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Gallipoli roadworks damaged heritage

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BerichtGeplaatst: 13 Okt 2005 16:21    Onderwerp: Gallipoli roadworks damaged heritage Reageer met quote

Gallipoli roadworks damaged heritage
October 13, 2005 - 11:54AM

Bone fragments were uncovered and military heritage was permanently damaged during roadworks at Gallipoli, but Australian officials showed little interest in the matter, a Senate inquiry has found.

Turkish authorities widened parts of the coastal road at Anzac Cove and built two parks between February and April this year, before an influx of 18,000 visitors for Anzac Day.

A Senate committee report said writer Bill Sellars who lives near the historic site and who found the bone fragments, told Australia's ambassador to Turkey, Jean Dunn, of the find as well as serious disturbances to military heritage.

But Mr Sellars told the inquiry neither the ambassador nor any other official had asked to be shown the remains.

It was not until the disturbances were reported in the media that the government started to show interest.

But no effort was made to investigate the bone fragments - which later disappeared, according to Mr Sellars - as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission had advised "our representatives have carried out an extensive examination of the area and have found no evidence that human remains have been disturbed".

The Senate finance and public administration committee, which has spent five months investigating the issue, called for an audit of the battlefield area of Gallipoli - where about 130,000 soldiers were killed during WWI - and a working group to oversee site management.

Opposition defence industry spokesman Senator Mark Bishop told parliament the government's mismanagement was inexcusable.

"The damage done by road construction at Gallipoli is a blot on the page of our proud military history," Senator Bishop said.

"It's a blot which shouldn't have happened and it's a blot which can't ever be erased."

The Labor-dominated majority report also called for remedial action this year to stabilise and restore vegetation at Anzac Cove to prevent future erosion and heal scarring by the roadworks.

"The committee finds that Australian officials did have first-hand knowledge while construction was ongoing that the roadworks were causing damage to the landscape," the report said.

"There was no effort made to investigate allegations that bone fragments had been uncovered, nor to negotiate with Turkish authorities on the extent of the roadworks."

In a dissenting report, Liberal members of the committee said Mr Sellars' claim did not stand up to scrutiny and, in any case, the roadworks were the responsibility of Turkey.

But the minority report called for an Australian official to be based at near Gallipoli to liaise on Anzac Day planning and help in the bid for World Heritage listing for the site.

Veterans Affairs Minister De-Anne Kelly said the report was politically motivated and based on unproven hearsay evidence.

"Some sites of significance have been affected but the overall integrity of the Anzac Cove remains," she said in a statement.

She said Turkish authorities had done an archaeological study before the roadworks started.

The minister said the government worked closely with Turkish authorities to plan and manage Anzac Day commemorations, but did not request the recent roadworks.

RSL national president Major General (Ret) William Crews said there was no room for politics in the management of Gallipoli and there was little point in speculating about what happened during the roadworks.

"We would prefer to see issues about Gallipoli, as important as it is to Australians, resolved in a bipartisan manner," Maj Gen Crews told AAP.

"We've always got to bear in mind Gallipoli belongs to Turkey and they decide what happens there."

Maj Gen Crews, who visited the site this year, said he was impressed by the way it was being preserved and protected.

© 2005 AAP
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