Subject: East Timorese sailors may train in NZ

East Timorese sailors may train in NZ

19 October 2002

Sailors from the fledgling East Timor Defence Force are likely to come to New Zealand for training.

East Timor has one of the smallest navies in the world with only two patrol boats donated by Portugal, the country which ran the small island nation until 1974, a year before it was invaded by Indonesia under the pretext of restoring order.

New Zealand chief of naval staff Rear Admiral Peter McHaffie became the highest ranking sailor to travel in the East Timorese patrol boats when he spent 45 minutes on one on passage from Dili to the nearby naval base.

"There is no doubting the challenges facing the East Timor Defence Force in manning and operating the two vessels gifted by Portugal. I was impressed with the manner in which the two vessels were handled," RA McHaffie said in the latest issue of the navy magazine Navy Today.

He said New Zealand would have a continuing involvement with the East Timor Defence Force after New Zealand withdrew next month from the United Nations contingent which has been in East Timor for three years since the country voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia.

"Such ongoing support action is natural in a regional context and there are mechanisms in place for such to occur," he said. He said one of the big challenges facing the maritime section of the East Timor Defence Force was to gaining knowledge and understanding of their own immediate maritime environment and its sustainment.

"The sustainment of maritime resources for New Zealand is equally important and we too can be excited about the future for ourselves with the prospect soon of new patrol vessels optimised for such a role.

"We should not be surprised if we are asked to carry East Timor Defence Force personnel to sea in the future to share that experience," he said.

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