Widow tells of pride for husband's brave service

THE widow of a former RAF airman has been presented with a medal in his honour at the Scottish Parliament as a row continues over the UK Government's decision not to officially recognise the award.

Mary Swanson received the Pingat Jasa medal yesterday in recognition of her husband Peter's role during the Malayan Emergency during the 1950s.

The award is offered by the Malaysian Government to troops who were posted in the former British colony during the state of emergency, which began in 1948 and ran until 1960.

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But although servicemen have been entitled to the medal since 2004, it has never been officially recognised by the UK Government and veterans are not allowed to wear it on official occasions.

Mrs Swanson, whose husband died from a throat tumour in 2000, said that she was "very proud" to have finally been presented with the award.

But she added that it was "outrageous" that some of her husband's fellow servicemen were still waiting to receive their medals or were not allowed to wear them in public.

She said: "I heard about the medal two years ago and decided to see whether Peter would have been entitled to one. He was stationed there for two years as an air traffic controller and was involved in expeditions into the jungles.

"I lived out there with him and our three children and it was a horrendous time to be there. There was a lot of violence and the country wasn't secure, so they really did risk their lives for their country.

"When I received the medal at the parliament, it was a very proud moment. Peter probably would have hated to have had all that fuss made if he was still here, but I was very happy to take it for him.

"But I find it outrageous that other veterans who have this honour are not allowed to display it in public. The fact that the UK Government doesn't even recognise it is scandalous."

Tens of thousands of troops fought in Malaysia during the state of emergency alongside Australian and New Zealand veterans, who are also eligible for the honour and are allowed by their governments to wear it.

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Sandra White MSP, who arranged the ceremony for Mrs Swanson, said she had held it at the parliament in order to highlight the veterans' fight.

She said: "Those who took part in the Emergency deserve recognition for their efforts. What remains a disappointment is the attitude of the UK Government in refusing to allow them to wear the Pingat Jasa medal with pride."