Monday, November 30, 2009

Koro Village Nuts Over Bio-fuel - Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The use of diesel fuel will be a thing of the past for the people of Koro Island because they will now rely on coconut oil as its suitable replacement.

This means that all vehicles, generators, outboard motors and other machinery on the island will depend solely on bio-diesel extracted from coconut oil, which will be produced locally at Nacamaki Village.

The initiative is part of the efforts to introduce renewable energy for rural people who find it hard to cope with the rising price of diesel fuel.

As part of a long-term plan government has brought 15 villagers from Nacamaki to Suva to train them how to use the Modular Bio-Diesel Processing Plant which will be installed in the village early next year.

The $30,000 plant will be able to process other bi-products such as edible oil, soap, and fertiliser.

Department of Energy spokesman Vilimoni Vosarogo said the new processing plant would be the first of its kind to be introduced in Fiji and the Pacific. He said government has planned to install similar processing plants in Lau, Kadavu, Rotuma and other parts of Fiji.

Mr Vosarogo said villagers of Koro would have to build their own shed to accommodate the new plant while government would provide them training.

He said the new initiative would help ordinary villagers financially.

Nacamaki villager Leone Manu said the new project would create employment for the villagers. He said carting diesel fuel to the island was an expensive exercise.

He said villagers had given up selling dried coconuts to Savusavu and Suva because of the associated costs.

"Now that our coconuts will be sold on the island, it should help us financially in many ways," he said.

Biofuels - liquid fuels derived from plant materials - are entering the market, driven by factors such as oil price spikes and the need for increased energy security.

Biofuels provided 1.8 per cent of the world's transport fuel in 2008. Investment into biofuels production capacity exceeded $4billion worldwide in 2007.

Church Ban in Serua - Tuesday, December 01, 2009

New religious groups will be banned from Serua province if they do not follow the traditional protocol.

The issue was discussed in length at the Serua Provincial Council meeting at Vunibau Village.

Council chairman Ratu Samuela Waqanaceva told the Fiji Times that some new charismatic churches caused widespread division within the province because their beliefs contradicted traditional customs and beliefs.

"Some of these new churches do not agree with certain things we do in the village especially on traditional matters. While we respect their beliefs, it is becoming a worry because it contradicts our tradition and customs," Ratu Samuela said.

"Any religious group that wishes to enter the province will have to get an approval from the Commissioner Central's Office, likewise the provincial office," said Ratu Samuela.

He said there was an alarming increase on a number of charismatic churches in the province and the provincial office would want to see that they adhere to protocols to avoid any problems.

A number of new charismatic churches had been very vocal on traditional matters such as the consumption of kava which they viewed as contradicting their Christian beliefs, he said.

Meanwhile, delegates at the meeting unanimously supported the idea of establishing a Provincial Development Board to oversee the overall development within the province.

Commissioner Central Lieutenant Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga told the meeting that the new board would work closely with the government on all development matters arising from each province.

The names of those who will join the new board will be finalised this morning.

Ratu Samuela said the new initiative should avoid the bureaucracy within the government system.

"Hopefully the new board will speed up the whole process in getting our message across to the government," Ratu Samuela said.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Villagers choose to banish farmers, users - Monday, November 30, 2009

ANY villager found with marijuana or selling the drug will be exiled from the district of Wainunu, Bua, but only after being dealt with by Fijian warlords.

This is a stern warning from Tui Wainunu Ratu Orisi Baleitavea, who believes it's time that chiefs and their people stand up to fight against the illicit drug problem in society.

Known as the red zone in Bua, Wainunu district is a popular marijuana spot that police officers have continuously raided in the past.

The decision to exile any villager found dealing or cultivating marijuana has been agreed to by all village reps, including the minority group who live in the district

Ratu Orisi said although it has been difficult to find anyone dealing in or cultivating marijuana, his decision as high chief was firm and nothing would change that.

