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