Monday, April 22, 2013

The Stolen History of Girmit: Part 2- When Indo-Fijians ignore their past.



The Stolen History of Girmit: Part 2- When Indo-Fijians ignore their past.

Thakur Ranjit Singh, Auckland, New Zealand

This week, Australia and New Zealand prepare for their ANZAC Day Celebrations and Public Holiday on Thursday 25 April, 2013. They do this to mark, honour, remember and praise the sacrifices of soldiers who died to carve out a better country and future for their new generations. What stands out prominently between them and Indo-Fijian Diaspora is the degree of respect, honour and gratitude shown respectively towards forbears who sacrificed to make life better for them.
 
Do Indo-Fijians have the same pride, indebtedness and thankfulness to the memory of Girmitiyas as Australian and New Zealanders have for the soldiers who died in the war during ANZAC Day celebrations? Should we Indo Fijians as a race feel ashamed for ignoring the sacrifices and sufferings of our forbears and pioneers? 
Young and old, men and women, will wake in the autumn coldness for ANZAC Dawn Services throughout Australasia, including Fiji where mostly i-Taukei people will honour and remember their dead soldiers. The difference we note will be that Indo-Fijians will stand out as most ungrateful and selfish people who have no time for those who gave them this life- the Girmitiyas. Are we Indo-Fijians selfish, self-centered, conceited and ungrateful people who have no time for those who sacrificed and suffered to make better life for them as migrants in Developed nations? Why? To a great extent, this is because Indo-Fijian history has been stolen from school books.

Rajendra Prasad’s Tears in Paradise also raises this issue. The author enquires, why despite enormous contributions to Fiji’s development, Fiji Indians escaped the history books. Former Prime Minister of India, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru very aptly summed up this phenomenon in his book, The Discovery of India, as quoted by Prasad in his book:
 
Two iconic  Indian leaders during Girmit era. Mahatma Gandhi (Right) fought to abolish indenture. Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru (Left) echoed that history is written by rulers who project their point of view. Similarly, this was done in case of Indo-Fijian History, where British removed any mention of their evil deeds on Girmitiyas and failed to inform the coming generations of the story of struggles and sacrifices. No wonder Indo-Fijians remained ignorance of Girmit history.
“History is almost always written by victors and conquerors and gives their viewpoint; or, at any rate, the victor’s version is given prominence and holds the field.”                 

Therefore, in case of Fiji Indians, history was deliberately concealed to cover up the crimes of British and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Since British were the colonial rulers of Fiji for around a century, they had a distinct advantage in manipulating history. That is why, all we learnt in history lessons in schools was about British or Indigenous Fijian history. The little history of India that we learnt in schools covered the perspective from British side, missing out the real treachery of the colonizer, both in India and Fiji.

In some opinion, writers have likened indenture or girmit to slavery. In fact, some have dubbed slavery as being better, because, at least in slavery, people got better food and shelter. The author, Rajendra Prasad laments lack of history of Fiji Indians and wonders what happened to the account of indentured labourers. The supposedly custodians of girmitiyas, the British owed a duty of care to record history as it really and actually unfolded rather than how they wanted it to be told. They abrogated their responsibility by manipulating history of girmitiyas, thus leaving a community wounded.
 
FIJI IN THE PACIFIC -A history book in Fiji Schools - did it include the tales and sufferings of Girmit, or were the cruelty and injustice of British and Australians conveniently edited out of History books? Hence, Colonial government and successive governments  kept Indo-Fijian ignorant of their History. AND THEY REMAIN IGNORANT TO DATE.
 “Tears in Paradise “is an attempt to fill that vacuum and tell the new generation of Indo Fijians about the suffering and sacrifices of our forbears from India.

There have been instances when the Indo Fijians who have migrated from Fiji, and after seeing the new-found wealth and so called civilization of Developed Nations (Australia, New Zealand, Canada and USA) try to disown Girmit and disassociate themselves with the genesis of Indo-Fijian History – Girmit. One day they will be called on to answer to their children and grandchildren when they attempt to seek answers about their ancestry and reason for being where they are now, and who made it possible for their fortunes.
 
LEONIDAS - the first ship arrived in Levuka, Fiji on 14 MAY, 1879 with 497 indentured labourers (Girmitiyas). Indenture History has been stolen from successive generations and Indo-Fijian parents kept their children ignorant by failing to tell the tales of their forefathers to their children. GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY on 14 May is intended to reclaim and restore the history of our forbears.
The new generation needs to know that on 14 May, 1879 the first batch of 497 Girmitiyas (indentured labourers) were brought to Fiji by the British. This trend continued till 1920 by when some 60,357 Girmitiyas were brought to Fiji. This May marks 134 years of the first arrival of Indians, and hence our urge to mark GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY on 14 MAY.

