Transcript of UNMIT Press Conference

24 Dec 2008

Transcript of UNMIT Press Conference

Transcript of UNMIT Press Conference
22 December 2008, 10:30am
PNTL Headquarters, Dili, Timor-Leste

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of a press conference by Acting Police Commissioner Juan Carlos Arevalo and PNTL Commander Afonso de Jesus.

UNPOL Commander Juan Carlos Arevalo: In 2008 we saw a remarkable reduction of incidents. When compared to 2007 you can see how most of the categories have seen reductions. We noticed a good decrease of group incidents that has brought peace and we would like to congratulate the youth of this country for learning how to address their concerns in a more peaceful manner. This is good news for us as it shows the commitment and the strong will of the Timorese to build a better future for their country.

We would also like to congratulate the government and the Timorese people for the process of relocation of IDPs that has taken place in 2008. By contributing to a peaceful reintegration of the IDPs, we are also contributing to a peaceful Timor-Leste.

We have noticed a remarkable progress in the certification process of the PNTL. Up to now, we have almost 90% of PNTL officers fully certified. We would also like to congratulate the Timorese people for their contribution during the Weapons' Collection Campaign. Particularly because this an important factor to contribute to peace in the country. For next year, we are trying to encourage the resumption of command for the PNTL to be the ones in charge of law enforcement and police activities.

We are all working together and we are confident that we will receive from the Timorese Govnerment the strategic guidelines on what is needed in this country and how to proceed to fulfil those objectives. I would like to congratulate the members of the PNTL for the good performance that they have shown and their interest and commitment to be responsible for police activities in this country. Although some police members commit some mistakes, as is normal in any police service, the individual readiness of PNTL officers, I think is commendable. Once the PNTL officers reach a good level of individual readiness, one of the most important challenges will be to get institutional readiness. And to get this, we all have to work together. Thank you.

Afonso de Jesus: Thank you for this opportunity. A lot has been presented by Mr. Carlos Arevalo. He has been excellent in carrying out the tasks together with us. Today is his last day working with us.

For this year, the usual cases involved domestic violence and assault which are cases that the Police encounter every day. In the districts, everything is going well. This is our main concern and in future we have to improve the cooperation between the community and the police.

This year's crime statistics are slightly higher than last year. This is normal. However, there have been no cases serious enough to affect the stability of country.

There are also increasing numbers of traffic violations that occur mainly in Dili.

Q: During the time that UNPOL has been here, how many cases have more or less been resolved?

Juan Carlos Arevalo: We have decentralised the activities of investigation in the country and we have also the advantage because the Prosecutor's office has also decentralised the files. There are however some cases that remain unsolved due in part to the lack of cooperation from witnesses and victims to provide information about these cases. We sometimes have cases when the victim does not want to reveal the identity of the offender, so we cannot prosecute the offender. Sometimes we have a similar situation with the witnesses when they don't want to reveal details of crimes because they don't think it is their business.

Q: What kind of cases were there in 2008?

Afonso de Jesus: Assault cases were the highest, around 38% out of total cases been registered this year from January 2008. The second biggest rate of incidence was domestic violence. Some of these cases have been submitted already to the Prosecutor General's office. Currently, there are 1621 cases registered with the Prosecutor General. Some have been just resolved at the district level and we have closed 905 cases.

Q: Which district had the highest number of cases?

Afonso de Jesus: Dili District.

Q: Why do so many foreign vehicles run freely in the town?

Afonso de Jesus: Police cannot not capture any vehicle with legal documents. Police cannot impede the entry of any vehicle in Timor-Leste. Police can only carry out checks on vehicle documents. If they are involved in crime, then the police has competency to take action on it.

Regarding the border. There are 21 posts in the border (Oecussi, Maliana and Covalima) with only 250 personnel to man these posts. This is not enough to cover all border areas. But, we make the effort to build good cooperation with communities along the border and as such, we have successfully arrested some people who have illegally tried to pass the border and deported them. We are aware that the border is very long and that our personnel cannot cover it all.

Q: Do you have any plans to recruit more people?

Afonso de Jesus: We are thinking of how to deploy more along the border. We keep thinking of it as well as worrying about the low number of service in the districts. Perhaps by 2010 and 2011 we will be able to have new recruits.

Q: What are the obstacles you faced while encountering witness who did not want to act as witnesses?

Afonso de Jesus: We follow the legal procedures. We consult with various parties in order to give the information and receive the information- but this is difficult. People are afraid because no law protects the witness. If there was a law for witness protection, then I feel that this would assist the process.

Some people demand that we carry capture warrants. In other cases we should bring the capture mandate. However, if it is just to collect the information we don't need to bring the warrant letter.

Q: What kind efforts do you make gather information?

Afonso de Jesus: Our efforts are focused on increasing community police in order to explain to community members and to give information regarding the existence of legal procedures. Through this process, the community will begin to understand. So many times, community members have no information or understanding regarding such issues. This is our effort in the coming days to carry out things well and to ensure that we have good cooperation from the community.

Q: What kind of preparations are you making for Christmas and New Years?

Afonso de Jesus: Starting from October this year we declared state 2 alerts. We are conducting check points, looking for vehicle with machetes, vehicles without proper documents among others. We are expecting your support. Despite our preparations, we will be on alert 24 hours a day up to 5 January 2009.

Juan Carlos Arevalo: I would like to thank the Timorese people for letting me be in this country and for allowing me to contribute to the peace here. I hope that the Timorese will continue in the correct path as has been shown in 2008. I go back confident that the progress shown in 2008 will continue and that we will altogether overcome what challenges lie ahead.

Q: When a UN staff member commits a crime, they are never punished. Why is this?

Juan Carlos Arevalo: It's not that they are not punished. It takes a different procedure. Being international staff working away from their countries means that they are subject to international law. So these regulations establish that these people cannot be processed as anyone else- however this does not mean that they won't be prosecuted. We have had already several cases of people who committed misbehaviours. When they returned home, we initiated an investigation by the UN in their home countries. The result has been that either they go to prison, pay a fine or get dismissed. No immunity is granted.

Afonos de Jesus: For this whole year, the situation has remained calm. This is not due to the efforts of the PNTL but of all communities, the ISF, UNPOL and F-FDTL to create stability this past year. We hope that we can all use this opportunity to celebrate Christmas and New Years well and successfully. Our political leaders gave support to all of us and we hope that in 2009, our political leaders continue to support us.

On behalf of this Institution, I would like to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.