FIJI OFFERS MORE PERSONNEL AND ASSISTANCE TO SOLOMON ISLANDS

The Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, has offered to send more Fijian personnel and assistance to Solomon Islands in a speech to mark the 35th anniversary of the country’s Independence.

The Prime Minister headed a Fijian contingent of around 200 people to the anniversary celebrations in Honiara today, including RFMF troops and members of the Fiji Police Force. Many of them had previously served in the Solomons as peacekeepers for RAMSI – the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands.

In a luncheon speech afterwards, the Prime Minister referred to the strong historical ties between Fiji and Solomon Islands, which saw 50 Fijian troops killed in the Solomons campaign against the advancing Japanese during World War Two.

He also spoke about the “Melanesian brotherhood” that now binds Fiji and the Solomons through the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) with Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Kanak people of New Caledonia.

The Prime Minister said the Melanesian countries shared a dream – a bold vision to create a common market between the MSG countries for the free flow of goods, service and labour.

“We also want to secure trade agreements with the rest of the world as a bloc, not as individual countries. And we want the Melanesian viewpoint to be taken much more seriously at the United Nations and in other global forums”, he said.

The Prime Minister pointed out that aside from Fiji’s historical links, Fijian troops had served as peacekeepers in RAMSI after the civil war in the Solomons and Fijian civilians were currently present at many levels in the country to assist with nation building.

“Be assured that Fiji stands willing and ready to take that assistance to another level with more personnel and resources, if that is the wish of the Government and people of Solomon Islands”, the Prime Minister added.

After the anniversary celebrations and official lunch, the Prime Minister was due to unveil a plaque commemorating the occasion and he and his Solomon’s counterpart, Gordon Darcy Lilo, were to be present as Fijian troops conduct the twilight ceremony of “Beating Retreat”.