Please add on my letter to the interesting debate raised by Joe Smith. I heard the comment on TV as Defence is allowed to cap their strength at 1500. They still have to ask for their budget, so the question is how much Tonga can afford and how Tonga need. With all the great ideas the weakness of Joe’s argument is based on his bottom line.
The bottom line is: where can Tonga get the best value with the limit funding available?
The bottom line Joe is how are we going to employ the thousands of youth in Tonga that will become the problem in the future?
The first point Joe is giving them a purpose in Life. With respect to Joe’s 20 years in the military but he should note that there is no other place better than the military that focus people’s attention. Everything you do is a mission, with a purpose and a required end state.
The second point is giving them a skill for life. Through foreign military aids, Defence can use these to train people with technical skills through the local technical establishment (TMPI) or to overseas military training establishment. These NZ or Australian qualified people tend to leave the military and start a new life in Tonga but some choose to return overseas to find work and form families overseas. For Defence, a soldier who leaves with skills and start a new life is a success story.
The next point it’s a money earner for the country. With close to 200 people rotating to the Solomon since 2003 for peacekeeping with daily allowances of more then AUD$50 per person per day paid by the Aust government. Its nearly 2 years they have work in the Solomon so you can calculate how much money is send from Aust to Tonga for the allowances of it soldiers. The aids by US for Tonga can be another letter if we discuss it later.
The next point is that “limited funding available?” is solved with looking for extra funding. These extra funding goes from one military force to another military force. With Tonga Defence Budget of less then TOP$ 5 million in 2004, the military aids from NZ, Australia, US, China and UK can easily double that defence budget. These are mainly used to train people with a skill for life. These can be in technical trades, administration, management and training. Some are assistances with equipment such as computers, communications. These remind us that Defence introduced computers to Tonga in the mid 80s with funding from Australia Defence Force.
The fifth point is that the comparison between Samoa, Fiji and the US is valid but still incomplete. New Zealand is further down to Antarctica and they maintain a Defence Force. The only threats they have are the seals from Antarctica and the Australian. In that case the ” o threat scenario” is not a factor to decide if one needs to have a Defence Force or not. Between Fiji and Samoa, I hope you are well aware of the historical differences between Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. The Defence Force in Fiji and Tonga was initially set up under the care of NZ during WWII as both islands were under the British as a colony and a protectorate. Samoa was a German colony taken over by NZ during WWI. The question is why are we trusted to fight in WWII and then not trusted to have a force after the War. If the argument is there is no more threats then why do you think NZ will never give up their Defence Forces. It seem the coloured are not to be trusted to have a force while the white-man can be trusted to have one.
On a last note, the break down of discipline Joe refers to should be revisited. It seem that people can learn how to read and write but never learn how to read a newspaper. The allegation by the British Army soldier that he was assaulted, is an allegation. The British Army soldier was got his face hit with a torch for disobeying the sentry instructions and he also try to force his way pass the check points. In Fiji the same month another British Army soldiers was beaten up by the Fiji military check points for the same reasons. It’s a disgrace on the British Army if these people slack off their discipline when they are on leave. With the US army murder and rape cases in Iraq, Okinawa is not a breakdown of discipline. Its soldier breaking the law and it should be deal with as appropriate. When a soldier make a mistake does not mean the whole services is at fault.
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