Mat Sabu: Return of NZ soldiers’ remains a milestone in defence ties

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu witnesses the handing over of the New Zealand soldiers’ remains. (Bernama pic)

SEPANG: The Te Auraki operation of returning the skeletal remains of fallen New Zealand soldiers, which ended today, is a milestone in Malaysia-New Zealand defence ties, said Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu.

Speaking at the official handover of the remains of 26 soldiers and one dependent at the Bunga Raya Complex of the KL International Airport here, Mohamad said Te Auraki was a high-value operation for Malaysia. Te Auraki means “The Return” in Maori.

“Malaysia honours New Zealand for its contribution to Malaysia’s independence,” Mohamad, or better known as Mat Sabu, said.

At the ceremony, Mohamad witnessed the signing of the official handover documents of the 27 remains between Malaysian Armed Forces chief Gen Zulkifli Zainal Abidin and New Zealand Chief of Army Maj Gen Peter Kelly.

The 27 remains comprise those of 26 soldiers and one family member who died in Malaysia between 1955 and 1971.

Kelly, in his speech, commended Malaysia for looking after the 27 New Zealanders buried in three Commonwealth War Graves, in Terendak Camp, Melaka; Taiping, Perak; and Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.

“This Te Auraki operation would not have happened without the overwhelming support from Malaysia. Terima kasih (Thank you),” he said.

Kelly said there were other New Zealand soldiers’ graves in Malaysia and their respective families had consented to their remaining in this country.