Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger gave an exceptional ANZAC Day speech in front of a packed Waikanae Memorial Hall. With Mr Bolger’s kind permission we present his speech in full below.
Waikanae Anzac Day
Memorial Hall 25 April 2016
“The Lessons of History”
E nga rangtira, nga kumatua, nga kuia. Nga waka me tehau kainga. Tena koutou, tena koutou tena koutou katoa.
To the many chiefs, elders, women, the waka and the home people my greetings at this Anzac Day remembrance gathering.
I have titled my remarks ‘The Lessons of History’ because from my perspective if we collectively forget the lessons of history we expose ourselves to repeat past mistakes.
“Peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be achieved by understanding” said one of the greatest minds of the 20 century, Albert Einstein.
This will be a slightly different Anzac address.
Every Anzac Day we recall the events of 101 years ago as the Anzac’s tried to storm the cliffs at Gallipoli against well entrenched Turkish troops. An endeavour, which as Prime Minister John Key noted last year, was seen by the Turkish troops as an invasion of their country and they fought with courage to defend their homeland from invaders from afar.
When looked at from that viewpoint it puts a more nuanced perspective on the traditional presentation of the Gallipoli campaign. And the very recent information that New Zealand had approximately 16,000 troops in that campaign, when for the last 100 years we understand that the number was about 8000, changes another perspective.
Another lesson of history is that the Gallipoli campaign in military terms was a disastrous failure that needlessly cost thousands of lives. The only successful aspect of the campaign, as a historian noted, was the withdrawal of the remaining troops.
None of this detracts in any way from the courage, determination and commitment of the Anzac troops which we honour today.
We honour all those who answered the call back in 1914 and in all subsequent campaigns and those serving in many areas of the world today.
Back in 1914 the troops who left the emerging cities, the raw towns and the back valleys of New Zealand did so because their country called, they responded in a way similar to all history; they picked up arms and followed orders, but in doing so they showed the courage and the initiative we expect of Kiwis.
And with reference to the recent flag debate it wasn’t a flag they fought for, but for the values and beliefs that underpinned their young country.
And because back then we were young in terms of European settlement, our values were underpinned by the values and beliefs of the countries our forebears migrated from.
And in the interest of historical accuracy New Zealand military personal fought as British subjects until 1948. The first New Zealand passports were issued in 1949.
From the battle fields of WWI it was an incredibly short 21 years until it was repeated all over again with the start of WWII in 1939. That ended in 1945 with the explosion of the two atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki-the death toll was terrible. Then only five years later it was on to the Korean War, 1950 -53, and then 10 years later the 12 long years of the Vietnam War from 1963-1975.
The short span of 61 years from start of WWI to the end of Vietnam War or as the Vietnamese call it ‘the American War’ covers an incredibly sad and utterly brutal chapter in the world’s history.
There was more slaughter and destruction during those years than any other time in history. We are all indebted to and impressed by the many acts of heroism of those who answered their countries call. To honour their memory we are duty bound to work to create a world where such horror is never repeated.
When I look out across the world and observe the many issues from poverty and injustice to climate change I am not convinced we are working hard enough.
President John F Kennedy put it well in his inauguration address when he said; “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich”.
WWI was a war of mass slaughter and eventually came to a conclusion with the signing of Treaties. Archibald Wavell-later Field Marshall Earl Wavell- who served as a young officer in Palestine in WWI observed after the signing of the Treaties; “After the war to end war”- which is what many claimed that WWI was-Wavell noted they seem to have been successful at the Peace Conference in Paris at making a “Peace to end Peace”.
As we know he was correct and despite the much ridiculed attempts of them British Prime Minister Chamberlain to redraft some aspects of the Treaty in an effort to avoid another war, WWII started a short 21 years later.
I refer to Wavell’s observation because the troubled Middle East we know today is the Middle East that Britain and France essentially created in at the end of WWI. They drew new boundaries and created new countries and it is from this ‘New Middle East’ which in many ways ignored history, that ISIS comes from today.
War always has a long history behind it.
It is said that the first causality of war is the truth. The truth is that all wars kill people, kill brave people and innocent people alike as the memorials in towns and cities and remote valleys across our land and other lands testify.
Today the conflicts that fill our TV screens are mainly centred on the conflicts in the Middle East-especially Iraq and Syria.
Prime Minister Helen Clark’s Government wisely decided that there were no grounds for New Zealand to join the US lead invasion of Iraq in 2003. That war continues without from my perspective any discernible goal from the beginning, but the killing and destruction carries on.
The war in Syria has become a murderous tug of war locally between Sunni and Shia and in a wider context between the US and Russia. And again death and destruction is the order of the day.
As a result on our TV screens we see an endless stream of desperate refugees as people flee the land off their birth because they can no longer stay there. The causalities of war.
Sadly instead of a welcome, with a few notable exceptions they are being rebuffed and in many countries fences are being built to lock these desperate people out.
Our Government is reviewing our refugee intake and I hope we will be more generous and accept many more than the very modest 750 refugees we accept today.
Perhaps we might adopt an aspect of Canada’s policy which as I understand it includes a provision that in effect says that if the public show that they can provide the necessary support in their home or community for a refugee then extra numbers of refugees can be accepted.
While we correctly pay tribute on Anzac Day to those who served and fought in foreign lands, we tend to overlook those who were killed or injured during the Land Wars of the 19th century here at home in New Zealand. So today I acknowledge and pay tribute to them as well.
A short 35 years before the start of WWI, near the end of the New Zealand Land Wars, the village of Parihaka on coastal Taranaki-where Joan and I grew up-became something of a home for those Maori displaced-refugees if you like-from earlier battles.
Parihaka was led by Tohu Kakahi and Te Whiti o Rongimai.
It was a thriving community and influenced by the teaching of Christian Missionaries became the focal point for radical new thinking, passive resistance, long before either the great Mahatma Gandhi or the Rev Martin Luther King.
Unfortunately the new settlers, supported by the Colonial Government, wanted their land but instead of fighting Tohu and Te Whiti encouraged their people to engage in various acts of non-violent passive resistance, which the Colonial authorities found both puzzling and unacceptable.
Their response was in 1881 to march a large contingent of troops through the night to attack Parihaka at daybreak. Instead of the battle they expected they were greeted by children dancing and playing games and the women brought out freshly baked bread for the troops.
Te Whiti said in effect to the assembled leaders of the invasion, which included the Minister of Native Affairs on his white horse, that ‘why do we fight, there is enough for all to share’.
This approach was beyond the mind-set of the Colonial Authorities who worked on the assumption, that what they wanted they got, so they arrested both Tohu and Te Whiti and imprisoned them in cold caves in Otago.
Eventually they were released and returned to Parihaka, but their lands were gone and their people scattered.
That is a very much shortened history of a community whose philosophy should be studied if the world truly wants peace.
First they accepted large numbers of refugees, and then instead of fighting they declared there was enough for all.
If the world embraced that philosophy we would at last be moving towards peace.
Let me conclude by recalling for you the haunting words of the late Nelson Mandela, they are very powerful:
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of their skin or their background or their religion. People must learn to hate and if they can learn to hate they can be taught to love”.
The power of that observation should give us all hope that while all is not perfect there are grounds for hope of a more peaceful tomorrow.
On this Anzac Day as we remember past battles let us that live on the Kāpiti Coast, that live in New Zealand, record our gratitude to all our servicemen and women down the ages who have served to keep us safe, and grateful thanks and encouragement to those who continue to work for a better world.
I end by observing that Anzac Day is a time for reflection and today as always there is much to reflect on.
Thank you for your attention.