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Defence Personnel to Assist Tongan Authorities

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Defence

22 November 2006

Defence Force Personnel to Assist Tongan Authorities

New Zealand Defence Force personnel in Tonga have begun low key community patrols to assist the Tongan Defence Force and Police, said Defence Minister Phil Goff.

"The Tongan Police and Defence Force personnel have been working very long hours since the 16 November riots in Nuku'alofa and have requested support from the New Zealand led Combined Joint Task Force based at Nuku'alofa airport", said Mr Goff.

"The New Zealand personnel are undertaking routine community patrols in an environment which has remained calm following the riots.

"At this stage we are looking at a relatively short term deployment which will however depend on the situation remaining peaceful.

"We will also be discussing ways of assisting with Tongan Police and Defence Force capacity to enable the Tongan authorities to manage the situation.

"New Zealand's presence in Tonga at the invitation of authorities is solely for the purpose of ensuring protection of people and property.

"We are not there either to maintain the political status quo or to dictate to Tongans details or the timetable of how they should implement reform.

"New Zealand has however consistently supported reform towards a democratic and accountable system of governance in Tonga. We will continue to provide any appropriate form of assistance asked for by Tongan people towards this end", Mr Goff said.

ENDS


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