Agent Orange probe ‘insensitive’ say veterans

Vietnam veterans are outraged a group looking at the effects of Agent Orange won’t meet in Rotorua or on marae.

Veterans claim the refusal to meet on marae is “culturally insensitive” since at least 60 per cent of Vietnam veterans are Maori.

Former New Zealand soldiers now living in Australia also want to make submissions to the group on a marae in Tauranga while other veterans who approached the group at a Wanganui meeting earlier this week have been told submissions will only be heard on “neutral ground”.

The joint working party holding the meetings is adamant no hui will be held on marae or in Rotorua.

Joint working group chairman Michael Wintringham said meetings were held at RSA premises throughout the country and few veterans had requested their submissions be heard on marae.

“This is the organisation responsible for the welfare of all veterans… that is the position we have taken.” Meetings were held in cities where most veterans lived, he said.

Mr Wintringham said the working party was under pressure both for time and to find a resolution as it went through the process of developing policy on behalf of veterans.

“People are saying why don’t we just get on with it, they have waited 30 years for action. We are giving it our best shot to satisfy everyone but we may not satisfy everyone,” he said.

The group says it has a “tight timeline” with a recommendation to the Government due by March.

Former Vietnam platoon commander John Moller of Kawerau said it was unacceptable not to hear from Maori in a setting of their choice.

“The spiritual and historical requirements of Maori returned Vietnam vets and their whanau should be met without question. I feel it is culturally insensitive and an insult to Maori not to hear them on marae,” he said.

More than 60 per cent of New Zealand’s Vietnam troops were Maori and they should be given “an absolute right” to make verbal presentations in surroundings in which they felt spiritually and holistically comfortable, he said.

Opotiki Vietnam veteran Gavin Nicol said he was appalled former soldiers were not being given enough opportunity to attend meetings being held around the country, at venues where they felt comfortable.

“I find it quite offensive,” he said.

Mr Nicol made submissions to the group in Tauranga and said many veterans in Rotorua were too ill to travel.

Published: 2005, Dec, 16. | Time-stamp: 12:33 PM Friday  | By: DAILY POST (ROTORUA) | Article Link: nzherald.co.nz | Article Title: Agent Orange probe 'insensitive' say veterans

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