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Defence Force to Withdraw from Tonga

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Defence

29 November 2006

Defence Force to Withdraw from Tonga

New Zealand Defence Force personnel will withdraw from Tonga this week, Defence Minister Phil Goff announced today.

"Discussions with authorities in Tonga and between myself and Australian Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, confirm that the situation on the ground in Tonga no longer requires the presence of our defence force personnel", Mr Goff said.

"The closing of Parliament passed without incident and following the devastating events of 16 November stability has been restored and the situation has so far remained calm.

"Should any further disturbance arise, and this is not anticipated, Tongan authorities are confident that they can handle the situation.

"Our Defence Force personnel have operated in a low key and effective manner. They have worked well with the Tongan Defence Service and their Australian counterparts, and their job is now completed.

"They were effective in securing the airport and enabling resumption of commercial flights. They then worked to provide back-up to Tongan defence and police personnel to ensure that a sense of stability and security was restored to Nuku'alofa.

"As always our defence and police personnel operated in a manner that won confidence among local people.

"We hope that in the calmer environment, the way is now open for reconciliation and for progress to resume towards democratic reform.

"New Zealand supports this process, though we have not sought to intrude in an area that must be determined by Tongan people themselves.

"The New Zealand Defence Force personnel will leave Tonga at the weekend.

"Police personnel from both countries will stay on a little longer pending the completion of forensic work.

"It is likely that the New Zealand Police will continue to assist capacity building in the Tongan Police, at Tonga's invitation over the longer term", Phil Goff said.

ENDS

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