Thakur Ranjit Singh
Auckland based Fiji Girmit Foundation of New Zealand commemorated the 140th Anniversary of the arrival of the first group of Girmityas to Fiji at a Special Meeting held on Friday, May 10, 2019 at Skipton Hall in the South Auckland suburb of Mangere East.
The Trustees of the Foundation passed on the baton to a youthful millennial Executive Committee who organised this event for the first time.
And they brought in welcome changes.
There was no crying, lament or apportioning the blame; the theme was to celebrate the resilience, resolve, faith and vision of the forebears.
The Programme was not intended as an entertaining event filled with songs and dances.
Instead, it was meant as educational, empowering and enlightening – with quiz, oratory and historical insights. It was also meant to encourage and allow the Fiji-Indian community to ascertain their rightful role and recognition as Pacifica people, being the second largest Pacific population in New Zealand.
This was reflected in his speech by President Krish Naidu, who said that Fiji Indians were discriminated while in Fiji and this appears to have accompanied them to New Zealand.
“In New Zealand, we live with an identity crisis; we are not accepted and recognised as a part of the Pacific community and entitled to resources, opportunities, respect and recognition available and given to people who originate from the Pacific Island Countries,” he said.
He requested that Fiji-Indians be mentioned as a separate ethnicity in the New Zealand Census, and called on the community to unite under a Girmit banner and work together.
Sir Anand’s tribute
Chief Guest former Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand (who was accompanied by Lady Susan Satyanand), is of Fiji-Indian heritage. He outlined both sides of his genealogy, coming from two parts of India.
He told a packed auditorium that he was moved by the respect that was shown by the Foundation in honouring and presenting medals to over 25 elders of 80 years and more, for passing the heritage and culture from the earlier generations to the next one.
He echoed the resilience and special traits that our forebears left behind, which make us proud with a rich heritage.
“What are we to do with our matter with Indian heritage? It is not only to be recorded and bottled-up but shared around for the benefit of a considerable number,” he said.
Sir Anand saluted the faith of the forebears in education and confidence in future that has seen the descendants to shine.
“I feel certain if it was possible for our forebears to ascertain what was achieved by subsequent generations, they would be proud. Education and its pursuit is of course, keynote. As (former South African President) Nelson Mandela once said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.’”
Housing and Transport Minister Phil Twyford praised all migrants who made Aotearoa into a beautiful melting pot and saluted Fiji-Indians for being exemplary citizens.
Girmit Legacy Awards
The highlight of the evening was ‘Girmit Legacy Awards.’
As resilience and resolve of our Girmitiyas helped them transcend adversity, what that meant was that they bequeathed the new generation a rich and inspiring legacy, through which Fiji has produced outstanding people and organisations that have become role models to inspire others and ensure the hard work, spirit and values.
The legacy of Girmityas continues to live in action every day.
Mr Naidu said it was a matter off pride that the Girmit Foundation has such Awards, specifically to recognise the descendants of Girmityas, and an opportunity to celebrate our Fiji-Indians and associated organisations that have worked hard to connect the community and the wider society.
Among the recipients of this year’s Awards were Friends of Fiji Heart Foundation (Community Wellbeing Award- ‘Samajik Kaushalta Ratan’); Waitakere Hindi School (Arts and Culture Award- ‘Girmit Kala Aur Sanskriti Ratan’); Wellington A League Phoenix Star Roy Krishna (Sports Award–‘Khelkood Ratan’) and Professor Brij Vilash Lal (Literature Award-‘Sahitya Ratan’).
Sir Anand presented the Awards.
Members of Parliament Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi (National) and Priyanca Radhakrishnan (Labour) spoke at the event.
There were other congratulatory messages, interspersed with cultural item and quiz.
The evening concluded with photography sessions with Roy Krishna and his Pageant Beauty Queen wife Nazia Ali Krishna, who had especially flown from Fiji for the occasion.
If it was a litmus test for the millennial team of Executives of Fiji Girmit Foundation, it was a job well done and huge applause from all of us.
A very memorable, and unique way to salute the memories of those who sacrificed for us, and Fiji Indian Diaspora need to learn from Aucklanders to emulate such events for their forebears in their respective cities around where Fiji Indian Diaspora have settled.