Rival poppy campaign angers veterans

BY HANK SCHOUTEN AND PAUL EASTON
Last updated 05:00 21/04/2010
Opinion poll

What do you think of Peace Movement Aotearoa's white poppy campaign?

Worthwhile

Ill-timed, but valid

Cheeky

Disrespectful

Shameful

Vote Result

George Jones
ANDREW GORRIE/The Dominion Post
I SEE RED: George Jones wants white poppies off his patch.
George Jones in Italy during World War II
SUPPLIED
VETERAN: George Jones served in Italy during World War II.

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War veterans are angry that Peace Movement Aotearoa is running a white poppy fundraiser just a day before the annual RSA red poppy day street appeal.

Veterans' Affairs Minister Judith Collins said the white poppy appeal was "incredibly disrespectful to those who served their country".

"Peace Movement Aotearoa should be ashamed of themselves," she said.

World War II veteran George Jones, 88, of Lower Hutt, said: "They should get off the RSA's patch and hold their appeal at least six months away from Anzac Day.

"Red poppies pay homage to the soldiers, what they did and what they had to put up with.

"They say they're for peace, but doing it the day before our day is picking a fight."

Mr Jones was a signaller in the New Zealand Division in the Italian campaign from 1943-45.

"They're being cheeky – there will be hundreds of guys who are not happy with this."

Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association chief executive Stephen Clarke said the organisation was concerned at the intrusion. Red poppies had been sold every year since 1922 to raise money for veterans' welfare services. It raised $1.4 million last year.

It was a clear case of "trading off" on the red poppy brand, Mr Clarke said.

However, PMA co-ordinator Edwina Hughes defended its white poppy appeal and the timing. Her organisation was not competing with the RSA. There was nothing to stop people wearing red and white poppies together.

"The red poppy is the symbol of remembrance for armed forces casualties where the white poppy is for all victims of war.

"The white poppy is a long-standing international symbol of remembrance and peace and we wanted to have it around Anzac Day because that's the day that's most appropriate for New Zealand."

Last year it raised about $5000, enough for three scholarships. All money collected in the appeal was going to peace scholarships, which were available to assist research on "the impacts of militarism, militarisation and warfare; alternatives to militarism, warfare, or collective non-violent responses to state violence".

One of the first scholarships was awarded to Victoria University student Marianne Bevan to fund a visit to East Timor to study militarisation, violence and gender issues in the country's recently established police force.

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- The Dominion Post

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