A formal apology by Prime Minister Helen Clark to a gathering of Vietnam veterans is being sought by the Ex-Vietnam Services Association.
Association spokesman John Dow said he was waiting to finalise a meeting with Helen Clark’s office on how to conduct a formal apology to veterans for exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange.
He believed Helen Clark should give a formal apology in front of as many veterans as possible, and suggested Parliament grounds as a venue.
Veterans Affairs Minister George Hawkins last month issued a press statement with an apology for the failure of successive governments to recognise that veterans were exposed to a “toxic environment” in Vietnam.
But the Prime Minister said “she was not aware” of any approach by the association, and did not want to discuss the issue through the news media.
The apology issued by Mr Hawkins came with a 16-page response to the health select committee’s inquiry into the exposure of defence personnel to Agent Orange.
The committee called only for acceptance that exposure occurred, not an apology, but the Government offered one anyway.
However, the Herald yesterday reported widespread unhappiness among veterans that the Prime Minister had not apologised herself.
They point out that she personally apologised in 2002 to Chinese immigrant workers, gays and Samoans for their treatment.
Mr Dow said the Prime Minister should be the one to make the apology because of the importance and seriousness of the issue given the 30 years of “neglect and denial” over Agent Orange.
“It should be done in a formal public setting which provides the potential for the maximum number of veterans to attend, so we are not talking about 20 people in a room somewhere.”
Mr Dow said underpinning an apology should be improved services for veterans such as free annual medical checks.
However, the association did not support some veterans’ calls for the Government to pay compensation.
Published: 2005, Jan, 24. | Time-stamp: 11:55 PM Monday | By: Kevin Taylor | Article Link: nzherald.co.nz | Article Title: PM should apologise, say Vietnam vets.