By Libya Herald staff.
2 December 2014:
An Interior Ministry delegation led by the Minister, Omar Al-Sunki, is in the UAE for two . . .[restrict]days of talks with Emerati officials on potential support for Libya, including training and technology. Before his departure to Abu Dhabi, Sunki and his colleagues spoke to the Libya Herald about his and the ministry’s immediate objectives.
The main focus is on reactivating the police, with three specific objectives:
- Rebuilding the police to be an effective force of law and order;
- Training them for the task;
- Equipping them to do the job properly.
In pursuit of the first objective, Sunki has called on police to return to work. Inevitably at present, his writ and call extend mainly to the east of the country, and not all of that either. Derna and parts of Benghazi are still enemy territory for him. But ministry officials point out that in his first month in office, he visited places such as Beida, Tobruk and Shahat, to ensure the local police force was reactivated. He has been, too, to Benghazi to meet with local policemen there. Two thousand are now being prepared to ensure law and order in the city once the current military operation in the country’s second city is over. He is also bringing back those who graduated as policemen before the revolution but have not worked for the police force since.
Another objective is to reopen police stations “as fast as possible”, as he put it. Many, ministry adviser Nabil Shibani points out, have already been reopened in places now under the control of the Libya National Army (LNA). He cites Ras Lanuf, Brega and Ajdabiya – although just yesterday the police headquarters in the latter was bombed in an attack suspected to be the work of Ansar Al-Sharia.
Even so, as a result of the renewed police presence, the law is beginning to be enforced, Shibani explains. He points to the fact that terrorists have been arrested in Beida as were those suspected of the recent explosions in Shahat.
As to training, Sunki has appointed Major General Adnan Maklouf to head the new training department. But training is not just about the latest technology or the use of new equipment – although it is an important component of it and the visit to the UAE is expected to result in agreements on joint training. For the minister, there also have to be changes in the police mindset. A modern police has to respect human rights, he says.
This, a ministry official points out, means that it is the job of the police to make sure that the time suspects are held in custody is short, that they be brought to the courts as soon as possible and that while in custody they are treated properly.
Sunki has another prime rule for the police: “They must not be involved in politics”.
But supplying the needs of the police, and rebuilding police stations is not easy at present, the official explains. There is next to no money available. What little the ministry has been given, he points out, has come from the small budget provided to the government – and from the willingness of individuals to work for almost no pay for the moment.
“The police do not have any kind of budget because of the Constitutional Court’s decision [on the law that resulted in the elections for the House of Representatives]”.
The immediate enemy for Sunki, who hails from Misrata, is what he calls “the terrorists” – not just Ansar Al-Sharia but those who use force to prevent the government operating in parts of the country – which means Ansar’s allies in the east and Libya Dawn and its partners in the west.
But his target is not just the militias and the gangs who have brought chaos and a crime wave to Libya. There are also those involved in corruption in government departments and state departments – including the police and the ministry itself. There have been arrests of police members as well as army members, although he did not specify what they had been charged with. Those arrested were now being investigated.
There are other objectives. One the most important is to work out exactly who is an employee of the ministry. According to one official, it has a record 270,000 people on its payroll. Prior to the revolution, the police force – the biggest area of ministry staffing –was thought to number around 30,000 nationally. Sunki suspects that today some of those being paid are either fictitious or not entitled to be on the ministry’s books. He has launched an investigation to discover who are genuine ministry employees. “But the trouble is that all the systems are in Tripoli,” a ministry official explained.
Smartly dressed in suit, shirt and tie, and sipping a glass of water on a hotel terrace, Sunki nonetheless gives every impression of being a man not interested in failure, but one who is determined to implement law and order in Libya. And he appears equally determined that everyone in the ministry, including the police, understands that there is work to be done. “It is very important that people in the ministry see him working to effect change,” said one.
For more than a year, protestors across the country have demanded that the only forces of law and order should be the army and the police.
It is a demand that, in the case of the police, Sunki clearly wishes to meet. [/restrict]