On ANZAC Day on 25 April, whole of Australia and New Zealand will come to a stand-still as respective nations remember the sacrifices of their soldiers. This will even be observed in Fiji, among I Taukei. But how about a day reserved to remember Girmitiyas? Will any offspring of Girmitiya Indo Fijians spare a thought for their pioneers on GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY on 14 May? While Indo-Fijians in Wellington and Auckland will mark their days, one wonders what the descendants of Girmitiyas in other parts of the world will do for those who gave them this life of health and wealth. One even wonders what, if anything will happen in Fiji, and what is the fate of Fiji Girmit Council? The question that we need to ask is whether the Indo-Fijians possess that same pride, passion and conscience to remember the sacrifices and sufferings of their forbears, their Girmitiya ancestors who carved out an Indo-Fijian culture.

We just hope that the next generation will somehow learn about the sacrifices of Girmit and hope they (the new generation) will be more thankful for the sacrifices of the forbears (ancestors). Somehow, my generation appears to have short memories about the sacrifices of those forgotten souls who delivered us to the comforts of Developed Countries. We have big houses, big cars, and comforts of life that our Girmitiyas could never even imagine – but we seem to have developed a much shrunk heart, bereft of any thankfulness. They gave us education and better life because the vision they had for their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and coming generations- that they will never again allow their offspring to go through the same indignity they went through in Girmit era at hands of British and Australians. Don’t we owe a day to remember and honour them? Are we such a thankless race?
 
Lest we forget our pioneer race, let us pledge to dedicate 14 May as GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY. Let all newspapers, TV and Radio Stations owned and managed by Indo Fijians in Canada, USA, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia, mark 14 May to the memory of Girmitiyas. Is that too much to ask for? 
Let us all get together, and as already resolved in Girmit Remembrance Day in Auckland last year, we dedicate 14 MAY OF EVERY YEAR AS GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY. In our Ramayan Mandalis  Associations or any groupings for Indo-Fijians, let us talk about and be thankful to our Girmitiyas. Let us teach our new generation about the history that has been stolen from us. Let media, newspapers and Radio Stations owned by Indo Fijians dedicate a day to the memories of those who preserved the language for us. At least we owe this much to them.

To this end, this blogsite, FIJI PUNDIT at www.fijipundit.blogspot.co.nz will help educate while Vanita Nair’s website www.girmitunited.org at Brisbane are good sources for getting educated on Girmit.

May the soul of our GIRMITIYAS rest in peace this GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY ON 14 MAY, AND MAY THEIR DESCENDANTS BECOME MORE GRATEFUL FOR THEIR SUFFERINGS, SACRIFICES AND VISION.

Thakur Ranjit Singh
[E-mail: thakurji@xtra.co.nz
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Friday, April 19, 2013

The Stolen History of Girmit: Part 1-Why Indo-Fijians remain ignorant of their past


The Stolen History of Girmit: Part 1-Why Indo-Fijians remain ignorant of their past

Thakur Ranjit Singh, Auckland, New Zealand

 “The woman turns around in fear, and puts her hands in entreaty. The whip comes down upon her half naked back and legs. The child is struck also. Both are crying and screaming and the mounted brute almost puts his horse’s hoofs upon her…. (The violence and atrocities of Girmit, from Rajendra Prasad’s “Tears in Paradise.)
 
Rajendra Prasad's epic novel that tries to awaken Indo-Fijians towards their stolen history: "TEARS IN PARADISE- Suffering and Struggles of Indians in Fiji 1879-2004" This seven years of Girmit research details the sufferings of Indians in slavery of Girmit
In his historic epic, “Tears in Paradise”, Rajendra Prasad writes:
Pain from the wounds of girmit resided in the hearts and minds of its victims and their families, but it failed to find expression publicly or in history books. …the Indo Fijians, who were a significant part of Fiji and had made an enormous contribution towards its economic, social, cultural and political development, had escaped the history books”

What that effectively means is that there is a vacuum as far as contribution on Indo-Fijians to Fiji’s or Pacific’s History is concerned.

Those of you who came through Fiji’s education system would recall that in primary and secondary school history, you learnt about early history of indigenous Fijians, about provincial tribal wars and their legends. You would have also learnt about the prowess and courage of various European explorers and seamen like Captain James Cook, Abel Tasman, Captain William Bligh, and Vasco da Gama, who ventured out to seek new lands, among others. You must have also read, the history of British royal family, contributions of British in developing and civilizing the earth, the virtues of Commonwealth, the penal history of Australia, and so on about the glory of White men’s contributions to carving out the destiny of the world.
History books of Fiji completely missed the HISTORY OF GIRMIT.  Successive generations coming out of Fiji's education system remain ignorant of their History.

However, as far as Fiji’s development history is concerned, apart from a few sentences about indentured labourers from India brought to work on cane farms, there is no account of what went on in the whipping, punching, kicking, suiciding and raping cane fields of early Fiji. They were completely missed by the history books.
When we are gone, hope our children will remember the sacrifices our generation made for their brighter future. Should they forget this, it would be a fitting revenge and payback for the Girmitiyas who we have forgotten. What goes around comes around! May their soul rest in peace.
Girmitiyas (Indentured Labourers) who Indo-Fijians have forgotten. Are we such a selfish and conceited race of people?

