander Longuinhos Monteiro again:

“You cannot be insisting us to be 100 percent professional and be angels. Not any police force in the world didn't commit any mistake always; I can prove it.”

At a ceremony on Saturday marking ten years since the establishment of East Timor's police force the country's Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao acknowledged that serious disciplinary problems are still damaging the public's view of the police.

But he praised the force for becoming a more credible institution and he said a new merit-based promotion system is making the force non-partisan and professional.

The government hopes the hand back of all police responsibility from the United Nations to the Timorese police will finish by the end of the year.

The President Jose Ramos-Horta says it can't happen soon enough.

“I want the country to have a quicker handover from the United Nations police to East Timor police responsibilities.”

The international crisis group has warned that the Timorese Government has promoted a paramilitary style of policing.

However, it argues that the UN handover should be speeded up because the UN taskforce has limited powers over East Timor's police force and has limited support from the government.

The President wants an expanded training role for neighbouring countries.

“In terms of the UN training, a lot is left to be desired because there are so many nationalities doing that training, imparting knowledge or experience from their respective countries.”

The UN's Police Commissioner in East Timor, Luis Carrilho, says so far the UN's handover to the Timorese force has been a success.

“Yes I believe that we will leave behind a credible police force.”

But the family of Kuka Lebre is not so sure.

The case of the shooting is now in the hands of East Timor's public prosecutors.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 07 April 2010 11:19 )  

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