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Date Posted: 02:56:11 02/18/06 Sat
Author: Vikki John
Subject: FIJI: Lack Of Employment Opportunities Forces Soldiers To Look Overseas

Pacific Magazine, 17 Feb 06

FIJI: Lack Of Employment Opportunities Forces Soldiers To Look Overseas

Friday: February 17, 2006

A lack of employment opportunities for former Fiji soldiers has been blamed as one of the main reasons for soldiers taking up job offers in troubled spots like Bougainville in Papua New Guinea.

And a retired naval officer who manages a recruitment firm for former soldiers seeking military-type work in places like Iraq and Afghanistan says the trend will continue if those in authority continue to turn a blind eye to this development.

Saula Tuikoro, a retired Navy lieutenant who now manages Sabre International, says the lack of a back-up plan for employment for demobilised soldiers is one of the chronic problems facing the Government and the army.

“For example the Government knew that the UNIFIL commitment was coming to end way before the 2002 deadline and many soldiers leaving Lebanon were wondering what next?” he said.

“On arrival in Fiji they were demobilised and what eventually happened overnight was that we had a glut of highly-skilled, highly-trained soldiers doing nothing … despite being skilled in military duties.

“Members of one reserve battalion were given security duties with Morris Hedstrom supermarkets but at the end of the day the soldiers realised that what they were being paid compared to what payment they could demand using their skills was not enough.

“Many of them opted to join security companies, securing work contracts in Iraq and Kuwait.”

Asked whether there was a danger of souring inter-government relations when ex-soldiers took up military-type contracts in troubled spots like Bougainville, Tuikoro said that question was best left to politicians.

“After all that is what they are paid to do,” he said. “But for ex-soldiers all they are worried about is a chance to be employed, to earn some meaningful money for using a skill that is highly in demand and to feed their families and educate their children.

“For anyone who has been military their life revolves around danger and hundreds will front up for any new mission because of the pay involved and the fact that they have skills that are needed,” he explained.

Tuikoro, who has extensive experience in maritime surveillance, counter-insurgency warfare and peacekeeping, made reference to the involvement of Fijians on Bougainville and said he did not blame the men who took up job, offers there.

But, he added, it was always good to do background checks first before taking up such job offers......FijiLive/PNS

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