Let’s Acknowledge the Contribution …
“I am glad to say that the descendants of the Girmityas have finally become Fijians and it took 97 years after the last arrival of the Girmitiyas for the citizens of these islands – no matter what their background – to finally gain a common identity, equal citizenry and a common name . A great nation is neither built in a day, nor is it built easily. It takes a lot – and I am proud to say that our forefathers had a huge part to play in the lot that it took to build our beautiful home Fiji”.
These were the sentiments shared by the Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Rosy Akbar while officiating at the closing of Telecom Fiji’s 143rd Year Girmit Carnival which was held in Nausori.
Minister Akbar said “Today, the 14th of May is an important date for Fiji, it is about reflecting on history and we celebrate living in a country that was carved through the blood, sweat and tears of those Girmitiyas. It is with immense appreciation towards the Girmit era that we can attribute the early years of our economic progress as a nation, to the great sacrifices made by our indentured laborers. And it is a fact that nothing will ever erase from our history”.
Minister Akbar stated that one of the main investments of the Girmityas and their descendants was undoubtedly, education – because they knew soon that just like the conditions of the Girmit, anything could change and be taken away from them – everything except their education. They persevered for the establishment of schools for their descendants, and today there are about 180 schools, universities and a nursing institution set up by the girmitya descendants.
“As a proud descendant of the Girmityas, I wish to take this time to say to my fellow Fijians that we must always hold the sacrifices, struggles and contributions of our Girmityas close to our hearts. Their blood, sweat and tears; their struggles and sacrifices; their pain and sufferings; and their triumphs and resilience are ingrained in our history and we must honor that always because they were indeed a massive part of building the Fiji we know. I pay my outmost respect to my Girmitya ancestors.
“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Girmityas. We all have our individual stories about the Girmitiya experience passed down to us over the decades through our own families. For all of us – the direct descendants of the Girmitiyas – today is a day of solemn reflection. To remember our forefathers.”
“For me personally it’s an emotional moment, especially to recall the struggles of our own families. The sacrifices and the suffering. But also the good times – of decent, hardworking men and women finally finding their feet in their new land and adjusting to their changed circumstances. It is emotional because I’m also filled with immense gratitude for the life our ancestors left behind for us despite the circumstances being so excruciatingly painful for them. They paved a way for better opportunities, for a better Fiji, and a better home. It may have taken a century but today we have an identity that resonates with the period of our existence in Fiji”, she added.
“History is important because it can help us understand the present. History can help us get a better grasp of issues we face now and it can reinforce our appreciation of who we are as a people, and as a nation. As much as we will want to focus on moving forward, we must get our bearings through history and take care never to repeat mistakes committed in the past. And it is this history that must be repeatedly discussed with our younger generation. My hope is that every descendant of the Girmityas feels the same pride and gratitude that I feel whenever the Girmit is discussed – or whenever the Girmityas are talked about – whenever their story is told or whenever we see a glimpse of their belongings and images. We owe it to them”.
Minister Akbar acknowledged all the schools and organisations that have organised their own events, mufti day, concerts, character parades, literature reviews, cultural events, competitions etc. to commemorate the 143rd year of the arrival of the indentured laborers in Fiji. “Indeed this is one of the best ways to continue telling the stories of our ancestors and ensuring that today’s generation and the generations that will follow will continue to learn and understand this massive part of our history”.
She also acknowledged the Nausori and Nasinu Town Council Executives, Event committee members, Event Sponsors, the people of the Rewa, Tailevu and Naitasiri for supporting the event.