Let’s keep out Politics from Cel­e­bra­tions to Hon­our Our Gir­mi­tiyas

Fiji Sun - - Comment - JY­OTI PRAT­I­BHA Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­jisun.com.fj

This month we will have na­tion­wide cel­e­bra­tions to hon­our the sac­ri­fices and tri­umph of the Gir­mi­tiyas.

The cen­ten­nial cel­e­bra­tions are to com­mem­o­rate the last shipload of in­den­tured In­dian labour­ers to Fiji on­board S.S. Sut­lej V. It is a time to hon­our the Gir­mi­tiyas and their descen­dants. It is not the time to play politics over a na­tional is­sue that is close to the hearts of many peo­ple. A cer­tain party has al­ready spo­ken at length in Par­lia­ment and then dur­ing a spe­cial press con­fer­ence about the cel­e­bra­tions. It even com­mented on the or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee of th­ese cel­e­bra­tions.

It is a dis­grace that there have been at­tempts to politi­cise an event which marks a sig­nif­i­cant day in our his­tory. Keep politics out of the cel­e­bra­tions. On Novem­ber 9, cel­e­bra­tions will be­gin at the newly re­vamped Al­bert Park Pavil­ion and Grounds in Suva. On Novem­ber 10 and 11, cel­e­bra­tions will be held at Labasa, Savusavu, Le­vuka, Nau­sori, Si­ga­toka, Nadi, Lau­toka, Ba, Tavua and Raki­raki. The only other cel­e­bra­tions Fiji marked for the Gir­mi­tiyas was the cen­ten­nial cel­e­bra­tions of the ar­rival of Leonidas to our shores.

The Leonidas was the first ship to ar­rive at Le­vuka from In­dia car­ry­ing 522 in­den­tured labour­ers in 1879.

This year’s cel­e­bra­tions mark the end of a dread­ful pe­riod of ‘slav­ery’. We may dress it up to sound po­lit­i­cally cor­rect, but the In­den­tured labour sys­tem was just that - slav­ery.

It is all the more rea­son why our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers need to come to­gether in unity and take part in th­ese cel­e­bra­tions.

His­tory has not been too kind to the plight of th­ese labour­ers. Now is the time to teach the younger gen­er­a­tions what the Gir­mi­tiyas stood for. 888 In­di­ans were on­board the Sut­lej V. Some of their direct descen­dants will be part of the cel­e­bra­tions as well. While the ar­rival of Leonidas was his­toric, the ar­rival of Sut­lej V was equally im­por­tant and th­ese na­tion­wide cel­e­bra­tions will right­fully hon­our that.

Let’s not get caught up in petty politics. Let’s join hands and hon­our those who need to be re­mem­bered for their sac­ri­fices.

It is a dis­grace that there have been at­tempts to politi­cise an event which marks a sig­nif­i­cant day in our his­tory. Keep politics out of the cel­e­bra­tions.

Gir­mi­tiyas in Fiji. Photo: A Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs / Govern­ment of In­dia

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