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Having found the name of the Defence Editor, I have fired off this snail mail, with accompanying brief details of what it was all about.
Mr Christopher Leake
Defence Editor
Daily Mail
Northcliffe House
2 Derry Street
W8 5TT

4 March 2006

What a way to treat veterans

Dear Mr Leake
I read with interest you article “Iraq heroes in medal farce” on 26 February 2006. I have to say that I’m disgusted at the way in which our returning soldiers were treated, but sadly, I have to admit that I am not surprised.

I am not surprised at this shabby treatment because in spite of this Government’s fine rhetoric of support for the nation’s veterans, their track record is abysmal.

Last year the Malaysian Agong (King) and Government announced that they wished to award its newly instituted medal, the Pingat Jasa Malaysia, to all British and Commonwealth personnel who served during the Malayan Emergency/Borneo Confrontation campaigns from 1957 to 1966.

The Australian and New Zealand Governments, who are no longer a part of the Imperial system of honours and medals approval, promptly and graciously accepted the offer and recommended Her Majesty to sanction unrestricted acceptance of the PJM. The first medals were presented at a special ceremony in Australia in February of this year, the most prominent recipient being the newly appointed Governor General (the Queen’s representative) who served with the Australian forces in Borneo.

The initial British response was outright rejection of the offer (Baroness Symons in the House of Lords). Following intensive lobbying, the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals (the HD Committee), at the instigation of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, reviewed the situation. They announced their recommendation on 31 January 2006, that British veterans could receive, but not wear, the PJM.

So Her Majesty has been put into the invidious position of approving the wearing of the PJM for all but her British subjects. We now have the shameful scenario whereby 2 former comrades in arms, one from Australia, the other from UK, taking part in the same Armistice Parade, to remember the same fallen comrades in the same conflict, but with different awards sanctioned by the same Queen. Even more bizarre is the real prospect of a former British serviceman who has since emigrated not being able to wear his PJM on ANZAC Day because he qualified under the British rules.

Gordon Brown recently announced the introduction of a National Veteran’s Day to honour the sacrifice and service of UK veterans, and “to present them with medals”. Just what medals might these be? Will his local representatives pin PJM’s on the chests of Malaya/Borneo veterans in the full glare of the media, only to order the veterans to keep their new medals in a box, out of sight, with any other cheap, fairground trinkets they might own?

At the conclusion of hostilities in 1966, the then Defence Secretary, Mr Dennis Healey, made a declaration in the House of Commons that the Borneo Campaign would be recorded “in the history books…as one of the most efficient uses of military force in the history of the world.”

The youngest qualifying veteran will now be about 58 years old – no longer a serving soldier. For the most part the veterans are in their twilight years and the ability to wear a medal from a grateful Malaysian people will bring a light into their eyes and a spring into their steps at no cost to HMG. I would urge your paper and its discerning readers, who care for justice and freedom from petty-minded officialdom, to take up the cause for British veterans to be allowed to wear the PJM.

Further information can be obtained on the following web sites:

Yours Sincerely

Gerald Law (ex RAF Borneo veteran)
The Malaya Emergency/Borneo Confrontation

The Malaya Emergency followed hard on the heels of WWII and the Communist-backed terrorists initially used equipment supplied to them by the British to fight the Japanese. The Emergency officially ended in 1960 after 12 years of often vicious fighting in some of the most hostile environment on earth. Enemy bullets conspired with disease to kill or disable the Commonwealth service personnel. It was an undeclared war, at the end of which a total of 5313 members of the Security Forces and civilians were dead, including over 400 British service personnel.

The establishment of the newly independent nation into a Federation of Malay States known as Malaysia brought new problems. A large part of Malaysia was the area previously known as British North Borneo, comprising Sabah and Sarawak. However, most of the land mass of Borneo was part of was now Indonesia (formerly Dutch East Indies). The Indonesian’s stated aim was that “to crush Malaysia we must launch a confrontation on all fields. We cannot talk sweetly to the imperialists.” The next undeclared war began when a mob of 10 000 burned down the British Embassy in Jakarta.

The Confrontation formerly ended in 1966 when General Suharto, who had ousted Sukarno in a coup, sued for peace. Over 100 service personnel from several Commonwealth nations never returned. And so ended 18 years of bloody conflict, which barely go mentioned in the British media.

At a time when the French were forced, by Communist-backed terrorism, to withdraw from Indo China; the Dutch were ejected, by terrorism, from the East Indies; and the mighty US got a bloody nose in Viet Nam, the British Commonwealth forces went about their business quietly and efficiently – and were successful.

At a time when we are being bombarded by the need to be vigilant during a “war on terror”, it is ironic to recall that Commonwealth troops are, so far, the only ones to have achieved success in such a war.

But the campaign was not only one of military tactics. A number of awards were made for brave conduct, including a Gurkha VC, but there was another, more important, strand to the way in which the war was conducted – the “hearts and minds” approach, by which local tribesmen and villagers were encouraged rather forced, to assist in intelligence gathering. No burning of villages or beating up of locals here.

It is for the dedicated and humane service rendered by the Commonwealth personnel that the PJM has been offered, as much as for the military victory. Malaysia is a pro-Western, Islamic state and a valued member of the Commonwealth. Its Agong (King) is democratically shared in rotation by the leaders of the separate states that make up the Federation. The Agong, Government and people of Malaysia do not deserve the insulting and patronising treatment meted out by HMG and its associated Quangos, and neither do the British veterans.

Gerald Law (ex RAF Borneo Veteran)
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Way to go Gerry!

This is exactly the sort of approach that has potential to provide us with the much needed 'media exposure' that I am forever 'rabbiting on' about...Let's hope Mr. Leake of the 'Mail' takes you up on it and puts a little 'blurb' on the presses soon.


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