TAIPING: A special ceremony was held to send off the remains of seven New Zealand servicemen, completing the total 27 that were to be repatriated under a project called Te Auraki (The Return in Maori).
On a searingly hot Sunday noon at the Malaysian Armed Forces’ Staff Station Headquarters here, the New Zealand flag was lowered and handed over to the convoy chief.
He then led the cortege that was headed for the Wardieburn Camp in Kuala Lumpur.
Led by New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) Kaumata (Maori elder) Andrew Ruawhitu Pokaia, a traditional and brief rite was conducted.
A memento, consisting of a pair of wood-carved symbols of peace, was presented to the armed forces.
Pokaia and two others then performed a warrior song with a guitar to honour their unsung heroes. It was also done to thank the armed forces.
Second Brigade commandant Brigadier Jeneral Datuk Mohd Nizam Jaafar said the ceremony was a symbolic tribute from the armed forces to members of the New Zealand soldiers buried at the Commonwealth War Graves (CWG) Kamunting here from 1958 to 1960.
“The disinterment of the seven remains had been conducted at the CWG Kamunting while forensic analysis and reconciliation was done at the Taiping Hospital and identification board at the Staff Station Headquarters here,” he said during the event.
The process involved 55 officers from armed forces, 40 officers from government agencies and local universities as well as 23 New Zealand officers.
“This ceremony marks the completion of the skeleton excavation process of New Zealand troops in Perak from July 23 to Aug 12,” he added.
Also present were Ipoh Hospital chief of specialist Dr Mohd Shafie Othman and NZFD representative Commander Trevor Leslie.
The seven repatriated personnel, who were from the Royal New Zealand Air Force, were L/Kpl Teriwhero Percy, 26, Private Robet Malcolm, 27, Private Bruce Harvey, 21, Private Toma Feesago, 29, Private Brian James, 23, Private Tu Terangi, 23, and Private George Whitelock, 27.
According to information from NZDF, the New Zealand government had in April last year extended an offer to families of armed forces’ personnel and dependants buried abroad since Jan 1, 1955, to repatriate them at public expense.
NZDF was directed to implement and manage the Te Auraki repatriation project.
The disinterment in Malaysia started on July 4 and took about six weeks to complete. A total of 27 remains – seven from Taiping, 16 from Terendak Camp in Melaka, and four from Cheras, Kuala Lumpur – will be placed temporarily at the Wardieburn Hall of Wardieburn Camp before they are flown back to New Zealand on a chartered flight.
They are expected to arrive at Auckland Airport on Aug 21.