4 Jun 2002

Former Fiji peacekeepers to boycott ceremony in protest over pay issue

9:18 am on 4 June 2002

Former Fiji peacekeepers plan to boycott celebrations to mark the return of the 1st Battalion of the military after 24 years of peacekeeping duties in southern Lebanon.

They have written a letter to the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, saying they will treat today as a day of protest and mourning if the government does not call off the celebrations.

They have labelled the plans as hypocritical, saying they have nothing to celebrate because their claims for full payment of their United Nations allowances and compensation for dead servicemen have been consistently denied.

The Peacekeepers Association secretary, Taniela Senikuta, says soldiers are owed 115 million US dollars in UN allowamces since 1978.

As well, he says the families of dead servicemen should be paid 50-thousand US dollars each in compensation.

The former servicemen also plan to mount protests if the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, attends the ACP leaders summit in Nadi next month.

The first batch of returning soldiers from Lebanon is due to arrive in Fiji today with the final flight arriving in October.