NFP pays tribute to our Girmitiya
Friday 14th May 2021
The National Federation Party today pays tribute to the Girmitiya or pioneering forefathers on the occasion of the 142nd anniversary of the arrival of the first indentured labourers to Fiji.
Their blood, sweat, toil and tears as well as co-operation and racial harmony with the indigenous Fijians and other minority races, have made Fiji the hub of the South Pacific.
On 14th May 1879, 142 years ago, the first Girmitiya or Indentured labourers numbering 463 arrived from India onboard the ship Leonidas.
They were the first of a total of 60,553 Girmitiya brought between 14th May 1879 and 11th November 1916 by the British colonial government to work on the sugarcane plantations.
The rest is history. For the last 142 years, especially after 1916, when most of the Girmitiya opted to stay back in Fiji after completion of their Indenture, they and their future generations, made Fiji their only home.
Of course migration, exacerbated by the military coups and political upheavals starting from May 14,1987 to 5th December 2006, have seen an exodus of Indo-Fijians, particularly to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.
But the Indo-Fijian diaspora in these nations is as traditionally and culturally vibrant as Fiji.
Despite in their adopted new homeland, Fiji is still their motherland, most appropriately demonstrated during the World 7’s series when the stadiums are packed with Indo-Fijians as well as i-Taukeis.
Those living in those respective nations can be seen waving thousands of noble banner blue flags and cheering the loudest.
Simply, they can be away from Fiji, but Fiji can never be taken away from them.
The contribution of the Girmitiya to the social, economic and political advancement of Fiji, notably the development of the sugar industry into the economic backbone of the country for more than 100 years, and the transition of Fiji from 96 years of colonial rule to Independence in 1970, is historical and immeasurable.
Descendants of the Girmitiya have done their forefathers and the nation immensely proud nationally and internationally.
They have excelled in the fields of economy, education, politics and law.
They have and are serving their land of their birth with distinction.
The founding of schools, building of temples, preservation of languages, culture and traditions is a hallmark of the principles of self-dignity and respect.
These values have been inculcated by the Girmitiya in their descendants and passed on from one generation to another.
This is the legacy that the current generation must cherish and uphold and bequeath it to future generations.
This task can be made easier through education of our children about the sacrifices and struggles for dignity and justice of our Girmitiya.
We salute them.
Professor Biman Prasad