Dili, 30 January 2009
Timor President silent after witnessing police bashing during international fishing competition
FRETILIN MP, member of the parliamentary defence, security and foreign affairs committee and former government minister Jose Teixeira today questioned why President Jose Ramos-Horta said and did nothing after witnessing an unprovoked brutal police assault on a contestant in a fishing competition promoted by the president.
Mr Teixeira said President Ramos-Horta saw police assault Mr Lhew Comacoshe, a 27 year old university student taking part in Timor Leste's inaugural International Fishing Competition on 27 November 2009, but remained silent until after FRETILIN MPs raised the incident in parliament this week and the media began asking questions.
Mr Comacoshe, a participant in the fishing competition, which attracted entrants from Australia and Asia, was punched, kicked and bashed with a rifle butt on a beach on Atauro Island, 25 kms off the coast of the capital Dili, in full view of hundreds of people.
Film of the assault which happened soon after President Ramos-Horta officially opened the competition has been posted on YouTube - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6R7uMaO0e_4
Mr Teixeira said Mr Comacoshe was apparently beaten because he held up a placard on which was written, “Fishing Group From Suco Maunroni, Sub-District of Atauro, District of Dili”, identifying from where his group of competitors were and which he intended to affix to their boat, but the police took objection to it without any explanation, and forcibly removed from his possession, afterwards assaulting him.
Mr Teixeira said police were now persecuting Mr Comacoshe and his family for daring to report the incident to the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice, the Attorney General and parliament.
"The assault on Mr Comacoshe partly reflects the gung-ho and very militaristic attitude introduced by the new police commander Longuinhos Monteiro, who appears bent on creating a 'shadow army'," Mr Teixeira said.
President Ramos-Horta reportedly told the Dili daily, Jornal Diario Nacional on January 29: "This poor Timorese fellow, was merely holding up a placard, I saw the police beat him but because it was far away I did not understand what was happening. Afterwards I heard that he was holding up a placard, I thought if it was a placard then let him do it, there is no need to beat him just because he was only holding up a placard."
Mr Teixeira said the president should not have remained silent about the incident, especially since Mr Comacoshe, personally delivered a written complaint regarding the incident to the President's office on 17 December last year, and then subsequently, on 23 December last his brother delivered a copy of the video to the President’s Office on his behalf.
"In an apparent act of revenge for having the temerity to lodge a complaint, police on 13 January evicted Comacoshe's law-abiding family from a state owned house they had lived in for six years. There was no formal notification from the government - the village chief and police turned up and threw their belongings out the door, after having threatened him with loaded weapons.
"If president Ramos-Horta had spoken up earlier it might have avoided reprisals against Comacoshe and his family, but the President obviously did not want to spoil the media glow generated by the international fishing competition organized by his office. Many people, the victim included have asked me, ‘Is this what it means to be a President for the for the poor and the weak, as he claims widely?’ I have to ask the same question."
Mr Teixeira said Mr Comacoshe's family had now sought refuge in Dili and have yet to receive any assistance from the government.
"Complaints of police brutality are happening with an unprecedented frequency and on an unprecedented scale. We have citizens making complaints almost every day now. In the past two weeks we received complaints about police joining in with martial arts groups and using violence against their rivals.
"Late last year in Uatolari, Viqueque district, police allegedly assaulted and tortured a number of young men. On 28 December 2009 police shot and killed an unarmed young musician at a party in Dili.
"There is something very wrong with the way police are being trained and commanded. Local media on January 27 reported the new police commander Longuinhos Monteiro as saying in regard to alleged criminal activity recently carried out in border districts by masked groups known as ninjas, 'Any Ninjas who want to take us on, your final stop will be Santacruz' cemetery.'
"Dressed in military style fatigues, wearing black gloves, carrying an automatic rifle and fully equipped with field battle vest Monteiro is personally leading the operation to search and arrest these alleged ninjas. Last year he established a special heavily armed police unit named the 'Public Order Battalion' and late last year attempted to enter into a contract to acquire hundreds of additional automatic rifles.
"The government pays lip service to 'community policing' but it is all about the use of force, force, force, relying on weapons, weapons, weapons. We already have an army, we do not need a shadow army. We have many professional and dedicated policemen and women who feel the same way we do and have asked us to speak up for them to change the direction of policing in this country. They want to serve their communities with pride and professionalism, and deserve our support," Mr Teixeira said.
He said FRETILIN was preparing to table the terms of reference for a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into police action over the last two years to establish whether there have been breaches of the law and what can be done in terms of improving police training and legal controls to make policing more community friendly and respecting of human rights.
For further information contact Jose Teixeira on +670 728 7080