Sunday 27th October 2019
Deepavali or Diwali is the Festival of Lights and has been celebrated in Fiji for the last 140 years with the first celebrations held in 1879 following the arrival of Indentured Indians in Fiji.
It wasn’t until 1974 that Diwali was declared a public holiday, along with Prophet Muhammed’s Birthday, following negotiations by the then NFP Leader with the then Prime Minister.
Whether it be triumphant days or in times of adversity, Diwali, as the most important event in the Hindu religious calendar is a kaleidoscope of vibrant colours that also symbolise our multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious community.
Simply, Diwali is triumph of truth over evil. It is the celebration of victory of truth and righteousness. It is the crowning achievement of self-dignity, equality and justice.
It is also extremely pleasing to see that Hindu members of our Indo- Fijian community, who have become the diaspora in nations like Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, and indeed other nations, have maintained and continued their cultural and religious activities in a vibrant manner through Ramayan Mandalis and the construction of temples.
This is most admirable as you are bequeathing a strong foundation of self-dignity and the virtues of respect and tolerance to future generations. And these virtues are cemented by the joyous Diwali celebrations.
Therefore, it is important that the significance of Diwali transcends into our daily lives.
We must not assume that everything is and will be okay. Assumptions, the insatiable desire for power and prosperity and aspirations for monetary benefits will erode our self-dignity and respect.
One such assumption is that by calling everyone Fijians guarantees and casts your rights in stone. It doesn’t. Similarly, by saying that being Fijian gives you common and equal citizenry and guarantees your fundamental freedoms is meaningless.
It is important that common and equal citizenry extends beyond equal vote for equal value and common name. It necessitates the creation, promotion and offer of equal opportunity in all sectors based on meritocracy, not nepotism, cronyism and reward for loyalists.
These are achievable but it needs firstly; the political will and capacity to dialogue with the ultimate aim of finding solutions through consensus.
These are the virtues that we as a political party have demonstrated for the last 56 years. We preached and practiced the virtue of talk, not force, of national interest before self- interest, and above all equality, dignity and justice for all our citizens.
It is therefore highly relevant to conclude with a quote from a defining speech given on Diwali day in 1988 by the then Indo-Fijian leader Mr Justice Jai Ram Reddy who said: -
“What a Diwali it is going to be if we pretend and fool ourselves that our future is bright, It is not a time to be complacent. We will be deceiving ourselves and living in a fool’s paradise. Arise, sharpen your wits and with Diwali rekindle the flame of your wisdom. Learn from the past and strengthen your future from the experience of the present”.
“I pray that this Diwali may bring you health and happiness and give you solace and peace. May you have the strength, courage and wisdom so that you may act with responsibility and be able to discuss and distinguish reality from unreality, and truth from lies”.
May the Lord’s blessing be upon all of you.
Professor Biman Prasad