By Salote Qalubau in Suva
The events of World War II and sacrifices of many have had a major impact on shaping the Pacific’s past so it is fitting to recognise an institution that is educating the young men and women that play a large role in shaping its future, says New Zealand Defence Minister Ron Mark.
Earlier this month Mark joined more than 100 ex-5 Squadron servicemen and women from New Zealand for the unveiling of a commemorative monument to mark the land that was once home to the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) 32 years ago and is now the University of the South Pacific’s Laucala campus in Suva, Fiji.
“New Zealand is deeply appreciative that the University of the South Pacific and the government of Fiji are recognising 5 Squadron with this commemorative monument,” he said.
“New Zealand has supported the university since its inception and this monument shows how far back that support goes. We are proud that is true and equally proud that our support for the university continues to this very day.
“Together with Fiji, we honour those who pursued our collective ambition of peace and safety for our region.”
Mark said Fiji had a long-standing military relationship with New Zealand based on shared security interests that dated back to World War II.
He said Fiji was one of NZ’s closest friends and neighbours in the Pacific.
“We may both be small, we may both be somewhat isolated but we project a strong voice from the region around the world and we both actively work to make sure our regions security concerns are heard. We are our strongest when we stand together,” he said.
“This memorial stands as a reminder on how deep those ties run in our communities and the need to continue to engage and work together, united by shared values and as neighbours. By doing so we honour the contributions made by our veterans to freedoms we enjoy and from which our decedents will continue to benefit.”
The unveiling of the monument coincided with the university’s 50th anniversary celebrations this year.
USP Vice-Chancellor Professor Rajesh Chandra said the 50th Anniversary was an opportunity to reflect on the “incredible” accomplishments over the years.
He said the New Zealand government had invested in the RNZAF infrastructure that later became the backbone of the facilities used by the university for almost 25 years.
The commemorative monument by local artist Shane Bower incorporates a wing float from a Sunderland flying boat as well as the Albatross that appears as part of the No. 5 Squadron insignia.
According to the university, the wing-float was provided and prepared by former members of the New Zealand Defence Force and volunteers at the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland.
It can be seen near the university’s Faculty of Business and Economics.
Salote Qalubau is a final year University of the South Pacific Journalism student who reports for Wansolwara.