Peacekeepers saluted

Ministry of Defence and National Security permanent secretary Osea Cawaru, center, shares a light moment with Isireli Uluinakubou, left, and Osea Tokovou during the media launch of the Fiji-UN 40th anniversary at the Ministry of Defence and National Security conference room in Suva on Monday, June 04, 2018. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

SOCIAL Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) leader Sitiveni Rabuka has congratulated the Government and members of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) for the role they play in providing peacekeepers in war-torn countries. In a statement, Mr Rabuka said it was only fitting to hold a nationwide celebration to mark Fiji’s 40 years of service to the United Nations peacekeeping operations.

“On 10th June 40 years ago, the then prime minister, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara farewelled the first contingent of 500 soldiers to Lebanon to serve in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The contingent was led by the first commanding officer then, Lt Colonel Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, LVO, the former president of Fiji,” Mr Rabuka said.

“I also pay tribute to the former Permanent Representative to the United Nations (PRUN), the late minister, ambassador Berenado Vunibobo who facilitated our entry into peacekeeping in 1978. “I also recognise all succeeding PRUNs who have continued to enhance and facilitate our peacekeeping commitments”.

Mr Rabuka said Fiji’s proud tradition of more than 40 years in peacekeeping service was key in keeping the peace in Egypt (Sinai), Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor, Solomon Islands, Syria (Golan Heights), PNG (Bouganville), Cambodia, Liberia and Sudan.

“As a proud, former commander and commanding officer of our battalion in Lebanon, I want to acknowledge and commend this great gesture by the Fiji military to have a special week to recognise the work and sacrifice of our UN peacekeepers all over the globe, to restore and build peace in the troubled areas of the world,” he said.

“As a proud Fijian, I remember with pride and sorrow those who have died and made the ultimate sacrifice in the course of their peacekeeping duties.”

Mr Rabuka also thanked the families of soldiers for the sacrifices made for the country.

“To their widows, children, families and vanua we say we salute your husbands, fathers and sons’ ultimate sacrifice and vow that we will remember them.”