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Veterans denied right to wear medals

PUBLISHED: 14:22 09 July 2008 | UPDATED: 10:56 08 July 2010

War veterans who served in Malaya in the 1950s and 1960s have been denied the right to wear medals of gratitude given to them by the Malaysian government.

War veterans who served in Malaya in the 1950s and 1960s have been denied the right to wear medals of gratitude given to them by the Malaysian government.

It is now four years since the Malaysian King and government created a Malaysian Service Medal, in honour of British and Commonwealth forces who served in the region during the Malayan Emergency in the 1950s and 1960s.

But despite repeated attempts by veteran's associations, those who fought in the anti-communist conflict have been told they still cannot wear the medal, called the Pingat Jasa, given to them in gratitude.

Ex-Royal Navy servicemen David Harman and Ernie Heritage, both from Swaffham, fought in Malaya, now Malaysia, and say it is a an insult to British veterans and the Malaysian people.

“Not allowing us to wear it is an insult to the British servicemen and women who fought in the conflict as well as the Malaysian government who generously offered the medal,” said Mr Harman.

“We would like to put the government on the spot and hear why we're not allowed to wear the Pingat Jasa Medal.”

Both the Australian and New Zealand governments have allowed veterans to wear the medal without restrictions.

But the British government announced in the House of Lords that it would refuse the Malaysian medal for British citizens, saying it was contrary to British Medals Policy.

This is that non-British medals will not be approved for events that took place more than five years before initial consideration, or in connection with events that took place in the past or if the recipient has received a British award for the same service.

“The whole policy smacks of hypocrisy,” said Mr Harman.

In 2006, after intensive lobbying, ministers said veterans would be allowed to apply for the medal, but not wear it.

Earlier this year, more than 300 Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex veterans who served in the conflict were honoured with the medal in two ceremonies at Norwich City's Carrow Road stadium on the proviso that they would not wear it.

But now, the ex-servicemen from Swaffham who are also members of the National Malaya and Borneo Veterans Association (NMBVA) are hoping the government, under Gordon Brown, would reverse the decision.

Mr Heritage has received the medal, having applied for it through the NMBVA, but Mr Harman who approached the Royal Naval Association for the accolade, is yet to hear on the matter.

George Tullis, secretary of the NMBVA said he could not understand why the British government denied its veterans the right to wear the Pingat Jasa Medal.

“Our advice to members is wear it, nobody will take any action against us. We fought in the conflict and we deserve to wear it.”

A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “It is long standing policy that non-British awards will not be approved or permitted for events or service that took place more than five years before initial consideration, or in connection with events that took place in the distant past.”

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