Fiji Indians have progressed over the years to become wealth creators in Fiji and they have cause to feel gratified that after more than 135 years of struggle, their right to equality has been granted.
In establishing a strong foundation for democracy and in conducting a free and fair general election on September 17, 2014, Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama has provided the much deserved and long overdue ‘official and legal recognition’ to the Indian community which has struggled since the infamous Girmit era that undermined their lives from 1879 to 1916.
In many ways, observance of Girmit on May 14 every year, to commemorate the arrival of the first shipload of indentured labourers in 1879 is not a celebration but a grim reminder of one of the darkest eras in human history. Yet, the day should be celebrated as one of solidarity, determination and will to ensure sufferings for the sake of the future generations. Indo-Fijians owe their status including good education and economic prosperity to the sacrifices made by their ancestors. It is their blood, sweat and tears that have made them to strive harder and win recognition not only in Fiji but in every part of the globe, which is their home today.
Girmit ‘celebrations’ are also aimed at touching the conscience of the British and Australian governments which many say should be held responsible for the human tragedy that occurred in Fiji.
Homage to Girmityas
The Divas (the day) is not so much a celebration as a commemoration to pay homage to the Girmityas, praise their courage and express gratitude and appreciation for their sacrifices. It is also to educate and inform the present generation of Indians, mainly the descendants of Girmityas, of the hardships their ancestors had to endure and the sacrifices they made to provide a better life for their children.
Their gift was the huge investment they made in providing for the education of their children. The colonial government made no provision for the education of Indian children in the early days since the abolition of indenture.
There has always been a place for Indians in Fiji and the community is an integral part and instrument of the country’s destiny.
We live in a globalised world today. Indians are citizens of Fiji and they must make their future according to their will and aspirations. It is the responsibility of their leaders to see that they are treated with respect and dignity.
Today’s generation has a duty and responsibility to their future generations to redress the wrongs done to them. Only by doing so and succeeding, will they secure the future of their children. They must be strong-willed to fight against injustice. Ultimately, truth and justice shall prevail.
As we have always said, Fiji is a beautiful country, endowed with natural beauty, fertile soil and people who are genuinely kind and caring.
The future is therefore characterised by enthusiasm and newfound 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.
We salute Indo-Fijians on the 136th anniversary of Girmit, pay tributes to their ancestors, congratulate them on the dawn of a new era of their freedom from racism, political discrimination and corruption and wish them success in all their endeavours.