What freedom? Which heritage?

Green Left Weekly #609 – December 8, 2004
By John Percy

The anti-communist Vietnamese group calling itself the Vietnamese Community in Australia (VCA) has been rebuffed in its scheme to have the flag of the US-imposed Saigon regime – overthrown by the Vietnamese national liberation movement in 1975 – officially recognised in Australia.

The VCA had initially conned the Fairfield City Council into jointly paying for four flagpoles in Cabravale Park, where it intended to permanently fly the defunct Saigon regime’s flag (yellow with three red stripes) alongside the Australian flag. Support by Fairfield council for such a move could have caused a serious diplomatic incident. Australia has had diplomatic relations with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam for 30 years, and recognises the SRV’s flag (yellow star on a red background, adopted when Vietnam declared its independence in 1945) as the flag of Vietnam.

The VCA had been planning a ceremony on November 28 to hoist its defunct flag alongside the Australian flag. However, at its meeting on November 23, Fairfield council backed off from giving official recognition to the Saigon regime flag, and knocked back paying the 50% of the cost of the four flagpoles that the VCA had initially been offered.

The VCA, angry that its scheme had been thwarted, converted the flag-raising ceremony into a protest against Fairfield council. Of the 25,000 people of Vietnamese descent living in the Fairfield area, about 500 turned up to the VCA event, with many of the men dressed in their old Saigon regime army uniforms.

The Fairfield council acknowledged the November 28 ceremony as “a private community event” to mark “the raising of the symbolic Freedom and Heritage Pennant as the symbol of” the VCA, and for the flag to be displayed only for the duration of the ceremony.

Calling it a “pennant” instead of a flag might avoid a diplomatic incident, but it’s bizarre to go along with calling it a “Freedom and Heritage” pennant.

What “freedom” does the VCA defend? The Saigon regime was created by the CIA in 1954-55 following the Communist-led Vietnamese independence movement’s defeat of the French colonial army at Dien Bien Phu in early 1954. The Saigon regime only survived through the massive repression its US-backers inflicted on the workers and peasants of southern Vietnam.

What “heritage” does the VCA defend? Is it the millions of Vietnamese horribly affected by Agent Orange, of a countryside pockmarked with US bomb craters, and unexploded bombs – a heritage of a regimes that could only survive as long the country was occupied by hundreds of thousands of US troops?

The VCA has had a temporary setback, but it has not given up its attempt to get official Australian recognition, and rehabilitation, of its discredited cause. All progressives, especially those in the Bankstown-Fairfield region of Sydney, need to oppose the VCA’s campaign.

The VCA is not content with trying to establish a little fiefdom in Fairfield. Its stated goal is to return to Vietnam and reinstitute the pro-imperialist regime its leading figures profited from decades ago. In fact, these Cold War dinosaurs see themselves as a government-in-exile, and their organisation has “departments” of external affairs, security, culture, etc.

However, for the purposes of extracting funding from the NSW government, the VCA puts on a different face. In its own English translation of its constitution, the VCA presents itself as a community-based cultural organisation that aims to “preserve Vietnamese Culture among the Vietnamese Community in Australia in line with [the] Multi-Cultural Policy of Australia” and to “help (morally or financially) the needed [sic] Vietnamese refugees particularly during their threshold period of the new life in a new country, Australia”.

The original Vietnamese version is quite different, stating that the “principles and objectives” of the VCA are to oppose “communism and communist regime under any form” and to “take part in the struggle to bring freedom, democracy, and human rights to the Vietnamese people”.

The VCA has used the English version of its constitution to receive $600,000-800,000 of public funding each year, mostly from the NSW government. How much of that large sum is spent on the culture and welfare of Vietnamese migrants, and how much actually goes towards furthering the right-wing political aims of the VCA?

Source: https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/what-freedom-which-heritage