PRESS BRIEFING BY UN POLICE COMMISSIONER IN TIMOR-LESTE
The newly appointed Police Commissioner for the United Nations mission in Timor-Leste, Sandra Peisley, described for correspondents the role of the United Nations Police, her focus as Commissioner, and the current security situation in the country at a Headquarters press briefing today.
Ms. Peisely, who assumed her duties on 23 June, said the United Nations Police (UNPOL) in Timor-Leste had a two-pronged role: it had an operational responsibility for law enforcement, as well as a responsibility for the development of the Timor-Leste local police service. In terms of development, UNPOL focused on training and providing advice and assistance to the Timor-Leste police force. Both formal training, at a police college, and operational “on the job” training were provided.
Timor-Leste was divided into 13 districts, she explained. The UNPOL had already handed over 11 of those districts, with the exception of Baucau and Dili. Those two districts were to be handed over between now and January 2004.
Her personal focus as Police Commissioner had been to look at the current infrastructure of the Timor-Leste police service, specifically what further work needed to be done to generate a solid middle management capability within the service. She would also work to ensure that the police service was not only professional, but also open, transparent and accountable.
Asked to describe the current security situation in Timor-Leste, she said it had been very quiet in the last three months. The problems experienced in Timor-Leste in December 2002 and January 2003 had not reoccurred. Some 80 per cent of the crime in the country took place in Dili. Compared to other countries, Timor-Leste had a low crime rate. The majority of the operational side of policing work in Timor-Leste focused on such crimes as assault, domestic violence and traffic violations.
In response to a question on recruitment for the police service, she said candidates were being recruited across the gamut of Timor-Leste’s population. The Government of Timor-Leste was recruiting from all the different bodies applying for police positions.
Was there any prejudice in the recruitment process? a correspondent asked. “Not at this point, and we don’t envisage that there will be”, she said. Obviously, different groups in the community made statements about their past and their involvement in previous years. That required a certain amount of checking.
Asked how, as a woman, the locals perceived her, Ms. Peisley said she had been in Timor-Leste for seven weeks and had, in that time, developed good relationships with non-governmental organizations, the community and the Government. In many countries, having a female police commissioner would raise a few eyebrows. She did not doubt that that had been part of the process since she had been there. However, the community was open to discussing issues of law enforcement and it was willing to participate in discussions on the type of service it wanted in Timor-Leste. The citizens of Timor-Leste were very open to dialogue and wanted to participate in discussions on how the service would eventually look.
Asked to describe her thoughts regarding the quest for a new police force in Iraq, she said it was a challenge to develop any police service. There would be challenges specific to Iraq, as well as challenges specific to Timor-Leste. “My focus at the moment was wholly and solely on Timor-Leste”, she said.
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