Why WOI Officer Chandra Joined The RFMF

A senior non-commissioned officer in the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) Warrant Officer Class 1 (WOI) Bettlyn Chandra is currently study­ing at the University of Oxford, one of the
31 Mar 2018 11:00
Why WOI Officer Chandra Joined The RFMF
Bettlyn Chandra standing at a monument for displaced people donated by People’s Republic of China outside the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Headquarters, Geneva.

A senior non-commissioned officer in the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) Warrant Officer Class 1 (WOI) Bettlyn Chandra is currently study­ing at the University of Oxford, one of the oldest and leading universities in the world. Below is an in depth interview with her.

Fiji Sun: When did you join RFMF and which department?

Chandra: I am currently serving as a non-commissioned officer with the rank of War­rant Officer Class One. I am a mid-career personnel and joined the RFMF as the pio­neering group of females in February 1988. Later in 1994, I became a member of the TF and worked in passenger services for Air New Zealand at Nadi Airport till 2005. In 1994 I completed my on-going pilot training and obtained a commercial pilots licence at the Pacific Flying School, in Nadi. However, I did not pursue a career in aviation. In 2005, I re-engaged with the RFMF and completed 6 overseas tours to the UNAMI and MFO. I now work as admin personnel in the Com­mander’s Office at Strategic Head Quarters, Berkeley Crescent.

Fiji Sun: Why did you want to join the mili­tary?

Chandra: As there were no females in the military at the time, I felt empowered to take the pioneering step and make way for other inspired females to join. I believe that the military is a professional, disciplined insti­tution based on the capabilities of its service personnel. Gender is complementary to the work of soldiers and essential to the RFMF’s domestic roles as well as the success of its Middle East missions.

Fiji Sun: What area of studies are you pursu­ing at Oxford and for how long?

Chandra: Having professional military experience both in the field and adminis­tration, I decided to pursue the Graduate Programme in Diplomatic Services at the University of Oxford [June 17 to July 18], as I felt this programme would encompass my past work experiences and enhance my knowledge and skills on the global platform in diplomacy and its practices. Being mid-ca­reer, I wish to continue working in the civil service after my military term ends. There are four full-time courses to the programme: Diplomatic Practice; International Politics; International Trade and Finance and Public International Law.

Fiji Sun: Where you are originally from and what schools did you attend?

Chandra: I was born to loving parents Mo­heofo [full Tongan] and late David Chandra [Indo-Fijian] (54 yrs ago) in Suva, and went to school in Stella Maris (1969-1976) and St Jo­seph’s Secondary School, in Suva (1977-1980). I have completed a Masters in International Relations and Diplomacy at the University of Fiji (2015) and am also pursuing an MBA at USP (started in Jan 2017), with a few units to complete when I get back from this course.

Fiji Sun: Any other Fijians studying at Ox­ford?

Chandra: At this time I am the only Fijian studying at the University of Oxford. How­ever, we did have some Fijians complete this same Diplomatic Services Programme in the 1980s-1990s. Not sure who they are. How­ever, I have been the only one in the course since then.

Fiji Sun: What was the purpose of your visit to Geneva?

Chandra: The Diplomatic Practice subject is the major component of the programme and comprises a mixture of seminars, tu­torials and vocational training exercises as well as study tours which included in­ternational organisations, government ministries, and multinational companies and media institutions. We took part in practical exercises in diplomacy and mul­tilateral negotiation in class and went into the field in the European tour to experi­ence firsthand knowledge from diplomats and stakeholders of multilateral institu­tions alike.

  • Brussels, The Hague and Geneva are part of a 10-day European study tour. (March 12-21). So we had very intense seminar briefs and discussions with EU Commission and European Exter­nal Action Services in Brussels, visit to diplomatic mission;
  • Poland – we also spent time at the In­ternational Court of Justice with seminars on the mandate and struc­tures; and the work of the Office of the Prosecutor and International Crimi­nal Court including the Organisation for Proliferation of Chemical Weapons and the UK Embassy in The Hague.
  • In Geneva we have visited diplomatic missions of the Federation of Rus­sia and UK. And had various briefs at the Nation des Pala is from the Office of the Human Rights Council, UN and watched some proceedings of the HRC. We also had detailed visits to WHO, WTO, IOM, ICRC, UNHCR.
    • Other toursEarlier in October 2017 we visited the BBC; BP regional HQ in Lon­don; Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Commonwealth Secretariat and we also spent a day at the UK Parliament Complex interacting with some MPs and Lords and sat in on a session in the House of Commons.
    • Later in December 2017 we learnt how crisis management and lob­bying took place in the Belfast set­ting. We visited Belfast over 3 days before Christmas and had discus­sions and briefs on the Northern Ireland Conflict; the Good Friday Agreement and how the Protes­tants and Catholics were integrat­ing through the Holy Cross Regen­eration Projects including youths. We had discussions at the Ulster University on the devolution and conflict in Northern Ireland; with Members of the defunct Legisla­tive Assembly, that is, Sein Finn and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and their inability to form an Assembly and spent a day at Stormont Parliament; We also had briefs from the Equality Commis­sion which dealt with the sectoral inequalities including discrimina­tion in the work place.


According to WOI Chandra the programme is a very intense one.

An independent external examiner (2015 report) says:

“This is a very successful programme that provides much needed training opportuni­ties for very able students wishing to enter or further their career in diplomatic servic­es across the globe. The programme sets out – and clearly achieves – an ambitious set of learning objectives that tests students’ professional, technical and knowledge skills across a broad range of relevant subjects. The interdisciplinary nature of this pro­gramme is itself innovative and best prac­tice.”

Apart from the formal visits they have had diplomats and prominent academics give seminars including Fiji’s High Commission­er in London Jitoko Tikolevu, who spoke on ‘‘Small Island State Diplomacy”.

Recently, she visited the Fiji Embassy in Brussels and Permanent Mission in Geneva. She keeps in regular contact with the Fiji High Commission in London.

Edited by George Kulamaiwasa


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