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War Veteran: I Helped Raise Flag On Independence Day

War Veteran: I Helped Raise Flag On Independence Day
Jope Qiriyamo in Labasa yesterday. Photo: JOSAIA RALAGO
October 09
11:00 2016

War veteran and chief, Jope Qiriyamo, remembers his historic role on Independence Day in 1970.

Mr Qiriyamo, 90, said he was one of the four soldiers tasked to hoist the Fijian flag for the first time at Albert Park in Suva on October 10.

“Today as we mark the 46th anniversary of our independence, I have noted a lot of changes that were once only a dream,” he said.

“We should continue to move forward and I wish Fiji all the best.”

Mr Qiriyamo vividly remembers the event.

Mr Qiriyamo, the Tui Lagi in Macuata, has told his 11 children, several grandchildren and great grandchildren often: “It was one of the proudest moments of my life.”

Mr Qiriyamo said the atmosphere of the Independence Day was one full of anticipation and excitement.

“People came from all parts of Fiji to witness this event, the Albert Park was jam-packed,” he said.

“We had to guard the flag the night before the Independence Day at the City Hall in Suva. The four of us stood guard, with our full suit, from 10pm the night before to 4am the next morning,” Mr Qiriyamo said.

“People from all walks of life converged at the City Hall to take a look at our new flag.

“We were also given five bullets each and advised to shoot if anyone wanted to cause harm. This is not to kill but to stop them and fortunately we did not have to fire any shots that night.

“Our preparation for the following day was done with the utmost care as this was the day everyone had been waiting for – the independence of our Fiji.

“The arrival of Prince Charles at the Albert Park that time had brought everybody to their feet, both young and old as we paid tribute to Great Britain and Queen Elizabeth the second, who was represented by her son.

“The atmosphere was solemn and there was pin drop silence. The lowering of the Union Jack, done by another team brought tears to the eyes of some.

“Then I remember marching in and standing guard as one of my colleagues went to raise the Fiji flag for the first time. Oh it was the best moment ever.”

Mr Qiriyamo, who had represented the country in Malaya, New Zealand and in Christmas Island, said he was bursting with Fijian pride.

“I do not know about the rest of them but as I stood there, back straight, chest out with our red uniform, I watched as the sky-blue flag slowly moved up the pole. I was proud! Proud of our country and how far we had come.

“Flashbacks of the war came to my mind, the thought my friends who had fallen during those times and the sacrifices we had made in the name of patriotism.

“It was at that moment I was again reassured that our efforts had not been in vain, Fiji was taking another step forward.”

Mr Qiriyamo recently received a $9000 cheque from the Government for his services in Malaya, New Zealand and Christmas Island between 1952 to 1958.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback:  josaia.ralago@fijisun.com.fj

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