Dili, May 7, 2010 — Twenty members of the National Police and over 500 citizens of Bidau-Santana sucos (village) in Dili, Timor-Leste took part in an ancient ceremony, called Tara Bandu, to establish a community-wide agreement for security. The ceremony was presided over by the President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, Jose Ramos Horta, General Commander of the National Police, Longinhos Monteiro, US Ambassador Hans Klemm, district officials, and community leaders.
The day-long ceremony was the first of its kind and organized by The Asia Foundation and supported by USAID. Traditionally, Tara Bandu is a way of protecting natural ecosystems and fills gaps in the formal legal system through the application of customary law. The ceremony addressed the community’s need for safety and security, by bringing together traditional and formal legal systems.
The Tara Bandu initiative came out of joint work done by The Asia Foundation and the National Police of Timor-Leste to form community police councils in Dili, Baucau, and over a dozen sucos over the last 14 months. Currently, these councils with police, community leaders, women representatives, and elders meet every other week to discuss issues which have a direct impact on security.
“The principles of community policing and the principles of Tara Bandu are very similar: They are both based on the idea that many of the problems that exist in the community can be prevented by citizens themselves,” observed The Asia Foundation Program Manager, Liam Chinn.
After ten years of independence, there are signs that events like the Tara Bandu ceremony—led hand in hand with the community and the police—are ways to move forward in the transition of state institutions into legitimate instruments of governance.
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