He said any villager found guilty would be taken to task in their respective village meetings and traditionally dealt with by chiefly warlords.

This would include spanking and other disciplinary measures before being exiled.

Ratu Orisi said they have uprooted marijuana plants found in farms and forests of Wainunu.

He said the drug cultivation in his district has to stop and such vanua laws would be enforced to deal with culprits and put an end to drug problems.

Ratu Orisi said a lot of problems have been caused by drug users, including criminal activities which affected innocent people.

"For the sake of security and a better future for our people, we will take this stand and ensure that it is followed. It's time we rise up and stop drug problems in our society," Ratu Orisi said.

This is the second district in the Northern Division that has decided to exile villagers found with the drug.

The first was Wailevu Village in Tunuloa, Cakaudrove. The village elders had decided two months ago to exile any villager found with marijuana.

Tunuloa has also been a hotspot drug cultivation area in the province

Friday, November 27, 2009

Do not lose sight on cultural identity - 27/11/2009

Fiji must not lose sight of the maintenance of its own identity, values, traditions and customs and traditional structures, says Filipe Jitoko.

He is the Permanent Secretary for Education and he made the comment during the Queen Victoria School’s (QVS) Annual prize giving ceremony yesterday.

He said over the years the role of QVS had extended so that its purpose in training Fiji’s leaders was not only confined to traditional chiefly household, but a substantial contribution to other areas of national development.

He said the school should feel proud of its achievement in educating Fiji’s leaders for more than a century.

He said QVS was associated with the education and training of men of rank with the concept of nurturing those who would finally ascend to the thrones of the chiefly households.

“The push towards providing an education system for all and the reduction of inequities and disparities in education has brought about changes in the provision of education in Fiji.

“I firmly believe that it is imperative that Fiji’s traditional societies embrace and welcome the role of education in their development in the same way the market does.”

He said education was a pre-requisite to economic growth and Fiji’s traditional society should similarly value the education of its members as of paramount importance to their development in this modern day and age.

“Students who represent their different vanua should be reminded of their traditional obligation in accordance with the expectation of their elders,” he said.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Historical facts have surfaced this month that Ro Veidovi’s remains were buried in one of America’s distinguished military burial grounds, Cypress Hills in Brooklyn, New York.

Cypress Hills National Cemetery is at least 18 acres in size and is located approximately ten miles from JFK International Airport, New York. A quick search has revealed that over 21, 000 persons, mostly decorated soldiers, are buried in Cypress Hills. It is managed by the Long Island National Cemetery.

Through the years, meticulous research has found that because Ro Veidovi became a celebrated prisoner and died on board a US military ship, it was deemed obligatory to have his remains interred at Cypress Hills.

He lies among what Cypress Hills National Cemetery records as “Notable Persons” who won Medals of Honour during the war in the mid-1800s.

Details like these are in the official records at various graves in Cypress Hills - Coxswain John Cooper, (Civil War), U.S. Navy. Awarded two Medals of Honor; On board the USS Brooklyn, Dec. 31, 1864, and April 26, 1865 (Section 2, Grave 5022); Captain of the Hold Louis Williams (Interim), U.S. Navy. Awarded two Medals of Honor. On board the USS Lackawanna, March 16, 1883, and on board the USS Lackawanna, June 13, 1884 (Section 6, Grave 12616); and so on.

US records state that many graves had to be carefully dug up and transferred to the main gravesite to make way for the construction of a large department store in the 1920s. This event might have contributed to loss of records of the exact location of Ro Veidovi’s grave.

William Rhoades, Director of Long Island National Cemetery in Farmdale, New York, and Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Teimumu Kepa’s traditional historians and heralds have been in contact in the last month.

Rhoades says he had “looked everywhere possible” to find the original headstone placed on his gravesite but he is preparing a permanent marker when Ro Teimumu passes details of Ro Veidovi’s Rewa status.

“While the exact circumstances of his interment at Cypress Hills are historical facts, I don’t think that we can inscribe those circumstances on his headstone,” he said.