To awaken the dead conscience of Indo-Fijians towards their Girmitiyas, I end with the following powerful quote from the pages of Rajendra Prasad’s “Tears in Paradise”

“Even in the stillness of cane stalks, one can almost feel the powerful presence of the spirits of sorrow and grief exuding from these sugarcane fields. They are the spirits of our ancestors.

The desperate cries of the Girmitiyas echoed from 1879 -1919 in the fields, but it was not until later that the outside world came to their rescue. When their white masters turned away their faces and the victims seethed in agony, the Girmitiyas found comfort in relating their anguish to the trees and plants around them. A folk song called bidesia, a lamentation, composed under these traumatic circumstances by one of the Girmitiyas, reflects the depth of their suffering:

  Churi, kudaari ke sung, ab bitay din aur ratian,
 Ganne ki hari hari patiya, Jaane hamari dil ki batiyaan

In these couplets, the lyricist tells of the widespread suffering of the Girmitiyas’ work in the sugarcane fields, saying that knife and hoe are their companions day and night. Atrocities against them are so blatant that even the green leaves of sugarcane bear witness to the flames of anguish that consumes their heart.”

May we be thankful to the sacrifices of our forebears. Let us remember them on 14 May, in some small way, as we mark Independence Day or Thanksgiving Day, Australia Day, ANZAC or Waitangi Day. Let us remember them by dedicating 14 May as GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY.
 
Girmitiya Bansi, Aaja (grandfather) of Author of this article, Thakur Ranjit Singh. This article is dedicated to his memory. How many Indo-Fijians know their grandfather and feel proud of their sacrifices and vision, and remember them. Many do not, because we have become a very selfish and undeserving community who have forgotten what our forbears gave us our current lifestyle. LET US DEDICATE 14 MAY TO THEIR MEMORY AND MARK GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY
I dedicate this article to the memories of my Aaja Bansi, through whose sacrifices and vision, I got educated to the level that I could tell their untold stories to a thankless race of people through my Blogsite, FIJI PUNDIT. May their soul rest in peace. And may we become a more caring people towards the memories of our departed forbears.

THAKUR RANJIT SINGH, writing in Blogsite: FIJI PUNDIT

E-mail: thakurji@xtra.co.nz

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Girmitiyas: Fiji’s forgotten Indentured Labourers


Girmitiyas: Fiji’s forgotten Indentured Labourers

[Shradhanjali ke do phool (A Wreath) on GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY ON 14 MAY.]

Thakur Ranjit Singh, Auckland, New Zealand

If I ask Indo-Fijians the significance of 14th May, you may say, yes, of course, Rabuka’s coup in 1987. No, not that. I was thinking of something over a century before the coup – I was thinking of 14th May, 1879 when the first ship load of Girmitiyas- Fiji’s indentured labourers – arrived in Fiji at Levuka in the historic vessel, the Leonidas. This article is intended to awaken the dead pride of Indo-Fijian Diaspora, and urge them to observe GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY ON 14 MAY this year and every year henceforth.
 
Leonidas, the first indenture ship to arrive at Levuka on 14 May, 1879 with the first ship-load of Girmitiyas or Indentured Labourers. That is why 14 May is dedicated as GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY
During this Ram Naumi, as the Hindu Indo-Fijian Diaspora in Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand gather at different Mandirs, temples, prayer houses and private homes to sing Ramayan and Ram Kirtans, please ponder this issue – how come you are singing Ramayan in Hindi and maintaining your culture? How come Indo-Fijian Diaspora is a pride to Hinduism among migrant Hindus? Who do you give credit for bringing and maintaining Hindi language and maintaining Hinduism in Fiji?  What, if after suffering the hardship, atrocities and injustice of British and Australian colonists and Christian overseers in cane-fields, Girmitiyas had chosen the easy way out, and converted to Christianity? How about if they had abandoned Hinduism? What would have happened to the livelihood of so many Pundits and Purohits? Then today you would be singing hymns in a Church, and not Ramayan during Ram Naumi. Are you, and have you ever been thankful to your to your persevering forbears? Your Girmitiya grandfathers and great-grandfathers were indeed great gems, deserving some honour from their descendants.
 
Ramayan recital during Ram Naumi and similar devotion at numerous locations worldwide in Indo-Fijian Diapora - thanks to Girmitiyas for retaining their religion and culture even in face of atrocities and sufferings. In here, Master Ram Bihari is seen singing "Aarti" while a devotee offering his prayers at Sath Deo's residence at Te Atatu Peninsula, Auckland, New Zealand. The children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are thankful to their forbears for retaining the religion and culture for them.
You must thank our forbears- our Girmitiyas. When Indo Fijians nowadays come from Fiji, they will bring yagona and duty free liquor with them. But what did those Girmitiyas bring from India wrapped in their dhotis. No grog (kava) or duty free alcohol and cigarettes– but they brought Ramayan, Gita and their language and culture with them. And we are so thankful for that. However, as a race, we are so selfish and conceited to have forgotten their sacrifices and sufferings.
 
