Rear Admiral (Ret), Honourable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Fijian Prime Minister and Minister for i-Taukei Affairs, Sugar Industry and Foreign Affairs and Honourable Ron Mark, New Zealand’s Minister for Defence unveiled the Commemorative Monument to the 5 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) on 23 March 2018, in celebration of The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) 50th Anniversary.
Around one hundred and fifty (150) veterans of the 5 Squadron together with current members of the RNZAF also travelled to Fiji for the unveiling.
Hon. Mark said that for him personally, the occasion was a humbling and satisfying moment of his life.
He added that New Zealand is deeply appreciative that the University and the Government of Fiji are recognising the 5 Squadron with the Commemorative Monument.
He thanked Professor Rajesh Chandra, USP Vice-Chancellor for hosting the event and inviting the team from New Zealand to share the celebration.
“Through him, I would like to congratulate the University as a whole for reaching its 50th year,” Hon. Mark said.
He further said that the events of World War II and actions of sacrifices of many had a major impact on shaping the Pacific’s past, adding that, “it is fitting to be here today to recognise an institution that is educating the young men and women and play such a large role in shaping its future.”
New Zealand, Hon. Mark said, has supported the University since its inception and added that the monument shows how far back that support goes.
“We are proud of the history and equally proud that our support for the University continues to this very day,” he said.
In his address, Hon. Bainimarama said that it is a proud moment for him to represent the people and Government of Fiji in unveiling the Commemorative Monument.
He said that the day was dedicated to commemorate the RNZAF’s proud record of service to the region which continues till today with the aerial reconnaissance and rescue mission carried out from New Zealand’s mainland.
With much pride, Hon. Bainimarama said that Fiji hasan artist with the calibre of Mr Shane Bower of Savusavu, who has the skill and imagination to come up with such a ‘striking design.’
He acknowledged Mr Bower’s work and said that Savusavu has a special reason to be proud of.
He further stated that half a century ago, the RNZAF left with a sound foundation on which to build the University.
“Money that would have otherwise been spent on building facilities was able to be focused on delivering quality education and New Zealand continues to partner with Fiji and other Pacific countries to ensure that our young people are properly equipped to play their part in development,” Hon. Bainimarama said.
Moving on, he added that, in addition to New Zealand’s close engagement with USP, they are working with Fiji Higher Education Commission to strengthen the standard of tertiary education in Fiji.
Talking about the Fiji-New Zealand relationship, the Prime Minister highlighted that the “kinship between the Fijians and Kiwis is unbreakable.”
Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of USP said that the 50th Anniversary is an opportunity for the University to reflect on the incredible accomplishments that it has achieved over the past half century.
Professor Chandra added that it is also a time to recognise the organisations that have supported the University, along the journey.
“Today is very much about this recognition. The foremost amongst these has been, and continues to be, the Government of Fiji that provided the land on which the University first started classes in 1968, here at Laucala Bay,” Professor Chandra highlighted.
Acknowledging the role of the Fijian Government, he said that the Laucala Campus was the launching pad from which the University was able to grow to fourteen (14) Campuses and ten (10) centres across twelve (12) nations throughout the Pacific and this growth could never have occurred without the continued financial and governance support of the Fijian Governments.
Commenting on the relationship between New Zealand and USP, Professor Chandra said that for almost twenty-five (25) years, the New Zealand Government invested in the RNZAF infrastructure that later became the backbone of the facilities used by USP.
The design for the Commemorative Monument incorporates a wing float from a Sunderland flying boat as well as the Albatross that appears as part of the No. 5 Squadron insignia.
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. Local artist, Mr Shane Bower of Savusavu created the monument.
Source:University of The South Pacific