“It is a fascinating story that just keeps going,” Rhoades states. “It appears (the headstone) has been removed and destroyed. I plan to submit an application for a new memorial marker.”

The Ro Veidovi story has also connected senior Fiji and USA Government officials. Rhoades in particular stood ready to discuss “the history associated with this distinguished gentleman”

“While the cultures were much different then, he was obviously a well-respected man of his culture and apparently earned the respect of the US Navy Crew that captured him,” he said. “That in itself speaks volumes about his character.”

Rhoades explained he had received a letter from Penijamini Lomaloma, First Secretary at the Fiji Embassy in Washington D.C., to say Fiji officials had conducted a search to confirm the whereabouts of Ro Veidovi’s remains. Lomaloma had acted on requests by Adam H Domby, a senior official at the office of Congressman Gonzalez, after certain requests by Anthropologist Dr Ann Fabian, a Congresswoman whose keen interest in Ro Veidovi’s story has allowed her to write many scholarly papers. Lomaloma raised the matter with the Fiji Government through its Ministries of Indigenous Affairs and also of Foreign Affairs, Civil Aviation and International Cooperation in March-April this year.

Permanent Secretary for Indigenous Affairs Ratu Meli Bainimarama said there were no official records of past attempts to repatriate Ro Veidovi’s remains, but knew of the late Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Lady Lala Mara’s wishes that they remained on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.

He said Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Teimumu Kepa’s views and wishes were being sought on the matter.

Dr Fabian’s curiosity was roused when she began another series of publications on a history of skull collectors “and Vendovi plays a major role”.

Dr Fabian’s search and her colleagues’ encouragement became a much talked about issue at State Department level and was relayed to the Embassy of the United States in Suva.

Richard Pruett, Deputy Chief of Mission wrote to Ro Teimumu in June this year, and personally invited her to the Smithsonian Institution to become “a part of the fascinating story”. Pruett had informed Ro Teimumu that he held consultations with Smithsonian Institution scholars like Dr Fabian, Chairman of Anthropology Dr Dan Rogers and Dr Adrianne Kaeppler, Curator for the Pacific Collection.

Pruett also informed Ro Teimumu that the Smithsonian would honour her wishes on the subject. He personally invited her to visit the Smithsonian Institution and assured the US Embassy would facilitate her travel.

Mullish views have surfaced in Rewa in recent weeks as to why Roko Tui Dreketi’s clan had suddenly taken a keen interest in Ro Veidovi. Her spokesperson Ro Dona Takalaiyale has expressed strong views, saying the Ro Veidovi story is not a new story.

“There is a very strong historic and cultural connection between Fiji and the United States in the story of Ro Veidovi,” he says. “If the Government of the United States considers his story a critical link in our history and culture, it will then be quite critical for Roko Tui Dreketi to share that value with us.”

“The story of Ro Veidovi is one of many significant stories in our history as a people, as a clan and as a nation,” Ro Dona adds. “His skulls became the first human remains on exhibit when it was deemed peculiar to do it at the time; the story has made it into numerous scholarly theses on the historical importance of US expeditions to the Fiji Islands.”

“And for all we know at Rewa today, there is a high level discussion going on between Na Gone Marama Bale Na Roko Tui Dreketi and the Ministries of Foreign and Indigenous Affairs, and the US Government on its historical and cultural importance.”

Ro Teimumu is of the view that, like every other significant Fijian story in scholarly publications everywhere in the world today, the Ro Veidovi story deserved a decent ending. She promises that is there is a need for her family to do it, she will personally supervise its care in a noteworthy section of the world’s largest museum and archives, the Smithsonian Institution in the American capital, Washington D.C.

