The man who led the return of New Zealand soldiers killed and buried in South East Asia has revealed the bittersweet moment he heard he had won.
Paul Thomas fought for 42 years to bring home the remains of his SAS brother from Malaysia. He not only succeeded but led the repatriation for 26 other Kiwi servicemen and a baby. Yet news of the victory came second-hand from a reporter.
“He said the Honourable David Bennett has just made an announcement this morning that they are going to repatriate all the servicemen that are buried over in Malaysia and Singapore,” Mr Thomas told Māori Television’s, Native Affairs.
“I tried to sound happy but I was so angry. I could have kicked the log I was sitting on. I could’ve kicked it in half with my foot. You know I was that angry it had taken 42 years to have one person say yes.”
Mr Thomas fought successive governments and bureaucracy, travelled to Malaysia and London to convince Commonwealth heads that the remains of kiwis should come home.
“There have been times on this journey where I felt all alone, felt everybody was against me, fighting with the government, fighting with members of parliament. I wanted short, sharp, clear-cut answers which I could never get. What I’ve done hasn’t been for the living. It is for all those people that have passed away. I guess I have been their voice,” he said.
Mr Thomas shares for the first time his remarkable journey with Native Affairs on Monday at 8pm.