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Gang fights, stoning... been there, seen that for this police officer

Last S'pore contingent to Timor Leste returns with stories of danger and hardship

Published on Oct 28, 2012 6:00 AM
 
(From left) Acting Deputy Superintendent of Police Royston Png, 38; Staff Sergeant Jashuva Prasada, 32; and Acting Superintendent of Police Lee Li Ping, 36, were part of a 10-man Singaporean contingent to the UN peacekeeping force in Timor Leste. They served for a year and returned last Thursday with a medal from the Timor Leste government. -- ST PHOTO: NURIA LING

Police officer Lee Li Ping has had her vehicle stoned, experienced the eerie silence before a gang fight, and gone for days without showering.

The acting superintendent of police was the commander of Singapore's last contingent to the United Nations peacekeeping force in Timor Leste from October last year until this month.

The 36-year-old was also part of the first contingent that served for a year on the UN Integrated Mission in Timor Leste in 2006.

Speaking to The Sunday Times on her return home last Thursday, after the year-long tour, Acting Supt Lee said one incident stood out in her mind as unforgettable.

 
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Background story

POLICING TIMOR LESTE

Since 1989, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) has actively participated in 10 United Nations missions.

The longest deployment the SPF has ever served was in Timor-Leste, since 1999, for a total of three missions, namely:

  • United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) from 1999 to 2002;
  • United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) from 2002 to 2005; and
  • United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) from November 2006 to October 2012.

Since 1999, a total of nearly 250 officers have been deployed there. In February 2010, the

UN Security Council issued a resolution permitting the UNMIT to reduce its staffing levels in order to facilitate the gradual handover of primary policing responsibilities to the national police force, or Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL) through a phased approach.

With the resumption of policing responsibilities by the PNTL from the United Nations Police since March last year, crime rates have remained relatively stable and the PNTL has successfully provided security coverage for the three rounds of elections this year.

Following the peaceful elections and the establishment of a new government, the Timorese government is satisfied that significant progress has been made in the areas identified in the UNMIT Transitional process, therefore an international peacekeeping presence is no longer required.