Leader of the Green Party ‘Keith Locke’ Apology to Vietnam Veterans

KEITH LOCKE (Green) :

The Greens are very pleased to support the Crown apology. Four years ago the Green Party called on the Government to offer a full public apology to Viet Nam veterans and their families for the failure of successive administrations to accept their exposure to Agent Orange or to provide adequate treatment for the illnesses that they and their children have suffered as a result. It has taken 4 long years, but at last today the apology has been made and we are thankful for that. The Green Party is delighted at this development and we congratulate the Prime Minister on making it.

The reality is that in the face of mounting evidence, successive Governments downplayed and even covered up the fact that veterans who fought in the Viet Nam War had been exposed to a toxic environment and the health effects they experienced as a result of their exposure to Agent Orange. Nor did successive Governments take steps to monitor the health of veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. The apology today will help redress the hurt and suffering of veterans and their families over all these years.

However, the Green Party calls on the Government to back up its apology with a programme to provide ongoing monitoring of dioxin exposure for veterans and their children, and to offer fully funded medical care for affected children. This apology is part of a necessary process of healing and reconciliation. It parallels an international process of reconciliation where some veterans have travelled to Viet Nam to talk in friendship with those who were once on what was called the other side. Viet Nam veterans who are Agent Orange victims from America, Australia, South Korea, New Zealand, and Canada have travelled back to Viet Nam where they have met with victims and visited hospices in friendship villages, where some of the many thousands of the most seriously deformed Agent Orange children are cared for, assisted by international veteran support, the Catholic Church, or local government.

Of course, all of these efforts do not absolve the United States Government—the main responsible party—or the other Governments that invaded Viet Nam, including New Zealand, from their moral responsibility to contribute to the health and welfare of all those who suffered as a consequence of the war, whatever their nationality. Today we are acknowledging the suffering of our Viet Nam veterans and what they went through and still go through today. In apologising, we acknowledge the mistakes of the past. We should also make a commitment to future generations not to repeat such mistakes. It is also an opportunity to recognise what a disastrous war it was for all, particularly, of course, the Viet Namese people, and for us to all look forward to a peaceful future.

Source: parliament.nz | [Volume:647;Page:16443] | Wednesday, 28 May 2008 | Ministerial Statements | Viet Nam Veterans—Crown Apology

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