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Fiji military waits on UN invite

 

Oct 05, 2009 12:00:00 AM

Fiji’s military is keeping its fingers crossed that the United Nations will soon change its stance and include it in new peacekeeping operations.

Fiji military leader Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama had expressed his disappointment at the 64th UN General Assembly last month over Fiji’s omission since the 2006 coup.

He had also raised the matter in the meeting of world leaders last year, but there is still no breakthrough. 

“To this day, we have not been able to receive a clear and satisfactory reply on this matter from the United Nations,” he told world leaders on September 26, 2009.

Bainimarama said Fiji’s participation in peacekeeping operations had been suspended, despite a “proud record”. 

Fiji’s 3000-plus strong military has participated in peacekeeping operations since it deployed soldiers to Lebanon in 1978.

Soldiers who chose anonymity told Fijilive that they “live for tours of duty abroad”.

“It benefits not only our families, but also our children’s education and so on,” one said.

According to the UN Peacekeeping Department, the UN currently has 19 missions around the globe. Fiji now only has troops serving in Iraq (UNAMI).

With a total of 221 soldiers in UNAMI as at August 31 this year, Fiji is ranked the 46th largest contributor of peacekeepers to the UN out of the 116 contributing countries.

Fiji also contributes seven military observers and 50 police officers to the UN peace keeping missions.

Pakistan (10, 584), Bangladesh (9549) and India (8767) contribute the most number of troops to the total 80, 907 UN military peacekeepers recorded at the end of August.

Meanwhile, many former Fijian soldiers work for United Kingdom and United States private security firms with lucrative contracts in Iraq and other hot spots.

However, the global financial downturn and steady withdrawal of US forces from Iraq has seen a fall off in security work available for these former soldiers.

More than 2000 Fijians are currently serving with the British Army.

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