Farewell Speech by H.E. Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, President of the Republic of Fiji for the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF)
The Parade Commander,
Officers and men on parade,
The Honourable Prime Minister,
Your Excellencies the Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Members of the Families
Ladies and gentlemen
Good morning, Ni sa bula vinaka, Salaam Alaykum, Namaste
It is indeed a great honor for me to stand here before you as Commander in Chief to address you on this historic occasion on the eve of your departure once again for the Middle East in the course of world peace.
Our country has once again heeded the call of the United Nations. Hence your deployment to assist the United Nations Disengagement Force (UNDOF) in Syria, at the Golan Heights.
Deployments into the Middle East are not new to the RFMF. Your predecessors have served with UNIFIL in Lebanon, the second battalion is today still with the MFO in Sinai and a detachment of your brothers and sisters at arm are currently serving with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) in its efforts to ensure the safety of UN staff and UN facilities in Iraq.
Over the years we have been consistent in our dedication to the course of world peace. Our efforts in this regard have earned the respect of the United Nations and the world at large.
Farewell parades such as these have in the past been held for deployments that have taken you to every corner of the globe. From as close to home as Bougainville and East Timor to further afield to countries like Rhodesia and Lebanon. On each deployment, you have flown the Fiji flag high and with pride and made all Fijians extremely proud.
I have no doubt that you will carry out the UNDOF mandate with distinction and like your predecessors, again make the country proud.
Having said that I must remind you all that you will be working in an area that is, at the most, volatile. However, it is a situation with which you are not unfamiliar. The situation calls for dedication, teamwork and courage and the highest level of discipline both regimental and personal. You will be working with colleagues from around the world and interacting with the local population within a highly demanding security situation where daily your professionalism will be put to the test.
We have always risen to the occasion and earned the respect of those around us. I am confident that on this mission you will do the same.
Your Government has always remained steadfast in regards to Fiji’s commitment to bring peace through the efforts of the UN to the regions of the world that crave it. The tireless efforts of the various government ministries and agencies – in particular that of our Permanent Representative at the United Nations and his staff - have enabled our continued participation in UN peacekeeping operations.
This occasion to farewell you as you depart to participate in UNDOF is tangible evidence of that steadfastness and those tireless efforts. The government has done and will continue to do its part during the course of your deployment. It is now time for you to do your part.
To the families, the country acknowledges your dedication, your support and your sacrifice. No soldier or sailor can fully reach the top of his or her potential without the blessing and the support of the family.
On this deployment, your loved ones maybe away from home for a year or so. Your strength in keeping the home base safe and secure will contribute in a big way to the success of our troops on deployment. It is heartening to see you turn out in great numbers today to farewell our soldiers. This is a reassuring sign of your support. The nation thanks you. And I salute you.
Together, we shall move our nation forward despite the many challenges that we have faced internationally. The last few years have not been easy nor do we expect the future to be a walk in the park.
However, this deployment marks a defining moment in our progress as it indicates the confidence that the international community has in our ability to contribute to the greater effort for a more peaceful and stable world.
I leave you with the words of John F Kennedy and I quote “let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” Unquote.
Therefore, with a great sense of pride, I wish you all a successful mission. May you go with the blessings of a proud nation and may the Lord be with you. Good luck and God speed.
Thank you, vinaka vakalevu, Sukria, Bahoot Dhanyavaad.