Saturday, June 29, 2013

Auckland Girmit Day honours elders, while rekindling international awareness

Auckland Girmit Day honours elders, while rekindling international awareness

Thakur Ranjit Singh

As the medals were eased into the ageing and wrinkled necks of Girmit – descendant octogenarians (those 80 years and over), the silence of the moment spoke deafeningly. This moment was etched in their memory, and brought smiles to their crinkled and parched lips as they eased out of chairs with shaking hands and crackling joints and legs that were protesting. Some had walking sticks for support, other had relatives. But the electricity of the moment was such that they eased out of chairs, with a bit of help from relatives and committee members, and inched their way to the main stage where executives of Fiji Girmit Foundation did the honours of putting the medals in their necks. They all eagerly waited for their names to be called.

Girmit Commemoration Plaque to mark GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY at Mangere, Auckland, New Zealand on 18 May, 2013

These were the first generation descendants of Girmitiyas, as their parents had served Girmit. Very soon we may not have anybody from this lot left, as we move to second generation. They were being rewarded for sacrifices of their parents who never received any honour for their sufferings and vision. While these people did not directly contribute anything to Girmit, they are living proof of the first descendants who heard stories of hardship and sufferings from their parents.

As names were called out, you could sense a feeling of satisfaction on their smiling faces. Half the recipients were from the first batch of octogenarians of first Girmit Day held in 2012 by Waitakere Indian Association. Recipients, among, others who were on hand to receive them were former Carpenters employee Govind Prasad, former National Farmers Union executive Kapil Deo Singh and wife,  Auckland old-timer and a friend of former Prime Minister Helen Clark, Narain Prasad his wife Rai Mati Singh, Shiu Mati Prasad and Audh Raji Vishwanath. One notable gentleman was former distinguished Ba resident, Alliance Minister and a long time Fiji politician, James Shankar Singh.
Chairperson of Fiji Girmit Foundation New Zealand, Pundit Devakar Prasad, interviewing Former Fiji Alliance Minister from Ratu Mara government of 1970s and 80s, JAMES SHANKAR SINGH after presenting him medal and certificate.
“Our Girmitiyas are not present now, but we are proud and thankful for their input in Fiji. It is through them who and what we are. It is nice to see that our Girmitiyas and elders are not forgotten” said an elated Singh after receiving Girmit Medal from Chairman of Girmit Foundation of New Zealand, Devakar Prasad.

Former National Farmers Union President and regular contributor to Shanti Dut Hindi newspaper in Fiji, Kapil Deo Singh was equally overjoyed at being recognised for the sacrifices of his forbears. “I feel very honoured for this recognition and thanks to Girmit Foundation for this novel gesture to remember Girmitiyas who need to be recognised by our history as well. We are thankful for their vision and priority in education and preserving our Hindi language,” Kapil said.
Rameshwar Dutt, Trustee of Waitakere Indian Association presenting Girmit medal to former Toko, Tavua, Fiji resident, KAPIL DEO SINGH.

Another octogenarian, Mrs Shiu Mati Prasad, sister of former Lautoka and Suva City Town Clerk/CEO Late Vishnu Chand, was equally overjoyed for this honour of being rewarded. She did recognise that sacrifices was by their fathers, but was honoured to be remembered. ‘I am thinking of our Girmitiyas and am thankful for their sacrifices. I am thankful for this event which I first attended last year,” said Mrs Prasad.
Abhay Ballu, Trustee of Waitakere Indian Association with Mrs Shiu Mati Prasad after presenting her Girmit medal.

That event was Girmit Remembrance Day which Fiji Girmit Foundation New Zealand held to commemorate the 134th anniversary of Girmit at the Skipton Hall, Mangere at Auckland on 18 May, 2013. The afternoon was named “Ek Shaam Girmitiyon ke Naam – a name in honour of Girmitiyas. The theme for the function was: Reconnecting, Reclaiming and Restoring Indo-Fijian History.”
Wreath laid in honour of the departed Girmitiya souls.

We all sang national anthem of New Zealand, Fiji and India, maintained a minutes silence and laid wreath in memory of the departed Girmitiya forbears. Some old tales were told and students of Pooja Trust took turns to sing Bidesia, based on Girmit in Fiji, playing the harmonium themselves. It was a stunning performance that captivated the audience and raised the profile of a folk song that belonged to a bygone era. Bidesia was widely sung by the Girmitiyas, which had the power to ease pent up emotions that broke into sobs, crying and wailing until they could cry no more. 
PUNDIT RAM KUMAR SEWAK, head of Pooja Trust (in blue) and an executive of Fiji Girmit Foundation of New Zealand, joining his group in singing Bidesiya.

