Govt to reconsider repatriating soldiers

Govt to reconsider repatriating soldiers

Veterans' Affairs Minister Craig Foss has announced he will reconsider the Government's position on the repatriation of Kiwi soldiers buried overseas.

Currently, the policy is to not repatriate the bodies of those killed in action between 1948 and 1970.

"While successive governments have maintained this policy, it has become increasingly clear that the rationale behind it needs further investigation," says Mr Foss.

The move comes after a petition was presented to Parliament by family members of 32 soldiers buried at two different sites in Malaysia.

Many of those family members also gave emotional submissions at a select committee last month, pleading for the Government to change its position.

Both sites in Malaysia where Kiwis have been laid to rest are unprotected, unmaintained, and aren't official Commonwealth war graves.

A majority of them are at Terendak Cemetery, which is inside a military base and has restricted access, making it difficult for people to visit and pay respects. The remainder are at another cemetery in Kuala Lumpur.

Mr Foss has asked a special board to report back by March next year, after consulting with families, looking at legal issues, logistics, and costs.

"I expect the board to thoroughly consult the families of personnel buried overseas. Their experiences and stories are vital to ensuring a robust and fair process, with the right outcome."

He's not just limiting the policy review to soldiers in Malaysia.

"I have always said I am the minister for all veterans.  While many of those advocating for change are focused on the personnel buried in Malaysia, I expect the board to consider the policy in relation to all veterans and dependents who died while serving overseas between 1948 and mid-1970," says Mr Foss.