20 August 2018
The Malaysian Armed Forces have farewelled the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel being repatriated to New Zealand at a ceremony at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
The remains of 27 New Zealand Army soldiers and one child buried in Malaysia and Singapore are being returned to their families at a ramp ceremony in Auckland tomorrow morning.
This is part of project Te Auraki (The Return), under which NZDF personnel and dependents buried overseas between 1955 and 1971 will be returned to New Zealand following a change in Government policy.
Between 1955 and 1971 NZDF personnel who died serving overseas were buried in overseas cemeteries unless their families paid repatriation costs.
Senior officers from the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) and the NZDF, as well as representatives of the New Zealand High Commission to Malaysia, attended the ceremony, in which the MAF handed over the remains of the soldiers to be returned home.
Te Auraki project manager Group Captain Carl Nixon said the NZDF was grateful to the Malaysia Government for agreeing to the disinterments and caring for the resting places of the NZDF personnel for more than 60 years.
“We would like thank the Government of Malaysia, and the Malaysian Armed Forces for honouring our fallen personnel with a moving handover ceremony, and for providing logistics and forensic support for this project,” Group Captain Nixon said.
“We recognise the repatriation of New Zealand servicemen holds special significance to the people of Malaysia, because these men lost their lives in defence of the country. Their sacrifice underpins New Zealand’s longstanding relationship with Malaysia and the Five Power Defence Arrangements.”
The remains of the repatriated personnel, who died in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, will be transported home on a chartered Air New Zealand flight and received with a traditional Māori welcome at tomorrow’s ramp ceremony.