Sunday, May 24, 2015

IT'S TIME TO BRING THEM HOME

Many of you will have read the column by Judith Collins in the SST where she urges consideration be given to the repatriation of the remains of servicemen who were killed in action or died on duty overseas post 31 December 1947 being the close-off date for interment in a Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) cemetery.

Some background.   The Charter of the CWGC forbids the repatriation of remains from CWGC cemeteries.   This policy covers all NZ personnel who died in WW1 and WW2 as well as twelve J-Force personnel who died in Japan.    There are 35 personnel killed in the Korean War buried in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Pusan (UNMCK); 30 in Malaysia in a combination of military and civilian cemeteries and 2 in Singapore.    For all intents and purposes UNMCK has the status of a CWGC cemetery.   It is a national shrine and a permanent reminder to young South Koreans of the part played by New Zealand in the liberation of their country.    I suspect the governments of both New Zealand and Korea would be opposed to any attempt to repatriate these remains.

The situation in Malayia is different.    Sixteen soldiers (including 7 KIA in Vietnam) are buried in the British Military Cemetery at Terendak, Melaka (Malacca) which is also the resting place of Australian, Major Peter Badcoe VC, killed-in-action in Vietnam.    This cemetery is maintained by the British Government with assistance from the CWGC.    I have visited it a number of times.  It is clean and well maintained.   It is a restful place.    The remaining sixteen are interred in either the Kaumunting Road Christian Cemetery in Taiping or the Cheras Road Christian Cemetery in Kuala Lumpur.   These latter two cemeteries are not maintained to anywhere near the standard found in a CWGC cemetery or the British Military Cemetery in Terendak.

There are a further two interred in the CWGC cemetery in Kranji, Singapore.   As they were killed in 1954 and 1961 respectively it is not known how or why they managed to be interred at Kranji.  CWGC policy would forbid their repatriation..

There have over the years been requests from families of those interred in Malaysia to bring the bodies home.   These requests have been declined.   The last attempt was in 2007.  I have in my possession Cabinet Policy Committee Paper POL Min (07) 21/19 dated 12 September where the Clark Labour Government declined a request from families of servicemen buried in Terendak citing particularly the opposition by RNZRSA to the move.   It is the long standing policy of RNZRSA to oppose any move towards the repatriation of remains from overseas.

My understanding is that RNZRSA has now reversed its position.

I am of the view that the families of servicemen buried in the Kaumunting Road Christian Cemetery and the Cheras Road Christian cemetery should be offered the option of repatriation of their remains back to New Zealand and their re-internment at public expense.

The personnel in question in Taiping are:

Private George Amas
Private Robert Breitmeyer
Lance Corporal Percy Brown (aka Iwihora)
Private Bruce Hay
Private Tu Kawha
Private Toma Solia
Private Brian Tuxworth

and in Kuala Lumpur:

Corporal Allister Buchanan
Flying Officer William Devescovi
Private Michael Dunn
Flying Officer Douglas Nelson
Captain Lawrence Shannon
Trooper Adrian Thomas
Squadron Leader Alexander Tie

I do not support the repatriation of those interred in the British Military Cemetery at Terendak.   The cemetery is well cared for.   They lie among their colleagues.   Let them rest in peace.   I do however acknowledge the views of those who would say that it would be inequitable to discriminate against them in relation to the other fourteen.    I will concede it is a moot point.

The bottom line for me is that they deserve to 'rest' in a respectful and well maintained place.   Certainly the Taiping and KL cemeteries do not meet this standard.

I congratulate Judith Collins for being prepared to champion the call.  


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Google Cheras Rd Cemetery KL. lots of photos. It was fine six months ago so what happened?

Much better condition than some of our cemeteries in the UK and Auckland. If that's your only problem then contact the BHC in KL and they will gee up the gardening contractors. After we waste 26 mill on the flag lets throw some money at another waste of time.