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PM proud of NZ’s contribution to East Timor

Sat 18 May 2002
Media Statement

PM proud of NZ’s contribution to East Timor’s independence


Prime Minister Helen Clark says New Zealand can be very proud of its contribution towards East Timor’s transition to independence.

Helen Clark leads a New Zealand delegation leaving today for East Timor’s independence celebrations starting tomorrow night, with the handover to the new government taking place at midnight Sunday.

The delegation includes Foreign Minister Phil Goff and Associate Foreign Minister Matt Robson, Linda and Charlie Manning, the parents of slain New Zealand soldier Private Leonard Manning; the Chief of Defence Force, Air Marshal Bruce Ferguson; and representatives of government agencies and non-governmental organisations involved in East Timor.

Helen Clark said East Timor and New Zealand have developed a warm and close friendship since September 1999.

“The relationship between our two countries is underpinned by our strong support for the development of an independent and stable East Timor.

“We have supported the transition to East Timorese independence through peace-keeping, development assistance and diplomatic efforts. For a small country, we can be very proud of the contribution we have made.

“I would like to acknowledge the efforts of the NZ Defence Forces which has worked tremendously hard to bring peace to East Timor.

“New Zealand was involved from the start in September 1999, as part of the initial deployment of the United Nations-sanctioned intervention force to restore peace. Our military contribution continued when the intervention force gave way to UN peace-keepers.

“There has been a high human cost. Four members of the army have died while serving in East Timor. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of Private Leonard Manning, Warrant Officer Tony Walser, Staff Sergeant Bill White, and Private Boyd Atkins.

“By November of this year, about 5500 NZDF personnel – over half the uniformed strength of the NZDF – will have served in East Timor.

“During the period between 1999 and 2001, up to thirty New Zealand police, corrections and customs officers were deployed to East Timor at any one time to help run essential services and train their East Timorese counterparts.

“In terms of the ongoing relationship following independence, last year we agreed to an aid programme of $10 million to be delivered over the next four years. This will focus on basic education, community development, natural resource development, and training East Timorese in the practices of government.

“In addition, New Zealand non-governmental organisations have also played important roles in supporting and assisting the East Timorese.

“While New Zealand’s contribution has been significant, the struggle of the East Timorese has been long, and at times bloody, as they sought to exercise their right to self-determination. At this landmark point in East Timor’s history, we must pay tribute to those who died and suffered on the road to independence.”

On Monday, Helen Clark will visit the New Zealand forces stationed at Suai as part of the United Nations peace-keeping forces in East Timor.

The party returns to New Zealand on Tuesday.

ENDS

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