Council caves in to right-wing Vietnamese

Green Left Weekly #666 – May 3, 2006
By John Percy

Sydney – Fairfield City Council has caved in to pressure from the right-wing Vietnamese Community in Australia (VCA) and agreed to the group hoisting the defunct flag of the old Saigon regime on council land on three occasions each year.

The group was rebuffed in 2004 when protests forced the council to deny access to council flagpoles for raising the old yellow flag with three red stripes. This averted a diplomatic incident, since Australia has had diplomatic relations for more than 30 years with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The flag it recognises is the yellow star on the red background, adopted when Vietnam declared independence in 1945.

An April 18 council meeting adopted a recommendation from the council’s services committee that the VCA be granted permission for flag-raising ceremonies in Cabra Vale Park on: August 18, 2006, 2007 and 2008, to commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day (Long Tan Day); April 30, 2007 and 2008, to commemorate the fall of Saigon; and June 19, 2007 and 2008, to commemorate Vietnam Armed Forces Day.

This decision is both politically disastrous – giving encouragement to the remnants of the old Saigon regime who dream of restoring their brutal rule in Vietnam – and diplomatically dangerous. Foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer reaffirmed in a letter to the Vietnamese ambassador on December 3, 2004, that his “department underlined to the Mayor of Fairfield that Australian Federal Government practice is to display only the flags of recognised states and that Australia does not recognise the former South Vietnamese regime”.

The decision also contradicts Fairfield council’s policy on “Flags, Banners and Flagpoles on Council Owned or Managed Land”, adopted on May 10, 2005, which states: “Council encourages the community to utilise flagpole sites for raising recognised flags, particularly for events, festivals and important occasions. Flags that can be raised for community purposes include:

  • the Australian National flag,
  • the NSW State flag,
  • the Fairfield City flag,
  • any other recognised flag...

“Recognised flag means a national, state or local flag that is officially recognised as the flag of the current government (but does not include recognised flags of former governments).”

Council’s reversal has come about with the active support of three local ALP MPs – Julia Irwin, federal member for Fowler; Chris Bowen, federal member for Prospect; and Reba Meagher, state member for Cabramatta.

The VCA hypocritically describes the flag of the defunct Saigon regime as the “Freedom and Heritage” flag. What “freedom”? All the regimes in the south of Vietnam that Washington propped up since the French colonialists were driven out in 1954 were brutal dictatorships. Was it the “freedom” of multiple coups, as Washington put its hopes on new puppets? Was it the “freedom” of the villagers massacred at My Lai? Was it the “freedom” of napalmed children?

What “heritage”? Is the heritage they defend the millions of Vietnamese people horribly affected by Agent Orange and a countryside pockmarked with bomb craters and unexploded bombs, a heritage of regimes totally propped up by US dollars and war materiel, and 500,000 US troops?

The VCA is importing its “freedom and heritage” to Sydney in the form of violent threats and harassment against anyone who opposes them, whether of Vietnamese or non-Vietnamese background. Peter Allen, the former president of the NSW-Vietnam Chamber of Commerce, was forced to step down after threats against his family, and Australian-Vietnamese families who have resisted the VCA standover tactics have been threatened, had pets killed and excrement smeared over their cars.

Community groups, trade unions and individuals should protest to the council by sending an email to <>, or to the mayor, Nick Lalich, at <>, or phone (02) 9725 0222. Demand that the harassment by the VCA be resisted and that the council reject the VCA’s attempt to hoist their defunct flag in Sydney. Point out that this act is the equivalent of supporting a flag-raising ceremony for German veterans of World War II, with the Australian flag hoisted next to the Nazi swastika flag.

Also contact the ALP MPs and shame them over their rotten stance. Contact Julia Irwin at <>, phone (02) 9755 7911; Chris Bowen at <>, phone (02) 9726 4100; and Reba Meagher at <>, phone (02) 9724 3381.