Appeal made to reconsider return of Māori soldiers buried in Malaysia

President of the Māori Party, Rangimarie Naida Glavish has made an appeal to reconsider the return of the remains of Māori soldiers buried in Malaysia.

This comes after Veterans Minister, Craig Foss said earlier this year: “Successive governments have maintained a policy of not repatriating the remains of military personnel who died serving overseas between January1 1948 and mid-1970. At this stage there are no plans to review that policy.”

Glavish says that failure to heed calls for the return of these soldiers were deeply disappointing to whānau of the servicemen. 

“It may be difficult for non-Maori to understand and appreciate, but for our people there is a keen and intense spiritual connection between the tupapaku (remains) of our dead and those of us who are left behind. It is why we invariably return our dead for burial in their home urupa (cemeteries) and why we place so much emphasis on the ceremony of unveiling headstones on the first anniversary of burial.

She then goes on to say, “Maori attachment to our land, and particularly our personal turangawaewae, is surely well known, and is something that endures beyond this life. We take not just comfort, but inspiration and strength from having our dead close to us. For us to be able to stand at their graves gives us a deep feeling of connectedness with their spirits from whom we still hear messages of encouragement and advice,"

“We don’t expect non-Maori to share this wairua of ours, but we would hope that they would appreciate its significance to us. It is in that spirit that I make this personal appeal to the Prime Minister and his government to reconsider the heartfelt calls from whanau for the repatriation of the remains of those of our Maori men who fell in wars South East Asia after January 1948.

“Where they lie, so near and yet so far away, they are alone and isolated. They are not like the fallen on World Wars I and II who lie with their comrades in sections of Commonwealth War Graves sites that have become little pieces of Aotearoa. The fallen of Malaysia are a special case, and deserve special consideration,” concluded Glavish.