Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka showered accolades on Indians for their significant contributions to the nation of Fiji at a large gathering at a stadium in Albert park, Suva.
Thousands of people from all walks of life on Monday morning May 15 turned up at Albert Park in Suva, capital of Fiji, to participate in the celebration of the Girmit Day, a public holiday in the country to commemorate the arrival of Indians. From 1879 to 1916, over 60,000 people from India crossed the vast seas (kala pani) to become indentured laborers (girmityas) in sugar cane plantations in Fiji.
The celebration began with a parade of floats of Indo-Fijian and i-Taukei (indigenous) communities. There were a dozen floats and marching bands (groups). The parade culminated at the ground where several speakers addressed the large number of people who participated in the parade.
At the park, the program began with prayers from the three main faiths — Islam, Hinduism, and Methodism. There were also classical dances and singing of popular songs and dramas relating to indentureship.
Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and Deputy Prime Minister Prof Dr. Biman Prashad as well as other Ministers and official representatives of the Government of India showered praises on Indians for their immense contributions to the nation.
The speakers acknowledged the contributions of the pioneering indentured laborers (girmityas) towards the development of their new homeland. They brought with them an ancient unique culture, traditions, religions, rituals, and skill set.
Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka said the Girmit story is now the center of a new national movement for peace and reconciliation. He also announced a Brij Lal Foundation for Democracy.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Professor Biman Prasad praised the inclusiveness of girmitya celebrations across Fiji. He expressed gratitude to everyone who contributed to the planning and success of the five days of programs relating to the commemorating of Girmitya Day. Also speaking at the event were two guests representing the government of India as well as several Ministers of government of Fiji.