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PM's Speech At The NZBATT6 Farewell Parade

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

ADDRESS TO

NZBATT6 Farewell Parade

Cathedral Square
Christchurch

12.30 pm

Tuesday 23 April 2002

Today we are here to farewell the personnel of NZBATT6. This is an especially important occasion, as NZBATT6 will be the last New Zealand battalion group to deploy to East Timor.

With this deployment, some four thousand New Zealand Defence Force personnel will have served in East Timor, in New Zealand’s biggest ever peacekeeping commitment.

NZBATT6 has been drawn from thirty one units from throughout the New Zealand army. This is the largest spread of units involved in the formation of a battalion group for deployment to East Timor.

As with previous battalions, there is a strong Territorial Force representation, from all six territorial regiments. I understand sixty five Territorial Force personnel have joined the regulars for this deployment.

The key to forming NZBATT6 into a strong cohesive force, is the quality of your training. I know, and you know, that you leave well prepared for this important mission.

In year 2000 I had the privilege of visiting East Timor to see the work of our New Zealand peacekeepers. That has given me some understanding of the situation that you are going in to.

Enormous progress has been made since the peacekeepers from New Zealand and other nations went to East Timor. We have helped restore a degree of peace and stability to a people who have suffered terribly. The contribution of New Zealand Defence Force personnel and civilians has been outstanding.

Order has been restored in East Timor, allowing the safe distribution of humanitarian relief. The enormous task of supporting the East Timorese in the re-building of every aspect of their new country’s infrastructure and civil society is well under way. East Timor’s first president has been elected and next month this new nation will gain the independence for which its people have long struggled.

This is a time for celebration, but it is also a time which is not without risks. NZBATT6 will have a vital role to play.

New Zealand’s battalion groups have been based in Suai with the key role of protecting the southern half of the border between East and West Timor.

There, our people have worked alongside troops from Fiji, Nepal, Ireland, Canada, Singapore and Pakistan.

It was with sadness that we heard this month of the accidental death of a young Irish soldier, Private Peader Flaherty.

We New Zealanders have suffered our losses too. It is important today to remember Warrant Officer Tony Walser, Staff Sergeant Bill White, Private Leonard Manning and Private Boyd Atkins, and their families.

The East Timor mission has been a major commitment for New Zealand, and we have learned a lot from it. It has helped us plan how we might deploy our Defence Force in the future, how it should be equipped and trained, and the capabilities it needs.

No country takes lightly the decision to commit its young men and women to military activity of any kind overseas. New Zealand responded to the United Nations’ call to East Timor because we believed we could make a difference for the better – and we have.

As Prime Minister I am very proud of the contribution of the New Zealand Defence Force in East Timor.

Now NZBATT6 will be our representatives in helping the East Timorese build a free and independent future.

As you prepare to leave, our thoughts are with you and your families. We know that the next six months will be hard for those who are waiting at home for your return.

Thank you all for your willingness to be part of this mission. We know that you will acquit yourselves well. You go with our full support and our full confidence in you. We look forward to your safe return.

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