Families petition to repatriate war dead

The Government must bring home the bodies of the war heroes buried in Malaysia says Labour’s Defence and Associate Veterans’ Affairs spokesperson Phil Goff.

“Today I accepted a petition from the families of 32 defence force personnel buried in Malaysia who died while serving in the Malaya Emergency and Vietnam War. The petition was presented by Vietnam War veterans, Paul Thomas and Andrew Peters.

“The petition calls on the Government to repatriate the bodies of the 32 men who died while serving their country in the two conflicts.

“Unlike our other military personnel who died and are buried overseas, these soldiers are not in Commonwealth Graves Cemeteries. Their grave sites are not protected. They are not as well maintained. In the case of Terendak Cemetery, which is on a military base, access to the site is restricted.

“The Australians led the way and repatriated the bodies of their war dead buried in Malaysia and I’m urging our Government to do the same thing.

“The Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association has changed its position and now supports respecting the wishes of the families of those buried in Malaysia who want their loved ones returned.

“I strongly believe that the wishes of the families, who sacrificed the most when their men died while serving New Zealand, should be paramount in this decision.

“The cost of bringing them home is minor and should not be a factor. As their families say, the Government paid for them to go overseas and should be willing to pay for them to be brought back.

“The return of the remains will bring closure to the families. It will not create a precedent to repatriate those who are buried in official War Graves Cemeteries.

“This petition puts the issue back onto the Government to explain why the wishes of the families of those who never came home should not be respected,” says Phil Goff.