Research Report - Perceptions of Timor-Leste’s Military and Police Ten Years after the 2006 Crisis
One decade after they were central actors in a violent political-military crisis, Timor-Leste’s military – the FALINTIL-Forsa Defeza Timor-Leste (F-FDTL) – and police – the Polísia Nasionál Timor-Leste (PNTL) – today enjoy a broad degree of acceptance and legitimacy among the East Timorese populace, according to a research report published by Belun in Dili on Friday, September 22nd. However, the report – which is entitled From Kindergarten to High School: Perceptions of Timor-Leste’s Military and Police Ten Years after the 2006 Crisis – also cautions that the conduct of personnel from both institutions has not yet met public expectations, and concludes that publicly addressing misconduct and abuse will significantly enhance popular perceptions of both institutions going forward.

Please access the full report here.

The report, which offers 34 detailed recommendations to the F-FDTL, PNTL and other relevant state institutions, is the culmination of a three-year, mixed-methods research project carried out by Belun, an East Timorese non-governmental organization, with technical support from Columbia University’s Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, and financial support from the International Development Research Centre. Field research undertaken for this project represents the most extensive consultation of the East Timorese population about their perceptions and expectations of their military and police since the departure of the United Nations mission in 2012. The report’s data was collected from 39 focus group discussions and 35 interviews in urban and rural areas across the country, from nationally-representative perception surveys conducted by Belun and The Asia Foundation, and from monitoring reports generated by Belun’s Conflict Early Warning, Early Response system. According to the report, most East Timorese respondents perceived that the F-FDTL and PNTL were immature in 2006, when they played a central role in the crisis, and that, while they have developed significantly since then, they are still not fully mature. Importantly, however, few participants believed that another crisis such as that of 2006 could occur again, and the majority of the respondents felt positive about the ability of both the F-FDTL and PNTL to be resilient to future challenges. The 83-page report organizes the public’s perceptions of their country's military and police into four categories:
  1. Institutional form, or what the institutions are and how they are organized (e.g. their institutional structures).
  • Generally, respondents said that Timor-Leste needed a military and most recognized the authority of the police to address crimes in the penal code (‘public crimes’), though many still preferred instead to engage traditional justice actors, especially to address cases of domestic violence. Furthermore, a significant minority still primarily judged the legitimacy of the F-FDTL and PNTL based on the personnel within each institution (e.g. FALINTIL veterans within the F-FDTL), or did not understand or support the principle of civilian supremacy over the military.
  1. Function, or what the institutions are doing (i.e. their roles).
  • Generally, respondents understood and agreed with the primary functions of the F-FDTL and PNTL to, respectively, protect the country from external threats and maintain law and order. However, a significant minority were either confused by or unhappy with the overlapping of F-FDTL and PNTL functions, including the military’s secondary function in supporting the PNTL to maintain internal security, the perceived militarization of the police and the difficulty they had in visually distinguishing F-FDTL and PNTL personnel.
  1. Performance, or whether the institutions are carrying out their functions effectively and successfully.
  • Generally, respondents were satisfied with the performance of the F-FDTL, who they deemed to be an effective deterrent to external threat, and the PNTL, who were perceived to be effective at maintaining law and order most of the time. However, respondents were split about whether the PNTL could be relied upon to respond quickly enough to public disturbances or to be visible enough to deter violence, though many acknowledged that the PNTL's performance was often hampered by insufficient resources or poor infrastructure.
  1. Conduct, or how the institutions carry out their functions (e.g. in a disciplined manner or not).
  • Of the four categories, public perception was by far most negative about the conduct of F-FDTL and PNTL personnel, including about the adherence of some soldiers and police officers to written rules, such as the law or institutional policies, and unwritten rules, such as societal norms for social interaction. Widespread concern was voiced about perceived abuse of power and use of excessive force during their interventions, especially during the 2015 Joint F-FDTL-PNTL operation in Baucau municipality, when the use of force, harassment and poor treatment of women were perceived to intensify. While the conduct of the PNTL’s Village Police Officers was widely praised, the report concluded that many of the gains in perceptions of the police made by the Village Police Officers were likely being undone by the perceived poor conduct of other police units.
In order to address the above issues and others summarized in the report, Belun offers recommendations aimed, among other objectives, at:
  • improving public confidence in the future leaders of the F-FDTL
  • reducing commentary from the F-FDTL leadership about civilian affairs in the media
  • clarifying the functions of both institutions
  • limiting the use of the F-FDTL in security operations within Timor-Leste’s borders
  • ensuring the adequate resourcing of the PNTL and enhancing the population’s access to police assistance
  • encouraging the development and use of new monitoring and evaluation metrics for police performance
  • re-orienting the focus of the PNTL to its community policing mandate
  • reducing perceptions of partiality in both institutions’ day-to-day operations and recruitment processes
  • overhauling the oversight, complaints and internal disciplinary mechanisms of both institutions

Please access the full report with complete recommendations here.

