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EDITORIAL: Girmityas Celebrate Big Day, Equal Citizenry

EDITORIAL: Girmityas Celebrate Big Day, Equal Citizenry
May 15
11:00 2018

On May 14, 1879, the first Girmitiyas arrived in Fiji on a ship named Leonidas.

In commemorating the arrival of the first Girmitiyas, Acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum called on Fijians to reaffirm their stand against bigotry, discrimination and divisiveness.

We now have a Government that has declared that Fiji is one nation united with equal citizenry where we are all Fijians.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said in Parliament yesterday in response to comments made by Opposition MP Niko Nawaikula: “We are citizens of this country and our indigenous people who have a special recognition are, of course, called iTaukei. The sooner the honour­able member and people like him accept our common destiny, the sooner we will become a stronger nation to tackle issues of growing our economy, providing sustained livelihoods, creating more jobs, provid­ing education and training and gaining more basic amenities like roads, water and electricity for all Fi­jians.”

It is a fact that the Girmitiyas and their descendants have gone through a lot of discrimination by previ­ous governments and their efforts to move our coun­try forward have gone unnoticed.

Their descendants have made significant contribu­tions to our country and economy.

The Acting Prime Minister has urged politicians to move away from the colonial way of thinking.

The Girmitiyas were brought to Fiji on a contract for five years and upon completion were given a choice of either returning to India at their own ex­pense or staying in Fiji.

The majority opted to stay and they and their de­scendants have become major contributors to Fiji’s economic, social and political development.

For those who remained they ended up leading lives of sheer hardship and they fought against all odds to not only survive, but to build a way for a better fu­ture for their descendants. They embraced the local culture and assimilated themselves in their adopted new home. They transformed barren lands into gold­en crops; they brought prosperity and abundance for themselves and for the fellow natives.

We all have benefitted from the labour and sacrifice of those first indentured labourers who arrived in Fiji.

Fiji has progressed significantly since the arrival of the Girmitiyas. The hard yards and the struggles they endured have surely reaped rewarding benefits as evidenced in the united Fiji we have today.

A report said – “Their vision and insight to make a better living, to pursue better opportunities, to pro­vide educational opportunities for their children at that time were some of the significant strides they made to make things better, not only for themselves, but for the nation as a whole.”

Past Governments paid little or no recognition, especially when Girmitiyas and their descendants were trying to be included in Fijian society.

Yesterday while we celebrated the arrival of the Girmitiyas it was also a sad day for the nation when Sitiveni Rabuka in 1987 illegally removed the elected Bavadra Government.

His military coup of 1987 prompted many Fijians of Indo-Fijian descent to emigrate.

We now have a Government that has recognised their contribution and passed a Constitution that has made all Fijians equal.

It has also opened the door to those who emigrated to come back home.

MAIKA BOLATIKI

Feedback: maikab@fijisun.com.fj

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