Former servicemen share life experiences

L-R Warrant officer (WO) Saula Macanavere, Major Mateni Tamanivakatani member of first Batallion to Lebanon in 1978 and WO Suliano Kulaniloga. Picture: SERAFINA SILAITOGA

BEING under enemy attack every day at borders of Lebanon were phases of life that no one would want to experience, says Major Mateni Tamanivakatani, who was a member of the first battalion in 1978. Sharing his story at the 40th celebration of peacekeeping mission held at Subrail Park yesterday, Mr Tamanivakatani said the Fijian troops were given the most tough and risky task — to guard the two main borders crossing at Lebanon. “Today’s peacekeeping mission is more peaceful than what we went through in our time, especially in 1978 when enemies of the Israelites kept attacking us at the borders,” he said. “We were given two main borders to guard and these are the borders at Tyre and Wadizulu. I don’t know what names they use today, but our borders were known by these names in 1978. “Our commander was the former President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and we also lost a lot of Fijian soldiers in the 1970s and 1980s because the tension among local communities was really bad in Lebanon.” Another ex-serviceman, Suliano Kulanilagi, said every day they heard gun shots at the borders and they also retaliated and responded with gun fights to protect themselves from the enemies. “If we stop local people from crossing the border, they will go around to the other border and shoot our Fijian troops and that’s how they used to retaliate,” he said. Their comrade Saula Macanavere described their years at Lebanon and Sinai as learning stages of life. “We got to see the other side of the world and how people in Fiji are so blessed to live a peaceful life at home, freely travelling and enjoying life,” he said. “It’s not the same that side.”

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