Concerted efforts can rejuvenate Fiji Girmit Centre in Lautoka

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Fiji Girmit Centre (FGC) in Lautoka, Fiji was established in 1979, to mark the Girmit Centenary of the arrival of Indentured Labourers.

It was opened by former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on September 21, 1981.

Today, FGC has degenerated into a sick and poor organisation of healthy and rich members. Sanatan, Muslim League, Arya Samaj, Sikh Association, Gujarat Samaj, TISI Sangam, Ahmadiyyas, Andhra Sangam, Council of Churches and Kabir Panth – they are member affiliates who should come to the rescue of the Fiji Girmit Council.

We need to salute Yanktesh Permal (YP) Reddy and other trustees Vinod Patel, Pyara Singh and Kanti Punja for being diligent guardians to our heritage.

It is not a dead horse, but an injured tiger, which needs to have some thorns removed from its feet to ensure it gallops along – again.

And let us all do that – with your blessings collectively.

Misrepresentation and Misinformation

There appears to be great deal of misrepresentation and misinformation about FGC.

Therefore, I am undertaking a two-part article on this organisation to remove falsehood, and shed light on the real situation.

The objective is to generate reawakening of interest, and awaken its affiliates to fulfil their obligation to the memories of Girmityas.

One misplaced perception some people have is that Mr YP Reddy “owns” FGC and it is shut to others. Nothing is farther from truth. In fact, we need to salute him and his Reddy Group of Companies for having provided the life-support glucose and blood bottles to a terminally ill organisation abandoned by some of its affiliates and members.

This article was prompted by the inauguration of Global Girmit Institute (GGI) at Saweni Shopping Complex, Lautoka, Fiji and inauguration of Brij and Padma Lal Library Collection on May 14, 2018.

I considered it a parallel or breakaway organisation. However, GGI spokesperson Ganesh Chand corrected me by saying that the activities of GCI was global Girmityas while the FGC’s scope was local (Fiji).

I wondered, what role Can the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) play?

Library location

I had questioned why not this new Library could have been based at Girmit Centre as a sub-section of their already existing library.

To this, Mr Chand replied that they recognised there was a physical shortage of space at FGC and the large stock could not be accommodated there.

However, my investigation showed that this was not the case, as there is adequate space to meet the requirement, and more room could have been created if needed.

The issue here is, was there any discussion or dialogue on this issue? A centralised Girmit Library makes sense as it would serve better the interests of students, scholars and other users.

Cooperative effort essential

It is logical that one needs to have a strong foundation locally in order to be globally linked.

There is no greater foundation than the Fiji Girmit Council.

It would be in everybody’s interest if these two organisations work together in collaboration and cooperation to supplement the Girmit course.

The last thing Girmit course need to do is to provide anybody oxygen for political or academic opportunism.

Over the years, the Center has promoted culture, music and arts, and has been supplementing its income through hall hire to cover operational costs. FGC received 12.5 acres of land as donation from the Fijian government. About eight acres of land remains unutilised and my second article will put forward some suggestions to make use of this gift better.

Financial struggle

The Centre is struggling financially, and has accumulated debts surpassing $180,000 this year.

There is very little support from outside, hence there is a request to Fiji Indian Diaspora to start a movement to bring this place to be worthy of memory of our pioneer generation.

Thakur Ranjit Singh is Secretary and Founding Trustee of Fiji Girmit Foundation New Zealand,  which successfully marked Girmit Remembrance Day in New Zealand with Professor Brij Lal as Chief Guest in 2014. He is a Journalist and Media Commentator, and runs his blog Fiji Pundit.

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