Professor Vijay Naidu, Suva
The recognition being given to the 100 years since the arrival of the last Indentured Labour ship, the ‘Sutlej’ from India by Government is praiseworthy.
The ‘Girmit’ itself did not end until 1920. With penal sanctions for labour offences, many indenture contracts were extended.
In 1916, according to the Fiji Royal Gazette, 91.95 per cent of those Indian immigrants prosecuted for labour offences were convicted (see Violence of Indenture in Fiji by Naidu, 2004, p.57). The indenture labour system with its components of the contract or ‘girmit’ recruitment, shipment, quarantine, plantation labour, living conditions, earnings and consequences both positive and negative are well described in publications by Gillion, Lal, Mishra, Nandan, Narsey, Prasad, Subramani and Tinker among others.
Professor Brij Lal is the most eminent historian of Fiji’s Indentured Labour, and it is an irony that he and his wife remain persona-non-grata in this country. For me, our Centennial Celebration of the arrival of the last Indian Indentured labour system ship will be more meaningful if the ban on them is lifted.