World News

Timor-Leste Prolongs Prohibition on Martial Arts Due to ‘Significant’ Decrease in Violence

Currently, in Timor-Leste, it is illegal to teach, learn, and practice martial arts under the existing ban. The government extended the ban until November after announcing in April that it had significantly reduced public order incidents involving martial arts groups.

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao stated in April that there was an agreement to prolong the suspension of martial arts activities.

The initial ban was put in place for six months in November 2023 following a violent altercation between martial arts groups that resulted in casualties and property damage.

As of now, all forms of martial arts instruction, training, and practice are prohibited in the nation, and martial arts centers, clubs, and schools are required to shut down.

Reason for the Ban

Martial arts gained popularity in Timor-Leste during the Indonesian occupation and played a crucial role in the country’s struggle for independence. However, some martial arts groups turned to politics after independence, leading to sectarian violence.

The discord between rival martial arts groups escalated into gang violence in 2006, resulting in numerous casualties and displacements. Subsequent violent incidents in 2013 prompted the imposition of the current martial arts ban.

Prime Minister Gusmao expressed his frustration with the groups, emphasizing that the true essence and philosophy of martial arts had been lost in Timor-Leste.

The extension of the ban aims to enable law enforcement and the Martial Arts Regulatory Commission to inspect facilities nationwide and prevent violence related to martial arts.

Furthermore, police officers and military personnel associated with martial arts groups have been instructed to suspend their involvement. Citizens and community leaders are urged to collaborate with security forces to identify illicit martial arts practices.

Despite acknowledging the positive impact martial arts groups could have on marginalized youth, the government has maintained the ban due to concerns about security and violence derived from martial arts involvement.

The government plans to reintroduce martial arts activities in the future under specific conditions that promote peace, education, and civic values.

Currently, the Martial Arts Regulatory Commission is evaluating various groups and preparing to classify martial arts as a sport once registration and data collection are complete.

Mr. Sabino emphasized the importance of discipline, peace promotion, and respect within martial arts groups to contribute positively to society.

Overall, the government aims to integrate martial arts into exercise and sport while fostering social peace and supporting the development of young people in a responsible manner.

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