Whānau want servicemen repatriated from Malaysia

By Talisa Kupenga

The descendants of New Zealand servicemen, who served in the war in Malaysia from the 1950s, today asked Parliament to bring their family members home. The group, many who had never met before today, voiced its plight at a Select Committee hearing in Wellington.

After 12 years of waiting, Paul Thomas is relieved to finally have his say at Parliament.

Families of the forgotten fallen spokesman Paul Thomas says, “It's an honourable thing to do for The Government to bring their troops home. We're trained as young soldiers and young men not to leave people behind but here we are we've got 31 that have been left in Malaysia."

Thomas's brother was the first NZ SAS killed while serving in Malaysia in 1956 after the contingent was deployed there the year before. They were sent to defend the Malaysian Government.

"Five brothers, two were in Korea, Adrian was killed in Malaysia, I had another brother serve in Borneo, Malaya, and South Vietnam and I served in South Vietnam and was seriously wounded in South Vietnam so I think we've paid our dues for Adrian to be brought home."

The group is seeking repatriation of all of the servicemen, 11 of whom are Māori, as well as three children. In June this year, Australia repatriated more than 24 servicemen from the same country.

"This is important for my whānau because when dad died my family was ripped apart,” says Angela Hayden from Ngāti Raukawa.

"With their protocols, they were only allowed 20 minutes at the gravesite if they were to go from New Zealand. This is more for my mother, not so much myself but for my mother so that she can have closure,” says Trish Smith from Rarotonga and Ngāti Pākehā.

The families hope the select committee listens and their message is received by the Prime Minister so they can bring their family members back home.