EWER Alert: Visit to scene of confrontation between PNTL and alleged Mauk Moruk supporters finds community living in fear

February 2, 2015

Saelari Suku in Laga Sub-District, Baucau District was the scene of a violent confrontation on 15 January between the Laga PNTL squadron and suspected supporters of Mauk Moruk, the former leader of the now-banned Konselu Revolusaun Maubere (KRM) group. The incident led to the capture of 2 PNTL members, who were released the next day, the burning of a PNTL vehicle and the theft of two police pistols. The government has demanded that the ex-leaders and ex-members of KRM surrender and be held accountable for the attack. A Joint Command Operation (KOK) involving the PNTL and F-FDTL is patrolling in and around Saelari and checkpoints have been established throughout Laga. Police are questioning anyone suspected to have been a member of KRM. At present, 11 suspects are in preventative detention in Becora prison in Dili.

Belun followed-up its monitoring of the situation with a visit to Saelari on 23-24 January. The visit found a community deeply affected by the events of the previous week and evidence of a newfound distrust among community members. The Xefe Suku of Saelari told Belun that, of the over 2000 people who live in the Suku, only a small percentage were involved in the incident. However, community members were accusing one another of being ex-members of KRM and were unsure who they could trust. The Xefe Suku Saelari affirmed: When we go to our fields, we must be careful and return home quickly before evening because we are afraid that the KRM group will attack us or members of the Joint Command Operation will suspect us of being KRM members. During the night we cannot walk freely outside as usual.

In another example, the family of one Mauk Moruk supporter who was accused of stealing a PNTL pistol during the confrontation on 15 January before fleeing had chosen to leave the suku. The ex-membera’s wife was taken to Baucau by the PNTL to be interviewed as part of the investigation into the confrontation, but instead of returning to her home in Saelari, she asked police to bring her and her children to her parents home in Luro, Lautein District. She was afraid to return home out of fear that ex-KRM members would accuse her of working with the police and that other community members would blame and shun her for her husband’s alleged involvement in the incident.


Belun and community members in Saelari are concerned that the current absence of social cohesion in the Suku might lead to future incidents. For this reason, Belun advances the following recommendations:

  1. The Department of Peacebuilding and Social Cohesion at the Ministry of Social Solidarity and the Department of Community Conflict Prevention at the Secretariat of State for Security should collaborate with the PNTL and civil society organizations, including Belun and the Laga Sub-District Conflict Prevention and Response Network, to prepare an action plan that will rebuild trust and social cohesion among community members in Saelari.
  2. The PNTL and F-FDTL, and specifically the Joint Operation Command (KOK), should hold regular dialogues with community members to explain the purpose of their operation, who it is targeting and how it is progressing, so as to improve and regularize communication with the community and minimize confusion.

Download the full Alert here.

Disclaimers: This publication is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of Belun and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.