138 years on, we remember our forebears

Venkat Raman – 

The world has perhaps never seen a community of people who have forever been chased by ill luck and misfortune, like the Indo-Fijians have been all these years.

Girmityas, as they were called, suffered the worst effects of bonded labour, racism and inhuman treatment.

Since they landed 138 years ago unbeknown of what was in store for them, history has witnessed the rule of diabolism and a parade of unacceptable events that have had a telling impact not only on the actual sufferers but also on their ensuing generations.

A majority of Indo-Fijians, despite their façade of happiness amidst plenty and prosperity, continue to endure the scars of the past. And as if they were not born to enjoy equity, they continued to suffer indignity and indifference under various regimes even after Fiji obtained independence from the British on October 10, 1970.

The coups and after

Two coups in 1987 and one in 2000 were developments that shook the confidence of most Indo-Fijians and tens of thousands of them fled to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK and US, in search of a new home and life.

Almost all of them have succeeded as engineers, medical practitioners, entrepreneurs, professionals and retailers; those who have not, are a small band of people who have been either unlucky like their ancestors or too lethargic even to try.

It is the former who have held the interest of governments and people wherever they went in their search for a new life and identity.

Those people will remember with gratitude the sacrifices of their ancestors and vow to strive hard to fulfil their aspirations.

It is these Indo-Fijians, who will do their ancestors proud, if they were alive today.

From a practical standpoint, the feeling of hope and confidence that the Indian community in Fiji has reposed in Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama is understandable. For, India-Fijians have been marginalised all their life and it is only since December 6, 2006 that they have begun to feel secure and recognised.

New Energy

The future is therefore characterised by enthusiasm and new-found energy with equality of citizenship, employment and commercial opportunity.

Fiji can look forward to regaining its glory with the slogan, “Fiji, the way the World should be.’

Fiji has grappled with political and economic issues with greater dexterity than was originally envisaged. In essence, the country is re-emerging as a leader among the smaller South Pacific nations with a firm economic agenda that will deliver its people into a new era of prosperity.

The former regimes, with three devastating coups witnessed political fallout, taking the country back by a few decades.

But the bona fides of Mr Bainimarama were manifest in the gradual re-emergence of Fiji as a popular destination for tourists, investors and businesses.

It is in everyone’s interest that Fiji does well as a democratic country with political, economic and social reforms that would guarantee its future prosperity.

Photo Caption: One Nation, One People

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