Mean­ing­ful cel­e­bra­tions

Fiji Sun - - Comment -

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.

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