Thanksgiving Day in USA when they pay homage, respect and honour for the pioneers who contributed to birth of their nation. Are Indo-Fijians so selfish and conceited to have forgotten their Girmitiyas? The request here is for them to observe 14 May as GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY.
On Thanksgiving Day, Americans think of and honour those who sacrificed for America in creating a new homeland. On ANZAC Day (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) Kiwis and Aussies think of their soldiers who fought for their countries and gave their lives. On Waitangi Day, New Zealanders mark that as a nation-building day. Then why cannot we, Girmitiya descendant Indo-Fijians, set aside at least one day in a year to think and honour those who sacrificed their life for us and gave us this better lives than they ever dreamed of?

 
Dawn Service during ANZAC DAY in Australia and New Zealand, when in the cold autumn morning at 5 am, young people wake up to pay respect for the soldiers who died for their country during wars. Do Indo-Fijian children and grown-ups have similar pride and honour for their Girmitiyas? Sadly, the answer is NO. Is not this a shame and disrespect to the sufferings and sacrifices of our forbears? Can we not dedicate 14 May as GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY?
We should be thankful for the vision of our forbears for giving so much priority for education. One of the most important matters affecting new settlers during indenture was education.  It was British policy to keep the farmers in bondage and the best way of doing this was to keep them uneducated and ignorant.  However, after their long suffering in Fiji, the Girmitiyas realized the value of education and salvation through knowledge.  They swore that never again would anybody subject their children and new generation to the indignity that they went through. You now settled in Developed Countries are the result of that pledge by your forbears- Girmitiya grandfathers and great-grandfathers you should be thankful to.

 
Arya Samaj established DAV College, Ba, Fiji in 1953 when many of us were not even born. I was fortunate to have gone to this school, I am so thankful to the vision of our forbears. Similarly, different Indo-Fijian religious groups like Sanatan, Sangam, Muslim, Sikh and others, established schools with sacrifices and input from Girmitiyas. We are so thankful to their vision and priority in education. We all in Fiji and overseas countries are beneficiaries of such a vision. Can we dedicate 14 May of every year to their memories?
It is from such thoughts, views and vision that various religious groupings decided to establish schools for their communities.  Hence started schools like Rarawai Muslim School, Vashist Muni School, Vunisamaloa Sangam School, DAV College, Vaqia Indian School, Khalsa College, Koronubu Indian School, and many rural community and religious based schools throughout Fiji. These schools were started with great deal of personal sacrifice and contributions. Some farmers donated land, while others assigned certain tonnage to go towards the school while others gave their labour to build schools in their respective localities. This was very unlike the schools set up by government for Europeans and indigenous Fijians where the full contribution was from the colonial government

It is because of this legacy that today, over 90% of Fiji’s students go to non-government schools and it is because of such vision that today’s third and fourth generation of Girmitiya children are sought after professionals and skilled people in Fiji, New Zealand, Canada USA and Australia and other parts of the world.  But how have we repaid this debt?

The tragedy of Indo- Fijians is that they lack selfless political or other forms of benevolent leadership. We have our so called crusaders of cane farmers, multitudes of qualified academics and professors who benefited through taxpayers money to get their degrees, yet they remain deafeningly silent when troubles hit our community. In other progressive democracies and in oppressed regimes, it used to be its academic sons and daughters who took the fight on for their country. In the case of Fiji, it has not been a matter of pride. We have multitudes of prosperous Indo-Fijian lawyers made rich by a bickering Indo-Fijian community, yet how many have got the guts or human conscience to take the fight to seek redress from those who wronged us?
It is unfortunate that even Fiji's people settled in Developed Nations overseas, have been so immersed in their new found prosperity and material wealth that any thought of Girmit or Girmitiyas is considered blasphemy and a no no. Some six years ago I hoped to start marking Girmit Day on May 14 in Auckland, but was discouraged and shunned by the descendants of Girmitiyas. What a shame. Even a Mandir (temple) supported and frequented by Indo- Fijians in Manurewa in South Auckland with an appropriate hall refused to grant us free use as they said they had to pay a mortgage for their loan. How about the mortgage that we owe to the sacrifices and suffering of Girmitiyas that have landed us in this prosperity now? Can Indo-Fijians settled abroad be so thankless, conceited and selfish?
What I suggest is that we need to tell our children and grandchildren about the stories of Girmit so that they know where they have descended from and how full of suffering has been that first journey in 1869 to 1916 which saw some 60,000 Indians brought to Fiji. Even their descendants in Fiji went through great deal of suffering and discriminations by successive Fijian governments.

My blogsite, FIJI PUNDIT will dedicate a chain of articles in April and May dedicated to the memories of Girmitiyas-our forefathers the community has forgotten. This article is dedicated by FIJI PUNDIT to the 60,000 Bansi, Bhura and jahaji bhai (travelling shipmate) Bholai who transformed Fiji from a cannibalistic tribalism and jungle to a flourishing economic envy of the Pacific, which at one time was referred to as Crown Jewel of Pacific through sacrifices and suffering of Girmitiyas, in partnership with the I-Taukei and landowners..
 