For more information, please contact:
  • Luis da Costa Ximenes – luis.belun@gmail.com or +670 7723 4406
  • Jesuina Maria do Rosario Abel – jesuina.belun@gmail.com or +670 7700 3952
  • Bertanizo Guro da Costa – bertanizo.belun@gmail.com or +670 7766 8143
  • Zachary Abugov – zach.belun@gmail.com
EWER: Situation Review August 2017
In August, Belun's Early Warning, Early Response (EWER) system continued monitoring for violent incidents and changes to the security situation in Timor-Leste. Field monitors recorded 70 incidents, a significant reduction on the monthly average of 132. However, one serious incident occurred in Dili following a demonstration outside parliament where 7 people were injured, 12 cars were destroyed by stones, 13 students were arrested and tear gas was used by police officers. Data also showed 3 violent incidents related to MAGs, including one involving a government official. For more details and a statistical breakdown of all incidents recorded in August, please read the Full Situation Review.
EWER Press Release: Key project supporting Belun’s EWER system, Civil Society Monitoring of Security Sector Development (CSM-SSD) as funded by USAID, to close
A key program supporting Timor-Leste’s Early Warning, Early Warning (EWER) system will close next week on 12 September. Through USAID’s CSM-SSD program, Belun’s Early Warning, Early Response (EWER) system ran from 13 September 2013 - 12 September 2016. Belun worked in partnership with Fundasaun Mahein to monitor for violent incidents and changes to human security. The project was extended by one year for monitoring electoral violence due to the Suku, Presidential and Parliamentary elections from 2016-17. For more information please click the link: Press Release
Electoral Violence Monitoring Report for Timor-Leste’s 2017 Parliamentary Election
To monitor electoral violence during the 2017 parliamentary election, Belun’s Early Warning Early Response (EWER) system or AtReS collected data “before”, “during” and “after” the election. This was followed by compilation, data analysis and report writing wherein recommendations were identified for submission to the government, particularly to the National Election Commission or Comissão Nacional de Eleições, Election Administration Technical Secretariate and other relevant institutions including the national parliament, the Ministry of State Administration and the office of the Ombudsman for improvement of future elections. Based on Belun’s analysis of monitoring results, the number of electoral violence incidents registered was 52 during the consolidation, campaign and election period, most of which were categorized as not too serious, but continually asks that the relevant institutions and political parties follow up on the recommendations that have been presented in this report. To read the full report please go to link below: Electoral Violence Monitoring Report for Timor-Leste’s 2017 Parliamentary Election.
EWER: Situation Review July 2017
In July, Belun’s Early Warning, Early Response (EWER) system continued monitoring for violent incidents and changes to the security situation in Timor-Leste. Field monitors recorded 128 incidents and 48 incidents occurred during the parliamentary election period, including the campaign and voting day. Data also showed there were significant increases in some administrative posts of Baukau Vila and Laga, Baukau Municipality, Oesilo Administrative Post, Oekusi Special Economic Region (RAEOA) and Remexio Administrative Post, Aileu Municipality. For more details and a statistical breakdown of all incidents recorded in July, please read the Full Situation Review.
Research Report - Perceptions of Timor-Leste’s Military and Police Ten Years after the 2006 Crisis
One decade after they were central actors in a violent political-military crisis, Timor-Leste’s military – the FALINTIL-Forsa Defeza Timor-Leste (F-FDTL) – and police – the Polísia Nasionál Timor-Leste (PNTL) – today enjoy a broad degree of acceptance and legitimacy among the East Timorese populace, according to a research report published by Belun in Dili on Friday, September 22nd. However, the report – which is entitled From Kindergarten to High School: Perceptions of Timor-Leste’s Military and Police Ten Years after the 2006 Crisis – also cautions that the conduct of personnel from both institutions has not yet met public expectations, and concludes that publicly addressing misconduct and abuse will significantly enhance popular perceptions of both institutions going forward.

Please access the full report here.

