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Customs Officers to East Timor - Move Welcomed



"The Comptroller of Customs, Robin Dare, has welcomed today's announcement by the Minister of Customs, Hon Phillida Bunkle, that five Customs Officers are being deployed to East Timor as part of a United Nations task force.

The United Nations Transitional Authority for East Timor (UNTAET) requested New Zealand's assistance to establish Customs services at the port and airport in Dili. Their deployment is being supported by New Zealand's Official Development Assistance (ODA) Programme. The programme is providing a range of New Zealand expertise to help set up an effective government administration in the new East Timor.

"I'm very proud of the staff who are being deployed. They are all volunteers and were selected at very short notice to go to Dili, where they will assist to re-open the port and airport to civilian traffic," the Comptroller said.

Mr Dare said that he was grateful for the co-operation of a number of different government agencies in developing the logistics of the deployment.

"Of prime importance was ensuring the health and physical safety of the five Officers during their three month secondment to East Timor," he said.

"To my knowledge this is the first time that the NZ Customs Service has been asked to assist the United Nations in building the civilian infrastructure of a newly independent nation."

"The Service is held in high regard internationally for the integrity and professionalism of its Customs Administration, and in recent times numerous training assignments in developing countries within the APEC region have been undertaken by New Zealand Customs."

"I have absolute confidence that my officers will represent New Zealand's interests with distinction during their secondment to East Timor. They have all made it clear to me that they have not volunteered for this assignment for personal gain in any form, but out of a desire to make a tangible contribution to the development of the emergent East Timor nation."

"I find this commitment to the concept of true public service both admirable and refreshing. What is especially pleasing to me as Chief Executive of the New Zealand Customs Service, however, is that standing behind these five officers are at least another thirty or so volunteers with exactly the same sentiments," Mr Dare said.

A husband and wife Craig and Keely Chitty are among the five officers going to Dili: The team leader is Tricia Wihongi. Lloyd Smith and Michael Dale complete the group.


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