Committee rejects families’ plea for hearing

It is appalling the Government rejected a plea by families to return the remains of soldiers killed in Malaya and Vietnam to New Zealand, Labour’s Defence spokesperson Phil Goff, who presented their case, says.

Their request was voted down by Government MPs on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee yesterday.  

"It is incredibly disappointing. All they wanted was a chance to explain to the Committee why they should be able to have the bodies returned. They should have the right to express their views.

“In opposing the repatriation the Government is ignoring two major changes that have occurred since the matter was last considered by Government in 2007.

“The RSA, as the representative of veterans, has reversed its previous position. It now wants a full review of why those killed in Malaya and Vietnam and buried in Malaysia should not be returned if that is what their families want.

“Unlike other soldiers buried overseas, those killed in Malaya and Vietnam are not buried in Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemeteries. The cemeteries are not national war memorials. 

“Secondly, the Australian Government will next year repatriate the remains of Australian soldiers buried in the main cemetery at Terendak in Malaysia if requested by next of kin. If the Australian Government can do that, the New Zealand Government should at least explain why it is refusing to do the same.

“There is no good reason why the families’ wishes should be overridden. Many will regard the Government’s decision not even to allow them to argue their case as a slap in the face.

“This decision does not show the families of those who died for their country the respect that they deserve,” Phil Goff said.

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