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Goff visit to Timor Leste

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Defence

27 March 2008
Media statement

Goff visit to Timor Leste

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Defence Minister Phil Goff and Timor Leste Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao


Defence Minister Phil Goff has concluded his visit to Timor Leste, where he held talks with Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, acting President Fernando Lasama and seven Cabinet ministers.

Mr Goff discussed with Timorese Chief of Defence Force Taur Matan Ruak New Zealand’s contribution to peacekeeping in Timor Leste, and our ability to further assist with capacity building in the security sector.

Mr Goff also met many of the around 200 New Zealand Defence Force and Police personnel serving in Timor Leste, and spoke to former political prisoners tortured during the occupation of Timor Leste and Helen Todd, mother of New Zealander Kamal Barmadhaj, who was killed during the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre in Dili.

“The key focus of my visit was the security situation in Timor Leste. Six weeks after the attempted killing of the President and Prime Minister the situation appears calm. But since April 2006, when New Zealand was asked to send defence personnel back to Timor Leste, the problems that led to the violence and killings at that time have still to be addressed,” Phil Goff said.

“New Zealand is the second biggest contributor to the International Stabilisation Force in Timor. Without doubt that has helped prevent further violence, loss of life and destruction. Our contribution there is warmly welcomed by the Timorese Government and people, and by the United Nations.

“However, New Zealand and international forces cannot stay indefinitely in Timor Leste. To be able to withdraw those forces we need to help Timor Leste better develop its own capability to keep peace and address the causes of its problems.

“I discussed with the Prime Minister and Chief of Defence Force options on how we might assist with improvements in Timor’s security sector capability. They welcomed our assistance because they said New Zealand is seen as a country whose contribution through its troops and police has been exemplary and is ready to help Timor Leste without having any interests of its own to promote,” Phil Goff said.

“Timor Leste’s challenges are enormous. It is the poorest and least developed country in Asia-Pacific and one of the poorest in the world. As one of the world’s newest nations, it has limited human resource skills and infrastructure. With more than half of its population under the age of 15, the pressure on its resources will grow.

“However, I found its new government well qualified, strongly motivated to improve the future for its people, and keen to make progress. With oil resources now returning a reliable revenue stream to the country and with the assistance of the international community, the nation has a real chance to move forward.

“New Zealand is well placed and ready to help in that. We can be proud of the role that our defence, police and diplomatic people are currently playing. They are making a positive difference in the lives of people who have suffered much and who lack the very basic things which we as New Zealanders take for granted,” Phil Goff said.


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