Killed soldier criticised PM's funeral no-show

LUKE TAMATEA: Killed alongside medic Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, 26, and Private Richard Harris, 21.
LUKE TAMATEA: Killed alongside medic Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, 26, and Private Richard Harris, 21.

One of the soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan at the weekend criticised the Prime Minister for not attending the funerals of two colleagues killed in an attack in the same region just weeks earlier.

Corporal Luke Tamatea, 31, from Kawarau, was killed on Sunday alongside medic Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, 26, of Christchurch, and Private Richard Harris, 21, of Pukekohe, while serving in Bamiyan province.

The fatal blast occurred while they were travelling in a humvee transporting a fellow soldier to see a doctor.

The attack occurred just kilometres northwest of Do Abe, near where lance corporals Rory Malone and Pralli Durrer, both 26, were killed in a firefight on August 5.

A memorial service and funeral was held for both Malone and Durrer, which Prime Minister John Key said he had to make the "hard call" to miss because his son was playing baseball in the United States.

Just days before Tamatea's death, he took to his own Facebook page to criticise Key's decision, saying "If i was a leader of a country i would attend the funerals of our fallen soldiers..... i wouldnt be at a f****** baseball game!!"

The next day on August 10, he posted "Baseball..... i think i have a new sport i hate."

Key visited the families both Durrer and Malone and explained why he would not be there in person.

His son Max is a member if the New Zealand U-17 baseball team, and was part of the team representing the country for the first time at the Senior League World Series.

Key has confirmed he will attend the funerals of Tamatea, Baker and Harris even if it clashed with the upcoming Pacific Island Forum. The funerals will be held this Saturday however, just before the forum is due to start on Monday.

Key said he had huge respect for Corporal Tamatea and did not want to comment on his criticism.

"This was a very brave New Zealand soldier that lost his life in the defence of New Zealand. I have huge respect for him and I don't intend to engage in any other comments he might have made."

He would be speaking to the families of the dead soldiers this afternoon and arranging a time to see them.

Labour leader David Shearer said it was a personal decision for Key to make, but he was pleased the Prime Minister would be attending the funerals of the three soldiers who had died most recently

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