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Prime Minister's eulogy - Private Leonard Manning

Media Statement
Eulogy for Private Manning

Prime Minister's eulogy at the funeral of
Private Leonard Manning,
Te Kauwhata, 1 pm, Saturday 29 July 2000

We are here today to give thanks for the life of Private Leonard Manning, a brave young soldier killed in action in East Timor last Monday.

The thoughts of all New Zealanders this week have been with Leonard's parents, Charlie and Linda Manning, and his sister Linda and her husband Mike.

Leonard Manning died doing not only his duty. He died doing the job he loved.

In the past few days we have all come to know a great deal about Leonard Manning. His army colleagues speak exceptionally highly of him. They speak of his professionalism and his skills as a scout.

They speak of his readiness to mentor other young soldiers and of the respect in which his commanding officers held him, often seeking his advice.

They speak of his sense of humour and his ability to brighten up any situation.

And they speak of the special interest he took in the local East Timorese people whom he was posted to help.

He left his mark on everyone whose lives he touched, and he will be sorely missed.

No one will miss him more than his mum and dad and close family.

When I spoke with Mrs Manning on Tuesday she told me of her family's great pride in Leonard and his achievements. He had been honoured to go to East Timor to do his bit to help. He had expected to come home, but was well aware of the danger. His mum says he was a good boy who never let his family down.

I want to say to the Manning family today that he never let his country down and that all New Zealanders share the pride you have in your son.

What we all also share is absolute repugnance at what happened to Private Manning. He died at the hands of well trained and professional thugs in a deliberate and planned operation. They came in from Indonesian West Timor and they returned there. They should not have been able to enter East Timor.

Indonesia has a responsibility to tighten control of that border. And, as the Australian Foreign Minister, Mr Downer, said this week, "Ultimately the only people who can bring the militias in West Timor under control are the Indonesians."

New Zealand has also conveyed that strong message to Indonesia. We want the militias disbanded by Indonesia and we want Private Manning's murderers tracked down and brought to justice.

Private Manning's tragic and untimely death brings home to us all the dangers our peacekeepers face daily in East Timor.

Our New Zealand soldiers are in an especially unstable area close to the Indonesian border. They stand between armed thugs and East Timorese villagers. Before our peacekeepers arrived, the local people in the villages were terrorised at will. Our being there has made a big difference, but it also cost us the life of one of our finest young soldiers.

Last year the entire New Zealand Parliament backed the sending of New Zealanders to East Timor. The price has been high. Prior to Private Manning's death we mourned the loss of two other soldiers on East Timor's shocking roads. Yet we continue to believe that the presence of United Nations peacekeepers in East Timor at this time of transition is essential to giving that small country a new beginning.

Nothing we say here today can bring Private Leonard Manning back. His loss is felt deeply by us all. What is important is that our memories stay with him for the fine young soldier that he was.

Perhaps the fourth verse of the nineteenth century hymn, Abide With Me, expresses our feeling and his:

I fear no foe with thee at hand
to bless,
Ills have no weight, and tears
no bitterness.
Where is death's sting, where
grave thy victory?
I triumph still if thou abide
with me

Our thoughts abide with Private Manning. May he rest in peace.

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