Know Our History, Says Acting PM

It is very critical to understand our history, says the Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. He made the remark when he addressed Girmitiya descendants, and students and teachers
11 Nov 2016 11:00
Know Our History, Says Acting PM
Shiv Narayan Hari Prasad gives his blessing to Acting Prime and Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum during the Girmit Celebrations at the Girmit Centre in Lautoka yesterday. Photo: Fijian Goverrnment Facebook

It is very critical to understand our history, says the Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

He made the remark when he addressed Girmitiya descendants, and students and teachers from various Lautoka schools yesterday.

The gathering, at the Girmit Centre in Lautoka, was part of the Girmit Centennial Celebrations around the country.

The people of Lautoka came together in celebration to mark the arrival of the last shipload of indentured labourers from British India on board Sutlej V on November 11, 1916.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said histories needed to be discussed with a national narrative.

He said: “Here we are all united than ever before and all committed to taking Fiji into the future and it is therefore very critical for us to understand our history, the different histories, whether it is the history of Girmitiyas, whether the history of people in Colo, people in Ra, Vanua Levu.

“All of that needs to be discussed with a national narrative and with an honesty that all history deems and is necessary.”

He said it was an emotional day for all people.

“As we remember past trauma and look back on our history, it is also a celebration of how far we have come,” he added.

And he said it was the responsibility of all Fijians to remember such issues and histories.

“You must all reflect on them and uphold the legacy of the Girmitiyas to build a better life for the descendants.

“It is an honour to be here with all of you today to commemorate an event that marks the end of one of the darkest periods, yet one of the most significant periods in Fijian history.

“And that is the transportation of the indentured labourers from British India over 100 years ago.

“But the legacy of the Indentured labourers can still be seen throughout Fiji till this day.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said it was not only the lives of the descendants but the determined spirits of the Girmityas that was the source of inspiration for Fijians today.

He said despite the immense adversity faced by the Girmitiyas they forged new lives for themselves in Fiji and ultimately overcame the struggle.

He also reminded the people of the work of the Girmitiyas in Lautoka.

“As we all know the history of Girmitiyas is also the history of Lautoka.  A great many Girmitiyas came to Lautoka to work here with the surrounding areas cleaning land or working in sugarcane fields and I know a number of descendants are here with us today,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

He told the descendants that “more than anything else it is your day, a day in which you remember your ancestors with pride and pay tribute to the sacrifices they made.”

He attributed the success of the development and expansion of Lautoka city to the indentured labourers and their descendants.

“In villages towns and cities all across Fiji we can still see the stories of Girmitiyas around us and those stories are part of stories of Fiji which has been left out.

“And that is why these celebrations are being held nationwide, in the recognition of nationwide impact that they have had on our country.”

Mr Sayed Khaiyum said it was important that children got to know what these Girmitiyas went through because it is only through recognition and understanding of what they went through will we actually appreciate the history of Fiji.

He added that the Girmitiyas knew that education or knowledge was the best path to a better life.

“This is why you see subsequently throughout Fiji and in many of the sugarcane farming areas schools came up and they saw that education is the way out of poverty, as a way of being in some form of equality.”

That commitment to education has of course not faltered since those early days. Girmitiyas and their descendants have had a major role in helping create  a more knowledge-based society in Fiji.

He reminded that in 2013 through the Constitution everyone was declared a Fijian, equal and united as one nation and one people.


Edited by Maraia Vula


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