Veteran Remembers Malayan Campaign Challenges


War veterans and family members gathered in large numbers to remember fallen troops and those that lost their lives during times of conflict in moving Remembrance Day ceremony on November 11, 2019.

For 90-year old Sitiveni Waqanivalu, on Remembrance Day reminds him of the challenges and experience they faced while serving during the Malayan campaign from 1952-1956.

An emotional Mr Waqanivalu said having to replace his brother in Malaya in 1955 was one of the memorable days back when he served in the war.

“Today I can still remember that the most challenging place in Malaya was where Fijian soldiers were placed during the war in Johor. At that time there was a hurricane and it was very swampy to move around especially in the jungle.”

“From my personal view the only reason we were serving in Malaya was because we were strong enough and there was no other choice.”

Leading their battalion was Commander Joji Mate and many of the soldiers that served in this battalion respected him because he had served in Solomon Islands and then returned to Fiji before taking on the Malaya mission.

“He loved boxing and he could do anything, he was originally from Nayau, Lau. Joji Mate was someone you can never talk to because he was one the highly respected Commander in our battalion,” Mr Waqanivalu recalled.

“Leading up to the day when we completed our work in Malaya everyone was anticipating the trip back home for the holidays with our loved ones but then from nowhere Joji Mate appears to tell us that we were not going home and we had to immediately return to Batu Pahat.”

Mr Waqanivalu vividly remembers that after the announcement by the commander, most of them did not know whether they were going to survive the war.

“As we travelled into the greater jungle in the heavy rain, strong winds and the water was knee length as we travelled in.”

Mr Waqanivalu adds if there was something that he would remember from that time, it was the service he rendered during the Malayan campaign, the long nights they would stand in the wilderness and at times their clothes would be wet for almost two to three days.

“Our commander would tell us to tie a rope around our waist to a tree trunk when we would get tired and even when it was raining heavily with strong winds that was the only way to keep abreast.”

“They would remind us that this was the only service we can offer our country, which was to go to war to save our countries. As we returned to camp that following week there was massive celebration for the completion of the mission. I can clearly recall that as we marched into camp we cheered because none of us died during the war.”