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Ron Mark, New Zealand’s Minister of Defence Here to Strengthen Fiji-New Zealand Cooperation

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
23 Mar 2018 10:00
Ron Mark, New Zealand’s Minister of Defence Here to Strengthen Fiji-New Zealand Cooperation
New Zealanders in Suva. From left: Vice Chief-of-Defence, Air Vice-Marshal Kevin Short, New Zealand Minister of Defence Ron Mark and New Zealand High Commissioner to Fiji Jonathan Curr at the Grand Pacific Hotel on March 22, 2018. Photo: 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 yesterday and said he was privileged to be in Fiji.

Today, he and Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama will unveil a monument marking the Royal New Zealand Air Force service here when it had a flying boat base at Laucala Bay in Suva.

Before the event, they will attend a presentation by New Zealand author, Bee Dawson, on her book, Laucala Bay – the story of the Royal New Zealand Air Force  in Fiji  1940 to 1967, at the University of the South Pacific, Laucala Bay.

Mr Mark flew in with his team on a C-130 Hercules from Nadi.

They flew from NZ to Nadi on an RNZAF Boeing 757 plane. The Kiwis brought in a third plane, a P3K2 Orion which will do a demonstration flight over Fiji today. It is from 5 Squadron, the same Squadron which operated Sunderland flying boats from Laucala Bay

This is not Mr Mark’s first time here.

In 1978, he trekked 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.

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.”

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 haven’t.  That’s the strength that former service personnel who end up in positions such as mine bring.”

Vice Chief-of-Defence, Air Vice-Marshal Kevin Short meets with Republic of Fiji Military Forces Commander Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto at the RFMF Headquarters, Berkley Crescent,Suva on March 22, 2018. Photo: Rosi Doviverata

Vice Chief-of-Defence, Air Vice-Marshal Kevin Short meets with Republic of Fiji Military Forces Commander Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto at the RFMF Headquarters, Berkley Crescent,Suva on March 22, 2018.

Fiji-New Zealand Cooperation

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’s only going to deepen, I’m looking forward to New Zealand and Fiji getting back to where we always were as friends and family.

“We’ve stood by each other, for each other since World War 2 and its fitting and appropriate that we’re here at this time to remember and commemorate the operations of the 5 squadron who operated out of here from 1940 all the way through to 1967.”

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

“It’s not about us telling Fiji how to do their job, it’s about us assisting where it’s appropriate where Fiji wants us to.

“From there, it’s 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.”

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

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

Edited by George Kulamaiwasa

Feedback: rosi.doviverata@fijisun.com.fj



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