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Timor-Leste recognises NZ soldier’s contribution to peace and independence

A New Zealander who played a crucial role in bringing peace and independence to Timor-Leste has been recognised with one of that country’s highest honours.

29 November, 2022

Major General (Retired) Martyn Dunne CNZM QSO was awarded the Timor-Leste Medal of Merit (Timor-Leste Grau Por Meritu) at a ceremony in Manatuto, east of Dili, on Monday.

“I see this award as recognising all components of the Navy, Army and Air Force who participated in the substantial New Zealand Defence Force commitment to Timor-Leste over a considerable period of time,” Major General Dunne said.

“I hope that receiving this honour will continue to strengthen the close relationship that the New Zealand Defence Forces forged with their Timorese counterparts and with the people of Timor-Leste.”

Major General Dunne commanded the New Zealand forces in Timor-Leste during the UN Security Council-mandated International Force for East Timor (known as INTERFET) deployment that restored peace to the country in late 1999.

The Order of Timor-Leste is the umbrella for Timor-Leste’s highest honours, recognising significant contributions to national peace and stability. 

Two men shake hands in the bright daylight, people congregate in the area. A man (left) smiles, he wears glasses and a patterned shirt, next to him, another man, wearing a suit and a medal stands with one hand on his hip. Major General Martyn Dunne lays a wreath at the memorial service for Private Leonard Manning at Tilomar, East Timor, July 2001

Timor-Leste President José Ramos Horta presented Major General Dunne with the Timor-Leste Medal of Merit (left and middle), Major General Dunne lays a wreath at a memorial service in 2001 (right)

The date of 28 November is commemorated each year in Timor-Leste as the Anniversary of the Proclamation of Independence from Indonesia, first made in 1975, at the beginning of the international and domestic struggle.

From 1999 to 2002, the NZDF deployed 5000 personnel to INTERFET and then to the UN Transitional Administration. It was New Zealand’s largest overseas military engagement since the Korean War.

Australians and Kiwis formed the bulk of the operational forces, with New Zealand securing the most dangerous South-West part of East Timor, and also commanding the international forces in the capital, Dili.

Major General Dunne had a 27-year career with the NZDF, including serving with the NZSAS. In 2000, he was made a Companion of the NZ Order of Merit (CNZM) for his role in East Timor and in 2019 was made a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order (QSO) for services to the State in his post-military career in heading a number of Government departments.