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Speaker Speech to Turkish International Service

HON MARGARET WILSON

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
NEW ZEALAND

Speech to Turkish International Service
Mehmetcik Memorial
Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey

Monday 24 April 2006

9.00am, Monday 24 April 2006
(6.00pm, Monday 24 April 2006, NZT)

E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga tangata o nga hau e wha, e huihui nei
(To the authorities, languages and people from the four winds assembled here)

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa. Merhaba and greetings
(Greetings, greetings and greetings to you all, merhaba)

Gallipoli is a place of great significance in the history of New Zealand. What happened here scarred our hearts and caused immense grief to our families.

Yet it also stirred within our people a new sense of national identity.

It has been said that the troops left home as colonial soldiers in the service of the empire, but returned as New Zealanders.

We began to become more certain about our place in the world, and about what our small nation could contribute.

As New Zealanders we pay our respects to the memories of all the other soldiers who fought here: the sons of Turkey, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Ireland, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Germany and South Africa.

We remember in particular today our friends across the Tasman, the Australians with whom our soldiers fought and died side by side. Like us, they are today reflecting on the courage and sacrifice of those who fought for our countries, for our safety and for our peace.

There are few New Zealand families that have not been touched by loss of life, or injury in wars like that here at Gallipoli, places so remote that many would not previously have heard of them. We therefore remember not only those who died, but also their friends and comrades, their families, their sons and daughters, their mothers and fathers.

We know from the testimonies left to us that the realities of the campaign here were grim. Men battled on in increasingly tough conditions often fighting against incredible odds. The physical and psychological pressures they endured were punishing.

The human cost of the Gallipoli campaign was high. It is chilling to recall that more than 130,000 lives were taken during the nine-month battle for the peninsula. As we remember the 88,000 Turkish soldiers among this number, it is difficult to comprehend how communities coped with loss on such a scale. For New Zealand, as a small young country, the losses suffered were particularly devastating. Of the 8556 New Zealand forces that landed here, 4852 were wounded and 2721 were killed. The impact was felt deeply in cities, towns and settlements across the country.

Standing here today, it is hard for us to imagine what these men must have gone through. We salute the great strength, courage and perseverance displayed by all in the midst of this carnage. We remember the bravery of the Turkish soldiers, fighting to defend their homeland. And we remember the valiant efforts of the allied forces in their attempts to take control of the Gallipoli Peninsula.

We look around knowing that the blood of many nations was spilled on this soil.

But out of this shocking and horrifying bloodshed, a lasting legacy has been left to us. The comradeship born on the battlefields, and the reconciliation of those once enemies, must give hope for those involved in today’s conflicts.

For my country, a distinct sense of nationhood rose out of the scars of Gallipoli. As historian Ormond Burton observed of the campaign, “when New Zealanders went to war, they were ignorant of its causes, and innocent of its meaning. When the August fighting died down there was no longer any question but that the New Zealanders had commenced to realise themselves as a nation”.

An enduring bond between the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps – the ANZACs - was forged out of the mutual respect each had for the other during the fighting.

And strange though it may have seemed to the Turkish and New Zealand soldiers fighting as foes on battlefields of Gallipoli, a strong friendship has since flourished between our countries. Although physically there is a great distance between our nations, for those of you who know Wellington, there is an eerie similarity between this peninsula and the rugged outcrops around Wellington’s harbour and heads.

In recent times there has been an increasing number of high-level visits between Turkey and New Zealand. The visit to New Zealand of His Excellency Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan in December last year was particularly welcome and came at a time when our two countries are seeking to further strengthen and expand our bilateral relationship. People-to-people links are so important and it is particularly encouraging to see more of our young people travel to each other’s countries. We are keen to foster more exchanges of this nature.

We are deeply grateful to the Turkish Government for setting aside this land as a memorial to the cause of peace. Our dead lie here in your country, entrusted to your keeping. Back in New Zealand on a rugged cliff top reaching out beyond the Wellington harbour stands a memorial to the great Turkish commander Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

The Gallipoli wars were a seminal event in the collective memory of all nations whose men fought and died here. Sadly this was not the last terrible battle to be fought by our countries. As we gather here today we can but hope and pray that remembering this suffering and loss will strengthen our commitment to seeking peace and justice for our world.

We owe this to future generations. And we owe this to the men who fought with courage and with honour when facing incredible odds. Their sacrifice speaks to us still.

We will remember them.

Nō reira, ki a koutou kei konei, kei te wā kainga hoki
(And so to you here and at home as well)

tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā ano tātou koutou
(Greetings, greetings and greetings to us all once again)

Teşekkür ederim and thank you very much.

ENDS

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