Two training centres will be opened in Timor-Leste this week as part of commemorations to mark 20 years since the death of New Zealand peacekeeper Private Leonard Manning. 

The 24-year-old was killed in action during an ambush by pro-Indonesian militia on 24 July 2000 while serving with the New Zealand Army battalion contributing to the United Nations-mandated mission. 

On Friday, two services will be held in the municipality of Cova Lima; a morning service at Foho Debalulik where Pte Manning was killed and an afternoon service at Tilomar base where New Zealand soldiers were based and which is now used by the Timorese Defence Force.

 A memorial service will also be held on Saturday at the New Zealand Embassy in the capital, Dili. Lieutenant-Colonel Martin Dransfield was the commander of the New Zealand 2nd/1st Battalion at the time of the soldier’s death and is now posted as a strategic advisor to the Timor-Leste Defence Force. 

“Len Manning was the first New Zealand soldier to be killed in conflict since the Vietnam War and his tragic death naturally shook us all,” Lt Col Dransfield said. “To mark 20 years since Len’s death three memorial services will be held to mark his sacrifice.” 

Two on-the-job training centres in Lalawa and Belulik Leten, where Pte Manning and many other Kiwi soldiers were based from 1999 until 2002, will also be opened. 

The Len Manning Trust has for many years sponsored students to attend technical colleges throughout Timor-Leste focussing on vocational training, as well as providing support to a women’s safe house in Cova Lima and an orphanage. 

Last year the US Ambassador Small Grants Fund was used to buy equipment for the Technical Training Centre in Salele. As part of the students’ training in carpentry, electricity, plumbing, plastering and welding, they will do on-job training in the Len Manning Training Centres in Lalawa and Belulik Leten.

 In addition, hospital beds, medical equipment and personal protective equipment will be gifted to the Suai hospital and a game of soccer involving local youth will also be organised, along with the gift of a soccer strip for them. 

At Saturday’s service, New Zealand Ambassador to Timore-Leste Phil Hewitt will acknowledge the sacrifice of the seven New Zealanders, including five servicemen, who died during Timor Leste’s struggle for independence and whose names are on the memorial plaque. 

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