“There is nothing wrong with taking care of an ancestor’s remains in a far away country and I personally believe that Ro Veidovi deserved a mention in the annals of the powerful history of Rewa and Burebasaga and most importantly, of Fiji and its power.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sere ni CBM - Melaia Dimuri

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ratu Epeli's Tongan Connection

In the name of the President

Morgan Tuimaleali'ifano - Thursday, November 19, 2009

Stories about the new President (Fiji Times November 5 and 6 2009) make for interesting reading but your readers may have been a bit confused by the new President's Tongan connections. His distinguished Tongan connection is well known and given his recent elevation to Fiji's highest office, a reminder of the ancient relations between Fiji and Tonga might serve a useful purpose. It also serves as a reminder of how often our circumstances (now and future) are determined largely by forces outside our control.

Ratu Epeli Nailatikau's well known Tongan connection is perhaps too well known for the Mataqali na Tui Kaba. Like anyone else, he had nothing to do with the way his pedigree panned out. Some might explain it in the stars, others the waywardness of the heart.

His grandmother, Adi Litia Cakobau, was the daughter of Bauan Ratu Timoci Tavanavanua and Tupoutu'a of the Veikune family of Vava'u, Tonga. The story goes, in 1908, when the lovely Adi Litia was visiting Tongan relatives, she was seen and approached by the impetuous Tongan king, Tupou II.

The product of this brief romantic encounter was Ratu Edward. He was born in Bau in 1908 and was the second son of Tupou II, the oldest being Vilai, born in 1898.

Ratu Edward was given the Cakobau name from his maternal great-grandfather's side. When he visited Tonga for the first time in 1934, he was nicknamed Tungi Fisi in recognition of his high rank in Tonga. Queen Salote Tupou III and Princess Fusipala were therefore his half-sisters, and his son, Ratu Epeli, is therefore a cousin to the late king of Tonga, Tupou IV. The current king, George Tupou V, is the great-grandson of King George II. This material is available in Elizabeth Wood-Ellem's Queen Salote of Tonga, The Story of an Era 1900-1965, published in 1999.

On the other side, Ratu Epeli's great-grandfather, Ratu Timoci Tavanavanua, is of the Mataqali Tui Kaba of Bau, one that has been under siege from within since November 25, 1989.

The Tongan connection also runs deep in his wife's pedigree. Adi Koila's paternal grandmother, Lusiana Qolikoro, was one of eight striking daughters of a Tongan Wesleyan church minister and his kai loma or part-European wife of the Miller family. These and other intriguing details are told by Deryck Scarr in his Tuimacilai a Life of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara launched in October by Papua New Guinea's Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare and our region's elder statesman.

Ratu Epeli's elevation to the highest office is important in another way - for what it signals about transformative changes taking place in Fiji. His appointment by the Bainimarama government in some ways represents a revolution, a quiet one yet nevertheless a revolution.

Why "revolutionary" your readers might well ask? Because the constitutional author of such appointment, the colonially instituted Great Council of Chiefs has been disregarded. In a tit for tat, the GCC had rejected Ratu Epeli's nomination and in turn the GCC has been shown, if Bainimarama is correctly reported, the "Mango Tree".

But more than that, for the first time since independence, a Fijian Head of State has been appointed without a vanua title. Not that being without vanua title can prevent an appointment, and although Ratu Epeli's genealogy is impeccably aristocratic, his appointment marks a significant shift in Fiji's social arrangements.

Under the imprimatur of the GCC, the past four heads of state have maintained the principle of equity among the three 19th century Confederations. The first was Ratu Sir George Cakobau, installed as the Vunivalu na Tui Kaba title and titular head of Kubuna. The second was Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, the Tui Cakau titleholder and titular head of Tovata. The third was Ratu Sir Kamiese Mara, bearers of Tui Nayau and Sau ni Vanua ko Lau titles of Lau, again of Tovata but undoubtedly taking cognizance that his wife, Adi Lady Lalabalavu Litia, was Roko Tui Dreketi, the eminent chieftain title of the Rewa-based Burebasaga.

