Shooting in Dili

I'm not on the ground in Dili and I'm getting my info from a UN press release at this time, so I don't have all the details yet. There was a shooting on Monday in the Comoro neighbourhood of Dili. Supposedly there was some kind of situation to which local officers were called, one of whom is alleged to have shot someone dead.

There are investigations ongoing, so it's difficult to make a judgment, but a Timorese police officer shooting someone dead is terrible news. Another person was shot and injured. The fact that the police have guns is bad in itself. And this is the police force the UN is handing back after "training" them.

If you live in Dili, you will have seen the way some Timorese police officers deal with volatile situations. They sometimes fire warning shots, or else just hit people with batons. I remember being at the finish line of the Tour de Timor and seeing officers kick people, even children, out of the way.

What kind of precedent does this set for the Timorese people now? They see their national police force using guns and shooting people. Of course, we don't know the full details of the situation that unraveled that night. Maybe the PNTL had guns pulled on them, but violence in that area is more likely to involve rocks or maybe knives.

Not a good way to end the year. No word yet on who was killed.

Addendum: The pieces are starting to come together. It sounds like there was a brawl at a wedding and police fired live rounds into the crowd. A 25-year-old man called Kuka was killed.

It will be interesting to see how Longuinhos deals with this. He does seem to think he is in control of a military force, after all.

Earlier this month, Tempo Semanal reported that a PNTL officer shot shot a youth in the chest at a party in Dili. The same story went on to say that the Timorese police force had requested more weapons, a request that was turned down by the government.

The idea of putting guns in the hands of inexperienced, untrained, immature police officers is frightening. There needs to be tighter gun control. I don't want to hear about investigations into this or that, or empty promises — they need to get guns off the street.

This is a real test for the PNTL and the UN. Just recently, Atul Khare was talking about the importance of police accountability and disciplinary measures against officers who violate the penal code.

Addendum two: A slightly edited account from Dili:

Many in Dili were prepared for possible clashes this morning at, during and after Kuka's funeral, funeral procession and his sad burial. The prime minister was in lockdown with immense security around his home on and off all day. The PNTL have so far kept their distance. President Jose Ramos-Horta has condemned the tragic and unnecessary killing of this young, talented and deeply loved university student and vowed there will be consequences for those PNTL involved.

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