|WAR VETERANS THANK GOVERNMENT FOR ANNIVERSAY COMME
The 70th anniversary commemoration of the 1ST Battalion of the Royal Fiji Military Forces, also known as the Ai Matai departure for the Solomon Island for the war torn Solomon Islands at the Fiji War Memorial in Veiuto, has been greatly commended by our ex-servicemen.
President of the Returned Soldiers and Ex-servicemen’s Association of Fiji, Ratu Peni Volavola commended government’s willingness to organise a commemoration remembering the day 799 brave young men and 36 officers left Fiji for war in the Solomons in 1943.
“I wish to thank the Government for coming forward and willingly organise last Saturday’s 70th anniversary commemoration of the fighting men of the Ai Matai, their selfless sacrifices, the sleepless nights, and challenging conditions they have had to put up with for the noble cause of peace,” Ratu Peni said.
Ninety one years old, Filipe Matavesi, one of the few surviving member of the Solomon Island campaign, said he was honoured to be part of the commemoration.
“Being one of the surviving ex-Solomon War veterans, I am honoured to be invited to attend the commemoration. I came all the way from the island of Qamea in Cakaudrove. On behalf of all the members of the Ai Matai (1st Battalion Royal Fiji Military Forces), I am thankful to the Government for this,” Mr Matavesi said.
Ninety years old Vilikesa Balecala from Nasaibitu in Tailevu, who is also a Fijian war veteran in the Solomons, was also present at the commemoration at Veiuto.
“Most of my fellow ex-servicemen at the Solomon campaign have passed away. You can see that very few of us are still living today. I am indeed honoured to see how Government recognised the importance of our contribution to peace for the country,” Mr Balecala said.
His Excellency, the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama also took part in the Wreath Laying Ceremony.
The presence of the President and the Prime Minister at the commemoration signified Government’s recognition of the contribution of the Ai Matai.
“This is the first time ever that this event has attracted the willing attention of Government, and has, no doubt, engendered and enhanced level of public awareness, which we think is important in terms of our history and awareness with our younger generation,” Ratu Peni said.