This article and string or articles in April and may in FIJI PUNDIT will be dedicated to the memories of our forebears, our Girmitiyas, like my Grandfather BANSI from Karouli, Rajasthan India who came to serve his indenture in Sagave, Ba, Fiji with Jahaji (Travelling companion on ship) Bholai in 1915. We descendants of Girmitiyas have decided to dedicate 14 May of this and every year as GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY.


Unfortunately, history fails to recognize or acknowledge this. As  we mark the 134 years of the first arrival of indentured labourers to Fiji on 14 May, 1879,, this article is meant as a wreath on the graves of Girmitiyas (shradhanjali ke do phool ) to whom the whole of Fiji owes its gratitude. And so do us, the descendants of the Girmitiyas settled overseas. Why have we forgotten them? Let us mark 14 May as GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY

May the soul of our departed Girmitiyas and our ancestors rest in peace!


Await Next Posting: THE STOLEN HISTORY OF GIRMITIYAS

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY - 14 MAY: A challenge to Indo Fijians to have pride in their History and Heritage..


GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY -14 MAY OF EVERY YEAR


On Thanksgiving Day, Americans think of and honour those who sacrificed for America in creating a new homeland. On ANZAC Day (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps), respective nationals think of their soldiers who fought for their countries and gave their lives. On Waitangi Day, New Zealanders mark that as a nation-building day. Then why cannot we, Girmitiya descendant Indo-Fijians, set aside at least one day in a year to think and honour those who sacrificed their lives and gave us this better life than they ever dreamed of?

LET US ALL DEDICATE 14 MAY OF EVERY YEAR AS FIJI GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY


RAJENDRA PRASAD, former Town Clerk of Ba Town Council and author of this plea to Indo Fijians to have pride and honour towards the memory and sacrifices of their Girmitiya forbears. It is hoped Indo -Fijian Diaspora can heed this call, so that coming generations gain some knowledge of history of their ancestors and their heritage. The theme of GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY is to reclaim the history of Girmit.


GUEST WRITER: RAJENDRA PRASAD
[Former Town Clerk of Ba Town Council, Ba Fiji, and Author Tears in Paradise – Suffering and Struggles of Indians in Fiji 1879-2004.]
                                                                  
Girmit Remembrance Day – May 14: An appeal to religious, social and cultural organizations of Indo-Fijians worldwide.

G I R M I T I Y A S - They laid their lives for us…we say “thanks” and remember their sacrifices annually on – GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY.


May 14 is a significant day in the calendar of Indo-Fijian history. It can be variously recognized but its foremost significance is the arrival of first ship Leonidas, with 479 Indian indentured immigrants (Girmitiyas) to Fiji on May 14, 1879. They were recruited to work largely in the sugarcane plantations.

This followed 82 other ships that transported over 60,000 Girmitiyas to Fiji. Indenture system (Girmit) came to an end on December 31, 1919 after a bitter struggle against the recruitment of Indian indentured labourers that saw the might of Mahatma Gandhi ultimately triumph over that of the British Government.
 
The author of this article, Rajendra Prasad's historic book on Girmit History which has been stolen from History books:" TEARS IN PARADISE - Suffering and Sacrifices of Indians in Fiji - 1879-2004"
I implore, Indo-Fijians across the world and their descendants to commemorate the sacrifices of the pioneer generation with solemnity and sobriety on May 14, paying homage to those who laid their lives on the altar of sacrifice. I urge religious, social and cultural organizations to undertake this mission at the community level annually and also appeal to individual families to offer prayers and recitals in their homes in memory of those whose lives were tragically lost. 

Girmit was a period of great pain and suffering. How the Girmitiyas bore it and why they bore it is a story of one of the greatest sacrifices made in the history of humanity. They were illiterate, innocent and ignorant and believed in the dictum of “karma” and believed that if they bore their pain and suffering, their children will escape the tragedy that consumed their lives.


LEONIDAS, the FIRST ship that brought 479 indentured labourers to Levuka, Fiji on 14 MAY, 1879. That is why 14 May is dedicated internationally as GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY -14 MAY of every year henceforth.


They played their role and made the sacrifices, leaving a debt of gratitude upon us which we have failed to honour. Let us now join hands together with humility and respect to honour their sacrifices and pay our tribute to our Girmitiya forebears, a generation that must remain exalted above every other generation.

Waitakere Indian Association (WIA) commemorated this day in Auckland, New Zealand on 20 May, 2012. It was a moving occasion, as the audience sat wiping their tears when speakers recounted the pain and suffering of the forgotten Girmitiyas.
 
