16 September, 2012
Speech at Malayan Veteran’s Day, National War Memorial, Wellington
It is an honour to address you all on the inaugural New Zealand Malayan Veterans’ Day. This memorial day is long overdue. Unfortunately, many veterans have passed away before seeing the day when their service and sacrifice is marked and remembered.
One veteran recently lost to us is Lieutenant Colonel Eru Manuera, of 1stRanger Squadron, New Zealand SAS, who earned the Military Cross for his actions during the Confrontation in the 1960s. His service and sacrifice, along with that of all other Malaya veterans, will now be more appropriately acknowledged and remembered for years to come.
Today, we remember all those who did not return from Malaya and Borneo.
The Malayan Emergency began in 1949 as a campaign mounted by communist guerrillas from the military arm of the Malayan Races Liberation Army. By 1950 Commonwealth forces were making a concerted effort to counter the guerrilla attacks.
New Zealand first became involved in 1949, when 41 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force despatched a group of Dakota aircraft. 14 and 75 Squadrons also carried out bombardments of guerrilla positions, and a number of Royal New Zealand Navy ships also took part in operations.
New Zealand ground troops were in Malaya combating guerrillas from 1951. That year a small group of New Zealanders arrived in Malaya as part of 1stBattalion Fiji Regiment, and the unit earned praise for its work in countering the guerrilla attacks.
In 1955 New Zealand contributed an SAS regiment, which also earned distinction for its work. Our infantry battalions also established an outstanding record of service.
Service on the Malayan peninsula was difficult. The rugged terrain and jungles proved a challenge at times, but the New Zealanders showed courage and determination in adapting to the conditions and interacting with the local population.
Following the end of the Malayan Emergency, units from several Commonwealth countries including New Zealand remained in Malaya for another four years. Our infantrymen undertook counter-insurgency measures and border security operations.
The Federation of Malaysia was established on 16 September 1963. By 1964 New Zealand began aiding Malaysia in what became known as the Confrontation, which continued until 1966, when a peace treaty was signed between Malaysia and Indonesia.
The variety and difficulty of the service undertaken by our forces cannot be underestimated. The Emergency and Confrontation combined lasted fifteen years, with operations on land, in the air, and on the sea.
Our Allies of the time, and also our former opponents, now friends, also lost servicemen and citizens. Today we also remember them.
Malaysia was a life-changing experience for all concerned.
The friendships forged in Malaysia remain. If anything, the sense of comradeship has increased for the members of the New Zealand Malayan Veterans Association.
New Zealand’s ties with Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia can be traced back to the relationships which were forged 63 years ago. Our ties with each other were forged in battle, but prosper in peace and stability, and will continue for years to come.
It is only right that the first national commemoration of Malayan veterans should take place here at the National War Memorial.
This is where the nation remembers the 300,000 New Zealanders who have served their country, and the 30,000 military personnel who have died in wartime, including the 9000 who have no known grave.
As you will know, The Prime Minister John Key recently announced plans to underground State Highway 1 outside this building and to create a place people can congregate for commemorative occasions such as this.
On Anzac Day 2015, we will commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli Landings in a new Memorial Park.
Over time, the Park will include an interpretation centre where New Zealanders of all ages can learn more about the service of their troops and the conflicts in which they fought – including Malaya and Borneo.
I hope today’s events, and the others to follow, will raise awareness and interest in this important time in our military history.
Thank you for giving me your time. I look forward to meeting you personally in the Banquet Hall at Parliament soon.
Lest we forget.