In­fantry week Kon­rote, Heart of a Sol­dier

Fiji Sun - - INFANTRY WEEK - ROSI DOVIVERATA Feed­back: rosi.doviverata@fi­jisun.com.fj

Immediatel­y after com­plet­ing his Se­nior Cam­bridge at Natabua High School in Lautoka, a young and dar­ing Jioji Konusi Kon­rote wanted to try some­thing dif­fer­ent.

It was 1966. The Viet­nam War had been rag­ing for over ten years. Young men around the world prob­a­bly felt the same mo­ti­va­tion - be­come a sol­dier and make the world a bet­ter place.

De­spite his par­ent’s in­sis­tence to try medicine or en­gi­neer­ing, the young Kon­rote only had one thing on his mind – be­come a sol­dier. His mother Mue Sakamu Kon­rote found out about his mil­i­tary ex­pe­di­tion. She quickly made her way to Suva from Ro­tuma and de­manded that her son re­turns to school. It did not work. Her son had his mind set.

At the time, the Repub­lic of Fiji Mil­i­tary Forces was largely an in­fantry reg­i­ment. The young Kon­rote mas­tered life at the bar­rack. Toi­let clean­ing was manda­tory. So was keep­ing well above the re­quired fit­ness level or RFL.

Those in­fant years as a sol­dier taught him lessons that pre­pared him for the many lead­er­ship roles he was later be­stowed.

In­fantry of­fi­cers sim­ply trained to sur­vive in any op­er­a­tional ex­er­cise.

After Fiji’s In­de­pen­dence in 1970, he was sec­onded to the New Zealand Armed Forces and served in the elite New Zealand SAS. Later he was sec­onded to the Bri­tish Army Far East Land Forces. He served as a Pla­toon Com­man­der (Re­con­nais­sance Pla­toon) with the 1st Bat­tal­ion, The Royal Hamp­shire Reg­i­ment and a Staff Of­fi­cer in Head­quar­ters 51 In­fantry Bri­gade in Hong Kong.

The ex­po­sure and ex­pe­ri­ence in both the Bri­tish Army and in New Zealand changed his per­cep­tion as a ju­nior of­fi­cer.

The ex­pe­ri­ence was in­valu­able. He rose through the ranks of the RFMF to be­come a Ma­jor-Gen­eral. But early on, he stamped his mark as a friendly but firm leader. He was the only Fi­jian to hold the po­si­tion of a United Na­tions As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral and con­cur­rent Force Com­man­der of the United Na­tions In­terim Forces in Le­banon (UNIFIL 1997-1999).

These were prob­a­bly the high­light of his dec­o­rated ca­reer un­der the blue hel­met.

But by this time, he was well versed with the chal­lenges en­coun­tered on the ground. Its dan­gers and pol­i­tics.

He ob­served that peace­mak­ing and peace­keep­ing were two to­tally dif­fer­ent con­cepts.

In 1982 he was awarded the Mil­i­tary Cross for Gal­lantry on Ac­tive Ser­vice.

Among the UN pol­i­cy­mak­ers, he was not pop­u­lar.

“Kofi An­nan and I did not see eye to eye on is­sues, but that’s life.” Mr An­nan was the UN Sec­re­tary­Gen­eral from 1997 to 2006.

The in­ter­view with Pres­i­dent, Ma­jor-Gen­eral (Re­tired) Jioji Konusi Kon­rote was made pos­si­ble through the re­quest of the Third In­fantry Reg­i­ment in line with the In­fantry Day Cel­e­bra­tions to­day.

Ma­jor-Gen­eral (Re­tired) Kon­rote fought hard to have all UN peace­keep­ers (par­tic­u­larly those coun­tries not in the first world cat­e­gory) to be re­mu­ner­ated equally. Dur­ing his time, re­mu­ner­a­tion in­creased from $11.23c per day to $23 per day.

Let­ters from home did not ar­rive after one or two months.

To­day our sol­diers earn day.

They can talk to their fam­i­lies ev­ery day - from the com­fort of their bunks with free wi-fi.

“My ad­vice to these young sol­diers when they re­turn from a tour of duty, buy a house.

“Your fam­ily is not go­ing to live in a car.”

An­other mile­stone achieve­ment was the com­pen­sa­tion for Fi­jian sol­diers who died in com­bat.

The US$50,000 com­pen­sa­tion made pos­si­ble only for peace­keep­ers who were killed in ac­tion after 1997.

As sol­diers gather to­day to cel­e­brate In­fantry Day, Ma­jor-Gen­eral (Re­tired) Kon­rote is hope­ful that those here at home and those serv­ing abroad work to main­tain the legacy of be­ing a ‘good sol­dier.’

“You’re here to do a job, do it to the best of your abil­ity.”

For Ma­jor-Gen­eral (Re­tired) Kon­rote, his term as Pres­i­dent ends next year.

“I’ve done my bit for God, King, and coun­try.

“It’s time to go fish­ing.” $130

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Fiji Sun

Pres­i­dent Ma­jor-Gen­eral (Re­tired) Jioji Kon­rote and

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