The report, which offers 34 detailed recommendations to the F-FDTL, PNTL and other relevant state institutions, is the culmination of a three-year, mixed-methods research project carried out by Belun, an East Timorese non-governmental organization, with technical support from Columbia University’s Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, and financial support from the International Development Research Centre. Field research undertaken for this project represents the most extensive consultation of the East Timorese population about their perceptions and expectations of their military and police since the departure of the United Nations mission in 2012. The report’s data was collected from 39 focus group discussions and 35 interviews in urban and rural areas across the country, from nationally-representative perception surveys conducted by Belun and The Asia Foundation, and from monitoring reports generated by Belun’s Conflict Early Warning, Early Response system. According to the report, most East Timorese respondents perceived that the F-FDTL and PNTL were immature in 2006, when they played a central role in the crisis, and that, while they have developed significantly since then, they are still not fully mature. Importantly, however, few participants believed that another crisis such as that of 2006 could occur again, and the majority of the respondents felt positive about the ability of both the F-FDTL and PNTL to be resilient to future challenges. The 83-page report organizes the public’s perceptions of their country's military and police into four categories:
  1. Institutional form, or what the institutions are and how they are organized (e.g. their institutional structures).
  • Generally, respondents said that Timor-Leste needed a military and most recognized the authority of the police to address crimes in the penal code (‘public crimes’), though many still preferred instead to engage traditional justice actors, especially to address cases of domestic violence. Furthermore, a significant minority still primarily judged the legitimacy of the F-FDTL and PNTL based on the personnel within each institution (e.g. FALINTIL veterans within the F-FDTL), or did not understand or support the principle of civilian supremacy over the military.
  1. Function, or what the institutions are doing (i.e. their roles).
  • Generally, respondents understood and agreed with the primary functions of the F-FDTL and PNTL to, respectively, protect the country from external threats and maintain law and order. However, a significant minority were either confused by or unhappy with the overlapping of F-FDTL and PNTL functions, including the military’s secondary function in supporting the PNTL to maintain internal security, the perceived militarization of the police and the difficulty they had in visually distinguishing F-FDTL and PNTL personnel.
  1. Performance, or whether the institutions are carrying out their functions effectively and successfully.
  • Generally, respondents were satisfied with the performance of the F-FDTL, who they deemed to be an effective deterrent to external threat, and the PNTL, who were perceived to be effective at maintaining law and order most of the time. However, respondents were split about whether the PNTL could be relied upon to respond quickly enough to public disturbances or to be visible enough to deter violence, though many acknowledged that the PNTL's performance was often hampered by insufficient resources or poor infrastructure.
  1. Conduct, or how the institutions carry out their functions (e.g. in a disciplined manner or not).
  • Of the four categories, public perception was by far most negative about the conduct of F-FDTL and PNTL personnel, including about the adherence of some soldiers and police officers to written rules, such as the law or institutional policies, and unwritten rules, such as societal norms for social interaction. Widespread concern was voiced about perceived abuse of power and use of excessive force during their interventions, especially during the 2015 Joint F-FDTL-PNTL operation in Baucau municipality, when the use of force, harassment and poor treatment of women were perceived to intensify. While the conduct of the PNTL’s Village Police Officers was widely praised, the report concluded that many of the gains in perceptions of the police made by the Village Police Officers were likely being undone by the perceived poor conduct of other police units.
In order to address the above issues and others summarized in the report, Belun offers recommendations aimed, among other objectives, at:
  • improving public confidence in the future leaders of the F-FDTL
  • reducing commentary from the F-FDTL leadership about civilian affairs in the media
  • clarifying the functions of both institutions
  • limiting the use of the F-FDTL in security operations within Timor-Leste’s borders
  • ensuring the adequate resourcing of the PNTL and enhancing the population’s access to police assistance
  • encouraging the development and use of new monitoring and evaluation metrics for police performance
  • re-orienting the focus of the PNTL to its community policing mandate
  • reducing perceptions of partiality in both institutions’ day-to-day operations and recruitment processes
  • overhauling the oversight, complaints and internal disciplinary mechanisms of both institutions

Please access the full report with complete recommendations here.

For more information, please contact:
  • Luis da Costa Ximenes – luis.belun@gmail.com or +670 7723 4406
  • Jesuina Maria do Rosario Abel – jesuina.belun@gmail.com or +670 7700 3952
  • Bertanizo Guro da Costa – bertanizo.belun@gmail.com or +670 7766 8143
  • Zachary Abugov – zach.belun@gmail.com