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UN police serving in Timor-Leste awarded national medal of merit

United Nations police serving in Timor-Leste were honoured this week with the country’s medal of merit for their efforts to assist the fledgling nation consolidate peace and security.

Timorese President José Ramos Horta made the presentation in the capital, Dili, during the 12th anniversary celebration of the national police, known as the PNTL, on Tuesday.

There are some 1,200 UN Police (UNPOL) officers from more than 40 countries serving with the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). They help to maintain law and order, as well as build a professional police force in the country, which the UN shepherded to independence in 2002 after it broke away from Indonesia.

“The UN Police are proud of the work that they have done in Timor-Leste to ensure that the country’s police officers are true public servants,” said the UN Police Adviser, Ann-Marie Orler. “We are very honoured that the country’s President has recognized our efforts and awarded our police serving there with the national medal of merit.”

UNMIT’s Police Commissioner, Luis Miguel Carrilho, received the medal of merit on behalf of his officers, noting the UNPOL’s efforts in the country during the past months.

“Our role, the role of the United Nations Police, is to support the PNTL operationally and at the same time to enhance capacity building. There are areas where we’re working more closely: legislation, administration, training, discipline and operations,” he said.

UN Police assumed security functions in Timor-Leste following the violence that broke out in 2006, in which dozens of people were killed and 155,000 others, or 15 per cent of the population, were driven from their homes. It gradually began handing over policing duties to the PNTL, with the full transfer of all police operations taking place last March.

“We can say that since one year ago, during the resumption of police responsibilities by the PNTL all incidents that happened were properly managed by them,” said the Commissioner.

In February, the Security Council extended UNMIT’s mandate until the end of this year. Until its expected departure on 31 December, the mission will continue to assist with key tasks such as institutional development and capacity-building of the PNTL, as well as provide electoral assistance.

This week’s celebration comes ahead of the second round of the country’s presidential election, which is slated for 16 April. This will be followed by legislative polls at the end of June. In May, the country celebrates the tenth anniversary of the restoration of its independence.