Editorial

Editorial: Girmit History A National Treasure – Lest We Forget

They deserve to be saluted for their resilience in overcoming harsh conditions and extreme adversities. Instead their generations today have been demonised and unfairly targeted by some among us who obviously choose to ignore their great history and heritage.
10 May 2022 13:00
Editorial: Girmit History A National Treasure – Lest We Forget
Indentured labourers in Fiji.

This week we commemorate the 143rd anniversary of the arrival of the first batch of indentured Indian labourers on our shores to work
in sugarcane plantations.

The Girmitiyas or indentured labourers were subjected to near slave conditions.

Sixty thousand came here from India between 1879 and 1916.

 

At the end of their contract the British colonial masters gave them a choice to return or make Fiji their new home.

Twenty five thousand chose to go back to India.

The remainder stayed and built their lives from scratch through toil, blood, sweat and tears.

 

Their descendants have become important partners in national development.

Their contribution and pioneering efforts in building our economy not only in the sugar industry but in other facets of national life should be recognised and not go unnoticed.

They deserve to be saluted for their resilience in overcoming harsh conditions and extreme adversities.

 

Instead their generations today have been demonised and unfairly targeted by some among us who obviously choose to ignore their great history and heritage.

They became victims and scapegoats of the 1987 and 2000 coups.

While the 25,000 indentured labourers chose to return to India because they were treated like slaves here, the two coups saw 70,000 Indo Fijians flee the country from fear, terror and subjugation.

 

Some have returned after peace and stability were restored capped off by the 2013 Constitution which champions equal citizenry, Fijian as our common national identity and eliminates race-based elections.

The awe-inspiring sacrifice and endurance of the Girmitiyas transcend time, cultures, ethnicities and generations and socio-economic backgrounds

They stand as a testament of human strength and will to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.

 

What we have gone through during the COVID-19 pandemic is nothing compared to what the Girmitiyas faced during the Girmit period. Yet, to their credit they pulled through and helped build the foundation to our nation.

Our history is not complete without the inclusion of the Girmit segment.

There are several lessons we can learn from the Girmit experience.

 

While we do not condone the way the Girmityas were treated, they turned their pain and suffering into positive energy.

One of the takeaways from their example is that nothing beats hard work, sacrifice, perseverance, humility and compassion.

Their history is a national treasure- lest we forget.

 

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj



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