Student body rejected Anzac wreath invite

23:15, May 25 2009

Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association (VUWSA) has angered students by refusing to lay a wreath at Anzac Day commemorations, saying to do so would be to condone war.

The VUWSA executive move to reject a Wellington City Council invitation to lay a wreath was made just three days out from Anzac Day, student magazine Salient reported.

It outraged students, past and present, who have mounted often vitriolic attacks on the executive via the Salient website.

"This is an extremely distasteful course of action, which disrespects everyone who gave their lives in the struggles that have been fought by the military of New Zealand," a blogger wrote under the name Harleif.

"Confusing Anzac Day with a pro-war movement is ignorant and retarded.

"Anzac Day is about remembering what has happened and learning from it and acknowledging the fact that people have suffered greatly, so we don't have to."

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Officially, the decision was due to a desire not to "arbitrarily" observe events for which there was no formal VUWSA policy, Salient reported.

VUWSA president Jasmine Freemantle said there was no "official mandate from students" to recognise Anzac Day.

There would this year be a special representative council meeting to seek this mandate.

But the lack of policy was not the only reason a number of executive members were vehemently against the idea of laying a wreath, Salient said.

Some on the executive said that to lay a wreath would be to condone war.

"I don't want to look like we support war at all," vice-president of education Freya Eng said.

More than 290 Victoria University students were believed to have been killed in World War 2.

Ms Eng later responded to attacks on her by saying she did not mean to "imply" she did not respect the fallen.

"My own relatives were involved. I wholeheartedly respect and am grateful for the service men and women who have served for our freedom," she said.

"I respect that you support Anzac Day as a day of remembrance and patriotism, and I feel similarly, but some students may not feel the same way, and their view needs to be heard also."

Former student Peter said he found the attitude of VUWSA a "disgrace".

"People fought and died for the freedoms you enjoy today. Honouring them is not that difficult, is it? You're not being asked to put your life on the line, as they did, only to show a basic level of respect.

"Anzac Day pro war? Are you kidding me? No one can be that thick. Surely."