The President's Thanksgiving Day Address


HIS EXCELLENCY RATU EPELI NAILATIKAU
CF, KStJ, LVO, OBE (Mil),CSM, MSD
President of the Republic of Fiji
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ADDRESS AT THE THANKSGIVING SERVICE FOR THE RELEASE OF OUR 45 PEACEKEEPERS
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ANZ Stadium 16th September, 2014
SUVA 4.35p.m.
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The Honourable Prime Minister,
Honourable Ministers,
The Representatives of the Religious Groups and Faith-Based Organizations present
Your Excellencies, the Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls.

Good afternoon, nisa bula vinaka, salaam alaykum, namaste.

We gather together as a nation today to give thanks to Almighty God for the release of our 45 brave peacekeepers, who were detained for two weeks by a militant group in Syria.

Our prayers for their safe return have been answered. They are free and back safely with their comrades on duty with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force on the Golan Heights.

We rejoice as a nation that God enveloped them in his love to protect them and give them strength during their ordeal.

We also rejoice that God also enveloped their captors in his love, and guided them away from harming our men.

We are hearing remarkable stories from our soldiers of the bond they formed with their captors, hardened men, in one of the most unforgiving places on earth.That bond had nothing to do with politics or the cause that this group was trying to advance when the group took our men.

It was the basic bond of human beings interacting on an hourly and daily basis and coming to realize that they share a common humanity.

Let us ask ourselves this question:

Why were some of the people who seized our loved ones crying when they released them? How could the hostage takers have formed such an emotional attachment?

I believe there are three answers:
Our men had come to the Middle East to keep the peace, not as combatants. They are good men – honest, open and courageous; and they carry with them the bula spirit that Fijians take from our beloved nation across the world - of friendliness, Humility, Consideration for others and Love.

I also believe that God was with our soldiers, giving them the inner strength to confront their ordeal, to display their own character, discipline and strength, to empathize with their captors and engage with them in a way that perhaps they never expected.

And I believe that God was also with the militants. God shined his light into their hearts and turned their anger into compassion.

We also pray for them today and ask that they be granted peace, along with every person in that troubled part of the world.

God was also with us here in Fiji and especially with the families and friends of our men, whose anxiety and distress can only be imagined but who inspired us all with their own courage and fortitude.

Many of you are here with us today, naturally relieved and grateful that your loved ones are safe. We pay tribute to the dignity with which you faced your ordeal.

You, more than anyone, know in your hearts that God was with you, enveloping you in his comfort and love.

Your prayers have been answered, along with the prayers of our entire nation. Which is why we gather today in grateful thanks for God’s mercy.

We also rededicate ourselves as Fijians to our service to the global community through the United Nations to act as peacekeepers wherever and whenever it is necessary to keep the peace.

For some 36 years now, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces has answered the call to send the men and women of Fiji to those parts of the world riven by conflict and strife to act as a buffer between the warring factions.

It is the most noble of missions – to protect vulnerable, ordinary people caught up in these conflicts on behalf of every nation – the global family to which Fiji belongs.


It is Fiji’s contribution to the world, not to wage war but to keep the peace. And nothing that has happened in the past two weeks will alter our commitment to that mission.

We serve with pride and we will continue to serve.

As the Prime Minister said when our men were released, Fiji already stands tall and proud in the world.

But because of their example, we stand that much taller and that much prouder as we gather together today.

And during this poignant moment of thanksgiving and reflection we should also remember those men and women of Fiji who have served in and are still serving in Lebanon, Sinai, Iraq, Syria, Timor Leste, Sudan, Dafur, Liberia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Cambodia, and in the Solomon Islands. Some of them have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Tomorrow, we also embark proudly on a landmark event in the life of our nation – the first genuinely democratic election in our history, based on equal votes of equal value.

Let us also dedicate ourselves today to conducting an election that is free and fair in an atmosphere of tolerance and goodwill.

As your president i urge you all to exercise your democratic right. It is your vote and no-one else’s. Do not be intimidated by threats of violence or actual violence.

I urge all political parties and their supporters not to intimidate anyone or engage in any untoward activity.

Democracy is about allowing all individuals to vote freely without fear or favour. We must all accept the will of the people but still unify as a nation.

YourExcellencies, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we have much to be grateful for as a nation.

Our beautiful surroundings, our abundant natural resources, and the rich diversity of our people.

Let us re-dedicate ourselves before God today to remain unified as a nation and to follow his example of love.

May God bless our peacekeepers and their families, may God bless us all as we strive to become a better nation.

May God bless Fiji.

Thank you, vinakavakalevu, sukria, bahootdhanyavaad.
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Comments

Anonymous said…
Thanks Croz
Any insights into how much ransom was paid to the Islamic terrorists for the release of the Fijian military who surrendered to them? Reading through the regime presidents comments gives very good insights into the lack of success by the UN in any area of conflict over the last period of time. Considerable effort will be needed by the UN in future to identify more capable and courageous troops like the Filipinos if terrorism is to be defeated. Finally congratulations to the US, Australia and other democratic nations who are currently attacking islamic jihadists as we speak.
Anonymous said…
Who cares how much ransom was paid? (if indeed it was). As long as our soldiers were released unharmed, that's all that matters.
Anonymous said…
Ano @ 10:06pm Hey buster, UNDOF is a UN Observer Mission that was set up under Chap 6 of the UN Charter. Do you understand what that means?

You have obviously not been a soldier nor have you served in a UN Peacekeeping operation under Chap 6, otherwise you would have understood the difference between that and war fighting. They are two different situations with two different criteria defining success. In the former the exercise of RESTRAINT and the application of MINIMUM FORCE is its defining feature. Not so in normal combat operations where commanders are free to create the conditions under which they operate. Its like taking the rules of soccer and applying it in a game of rugby.

The Filipinos have since decided to pull out of UNDOF after realizing their application of war fighting principles (which resulted in the deaths of three Al Nusra militants) has made them targets of future acts of retribution from Al Nusra. Thats the end of their involvement in UN peacekeeping. They may have won the battle, but THEY LOST THE WAR.

I made these points in an earlier posting on the hostage crisi in UNDOF. Go back and read it
Anonymous said…
Anon @ 12:45 star ga o iko
Anonymous said…
This is a wonderful speech. Makes me very proud to be Fijian, especially at this time. Vinaka Your Excellency!
Anonymous said…
Might pay for you to research the different mandates under which different U.N missions operate under. UN has quite a comprehensive online page that explains this. It's peacekeeping not conventinal warfare-huge difference kemuni.
Kalougata tiko.
Anonymous said…
Ratu Nite ni bula. Se'u meu tukuna beka: "Muju cola vina na Maheki". Io, sa Naita mada ga o kemuni na turaga ni Burebasaga.

Daru qase ni vuli tu eke (Lamont High School, Gladstone). Keirau veikilai kei Turaga Mataqali o Vili (Bill Wadely) - mining engineer mai Rockhampton.

I speak a lot to my kaivata who is ex RFMF (maybe before your time) about these issues. I tap into his ideas on warfighting and peacekeeping etc and I am heavily influenced by his thinking. I have seen his name already mentioned here. I think you will know who I mean.

My interest is based on this broad idea of the 'Role of the Military in Fiji Society' especially in the democracy that will ensue after today's elections. You could say that it is a scholarly interest as I have not served. This explains my regular phone discussions with my kaivata here in Oz.

Please continue to provide your insights as it helps us understand more.

O au saka na nomuni tamata vakarorogo!
Anonymous said…
Great speech straight from the heart, including the heart of the people of Fiji. "God" mentioned no less than ten times.

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