Falklands veterans may boycott reunion

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 April, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 April, 1997, 12:00am

Hong Kong sailors who served in the Falklands War may not attend a planned reunion because they are angry at their compensation payouts.

The former captain of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Sir Galahad - destroyed with many casualties, including some from Hong Kong, in the 1982 South Atlantic conflict - is trying to organise a gathering in June.

Captain Philip Roberts, who now commands the RFA Sir Percivale - due to arrive on May 5 to take part in the withdrawal of the British Garrison - has appealed to local sailors who served on the Sir Galahad and her sister ship, the RFA Sir Tristram, in the war.

But an official from the Seamen's Union said members were unlikely to attend because they were bitter about unequal death-and-injury compensation from the British Government to the Hong Kong veterans.

Cheung San-fan, 55, who suffered burns to 65 per cent of his body when the Sir Galahad was hit by three bombs on June 7, 1982, has spoken out over unfair treatment. He also claimed Hong Kong seamen did not want to fight in the war, which wrested control of the islands from Argentina.

Mr Cheung was unavailable last night. But the official, who is close to him, said: 'I believe he will not join the reunion gathering because it will bring all the bad memories back to him instantly.' About 400 Hong Kong seamen were employed by the RFA when Britain went to war. Mr Cheung claimed they were threatened with court-martialling if they did not participate.

Captain Roberts is planning the reunion at the Mariners' Club, Kowloon, to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the Sir Galahad's loss. After a memorial service, a wreath will be laid for the Chinese crew killed.

A British Garrison spokesman last night said: 'This is about meeting old comrades, and remembering and honouring those who died. Financial issues are an entirely separate matter.' Hong Kong veterans are invited to contact Lau Yui-sang on 2746 0245 by April 30 or the Mariners' Club secretary on 2368 8261.