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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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Fiji-Born Soldier Rebukes Honors After Citizenship Struggle
Baleiwai’s family marred by fight to legally remain in UK

By Tevita Vuibau

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan. 23, 2013) – Former British Army soldier Isimeli Baleiwai has returned medals he won in the line of duty to the British Monarchy, stating they have become "meaningless." He has also admitted his family is contemplating leaving Britain "to seek a better future overseas."

Mr. Baleiwai proudly served in the British military for 13 years but upon leaving the army was threatened with deportation because an incident with a fellow soldier left him with a criminal conviction. This was despite the 32-year-old having no legal representation and not being told he was being criminally charged at his summary hearing.

After an expensive and drawn out legal battle, it was ruled Mr. Baleiwai acted in self-defense and was granted United Kingdom citizenship last month.

But the experience left him questioning the values he once fought to protect.

In a letter to Prince Charles explaining his decision, Mr. Baleiwai stated: "To be told you are not of 'good character' to be British or remain here was one of the saddest days of my life. Everything I worked for, the British values I believed in and fought for, were destroyed and dishonored."

"I, therefore, feel I can no longer accept my medals. I received them with honor and with great sadness they have now become meaningless," Mr. Baleiwai said.

The fight to stay in the UK also took its toll on the family, with his wife Kimberly Baleiwai – suffering a miscarriage because of the stress the deportation case caused her.

"My family has been left facing bankruptcy and homelessness. My service to 'Queen and Country' has been dishonored and I have been betrayed," he said.

"The question I keep asking myself is, if we are good enough to serve alongside your son, good enough to swear an oath to 'Queen and Country', good enough to protect 'Queen and Country', good enough to die for 'Queen and Country'; why are we not good enough to live here, when we leave the services?"

Mr. Baleiwai received five medals for bravery while on tours of Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Afghanistan and twice in Iraq.

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com.
Copyright 2013 Fiji Times Online. All Rights Reserved


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