141st Anniversary of the arrival of the first Girmitiya to our shores
Thursday 14th May 2020
The National Federation Party says as we observe the 141st anniversary of the arrival of the first Girmitiya to our shores, the Indo-Fijian community must now seriously start thinking about their social, economic and political future due to the rapidly changing demographic.
NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad says while the struggles of the Girmitiya for political rights, justice and preservation of their self-dignity and respect have been somewhat accomplished, the current generation also has to evaluate the future relevance of the type of politics they subscribed to over the last two decades.
The NFP Leader says while 14th May commemorates the 141st anniversary of the arrival of the first Girmitiya onboard the Leonidas on 14th May 1879, this year also marks the 100th anniversary of the official end of the Indenture system and the cancellation of all Indenture contracts.
“Girmitiya in Fiji aspired and struggled for political equality, education, social justice, self-respect and dignity even before the official end of Indenture a 100 years ago”.
“For example in education, Pundit Badri Maharaj founded the Wairuku Indian School in 1898, making it the first Indian school in the country. This was 22 years before the official end of Indenture”.
“The most famous student of this school was the visionary Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna whose bravery, embodiment of wisdom, leadership and chiefly authority is unmatched despite the current government which was a military regime, removing Ratu Sukuna Day as a public holiday”.
“Similarly Girmitiya founded other religious and cultural institutions whose vast contribution to education is well documented”.
“The foundations of mutual co-existence, racial harmony, unity, understanding and appreciating each other’s culture, tradition and customs in what rapidly evolved into a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation, was laid by the Girmitiya”.
“This foundation has been rocked four times in our nation’s history in the last 33 years due to political upheavals and usurpation of rights of our people due to overthrow of democracy and constitutional rule, but so far has stood the test of time”.
“However, the struggles and monumental achievements of our Girmitiya and successive generations will be under strain if we do not re-prioritise self-respect and dignity over materialism and short-term gain”.
“This culture of mediocrity has to be shirked for the sake of everlasting legacy of our Girmitiya”.
“Already, the sugar industry, for which the Girmitiya was brought to Fiji to make this industry into the backbone of the economy, is struggling for survival, not because of the failure of cane growers but of the decision makers”.
“The fact that this bedrock of our economy for over a 100 years, synonymous with the Girmitiya, that still directly and indirectly supports the livelihood of around 200,000 people, is fighting for survival, should re-ignite the conscience of our ordinary people”.
“Therefore the only way forward is to reject the virtues of materialism and short-term gain, as well as those who subscribe to destructive politics of one-upmanship, and re-discover the cherished principles and values of the Girmitiya in order to protect their legacy”.
Hon. Prof. Biman Prasad