More Girmit Centennial celebration stories
It took 97 years since the arrival of the last indentured labourers, but the descendants of the Girmitiyas are now called Fijians. Those were the words of Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Mereseini Vuniwaqa during the centennial celebration at Foreshore Park in Savusavu on Friday night. “When this Government, in 2013, declared us all Fijians, equal and united as one nation and one people, it was a realisation of the hopes and dreams of hundreds of thousands of direct descendants of the Girmitiyas,” Ms Vuniwaqa said. “It is wonderful to see in Savusavu so many Fijians gathered to commemorate this important event.
“The history of the Girmitiyas is also the history of Savusavu.
“Although relatively few Girmitiyas were sent to the Savusavu area compared to sugarcane growing areas of Fiji, a small number were employed at copra plantations in the region such Vunilagi Estate, Tabia Settlement, Devo Estate and Tuvurara Settlement. “All these places were many miles away from the main town of Savusavu, which would have compounded the sense of isolation of the Girmitiya men and women in Vanua Levu. “It is not the duty of any one community to remember the sacrifices and the suffering that led up to this commemoration. “We must all remember; we must all reflect. And we must all uphold the legacy of the Girmitiyas.” Nine people each received a centennial plaque from Ms Vuniwaqa. Among the recipients was 96-year-old Suk Raji. The mother of four children and grandmother to nine children, originally comes from Korowiri, Labasa, but resides in Savusavu, said she was very happy to receive this award. “I thank the Government for recognising our existence and contribution made by our families when they came from India to work in Fiji,” Ms Raji said. “Although so much good and bad changes have taken place over the years I love my country Fiji because this is the place where I was born and brought up.”
Part of the large crowd that gathered during the centennial celebration at the Foreshore Park in Savusavu on Friday night.
Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Mereseini Vuniwaqa (right), with Suk Raji in Savusavu on Friday night. Photo: Shratika Naidu