Dili, January 24, 2014 — On January 6, the Timor-Leste National Police (PNTL), with support from HAKOHAK, the community-oriented policing program, hosted a ceremony to swear in the new Liquica District Steering Committee for Community Policing. The Asia Foundation implements the HAKOHAK program, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the New Zealand Aid Programme. HAKOHAK has established 36 Community Police Councils (CPCs) at the suku (village) level in Baucau, Aileu, Manatuto and Bobanaro districts, engaging over 10,000 citizens and more than 700 PNTL officers in the past year. These CPCs have helped support the resolution of over 200 disputes in the program’s target districts in 2013.
HAKOHAK was developed together with the PNTL to help introduce the concept of CPCs and provide technical support for operationalizing CPCs and integrating their structure into the PNTL. The success of these councils is dependent on the commitment and vision of District Commanders such as Ms. Natarcia Martins, the District Commander of Liquica, who must exercise creativity in adapting and developing community policing concepts to best suit the security needs of their respective districts.
PNTL General Commander, Longinhos Monteiro, Timor-Leste Defense Force (F-FDTL) Commander, Major General Lere Anan Timur, Mr. Scott Ticknor, ChargĂ© d’Affaires for the United States Embassy in Timor-Leste and other distinguished guests were in attendance, marking the importance of the event.
In his remarks, PNTL General Commander Longinhos affirmed the PNTL’s commitment to community policing principles, and expressed his support for the District Steering Committee in Liquica to help foster improved community-police relations and enhanced security in the district. The General Commander further noted that “In 2014, the PNTL plans to assign one designated community-police officer in each suku across the country.”
Major General Lere congratulated members of the District Steering Committee and emphasized the importance of shared responsibility for maintaining security in Timor-Leste. In his remarks, he reminded those gathered that “Security is no longer only the responsibility of police, but is the responsibility of all people, especially community leaders such as suku chiefs.”
Addressing the guests in Tetum, Country Representative for The Asia Foundation Ms. Susan Marx praised the PNTL’s commitment to community policing and proactive engagement with communities to help prevent and mitigate conflict and social problems.
“Community Police Councils and District Steering Committees help provide the framework for working with communities through joint problem-solving, and support the five-year strategy to increase trust and confidence in the PNTL through Visibility, Involvement, and Professional Response,” Ms. Marx explained.
However, she also highlighted that there remains much work to be done, particularly in assisting the PNTL to reach the more remote areas to provide a stronger sense of security. This need was noted in the Foundation’s 2013 Survey of Community-Police Perceptions, which showed an increasing trust in the PNTL compared to 2008, but also indicated that more than 50% of the population still feel “very concerned” about their safety.