The first generation of Girmitiyas -these were the people over 80 years who attended Girmit Remembrance Day in Auckland on 20 May, 2012.
Standing- L-R Ramaiya Rao, Govind Prasad, Ram Shankar Sharma, Babru Bahan Singh, Pundit Sharda Nand Maharaj, Kapil Deo Singh and Mrs Babru Bahan Singh.
Sitting: L-R Shiu Mati Prasad, Lila Wati Dutt, Audh Raji Vishwanath, Subhag Wati, Late Jasoda Sumer, Niyaz Begum Shariff, Shiu Bharos, Narain Prasad, R. B Sharma and Rai Mati Singh
Girmit Remembrance Day in Auckland was not a fundraising event, it was neither a Bollywood entertainment nor a day devoted to singing and dancing, nor was it a day for politicians and big shots. It was a day devoted to our elderly people. It was a day when the Elderlies were honoured, treated as chief guests, heard, forgotten history was told, old Girmit songs were revived and perceptions of the new generation were heard. It was an occasion where adults and children of Girmit took an opportunity to serve the first generation of Girmitiyas with food, savouries and most importantly, love and honour which their Girmitiya parents were denied in Girmit.

It is hoped other Indo Fijians around the world will mark this day in this theme. A register of people over eighty (80) has been established and these people are going to be honoured with especially inscribed medals. 

A resolution was passed in public discussion that May 14 would be Girmit Remembrance Day, marked every year and it was agreed to liaise with like-minded organisations in Indo-Fijian Diaspora in Canada, USA, Australia to commemorate Girmit Remembrance Day internationally and promote knowledge and history of indenture. It is also a time and occasion to reclaim our culture and restore our unity.

Those present in Auckland also resolved that the tales and music of girmit should resound everywhere descendent of Girmitiyas are settled as 14th May every year would be GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY.
 
Indentured Indian Labourers to FIJI -forbears of Indo Fijians worldwide. This is a challenge to Indo Fijians to have some pride, honour and memory towards the sufferings and sacrifices of their Girmitiya forebears. History has to be reclaimed for the benefit of coming Indo-Fijian generation, so that they can have pride in their heritage.

 (Photo from 
Let us commemorate and celebrate their legacy and humanity. We are what they wanted us to be. In   commemorating their memories, let us ignite that undying flame of desire and gratitude in our community, particularly in our children, that they are able to consciously and appreciatively inherit the legacy of the Girmitiyas – a legacy of struggle, endurance, resilience and achievement.

LET US ALL- CHILDREN OF GIRMIT RISE ON 14 MAY TO REMEMBER AND APPRECIATE THE SACRIFICES OF OUR GIRMITIYAS, AND RECLAIM OUR HERITAGE AND HISTORY.


Additional reading on Girmit: www.girmitunited.org


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Friday, April 5, 2013

SAVUA ENQUIRY-PART 4 - Police helped in looting Muaniweni Indo Fijian farmers



 SAVUA ENQUIRY-PART 4 - Police helped in looting Muaniweni Indo Fijian farmers and Transported Arms from Military to Rebels

Thakur Ranjit Singh,
 Auckland, New Zealand

Summary of PART 3: Savua had packed to shift to PM’s office and used police resources for treason. In Part 3 you read how Savua has cleared and packed, expecting to become Fiji's Prime Minister after deposing Mahendra Chaudhry. He abused police resources to commit treason. He had all the resources at his disposal to control riots and bring peace, but he had other ideas. All the available evidence speaks about his dereliction, in fact negligence of duties and grave misconduct. Yet, he was found innocent by a Kangaroo Court, manipulated to support nationalist elements and Qarase's regime. This court, held in camera, was a fraud on the people of Fiji. THIS CONCLUDING PART 4 reveals how police helped looting Indo-Fijian farmers in Muaniweni, Naitasiri, Fiji and also help steal and transport arms from Military camp to the rebels in Parliament. If you have not read three previous parts, please go back to FIJI PUNDIT (www.fijipundit.blogspot.co.nz) and catch up on those stories that no Fiji papers or journalists have ever reported on.
These are very revealing information after being first published in Fiji’s Daily Post in 2000 under pseudo name of Liu Muri/Aage Picche.
 
Former Commissioner of Police Isikia Savua, who is no more-he passed away in 2011. However, he left behind many unanswered questions. He also helped in shaming a once proud police force of Fiji by using the Police resources for his political ambitions.
HERE IS CONCLUDING PART 4

COMMISSIONER’S INVOLVEMENT AFTER THE TAKEOVER OF PARLIAMENT

Support for Rebels


On the day of the coup, opposition MP and a minister in the Speight government, Saimoni Kaitani said "it’s only a matter of time before the police and army pledge their support to the rebels". There are a number of similar instances in which the support of the Police Commissioner and his chosen officers were demonstrated through such statements.

One Police Officer told that the Police were involved in the transportation of arms to the Parliamentary complex following the takeover of the Parliament. He states:

I wish to add that on Saturday 20.5.00 at about 0230 hours whilst we were putting up the road block opposite the Lighthouse Restaurant (in Nasese) when police vehicle F/171 arrived with SP M. The rotating lights were on as they were escorting another Government vehicle. I went over to check and found that the said vehicle was fully loaded with arms. I opened the road block as instructed by SP M because he said he was under orders from higher up and they went up to the Parliament house.

