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Editorial: Welcome to Fiji, Ron Mark, NZ’s Minister for Defence

New Zealand’s Minister for Defence, Ron Mark, is among friends after he arrived in the country yesterday. He is the first minister in the Jacinda Arden-led Labour Government to visit
23 Mar 2018 11:47
Editorial: Welcome to Fiji, Ron Mark, NZ’s Minister for Defence
Vice Chief-of-Defence, Air Vice-Marshal Kevin Short at the RFMF Headquarters, Berkley Crescent,Suva on March 22, 2018.

New Zealand’s Minister for Defence, Ron Mark, is among friends after he arrived in the country yesterday.

He is the first minister in the Jacinda Arden-led Labour Government to visit Fiji.

But this is not the first time he has been here.

As far back as 1978, he did his jungle warfare training as an officer cadet at Wainadoi. After TC Winston he was here visiting friends and ex-military associates he served with in the Middle East.

During his own military career with both the New Zealand Army and Omani military, he served alongside Fijians in some of the volatile theatres. He remembers the Battle of Mirbat in Oman where British SAS Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba and Trooper Sekonaia Takavesi  displayed bravery with their heroic deeds. Labalaba made the ultimate sacrifice when he was shot in the neck and killed.

There were a lot of Fijian warrant officers in the Omani Defence Force back in those days and he served alongside them.

He has had many contacts with Fijians in the military through training exercises and other services.

So he is here on familiar grounds and is expected to renew acquaintances.

In the wake of the announcement by his deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Winston Peters about New Zealand’s commitment to support the surveillance of our 200 mile economic zone, Mr Mark’s visit is timely.

He reinforces that commitment and our defence co-operation overall.

One of the prominent pillars that support our diplomatic relations is the defence ties between the two countries.

It goes back to the World War years and Mr Mark is familiar with it.

Today he and Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama will unveil a Royal New Zealand Air Force monument at Laucala Bay, the former site of the RNZAF base.

Before that they will attend a presentation by New Zealand author Bee Dawson who wrote the book – Laucala Bay – the story of the Royal New Zealand Air Force in Fiji 1940 to 1967.

It’s his people to people connection that will strengthen the ties between Fiji and NZ.

After the resumption of diplomatic ties following the fallout from the 2006 events, he says we are firmly “on good footing now ”.

When it comes to Defence issues we can count on Mr Mark to stand by Fiji because of his local connections.

He met his counterpart Ratu Inoke Kubuabola yesterday and is expected to meet Republic of Fiji Military Forces Commander Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto and his senior officers.

Before he became a minister Mr Mark had publicly stated that he felt NZ’s Defence budget should double and not be cut and had criticised previous policies.

New Zealand First’s Mr Mark and Mr Peters no doubt will have an influence in the Labour-NZ First coalition Government’s Cabinet’s National Security Committee.

The coalition could be looking at some crucial long-term investment decisions in Defence.

The coalition agreement will ‘‘re-examine the Defence procurement programme within the context of the 2016 Defence Capability Plan budget’’.

So from Fiji’s perspective Mr Mark is a blessing to our defence and security aspirations.

We welcome him knowing that he will understand our position and the important role we play in regional security and world peace.

NEMANI DELAIBATIKI

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj




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