Right to his grave, the enigmatic Sakiasi Butadroka of Rewa, decried his chieftain's being cast in the shadow of her imperious, towering but lesser ranking husband. The principle of rotating the office of head of state among the titular heads of the three confederations appealed to the vanua sense of history and fairness.

The fourth and recently retired President was Ratu Josefa Uluivuda Iloilo, Tui Vuda, a major district chief from the chauvinistic Yasayasa Vakara in the West, the fourth confederacy, with close affiliation to Burebasaga. Through Ratu Josefa, Burebasaga got its full tenure of government house!

With the principle of rotation established in this way, would Ratu Epeli Nailatikau's appointment been confirmed in the next appointment by the GCC?

The appointment of Ratu Epeli as the current and fifth head of state, returns the position to Kubuna. However, the recycle marks a radical departure from the established practice. Not only is he the first without the blessing of the GCC but he is also the first without a vanua title. Could he be setting a pattern for future heads of state or is his appointment merely an anomaly that will be corrected in time? He has the Naisogolaca inheritance and vasu to the Qaranivalu of Naitasiri and his Tongan royal family connection. Will Fijians regard these connections as sufficient in themselves? This change may appeal to modern oriented Fijians. Unfettered by a vanua title, will this make the President more accessible to ordinary citizens from all walks of life? He seems so.

Since 1987 to 2006, the word 'normal' has acquired many meanings for Fiji, and current high political appointments reflects social stresses in the local establishment. Whether these appointments will endure beyond the military regime remains to be seen. Furthermore, whether the chiefs as a collective form will ever respond, as with the currently fragmented Methodist Church, also remains to be seen. For the moment, the shift within the local tectonic plates provides interesting movements for readers.

* The views expressed in this article are that of the author and not necessarily the Fiji Times or the University of the South Pacific where he lectures history.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dreketi thanks State for effort - 18/11/2009

Government will only provide development assistance to those districts that take the first step in developing their communities, said a Macuata district representative said.

Dreketi district representative Ratu Meli Tamanilolo applauded Government’s effort in visiting the people at the grassroots level in the Northern division.

The district of Dreketi compromises of seven villages most of which are wholly dependent on fishing and subsistence farming for their livelihoods.

Ratu Meli said this is the first time under any government leadership that Dreketi has been visited by officials and also reaped benefits in terms of development.

In the past, Dreketi has been a slow developing district compared to a number of other districts around Macuata.

This has changed - after the Government intercepted.

Ratu Meli said a number of government-led development projects have been implemented in the past including rice farming, cocoa farming and aqua fisheries projects.

The most dominant of these have been the forestry related development projects.

“In Dreketi, Government’s service delivery has been immense,” said Ratu Meli.

In terms of water supply, two water projects for a village began at the beginning of this year.

In Nakanacagi Village, a $25,000 funded-water project got underway. This is also evident in Nabavatu Village.

Ratu Meli said in Nakanacagi, at list 10 houses are currently being built with Government’s assistance.

At Nasigasiga, chainsaws have been provided to villagers to help saw their timber to build their homes.

Also at Nakanacagi a $92,000 community hall project is underway.

“We urge all turaga ni vanua and mataqalis to properly utilise Government funded projects to uplift the living standards of the people,” Ratu Meli said.

“So it is our duty as people to see that these projects are maintained.

“We also receive training from various ministries, which has been very helpful for youths and women.

“Projects have helped our people invest in their talents such as house building, plumbing, agricultural and handicraft,” Ratu Meli added.

President aims to unite chiefs - Wednesday, November 18, 2009

THE President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, intends to reconcile all chiefs within Fiji.

He said it was the will of the people that all chiefs unite.

Ratu Epeli is optimistic that despite the differences, dialogue could be maintained among the chiefly.

"Reconciling the chiefs is an ongoing process," he said.

"We have our differences.

"I have differences even with my close friends who happen to be chiefs but it is not the end of the world because there is always a way out of a sticky situation.

"As the representative of the people I have to be open, listen to people and hear what they have to say.

