By BARNABAS MALKEN
REPRESENTING your country in a world mission to bring peace among other countries is indeed a duty of pride and honour.
This year marks five years since the first deployment of Papua New Guinea Defence Force officers to serve as United Nation Military Observers in the deserts of Africa, in Darfur in South Sudan.
Darfur is known as one of the most unstable places in Sudan with racial and religious conflict attracting the help of United Nations peacekeepers.
Tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced and are being looked after in large care centres.
Civilians have been worst affected in the 20 years of civil war between South Sudan rebels and Sudanese government. Government services to the area of nearly six million people has almost come to a standstill with food, shelter and water severely affected.
In such places, it is risky to restore peace as situations are always tense with the rival groups attacking each other to gain control of their society.
Since the inception of the United Nations in 1945, peacekeeping missions are “a unique and dynamic instrument developed by the Organization as a way to help countries torn by conflict to create the conditions for lasting peace.”
There are about 95,000 uniformed personnel that make up the peacekeeping force, borne from 120 countries around the world. Included in its troops to Darfur and South Sudan in Africa are Papua New Guinean Defence Force officers.
The PNG Defence Force is proud to say that since its inclusion into the United Nations Peace Keeping Mission in 2012, it has sent a total of 16 officers for UN Mission and is continuing the commitment to deploy personnel annually.
This year, Major Peter Ikau, who was deployed to UN peacekeeping force was awarded the Force Commander’s Commendation for his role in quelling a fight in Malaka, Upper Nile in South Sudan. This is the first Commendation Award for PNGDF since the deployment of soldiers began in 2012. Defence Force Commander, Brigadier General Gilbert Toropo, while congratulating Major Ikau said that the Force Commanders Commendation Award brings pride to Papua New Guinea.
“I want to say that our service men are the best amongst the other best in the world and it is a reflection of what we have gained from training provided by PNGDF, Australian Defence Force and our bilateral partners.”
Brigadier Toropo challenged his officers not to undermine themselves in their respective capacities.
He commended all of them for the outstanding performance that puts PNGDF and PNG on the world map as this is an internationally sanctioned or mandated mission. Though it is very challenging, Toropo said, these gentlemen had professionally delivered. Major Peter Ikau, together with Major Quadrat Larawin, Major George Sirum and Major Edie Etato were deployed mid last year and completed their one year term successfully.
They returned two months ago after performing outstandingly well and each receiving a UN medal.
Another four officers are now on the same mission in Darfur and South Sudan. They are Major Henry Baga, Major Heta Nombe, Major Larry Laori and Major Peter Waiaki. Before them were some of the army’s inspiring officers who served in their time very well as observers to UN Peace Keeping Mission since its inception in 2012 when the UN Obligation Bill was passed as an Act in Parliament. They are Lieutenant- Colonels Nicholas Henry, Sabastian Ipauki, Kingsly Wawada, Raphael Yapu and Majors, Bruno Malau, Roby Tanfa, John Binde and Talaitu Gaileko.
Today With the positive contributions of the PNG Defence Force Officers serving in UN Missions in Darfur and South Sudan, Papua New Guinea Defence Force Directorate of United Nations Peace Keeping Mission is now working towards deploying its first specialist troop contingent towards the UN peacekeeping duties in the near future.
Their priority now is to meet all the UN criteria and requirements in order to be ready for deployment.
By BARNABAS MALKEN