Programmes in Auckland on May 14, 2019
Thakur Ranjit Singh
Auckland, April 6, 2019
The Fiji Girmit Foundation of New Zealand is gearing to mark the 140th Anniversary of the arrival of first Indian indentured labourers in Fiji, which was on 14 May 1879.
It will be a day to commemorate the suffering and sacrifices of the Girmityas and celebrate triumph of the human spirit over formidable adversities.
This event will take place on May 10, 2019 at ARST Skipton Hall, 53 Skipton Street, Mangere East, Auckland.
About the Foundation
The Foundation was established in 2013 to reconnect, reclaim and restore Fiji-Indian history, which has failed to echo in successive generations as it should have.
This event is being organised to provide an opportunity to every Indo-Fijian family to remember and pay respects to their Girmitya forebears for the sacrifices they made and the legacy they left behind for successive generations.
It is also the Foundation’s fervent hope and desire to bring enlightenment of their foundational Girmit history to Fiji Indians who grown up unaware of their tragic but fascinating history. In addition, it is their fervent desire to honour some of the descendants of the Girmityas for their achievements in various fields.
In 2013, elderly Fiji Indians (those over 80) were recognised, honoured and given Girmit Commemorative Medals.
In 2014, Professor Brij Lal was the Chief Guest and Keynote Speaker.
In 2015, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs of Fiji, Inoke Kubuabola was the Chief Guest. The theme for the occasion was “Commemorating the Syria Tragedy,” which included remembering, acknowledging and paying tribute to the Nasilai Villagers who risked their lives to render assistance in the rescue efforts, mounted by Dr William McGregor on that fateful night of May 11, 1884.
Mr Kubuabola led a delegation from Fiji, including staff of the Fiji High Commission based in Wellington to honour the occasion on behalf of the Government of Fiji.
Delegation to Nasilai
Following this event, the Foundation led a delegation to Nasilai Village on October 15, 2015 to formally thank the Nasilai villagers for the role their ancestors had played in the rescue efforts, which saved hundreds of lives.
It was a solemn occasion, reliving a tragic event but provided us an opportunity to meet the descendants to express our appreciation, though belatedly.
The villagers honoured the visitors with traditional welcome and subsequent discussions led to undertaking of important renovations and improvements to the village communal facilities, costing us over $80,000.
The Foundation is also gearing up to focus on some issues which Fiji Indians need a voice in, playing a wider role by having a closer link with New Zealand Government, the government agencies, political and community leaders.
There is a revamped, passionate, professional and diverse youth executive team who are coming on board, empowered to carry the banner and baton of Girmit and create awareness in the new generation.
One may say, like New Zealand Prime Minister, Fiji Indian Millennials in Auckland have been given an opportunity to take the lead and the torch of Girmit.
The Foundation considers it important to enlist the support of our community to ensure that our Girmit history is not lost. Accordingly, public awareness was vital and the commemorative events that commenced some six years ago lit and fanned the spark, which has ignited the desire in our people to reconnect and revive our Girmit history.
At least five commemoration events are planned for Auckland to mark and salute the pioneer Indian indentured labourers who were ordinary people who achieved extraordinary feats. And this is evident in a new breed and race of people, who originated from India, but created a distinct Pacifica culture, with best of both worlds.
There have been requests to Girmit Foundation to join with Global Girmit organisations overseas. However, the New Zealand Girmit Foundation feels first they need to make it effectively work here at grassroots level before venturing overseas.
There is a desire to empower Fiji Indians to extend this organisation as an advocacy body for Fiji Indians in New Zealand, who, as stated, while being Indians, are also distinct Pacifica people – Fiji Indians.
The Foundation wishes to work on ground with Fiji Indians in New Zealand, and also create awareness in Canada and USA to arm the new generation with their original identity, and advise them the importance of reconnecting and restoring their Girmit history as a tribute to the Girmityas.
The Foundation seeks the participation of all descendants of Girmityas to show their gratitude to the vision and sacrifice of ordinary people who did extraordinary things in an extraordinary environment.
The Fijian government has already implemented the request of Girmit Foundation to include Girmit History in the School Curriculum has already been implemented.
We now await Fiji declaration of May 14 as a Public Holiday in Fiji.
Thakur Ranjit Singh is the Founding Trustee of the Fiji Girmit Foundation New Zealand and is a media commentator. He has a passion for his forebears, and has written various articles on them in the past. He will visit Fiji later this year to initiate and inaugurate ‘Totaram Sanadhya Vatika,’ a Girmit Botanical Garden at Fiji Girmit Centre in Lautoka. This will be as a part of DAV Reunion in Fiji, in association with Fiji Girmit Council.
Indian Newslink will publish further information on the 140th Anniversary shortly.