NATION

Psychological Support Key Area To Help Returning Troops

The RFMF first enlisted women in 1988 under the leadership of former Commander Sitiveni Rabuka.
13 Nov 2020 11:35
Psychological Support Key Area To Help Returning Troops
From left: UN Resident Coordinator for Fiji Sanaka Samarasinha, Fijian diplomat Amena Yauvoli and President Major-General (Ret’d) Jioji Konrote at the French Ambassador’s residence in Suva. Photo: DEPTFO News

Returning peacekeepers need better psychological support to process the threats and conflicts they face in their different areas of operations.

This was the common need heard during yesterday’s event hosted by the UN Pacific in partnership with the French Embassy & Ministry for Defence, National Security & Policing, as part of the Fijian Peacekeepers Memoirs project.

One of the first Republic of Fiji Military Forces women pioneers, Colonel Litea Seruiratu, said spiritual and phycho-social support network was a capacity development that they welcomed in the military.

She also welcomed the separate facilities that our servicewomen now enjoy in their areas of operations.

The RFMF first enlisted women in 1988 under the leadership of former Commander Sitiveni Rabuka.

Colonel Litea was one of them. It was ten years later when servicewomen served alongside their male counterparts on peacekeeping missions.

In the session, Mr Rabuka also spoke about coming under scrutiny for recruiting women in the RFMF.

More servicewomen will be deployed in the future as women and children are the most vulnerable among the affected population.

Testimony

One of Fiji’s most outstanding and decorated military officers, President Major General (Ret’d) Jioji Konusi Konrote also told of how he often clashed with his superiors.

He gave the example during the height of the fighting in the mid 80s when he was Contingent Commander.

“I was ordered to deploy part of the Fijian battalion outside of our authorised area of operation, towards the north in Southern Lebanon.

“I had to remind the Commanding General, you and I might be looking at different maps.

“My map shows this, and this is what my mandate says. I will have to refer this issue to my national headquarters.

“When it comes to lives of the people you’re there to protect, not only your troops, but the civilian population – you’ve got to put your foot down.”

He said another challenging issue was working in peace and harmony with the bureaucrats who ran the show from the United Nations in New York .

“I agree, we’ve got to listen, sometimes the reality of the situation is, where it got to a stage that I reminded my colleagues ‘no one is shooting at you guys. I’m being shelled, I’m being mortared, I’m being fired at on a daily basis’ – this is down here, so the situation is different.

President Major-General (Ret’d) Jioji Konrote showcased a cross made of shrapnels and a half mortar round to remind guests of what peacekeepers have to deal with daily in their different areas of operations. President Konrote spoke at an event hosted by the UN Pacific in partnership with the French Embassy and Ministry for Defence, National Security and Policing as part of the Fijian Peacekeepers Memoirs project. It took place at the residence of the French Ambassador. President Konrote is pictured here with Speaker of the House Ratu Epeli Nailatikau. Photo: DEPTFO News

President Major-General (Ret’d) Jioji Konrote showcased a cross made of shrapnels and a half mortar round to remind guests of what peacekeepers have to deal with daily in their different areas of operations. President Konrote spoke at an event hosted by the UN Pacific in partnership with the French Embassy and Ministry for Defence, National Security and Policing as part of the Fijian Peacekeepers Memoirs project. It took place at the residence of the French Ambassador. President Konrote is pictured here with Speaker of the House Ratu Epeli Nailatikau. Photo: DEPTFO News

President Konrote is the only Fijian to be awarded the Military Cross (UK) for Gallantry on Active Service. It came in 1982.

He said political will and commitment from the United Nations Security Council right down to the operational level was vital to keep the peace in areas of peacekeeping operations.

“If that political pressure is not exerted at the right level, we suffer at the bitter end and sadly, in some peacekeeping operations, because of the delay of time taken for that pressure to be exerted at the right political level in the UN, troop contributing countries and troops on the ground suffer.”

President Konrote said extra vigilance was needed before countries sent out troops on peacekeeping operations.

“Have a look at the mandate. There are peace agreements signed by warring factions – and I’m speaking from experience because when we were deployed to Lebanon – there was no peace agreement signed between the Lebanese, and the other parties. That’s why we had a lot of fire.”

Fiji’s first peacekeeping operation was in Lebanon in 1978.

At least 30,000 Fijian servicemen and women have served in peacekeeping operations around the world.

Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, Speaker of the House and retired RFMF Commander, also shed light on his experience when he led the first Fijian deployment for peacekeeping.

Feedback: rosi.doviverata@fijisun.com.fj



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