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Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

A contingent of 50 Republic of Fiji Military Forces troops flew to Honiara today to help restore security and stability in the Solomon Islands after three days of rioting last week.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama had pledged Fijian support for his Solomon Islands counterpart Manasseh Sogavare.

The request was accepted and Fiji’s troops were prepared, the RFMF said today in a statement.

The Fijian soldiers departed for Honiara on a Royal Australian Air Force C-130 transport plane about 12 noon. They are joining about 150 Australian and Papua New Guinea troops and police in Solomon Islands.

Commander Major-General Jone Kalouniwai said in his farewell speech to the troops at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks in Suva: “We are here, heeding the call of our nation through the Prime Minister after his discussion with the Solomon Islands Prime Minister to assist our fellow Melanesian family in the Solomons.”

“We are all placing our trust on you that you will go out there and perform to the best of your ability to help bring peace and stability in the Solomons,” said General Kalouniwai.

Contingent Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Asaeli Toanikeve thanked the RFMF leadership for their trust in his leadership.

‘We will bravely stand’
“I would also like to assure you that we will bravely stand and heed the call of the military and the nation for we believe this is God calling on our lives to assist the people of the Solomon Islands in their time of need,” Lieutenant-Colonel Toanikeve said.

Assigned to prepare the contingent, the commanding officer 3rd Battalion Fiji Infantry Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Penioni Naliva, said the troops had been briefed on what to expect.

“More importantly, they are there to assist law enforcement agencies in the Solomon Islands bring back peace and stability to their country,” Colonel Naliva said.

Naliva added that the deploying contingent, which has been made up of men from all units of the RFMF, would be specifically tasked with ensuring a stable environment for future operations in case more troops were needed.

Just four years into his military career and going on his first deployment, Legal Officer Captain Aisea Paka said he was excited when it was conveyed to him that he was going on this tour.

“I had a feeling that the time would come for it. However, mindful of the work we are to partake in, there are a lot of legal matters to deal with apart from operations. I want to thank the leadership for this opportunity,” said the Rotuman officer.

Akanisi Vakanawa, wife of a deploying soldier, said that while the news of the sudden deployment came as a surprise it was something she had always expected.

Almost 80 years after Fiji troops first landed in the Solomons during the Second World War and 15 years since their last deployment with the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to the Pacific nation, Fijian soldiers are returning.

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