July 09, 2012

Fiji Times: Army drops axe

Mary Rauto
Monday, July 09, 2012

FIJIAN soldiers are expected to be among the 20,000 to be affected when the British Army reduces its regular army from 102,000 to 82,000. There are more than 2000 Fijians in the British armed forces.

British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond told the House of Commons on Friday (Fiji time) there was a need to restructure the army beyond 2014. He said the restructure was "part of the measures to bring the defence budget back into balance and to eliminate the £38 billion ($F106.1b) black hole that we inherited from the last government".

The restructure will see the number of reserves double to 30,000 by 2018.

Infantry regiments to lose battalions include the Royal Regiment of Scotland (5th Batt), 2nd Batt of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, 2nd Batt the Yorshire Regiment, 3rd Batt the Mercian Regiment, and the 2nd Batt the Royal Welsh.

A Fijian serving in the British Army yesterday said there were many Fijians in the Scots and Yorkshire battalions. He said for many Fijians it was a game of wait and see.

Labour Minister Jone Usamate said he was aware of the planned restructure but they had yet to look at the implications.

He said he would have to go through Mr Hammond's speech in the House of Commons.

Mr Hammond confirmed the army was to lose 17 units. "In reducing the size of the regular army in line with the announcement made last July, there must inevitably be a reduction in the number of units," he said.

"In headline terms, there will be 17 fewer major units as a result of this announcement.

"The reductions will fall across the various arms and services of the Army."

News of the restructure has not gone down well with Labour's Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy saying while they supported an increased role for the reservists, 15,000 brilliant part-time reservists could not fill the gap created by the loss of 20,000 full-time regulars.

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