Pleas by the families of veterans who died during deployments to Vietnam and Malaysia to have the remains of their loved ones returned home have fallen on deaf ears, Labour’s Veterans' Affairs spokesperson, Phil Goff says.
“With a change of policy by the Australian Government and the New Zealand RSA to support repatriation, the least the Government could have done was to allow a review of its policy.
“To refuse to even consider a change is arrogant, unreasonable and lacks empathy or concern for the views of the families affected.
“Minister Craig Foss refused to answer what considerations should take precedence over the views of the bereaved families. They want the bodies of their husbands, brothers and sons returned home to give them closure.
“The focus of the request is on those soldiers who are buried in Malaysia. There seems no good reason for the request relating to these men to be rejected.
“The RSA has changed its views with respect to these service personnel. The Australian Government has agreed to repatriate the remains of its soldiers buried at Terendak in Malaysia. The New Zealand Government position is now at odds with the desire of the families, the organisation which officially represents veterans, the RNZRSA, and our ANZAC allies.
“The cemetery at Terendak is not a national war memorial and it is not easy for families of those who are buried there to access. Unlike Commonwealth War Graves Cemeteries, it is not open to the public as it is part of a working military camp.
“The Minister’s refusal to consider changed circumstances or to even hear the views of the families make the Government’s claim to honour them and those who died in the service of their country sound rather hollow,” Phil Goff said.