Stepping out of the MI-8 United Nations helicopter in the Liquica district of Timor-Leste and seeing a long line of Timorese police officers standing at attention, and next to them United Nations police officers from 12 countries demonstrating with their stature and faces how proud they are of the accomplishments they have helped to make, is thrilling.
The Liquica part of East Timor (Timor-Leste) was ransacked and razed in 1999 following the referendum. With a population of some 55,000 people covering 543 square kilometres, Liquica is a picturesque district that borders the Savu Sea and views the Ombai Straight where the Savu and Banda Seas come together. Almost no structures and no official buildings were untouched in the ransacking. People fled into the outlying areas; there was no security and no law and order, but rather the rule of terror.
From 2000 to 2006 the new government of Timor-Leste worked hard to build rule of law and security institutions with international assistance. The importance of sovereignty and national control in the new nation led to a premature departure of the United Nations peacekeeping forces. New violence erupted, and the government of Timor-Leste invited the United Nations to return to the country in 2006 to maintain law and order, ensure respect for human rights, and to help build and train a national Timor-Leste police service.