President to Girmitiyas: No Longer Vulagi
Dan Fox, of the University of the South Pacific (left), and Sadrishan Velaidan of arts group, Moana Loa Fiji, depict two cultures coming together under one banner, Girmitiyas (Indentured labourers from British India) and iTaukei (Indigenous people) during the opening of the Girmit Centennial Celebrations at Albert Park in Suva yesterday. The celebrations mark the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the last ship load of indentured labourers. The President, Major-General (Retired) Jioji Konrote, told the crowd, We are now one people, united by a common name, Fijian. The descendents of indentured labourers are no longer called vulagi (outsiders), he said.
Twelve prominent Fijians were last night honoured for their contribution to society. They include eminent writers, artists and community leaders. The ceremony, at the University of the South Pacific (USP), was part of the Girmitiyas Centennial Celebrations which opened at Albert Park in Suva yesterday. The celebrations mark the 100 years since the last batch of indentured Indian labourers from British India arrived in Fiji. The Minister for Health and Medical Services, Rosy Akbar, who was chief guest, said the celebrations were for everyone, young and old.
The award recipients are:
He is one of the Fiji’s leading prose fiction writers, essayists and critics. He has taught literature at USP and Fiji National University (FNU) and has a legacy of work behind him.
Jogindar Singh Kanwal
He is one of the most distinguished writers and educationalists in Fiji. He has contributed hugely towards the preservation of the history of Girmit through his writings.
Anandi Lal Amin
He has contributed immensely towards the promotion of culture and tradition in the community. He is a member of the Fiji Arts Council and taught Hindi and music in schools for over two decades.
Rashik Lal Jogia
He is a well known singer locally and internationally.
He is a senior lecturer at USP. He teaches literature and creative writing and has a lot of passion for Girmit studies.
Mohammed Yusuf Sahib
He worked for Hindi newspaper, Jagriti and then for Jai Fiji. He also teamed up with Sheri Kamala Prasad Mishap in restarting the newspaper, Jagriti.
Dewan Chand Maharaj
He is the founder and director of Quality Prints Fiji Limited. He is also the director of Dewan’s Holding, Sun Insurance and Quantum Fiji.
He is a recipient of ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relation) scholarship. He has won many awards including Hall of Fame given by Fiji Performing Rights Association Awards (FIPRA).
Ist Deo Maharaj
He is the grandson of Sukh Lal and Ganga Dei who came to Fiji on the ship SS Sangola 3 from British India in 1909 under the Indentured labourer system.
He is the president of Water Project for Community, president of Farmers Union for Labasa branch and committee member for Ram Leela committee.
Senior lecturer at USP. She is the co-ordinator of Hindi studies. She received a special award in 1977 and 1978 from the Uttar Pradesh Sanskrit Academy in Lucknow, India.
He is also known as Bachubhai Patel. He is a leading businessman in Fiji today. He has taken the family business from its humble beginning in Ba to the international level through his vision. Edited by Ranoba Baoa
Photo: Ronald Kumar.
Indian High Commissioner to Fiji Vishvas Sapkal (standing, third from left), Minister for Health and Medical Services Rosy Akbar (standing, middle), University of the South Pacific Vice Chancellor and president Professor Rajesh Chandra (standing, right), with descendants of Grimitiyas – who were awarded for their contribution to Fiji’s development – and guests at the Japan-Pacific ICT Centre at USP last night. Photo: Vilimoni Vaganalau