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Wintringham To Chair Vietnam Vet Working Group

Independent Chair appointed to Working Group on Concerns of Viet Nam Vets

Prime Minister Helen Clark has announced that former State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham is being appointed to chair a working group established earlier this year to consider issues relating to military service in Viet Nam raised by the Viet Nam veterans and the RSA.

The Prime Minister made the announcement at the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association's (RNZRSA) National Council meeting in Wellington today.

"Following a select committee inquiry and report, the government announced in December 2004 that we accepted that veterans were exposed to a toxic environment during their service in Viet Nam. This was a major step forward. We also offered an apology to Viet Nam veterans for the failure of governments in the past to recognise that the veterans were exposed to a toxic environment during their service in Viet Nam," said Helen Clark.

"Michael Wintringham has agreed to serve as the independent chair of the working group, which also involves government officials, the Royal New Zealand RSA, and the Ex-Viet Nam Services Association.

"Viet Nam veterans will now be consulted by the group, to hear issues, and suggestions for the resolution of them, and to ensure that they are receiving the appropriate pension, health care and medal entitlements.

"It has been agreed by the Working Group that after the consultation process, it would be appropriate for me as Prime Minister to offer the formal apology the government has already agreed to, acknowledging that veterans were exposed to a toxic environment.

"The forum and venue for that would be determined in consultation with the Working Group.

"There has been a great deal of hurt and resentment among Viet Nam veterans about how New Zealand viewed their service, both immediately after, and in the years since, their involvement in the Viet Nam War. Their sense of grievance has been heightened by successive governments’ failure to acknowledge that veterans were exposed to toxic chemicals. I hope this process will help address the grievances which exist thirty years after the end of that war," Helen Clark said.

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