Killing Kuka: Timorese Youth Gunned Down

On Monday 28 December Kuka Lebre was shot and killed, and 2009 ended in tragedy for the Lebre family.

Baldir Cesar do Nascimento Lebre Correia, known by his friends and family as “Kuka”, was just 25 years old.

It is bitter irony that Kuka survived the Santa Cruz massacre as a 7 year old in 1991.  During this event 200-300 protesters were gunned down and killed at a funeral procession for another young man, killed by the police of the occupying power – President Suharto's Indonesia.  Having survived this ordeal and living to see independence from Indonesia, Kuka fell victim to his own community's police service.

Kuka Lebre 1984-2009

Kuka Lebre 1984-2009

Since the Indonesian invasion in 1975 a lot of young people have suffered from violent death in the former Portuguese colony of Timor-Leste, but Kuka's passing, while mundane in some ways, is unique in others.

The blogosphere first became aware of Kuka's death when Timor-Leste's largest Opposition Party, the Frente Revolucionária de Timor-Leste Independente (FRETILIN) issued a press release via its Parliamentary bench blog, Bancada FRETILIN, calling for an investigation into a possible police shooting.

This press release, issued on Tuesday 29 December 2009.

Tuir informasaun neebe bancada parlamentar FRETILIN simu, ohin dader jovem ida mate tanba hetan tiru horikalan iha insidente violensia neebe mosu iha festa ida nia laran iha salaun Delta Nova, Delta Comoro, Dili. Jovem ida tan hetan tiru kanek no baixa hela iha Hospital Nasional Guido Valadares iha Dili.  Iha tempo hanesan agentes PNTL tenke tu’un ba fatin neeba halo intervensaun atu hapara konflitu violente neebe mosu iha festa fatin.

According to information that the FRETILIN bench has received this morning one youth was killed last evening as a result of being shot during a violent incident during a party at the Delta Nova Rooms, Delta Comoro, Dili. One other youth was shot and wounded and remains in Guido Valadares National Hospital Dili.

The press release continued by stating that:

Ita hare ona to’o ohin loron katak investigasaun barak ba atuasaun polisial la lao to’o hotu, la iha kredibilidade, no la iha resultadu ba familia no vitima sira.

Until the present day we have witnessed that many investigations into police actions do not reach completion, lack credibility, and provide no results for victims and their families.

On New Year's Day 2010 the Timor Lorosea Nacao blog posted press coverage from one of Dili's big daily newspapers on Kuka's death.  In this posting the Timor Post describes what are the reported circumstance of Kuka's killing.  While the investigation is under way it appears as though Kuka was shot by Timorese police (PNTL) officers responding to a violent clash at the Delta Nova party/conference rooms in western Dili.

Interestingly, the Delta Nova is where well heeled Timorese have wedding parties and other special events – suggesting it was an important crowd of people present.  Kuka was also the son of an important and well known family based in Bemori, central Dili. In a strange twist of fate Kuka is the nephew of Fransisco Guterres, Secretary of State for Security – the politician responsible for the police.

The Timor Post, as put online by Timor Lorosae Nacao, features this headline,

Baldir Mate ho Bala Polisia: Familia Ejiji Team Investigasaun Independente

Baldir Dead by Police Bullet: Family Demands Independent Investigation Team

The story states that at 2300 28 December Kuka was shot during a violent incident in which police had been called to restore order.  According to the report a police officer shot the unarmed Kuka during the affair.  Despite being shot in the stomach Kuka survived the initial wound but was not however taken immediately to hospital as the police had blockaded the premises. According to an interview with Kuka's brother, the Timor Post reports that Kuka was eventually taken to the national hospital at 2355 but died on the operating table at approximately 0130 29 December.

Dili District Commander Pedro Belo later confirmed that a police officer had in fact shot Kuka, and the Secretary of State for Security Fransisco Guterres announced an investigation. Accident, unprofessional or malicious act  – the matter of PNTL carrying, pointing and firing weapons without any consequence, while not common, is regular in Timor-Leste.

On 4 December 2009 Tempo Semanal, a national weekly newspaper, video blogged an interview with a very annoyed maverick FRETILIN Member of Parliament, David Ximenes.  Ximenes was angry over the fact that a PNTL officer had shot and seriously injured a youth a party the evening before.

David Ximenes

David Ximenes

The matter of how the Timorese police procures, stores, manages and uses its firearms is of longstanding and contentious debate in Timor-Leste.  Critically, when weapons are misused penalties are generally not forthcoming.

On 28 November 2002 PNTL shot and killed a youth at a demonstration outside the main police station in the eastern town of Baucau.  A week later on 4 December 2002 a riot occured in Dili and several people were shot dead by PNTL.  In 2006 PNTL and rogue elements of PNTL shot and killed a number of people in the Political Crisis of that year. Few if any police officers have been penalised for any of these, and other similar events.

One has to question if the killing of Kuka, a prominent and popular youth, will cause the Timorese establishment to question the matter of how guns are managed in Timor-Leste.  It would appear from the level of concern that it might.

A Twitterer observed that both President Jose Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao met with Kuka's family.

PM and President Meet Victims Family

PM and President Meet Victim's Family

Interestingly,  the same twitterer and other sources say that President Jose Ramos-Horta suggested that the Government could be sued if the officer is found at fault.

President: Family Can Sue

President: Family Can Sue

Below: Some photos from Kuka's family home before the funeral.  They tell a story of public attitudes towards the police in Timor-Leste.

Police Your Mentality is Like An Animal

Police Your Mentality is Like An Animal

The State of Timor Buys Guns and Kills the People

The State of Timor Buys Guns and Kills the People

What are you Doing UNPOL? (UNPOL= United Nations Police)

What are you Doing UNPOL? (UNPOL= United Nations Police)

Photos from the Facebook page of FRETILIN Member of Parliament Jose Teixiera


  • Rija

    Greetings my friend Timorese,
    I feel sorry for your land that’s under occupation by the British/the Aussies troops. These occupiers are very corrupt and very cruel too.
    I am demanding the withdrawal of Australian/British soldiers from ET and I am demanding punishment for all who help the colonial powers.
    Free East Timor/Support Integasi Indonesia

  • There are no British soldiers in Timor-Leste, and the Australian soldiers in the country are there at the express and regular invitation of the Government of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.

  • Rija

    Australian soldiers and New Zealand soldiers are actually part of the British Empire. Their queen are Elizabeth, the Queen of England. So basically, Britain is the real ruler in Timor-Leste (East Timor).
    Australia and New Zealand are the creation of British Empire in early 20th century.
    Britain is the master in the art of divide and rule.
    The Government needs to demand a withdrawal of these British soldiers and stop the misery for the Timorese.

  • Rija

    Dear Keta Haluha,
    The government of TL/ET has no choice but to invite them. The Brits/the Aus has the supreme military and political advantage of the govern. The economy of TL/ET was controlled by them. The Pres and PM are protected by them.

  • Rija

    Timor Leste government are very corrupt too. They let British/Aussie govt. take most of the oil revenue. Half goes directly to Australia and the other half mostly to pay these white soldiers.

  • zen

    Support Integrasi Indonesia?

    Um no loser, if the East Timorese wanted to remain part of Indonesia, we would’ve voted so in the 1999 referendum!

    Yes many in East Timorese government are corrupt, but than again, it’s newly independent, and it doesn’t take 1 day for everything to normalize and get back to normal. There are bound to be trials and tribulations. It’s a work in progress!

    Indonesia, independent since 1945?… and still corrupt with inequality rampant.. I think I’ve made enough statement to rebuke what you have had to say!

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