7 Jun 2016

Bring our soldiers' bodies home, govt urged

12:27 pm on 7 June 2016

There's a renewed effort to bring home 31 soldiers who were killed in Malaysia and Vietnam, and have been lying in non-commonwealth war cemeteries there.

The Vietnam and Malay Vets Association are behind the efforts, drafting a remit on behalf of the soldier's families, which calls on the government to rethink bringing them home.

31 soliders who were killed in Malaysia and Vietnam and have been lying in non commonwealth war cemetaries.

31 soliders who were killed in Malaysia and Vietnam and have been lying in non-commonwealth war cemetaries Photo: Supplied: Bob Davies

Vietnam veteran Kingi Taurua remembers coming home from war to protesters hurling abuse at him.

"Yeah I remember walking down Queen Street, I remember when they jumped in front of me and called me a baby killer."

But Mr Taurua said he made it home, when others he served with didn't.

When reflecting on others who were lying in foreign soil, he recalled how they were unable to farewell their comrades, or attend a burial.

"I didn't attend any tangi in Terrendak at all, it was all done under secrecy. We had our own karakia at the camp in Vietnam, we did our own karakia every day, we hoped we'd live through the battle and come home.

Kingi Ihaka served in Borneo

Kingi Ihaka served in Borneo Photo: Supplied: Jodi Ihaka

"We also did karakia for those who didn't come home."

Another Northland solider who served in Borneo, Kingi Ihaka, said bringing their comrades home was the right thing to do.

"It's extremely sad... all subsequent governments at the time of the involvement of these soldiers, and currently, have done nothing to have their remains returned to New Zealand, and yet other countries have moved money and paid them the respect and honour those soldiers deserve."

Both the Vietnam Vets and the Malay Vets Associations are drafting a remit on behalf of the soldier's families.

The 31 soldiers are lying in non-commonwealth war cemeteries.

The soldiers remain in Vietnam and Malaysia Photo: Supplied: Bob Davies

Bob Davies is helping draft the paperwork for consideration, which will be presented to the New Zealand Returned Service Association's (RSA) National Council later this year, if passed the request will go to government to repatriate the bodies.

"The remit is quite simple really, it says that because the graves are unprotected the soldiers should be brought home because we have no control or the government has no control over what happens to them in Malaysia. They're unique in the sense that almost all the other war dead they do lay in Commonwealth War graves, the 31 that lay in Malaysia do not."

Last week, members of the RSA met with Veteran's Minister Craig Foss to make him aware there was a ground swell of support for the repatriations.

A campaign run by some soldier's families last year aimed to have New Zealand join the Australian government in repatriating the soldiers together, but the New Zealand government decided against it.

The Australian soldiers arrived home last week to a ceremony with full military honours.

Australian soldiers were repatriated last week. Photo: Australian Army

The Australian soldiers arrived home last week to a ceremony with full military honours.

Former solider and New Zealand First MP Ron Mark said the Australian government got it right and our government should do the same.

Mr Mark says if the issue was cost, then it didn't add up.

"We're talking about a pittance in terms of money.

"In actual fact, if you compare what we spent on a stupid flag referendum that no body wanted, and you consider that it was that flag that was draped over the coffins of these men when they were laid to rest, it is an absolute insult that we should not bring them home."

Mr Foss said he had great respect for New Zealand's service personnel and their families.

"New Zealand's policy on repatriation is long-standing and has been maintained by successive governments from both sides of the political spectrum.

"More than 29,000 New Zealand service personnel are buried all over the world. I have paid my respects to those buried in Malaysia, Singapore, Korea and Germany - all the graves were well cared for and respectfully maintained."

It was important policy was consistent across all conflicts and locations, Mr Foss said.

A spokesperson from the New Zealand RSA said a decision to support the new remit would be made by its 250 members at its national council meeting later this year.