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Customs Staff Receive Medals For East Timor Duty

Customs Staff Receive Medals For Duty In East Timor

Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton today awarded seven medals to NZ Customs staff who have restored East Timor's border controls. Six Customs staff and the father of another received the East Timor medals at a ceremony in Auckland.

"Fourteen New Zealand Customs staff went with other New Zealanders as part of our commitment to the International United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). There they worked to restore the administration of a shattered country. Three more staff are due to go this week.

"In going to East Timor staff left their families and their homes. They were not totally aware of the situation they would face on their arrival and they were unsure of the risks.

"One of the great strengths of New Zealanders is our commitment to peace and to our neighbours. The work of these Customs staff shows again that we are prepared to help out where we can in the world," said Jim Anderton.

¡§The new Border Service of East Timor has made considerable strides. The NZ Customs Service is proud to have been part of the international effort to assist in the reconstruction of a newly formed nation in the Asia Pacific Region,¡¨ says the Chief Executive of the Customs Service, Robin Dare.

Initially, New Zealand Customs Officers were involved in creating some order out of what one described as ¡§a free for all¡¨ by establishing systems at the airport and the port in Dili. The job has now evolved into advising and training the East Timorese.

The medals were given to:
„h Senior Customs Officer Lloyd Smith (Auckland)
„h Senior Customs Officer Craig Chitty (Auckland)
„h Senior Customs Officer Mike Dale (Auckland)
„h Team Leader Garth Russell (Auckland)
„h Senior Customs Officer Julie Leaf (Auckland)
„h Senior Customs Officer Trevor Gleave (Tauranga).
„h Senior Customs Officer Tricia Wihongi is currently overseas so her medal will be presented to her father, Mr Pat Wihongi.

The new medal has been approved by Queen Elizabeth II and recognises the contribution made by New Zealanders, both civilian and military, to the re-building of East Timor.

During December 1999 UNTAET requested New Zealand assistance in the Customs and Immigration field. Dili Airport was to open for commercial flights at the beginning of January 2000 and there was an urgent need to provide basic Immigration and Customs services. In January 2000 the first team of four NZ Customs Service personnel (East Timor 1) went for three months to operate in Dili, as the first country to lend assistance in this critical act of nation-building.

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