"We might have our differences but it doesn't stop me from trying to work things out."

To carry out the reconciliation process, Ratu Epeli said he would need to visit the 14 provinces in the country.

"It's a matter of making the arrangements and planning them."

He made the comment during his tour of Macuata, the first province he visited after he became President.

Ratu Epeli is expected to visit the Western Division next week.

"I've been meeting the people and seen positive signs of what they want to achieve and the way the community has rallied behind their developments especially in schools.

"That is the basis of all this.

"If we can get it right at the beginning, it will augur well for the future."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fijian Courage and Valour in Battle

Unique type of valour

Lord Ashcroft - Sunday, November 15, 2009

There are, I have always believed, two types of valour: spur-of-the-moment bravery and what I call cold courage, which involves planning.

I've nothing but admiration for those decorated for impulsive bravery: a serviceman who, in the heat of battle, risks his life to save a wounded comrade.

Many such men have rightly been awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain's top military bravery medal.

But my new book, Special Forces Heroes, deals with those awarded medals for acts of premeditated courage.

It takes a special kind of valour to go undercover behind enemy lines or to be part of a small, elite unit on a hit-and-run mission against a far larger force.

If it goes wrong, he knows that, at best, he might be captured and kept as a prisoner of war for months, even years.

At worst, he might be seized, tortured, mutilated and killed.

Not everyone mentioned in my book was a member of the Special Forces, but one account chosen here relates to the SAS.

The first - the Battle of Mirbat in Oman in 1972, which saw a handful of SAS men fight off 250 heavily armed, rebel fighters - is not well-known, but is considered by a growing number of military historians to be the regiment's finest hour.

The second involves what must surely be the most celebrated moment in the regiment's history - the storming of the Iranian Embassy in 1980.

Battle of Mirbat

(JULY 19, 1972)

Trooper Sekonaia Takavesi

Distinguished Conduct Medal

Oman, a long-standing ally of Britain, is a forgotten war - not least because the SAS's involvement in protecting the country's sultan from the Communist rebels of the People's Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Arab Gulf (PFLOAG) was top secret.

Not even the families of those fighting knew where they were.

But by July 1972, the regiment had been training and advising local troops in the small Gulf state for a year.

Operation Jaguar, designed to consolidate their positions, establish new ones and disrupt rebels lines of communications and resupply was going well.

Then, at dawn on the morning of July 19, the rebels hit back, with 250 of their elite fighters attacking the small town of Mirbat on the Arabian Sea.

They were heavily armed and their aim was to overrun the town and slaughter everyone in their path.

In the town's garrison were just nine SAS soldiers, equipped with one 25-pounder field gun from World War II, one mortar, a 0.50mm machine gun and a few general purpose machine guns.

When the adoo (Arabic for enemy forces) attacked, all the SAS men were in the British Army Training Team (BATT) house, 500 yards from the gun pit containing the 25-pounder.

But when they heard mortar rounds and machine gun fire from an outlying observation point, they moved swiftly.

A Fijian trooper called Talaiasi Labalaba ran to the gun pit and, though it normally took a three-man team to operate it, managed to open fire by himself, sighting the gun down the barrel and firing into the advancing rebels at near point-blank range.

Mirbat castle: Scene of a ferocious battle in Oman which is considered to be the regiment's finest hour

But when Labalaba was wounded, hit in the chin by a 7.62 mm round from a Kalashnikov rifle, it seemed only a matter of time before first the gun and then the garrison were over-run.

But for the decisive action of his fellow Fijian, Sekonaia Takavesi, it probably would have been.