It was clear from this that the arms cartage to the Parliament complex in this car were authorised by the Police Commissioner. These arms were to be used to reinforce the armaments available to the terrorists, as they had feared an attack by the Fiji Military Forces.

Abuse of police vehicles and resources


Mr. Savua had given instructions for the use of a police vehicle to convey dalo and meat from Muaniweni for the rebels holding the Government hostage.

One Inspector was on duty at the command centre on the day of the alleged incident.  The same Inspector was chosen by Mr. Savua to go for peacekeeping duty in Solomon Islands when the issue of cattle theft and unlawful use of police vehicle was highlighted in the news media but was stopped from leaving the country by the military at that time.

A statement by one ASP regarding the above incident:
On the 28th of May  … I reported to duty to takeover from ASP .y. - the 7-7 Unit Commander. The (Police) transport was poor during the takeover. ASP y.. advised me that the Commissioner of Police had directed that a police vehicle be sent to the Parliament at 0600 hours on the morning of 29th May (2000) to be used by George Speight's men to convey some cattle and root crops from Savu, Naitasiri (Muaniweni) to the Parliament. I directed SPC to be ready to take the Canter truck to Parliament in the morning… At 0455 SC moved out F/49 (Canter Truck) to Delainavesi to pick SCS.. who will then drive to Parliament to pick Mr Speight's men for the Savu trip to get the cattle and root crops for Speight's men and his supporters. Note the sending of F/49 and the Police driver was in line with the instructions given by the Commissioner of Police to ASP y...

At 0630 hours, I rang parliament to confirm whether the Police Truck had arrived. I spoke to one Mr Dakai who confirmed that a truck and a police driver had arrived for the trip to Savu and thanked me for it. I made notes of the above instructions in my note book from the 28/5 to 29/5.

SPC .z. who was the driver for the Police Vehicle on the day said that:
 
The rebels supported by Savua, who terrorised Fiji for almost two months in 2000 until crushed by Fiji Military which brought law and order when even police were rendered helpless under a poor and ineffective Commissioner Savua.
On the morning of 29th May, 2000, I was picked from my house by SC P.. in this vehicle at 0530 hours. We went to Nasese transport pool where SC P.. told me to drive F/49 to Parliament and pick some George Speight's men and take them to Muaniweni to pick some food stuff. I drove down to Parliament where Police force vehicle was waiting for me to confirm my going. The Policeman asked me if I was going to pick the food for the rebels from Muaniweni. I said yes and they drove off again. The Parliament gate guard asked me where I was going. I replied I was sent by the Commissioner to see Rinakama (an MP supporting George Speight) about the food to be picked from Muaniweni. The guard opened the Parliament gate and allowed F/49 inside. Then Mr Rinakama came and told me to take the Naitasiri men to bring the food. Then while parking at the Parliament complex, 8 Fijian men from Naitasiri came and told me to go to Muaniweni where Tomasi Vosalevu is waiting. We drove … right to Muaniweni Indian school. At the school Vosalevu was waiting with a heap of dalo and carcass of cattle meat. The food stuff and meat was loaded and Vosalevu said to drive further and wait for him. When I came where he was, a cattle was slaughtered in the middle of the road. The men at the back loaded the cattle at the back of the Police truck. We then drove back to the Parliament where we arrived at 11 am… The supporters of George Speight and his men came and shook my hand for the Police support and cheered for the Police Truck.

The Police Commissioner knew very well that Savu Road leads to Muaniweni where most of the looting of crops and cattle by Speight's supporters during this period was occurring. This was well reported through local and international media coverage during that week. Local radio and newspapers had also raised concern that much of the looted crops and cattle were being transported to the Parliament. These reports had already been lodged with the Police both in Suva and in Nausori.

The looting, burning and stealing in this region was spearheaded by Tomasi Vosalevu - also known as Ratu Malimali (involved in a bank robbery and was on bail at the time) who was in the Parliament for much of the week.

Ratu Malimali was supposed to have organised everything (looting, burning etc) down here (Muaniweni)… his lorries were used to transport stolen root crops and cattle to the parliament complex during the 1st ten days after the coup.
 
The looted and robbed farmers at Muaniweni: they were looted in Police vehicles by criminal elements working for Speight and Savua.
It was because of the complicity between the Police and those who were involved in the looting, burning and violence that families fled Muaniweni during this period to live in the refugee camp in Lautoka. The Police Commissioner must be held directly responsible for this.

The Commissioner of Police's instructions to provide a police transport and police resources to terrorists who were holding the legitimate, constitutional government hostage is nothing short of a treasonous act. It was a source of great encouragement to them. His actions to provide official transport to cart food that was violently and forcibly taken from isolated rural households is an unpardonable capital offence as well - demonstrating a frightening complicity between the Commissioner and the terrorists who were holding the Constitutional Government hostage. This instance of providing official transport and support to organize the cartage of food demonstrates a most frightening complicity between the Police Commissioner and some of the most dangerous criminal elements who were behind some of the worst violence to be seen in this country recently.

