20 Dec 2002

Fiji acknowledges contribution of soldier peace keepers

4:52 pm on 20 December 2002

Fiji is marking the end of 24 years of peacekeeping by its soldiers in Lebanon with daylong celebrations, traditional ceremonies and multi-cultural entertainment.

Soldiers of the First Fiji Infantry Regiment marched through Suva this morning to Albert Park where the President and commander in chief of the military, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, took the salute.

Ratu Josefa said the regiment had a distinguished record of service in the Solomon Islands in the second world war, in Malaya during the communist insurgency in the 1950s and now in Lebanon.

Among those taking part in the celebrations are families of 35 soldiers who lost their lives in Lebanon.

The ceremonies will end tonight with a military tattoo.

The Fiji Peacekeepers Association, which is boycotting the celebrations over a dispute about compensation with the government, has paid tribute to the families of servicemen killed in Lebanon.

It has also thanked the Mara Government's decision in 1978 to send troops to Lebanon, and commended the more than 12 thousand soldiers who have served there for their courage, sacrifice, loyalty and devotion to duty.

The Fiji Democractic Party says the soldiers were pioneers of United Nations peacekeeping in Lebanon and had served with courage and distinction in one of the most unstable parts of the world.