Known as 'Sek' or 'Tak' to his friends, he became - in the words of his Army superiors - 'a legend in his own time within the SAS'. Grabbing his rifle and a few magazines, he sprinted to the gun pit and found his friend badly injured, his jaw smashed, but still continuing to fire the gun. Realising they needed more support, Takavesi left the gun pit, running to a nearby building to persuade an Omani gunner, Walid Khamis, to join them. Now there were three: Labalaba and Khamis operating the 25-pounder, while Takavesi used a self-loading rifle (SLR). But as enemy fire pounded the gun pit, Khamis slumped backwards. He had been shot in the stomach and was writhing in agony. The two Fijians were on their own again, with Takavesi helping his friend, time and again, to remove the hot shell case, ram in a new one, close the breech and fire.

Soon it was Takavesi's turn to take a bullet, which threw him backwards on to the sandbags. He was in great pain and losing a lot of blood, but he remained conscious.

Labalaba propped him up and handed him his SLR. Labalaba, who was peering down his rifle sights picking off the advancing enemy, realised he was almost out of ammunition for the 25-pounder.

As he tried to reach a 60mm mortar positioned nearby, he was shot fatally in the neck.

In the BATT house, Captain Mike Kealy heard the 25-pounder fall silent and became worried the position had been taken. With a volunteer, Tommy Tobin, a trained medic, the commanding officer dodged bullets and ran to the gun pit, where they witnessed a gruesome scene. The dead body of Labalaba lay face down on the ground, Khamis was lying on his back, bleeding profusely.

The only one still able to fire was Takavesi, who, still propped on the sandbags, was also seriously wounded. Every time he fired his SLR, he grimaced with pain as the rifle kicked back into his body.

As Tobin turned to get his medical pack, he was shot in the face and fell to the floor mortally wounded.

Pete Scholey, a former SAS man and author of SAS Heroes: Remarkable Soldiers provides an account of what happened next. 'Tak called to Captain Kealy for more ammunition and the two men began to battle for their lives. An adoo popped up at the edge of the gun emplacement, ready to shoot Tak, and Kealy blasted him with his SLR.

'Another appeared from a ditch close to their position and Kealy cut him down, too. Kealy took out adoo gunmen as they slunk round the walls of the fort and Tak concentrated on those coming from the direction of the perimeter wire. The adoo were close enough to sling grenades, which were bouncing and exploding close to the walls of the gun pit. Kealy froze for an instant as a grenade landed inside the bunker right in front of him. Mercifully, it failed to explode.'

Just as the situation appeared hopeless, the two men and their comrades had two strokes of luck.

First, the low cloud lifted high enough for two jets from the Sultan of Oman's air force to fly over the scene, strafing the adoo with cannon fire and, at one point, dropping a 500lb bomb on the by now retreating rebels.

Takavesi, who was later involved in the storming of the Iranian Embassy, would later describe the scream of those jets as 'the best sound I ever heard'.

Kealy was unaware of the second stroke of luck, which resulted from his early radio message to SAS headquarters that Mirbat was under attack. His men, B Squadron, had been due to go home on the very day of the attack.

This meant their replacements from G Squadron were at Um al Quarif, just 65km west of Mirbat. G Squadron was ordered into action.

Twenty-two men, along with their equipment, were taken by trucks to the airstrip at Salalah. Once the mist had lifted, they were airlifted in helicopters to the beach on the edge of Mirbat.

As Kealy used a lull in the fighting to tend to his men, G Squadron, led by Captain Alastair Morrison - another SAS hero who would go on to play a vital role in the successful storming of a hijacked Lufthansa jet at Mogadishu airport in 1977 - fought its way through the town.

The adoo were in full retreat, leaving 40 dead and ten wounded.

It had been an incredibly close run thing, but thanks to the bravery of men such as Takavesi, Labalaba and Kealy, it proved to be a decisive turning point in the sultan's battle with the rebels.

The Battle of Mirbat is an extraordinary story and I share the sense of anger among SAS men that the bravery of the solders involved has never been properly recognised.

As a result, I have sponsored the Battle of Mirbat Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

The valour of men such as Takavesi, Labalaba (who many believe deserves a posthumous Victoria Cross) and Kealy - three of the great Special Forces heroes - should never be forgotten