27 March 2011 The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Timor-Leste on Sunday handed over policing duties to the country's national force, which will be fully responsible for maintaining law and order nationwide beginning tomorrow.
The handover from the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) to the Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL) took place in the capital, Dili, at a ceremony celebrating the 11th anniversary of the national police force.
The PNTL started resuming policing responsibilities almost two years ago in the district of Lautém. Since then, it has resumed command in nearly all districts and units with no increases in crime rates or public order incidents, according to a news release issued by UNMIT.
“PNTL and UNMIT have worked together for more than four years to rebuild and develop PNTL's abilities to maintain the rule of law in Timor-Leste,” said Ameerah Haq, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNMIT.
“We will continue to work side-by-side. However, PNTL will be squarely in the driver's seat, and the UN will focus on providing the training and support Timor-Leste's police service needs to further strengthen its capabilities over the long term,” she added.
Ms. Haq also noted that the resumption of policing responsibility by PNTL at this time has the advantage of enabling the force to assume its role before next year's presidential and parliamentary elections and well before the anticipated withdrawal of the UN mission at the end of 2012.
Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão voiced his appreciation to all those who made it possible for the PNTL to resume policing responsibility from the UN mission, which assumed authority for policing at the request of the Government of in 2006 after a period of instability. “I extend my thanks to the United Nations and the international community for its assistance in strengthening our nation's policing capabilities.”
UNMIT was set up in 2006 after an outbreak of deadly violence to replace several earlier missions in the small South-East Asian country that the world body shepherded to independence in 2002 after it broke away from Indonesia.
It will maintain a police presence of up to 1,280 personnel to support the PNTL until after the 2012 elections, when the mission is planning to withdraw from Timor-Leste.
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