Back in History: Sinai mission – 500 troops leave for peacekeeping duties

Fiji’s contingent for the Sinai peacekeeping mission march through Victoria Pde, Suva in 1982. Picture: FILE

THOUSANDS of clapping and cheering people lined the streets of Suva to watch the farewell march by the 500 troops from Fiji bound for the international force to Sinai in the Middle East.

This story was published in The Fiji Times on March 6, 1982, as Fiji is part of the international force to police the withdrawal from the Sinai desert by the Israeli forces.

The report said that 80 per cent of the men in the parade were recruited for this mission four months ago and were given intensive training with the help of United States Army instructors.

Carrying American supplied automatic weapons, and some riding in American supplied vehicles, they paraded through the city’s main street for inspection by the then deputy prime minister, Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau and lord mayor, councillor Joape Rokosoi.

The commander of the Royal Fiji Military Forces, Brigadier Ian Thorpe, said the main body of about 450 men was due to leave Fiji by air on March 18 and all would be in their assigned positions in Sinai by the end of March 1982.

Earlier in a brief ceremony at Albert Park, attended by Cabinet ministers, MPs, diplomats, and thousands of people, the prime minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara said Fiji’s decision to participate in the Sinai mission had been “clearly vindicated” by the participation of nine other nations who made the force both “balanced and international”.

“The participation of Britain, Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Uruguay, Colombia and the United States will mean that the force is both balanced and international,” he said.

“The decision to participate in the force had been criticised as hasty and open to Arab reprisals,” he said.

“The host countries of Egypt and Israel have welcomed our involvement. Arab countries understand the reasons for us being there, and the condemnation that the critics feared has not materialised,” Ratu Sir Kamisese added.

“Our presence in the multinational force in the Sinai will, I believe, make a positive contribution to the peace process in the Middle East,” he said.

“The government remains firmly committed to the view that a just and lasting peace can only be achieved by the withdrawal of Israel from all occupied territories since the 1967 war, including the restoration of the Golan Heights to Syria.

“We also believe in the right of Palestinian people to a homeland, and the recognition of the right of Israel to live in peace within secure and internationally recognised boundaries.

“We have not deviated from the policy, which is based on a resolution of the Security Council of the United Nations,” he added.

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