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Ron’s visit marks a milestone in Fiji relations

Rosi Doviverata

New Zealand’s Minister of Defence Ron Mark is the first Minister in the Jacinda Arden-led Labour Government to visit Fiji.

The former New Zealand army officer arrived at Nausori International Airport on March 22, 2018, saying that he was privileged to be in Fiji.

The following day, he joined Prime Minister Josiah Voreqe Bainimarama in unveiling a monument marking the Royal New Zealand Air Force service in Fiji, when it had a flying boat base at Laucala Bay in Suva.

They also attended a presentation by New Zealand author Bee Dawson of her book, ‘Laucala Bay – the story of the Royal New Zealand Air Force in Fiji 1940 to 1967’, at University of the South Pacific, Laucala Bay.

Mr Mark and his delegation flew to Nadi on a Royal New Zealand Airforce Boeing 757 plane.

The Kiwis brought a P3K2 Orion for a demonstration flight over Fiji.

Back in time

Mr Mark’s first visited Fiji in 1978 to trek the steep and tough Wainadoi terrain while undergoing his jungle warfare training as an officer cadet.

As a young Non-Commissioned Officer and later as an officer, Mr Mark worked with many Fijians.

Before Fijian soldiers were sent to Sinai to serve under the umbrella of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), Mr Mark was part of the advance element of New Zealand army officers to assist in setting up the operation in 1982.

Mr Mark was there in his capacity as a mechanical engineer.  He also served in Sinai for 13 months and later in Oman with the Sultan of Oman’s military as a major.

Military background useful

He believes that his military background has nurtured values and skills valuable to his role as Minister of Defence.

“We tend to be quite firm, quite rigid, we like things done and it does not matter whether it’s a man or military woman, army, navy or air force, we are actually shaped into a mould. During the time of war, in times of disaster, in times of emergency, when all about them are losing their head – you can guarantee that the military won’t and that is the strength that the military brings to society,” he said.

Unchanged values

But the 64-year-old understands that society determines the direction it wants to go.

“When I became a member of Parliament, I stepped out of the uniform and I became a private citizen and my duties and responsibilities shifted – but my values have not changed.  That is the strength that former service personnel who end up in positions such as mine bring.”

With a shift in policy for the region spearheaded by New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, Mr Mark reiterated similar sentiments yesterday.

“We are on a good footing now, but that is only going to deepen, I am looking forward to New Zealand and Fiji getting back to where we always were as friends and family. We have stood by each other, for each other since World War II and its fitting and appropriate that we are here at this time to remember and commemorate the operations of the Number 5 Squadron who operated out of here from 1940 all the way through to 1967,” Mr Mark said.

He said that it was about recognising that we have shared interests, shared security interests and shared security concerns.

“It is not about us telling Fiji how to do their job, it is about us assisting where it is appropriate where Fiji wants us to assist. From there, it is really about how we can enhance the security of Fiji and of ourselves and the Pacific as a whole and how we can work together to protect all of our people, Fijians and New Zealanders,” he said.

Mr Mark also commended the efforts of Fiji service men and women in their peacekeeping efforts around the globe.

He met his Fijian counterpart Inoke Kubuabola while the Vice Chief-of-Defence Air Vice Marshal Kevin Short met with the RFMF Commander Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto.

Indian Newslink has published the above Report and Picture under a Special Agreement with Fiji Sun.

Photo :

Ron Mark with Air Vice-Marshal Kevin Short and New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Fiji Jonathan Curr in Fiji on March 22, 2018.

(Picture by Rosi Doviverata for Fiji Sun)

 

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