Bamyan Memorial Speech
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman
Minister of Defence
4 April 2013
Bamyan Memorial Speech:
Your Excellency the Governor General of New Zealand and Lady Janine Mataparae, Governor Sarabi, Lt General Rhys Jones, Chief of Defence Force, Secretary of Defence Helene Quilter, and Police Commissioner Peter Marshall.
To all those friends of New Zealand and Bamyan Province who gather here, today we pay tribute to the eight New Zealanders and 23 Afghans who have given their lives in the service of Bamyan Province, and whose names are commemorated on this joint memorial.
As the flag is lowered for the last time at Kiwi Base it is fitting that New Zealand remembers the sons and daughter who gave their lives in the service of others. I know it’s very important to all New Zealanders who served in Bamyan in whatever capacity that the sacrifices made here are never forgotten. I also know that the people of New Zealand hold the fallen close in their national memory.
It’s also appropriate that the names of New Zealand’s dead are commemorated alongside the 23 members of the Afghan National Security Forces who spilt their blood over the past decade here in Bamyan.
Our two peoples have worked side by side in Bamyan for ten years and have built a history of shared sacrifice that now link our two very different lands and cultures.
When the PRT consulted with local leaders here in Bamyan about this memorial all parties were unanimous in wanting a combined memorial. That is a reflection of the relationship and I want to thank Governor Sarabi on behalf of the people of New Zealand for the warmth that has been extended to our people here over the past decade.
Our shared history is also reflected in the effort that went into this memorial, with joint planning, construction and engraving carried out by Kiwis and Afghans working side by side. It is right that it is located here in the Provincial Operational Co-ordination Centre and it should serve as an ever present inspiration for those entrusted with the security of the Bamyan people.
Alongside their Afghan colleagues, today we remember the eight brave New Zealand soldiers who died in Bamyan Province – Lt Tim O’Donnell, Private Kirifi Mila, Corporal Douglas Hughes, Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer, Lance Corporal Rory Malone, Corporal Luke Tamatea, Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, and Private Richard Harris.
We also remember Corporal Doug Grant, and Lance Corporal Leon Smith whose sacrifice is commemorated on the ISAF memorial in Kabul.
Our thoughts remain with the families and friends of our fallen soldiers and their Afghan colleagues, as they continue to mourn their loved ones.
When I last visited Bamyan in October, I personally expressed the Government’s condolences following the tragic losses in August and thanked the last rotation for their on-going professionalism and commitment. The decision to deploy the New Zealand Defence Force is never made lightly. The New Zealand Government and the people of New Zealand highly value the work that the men and women of the NZDF carry out on behalf of the nation. It is work that entails very real risks on a daily basis, and this memorial is testament to that.
The security that the PRT has provided in the last decade has been fundamental to enabling development to flourish in Bamyan Province. The backbone to the New Zealand PRT has been the thousands of young men and women from the New Zealand Defence Force who have selflessly served their country, dedicated to making a difference and improving the lives of the Afghan people.
Over 3,500 New Zealand Defence Force personnel have been deployed to Afghanistan, with the majority serving here in Bamyan with the PRT. They have worked alongside colleagues from the New Zealand Police and Civil Service to help Bamyan and Afghanistan get back on its feet.
Ten years on, New Zealand’s legacy can be clearly seen. More children are attending school and going on to university, there are improved healthcare facilities and access to health services, wells and village water supplies are hooked up, there are more sealed roads and bridges connecting villages, and agricultural prosperity and agricultural development is taking place. This has all been achieved thanks to the security that the PRT has provided.
New Zealand may be a small country but our contribution in Afghanistan is recognised internationally. New Zealanders should be very proud of the work we have achieved here. It is the right time for the PRT to return home as the Afghan National Security Forces and the Provincial government in Bamyan get on with the job by themselves.
As Bamyan looks to the future and continues the progress made, New Zealand will watch from afar. The province is a better place for our efforts here, but we will always remember the sacrifices of the 23 Afghans and 8 New Zealanders commemorated here on this memorial.
To borrow from Rupert Brooke – there is some corner of a foreign field that is forever New Zealand.