[For a corroborating story on this, read FIJI PUNDIT on violence on Indo Fijians. This story was covered by Thakur Ranjit Singh in Fiji’s Daily Post on Muaniweni looting of Indo- Fijians by Police officers on Police vehicles in May, 2000: See the link:

http://fijipundit.blogspot.com/2013/03/fiji-violence-when-indo-fijians-are.html]


Police Conference

Savua came under criticism for attending a police chief’s conference in Vanuatu at the height of the crisis. Why did he not send another officer to Vanuatu as in previous years? Did Savua channel overseas funds to support the takeover of the parliament during this trip? Is Savua allowed under Fiji laws to have a personal bank account in an overseas tax haven? Were large deposits made into his account between April 2000 and July 2000?

Vanuatu is tax haven and Police inquiries into the involvement of a number of overseas business interests were continuing. Of special interest are the triad gangs who have operated with some immunity until the recent drug bust up. It has been reported that these gangs enjoyed some protection from the Police during the period when Savua was the Commissioner.

Meeting with Rebels


The rebel group met Mr. Savua on the 21/7/00 at the Nabua Police Station. We are reliably informed that they discussed a new lineup for the interim government and Savua's role within it,

The rebels even during periods of curfew had access to the Police Commissioner.
 
The name and honour of once proud police force of Fiji has been tarnished by extremely poor leadership and performance under Savua.
One officer informed that:

On the night when the Central Police Station (CPS) was under attack by the rebels, all lights at the CPS were turned off (with the exception of the Command Centre light where the Commissioner was at the time). In the darkness and uncertainty, Major Savua (the Commissioner's brother who was inside the parliamentary complex) entered his room and held private discussions with the Commissioner. Following these discussions, the Commissioner asked that the Police truck be provided to cart food for the rebels from the Savu area. All officers who took part in a parade just after the rebel attack on CPS and greater Suva area heard this instruction very clearly.

Concluding remarks 


The events noted here have demonstrated that the Police Commissioner has failed in his constitutional duty, oath and obligation to uphold the rule of law and protect the constitutional government.

Indeed, he has actively used the police forces to support the takeover and overthrow of the democratic and constitutional government. His motivation was quite clear from the accounts presented here - he wanted to be an important part of a new government to emerge from the takeover of the parliament. To this end, he had used and manipulated police officers and resources to support the actions of the terrorists who took over the parliament on May the 19th, 2000.

Through his deliberate actions, important arms of the police forces were rendered incapable of preemptively dealing with the takeover and the violence and rioting that ensued subsequently. His actions have done great damage to a professional and generally hard working, committed and loyal Police Force in the country.

From the evidence presented here, we are convinced that the Police Commissioner should have been subjected to trial for both treason and other capital offences arising from his actions. The Commission charged with the Tuivaga inquiry should be recognized as a fraud orchestrated by the Commissioner's cronies in the Interim Government, headed by Laisenia Qarase, who later tasted power and formed SDL Party to come to power through democratic process.  This included elements within the judiciary and the Public Service Commission who had been associated with the attempt to abrogate the Constitution of Fiji Islands and confer some legitimacy to the Interim Government through that.
 
Fijian Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who removed Qarase for abusing democratic powers and processes and working with ethno-nationalist elements like Savua and treasonous rebels. Western Democracy appears to have failed in Fiji and perhaps Fiji needs a home-grown solution to its fundamental problems. These articles were written to expose outside world with Fiji-type of conspiracy and problems and why Military have to adopt strong-arm controls to handle people with nationalistic and manipulative tendencies. 
ENDNOTE

All these took place when a supposedly clean and honest banker, Laisenia Qarase was appointed by Bainimarama as the Interim Prime Minister, who obviously tasted power and worked in cahoots with the ethno-nationalist elements. Qarase, subsequently formed SDL Political Party and came to power, and started abusing democratic processes to introduce racist policies and persecute Indo-Fijians through questionable laws and policies. Frank Bainimarama gave advance warning to Laisenia Qarase to improve his governance and remove extreme-nationalism and racism from SDL policies and proposed laws. Qarase ignored Bainimarama threats at this own peril, and as warned, was unceremoniously deposed by military on 6 December, 2006. The rest is history. In the breaking news Qarase has just been released early from jail after serving time, and is reported to have met Ratu Mara's sister-in-law, Ro Teimumu Kepa, Rewan Chief known for her racist tendencies. It is hoped Qarase has learnt his lesson in jail, and has learned some chapters on politics of inclusion.

Overseas community need to read and appreciate these articles and see what the military has to contend with. Any strong-arm tactic and tight controls on media and freedom are to stop the rot of ethno-nationalism repeat in Fiji. Democracy in Fiji is developing, as we need a home-grown solution to our fundamental problems and issues. It is hoped series of these articles help you better understand and appreciate the problems and issues in Fiji.

THAKUR RANJIT SINGH

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