Oration delivered by young people on Girmit clearly showed that the young were appropriately being brought up with full knowledge of their early history. Pundit Ram Kumar Sewak is doing a commendable work in South Auckland among the young children and the fruits of his endeavour were in display at the function. The Fiji Girmit Foundation New Zealand is committed to reconnecting, reclaiming and restoring Indo-Fijian history and would work closely with the Fiji Girmit Council to support its aims and objectives, ensuring that Girmit is embraced as the foundational history of the community and is respected, revered and commemorated regularly.
GIRMIT AWARD MEDAL - these were presented to the first generation of Girmitiyas over 80, for the sacrifices, suffering and vision of their forbears.

Girmit Remembrance Day provided opportunity to Indo-Fijian families to resurrect the memories and pay our respects to our Girmitiya forebears for the sacrifices that they made and the legacy that they left for successive generations. The event remembered suffering, sacrifices and vision of our forbears through oratory, poems, music and tales of the past. This was a journey through memory lane which provided exposure to a history that is dormant and yet it is a fascinating history of suffering, struggle and sacrifice.

The Foundation intends to strengthen our unique Indo-Fijian culture, language, customs and traditions to ensure that our children remain connected to the jewels of their inheritance. Radio stations and other media helped us reach people. It is hoped, in a small way, the initiative, foresight and vision of Aucklanders are going to inspire our Indo Fijian Diaspora in Canada (Vancouver, Surrey, Calgary, Toronto etc), USA (San Francisco, Sacramento, Modesto Hayward etc), Australia (Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne etc) and even in Fiji to appreciate that we get organised and tell our new generation the tales of Girmit that history has failed to acknowledge.
Fiji Girmit Foundation of New Zealand organising committee, from left, Vijendra Prasad,, Pundit Devakar Prasad (Chairperson), Rajendra Prasad, Thakur Ranjit Singh (Secretary)) Harnam Singh Golian, Satya Dutt and Krish Naidu. Sitting in front: Radha Kanhai Reddy[Absent: Master Shiu Charan, Pundit Ram Sewak and Pradeep Chandra]
With two Girmit events in Auckland, one at Calvary Church and the other at Skipton Hall, with one additional one at Wellington, we Kiwis hope to initiate a turnaround and raise international awareness on Indo-Fijian history.

Girmit Remembrance Day 2013 in Auckland was an opportunity to recognise and reward the sacrifices of our forbears in proxy, but most importantly, to show them love and honour which their Girmitiya parents were denied in Girmit.

May their souls rest in peace.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Fijian Holdings Scandal: Betrayal by their trusted sons

Fijian Holdings Ltd Scandal: How Fijian Provinces were betrayed and looted by their trusted sons

Thakur Ranjit Singh,
(Initially published August, 2007)

FIJIANS BETRAYED BY THEIR TRUSTED SONS

People of Fiji had been told of corruption and questionable dealings by those who were considered the marshals, saviours and guardians of Fijian race. When Frank Bainimarama sacked Qarase regime and took charge, his reasoning, among others, was to save the I-Taukei (Fijian) race from unscrupulous and wanting leadership within I-Taukei community. My purpose here is to substantiate this through reporting on Senate proceedings of some two decades ago.
 
Adi Quini Bavadra (left) with husband Timoci Bavadra. During her days in Parliament in 1990s, she wanted this scandal to be investigated, but it was swept under the carpet by vested interests and influencial Chiefs and people in high places. Corruption of the highest order in Fijian Administration. ( Fiji Times photo)
When Adi Quini Bavadra was alive she tried her best to reveal the dealings in Fijian Holdings Limited (FHL) but people with power and influence won and this matter never saw the light of day. My lament had been that while Fiji has an abundance of copy journalists and copy feature writers; there is dearth of good, conscientious, bold and sincere investigative journalists. Perhaps somebody like that can pick the hints from here, and perhaps create an FHLgate.

However I will report on what took place in Fiji’s Senate on 18 May, 1993.

SENATE PROCEEDINGS-MAY, 1993

In the Senate sitting of 18 May, 1993 (pages 731 to 748), Senator Manu Korovulavula moved a motion for the Senate to call on Government to carry out an investigation into the method adopted by the Board of the Fijian Holdings Limited to allow limited liability companies to buy shares into the company (FHL) without the knowledge of 14 Provinces. Senator Korovulavula had stated that the motion was brought on a point of principle to reveal less than honest dealings of people in position of power, knowledge and trust.
 
Senator Manu Korovulavula who was a bold and conscientious Fijian who had guts to open this Pandora's box on Fijian Holding Scandal in Fiji Senate in May, 1993. Unfortunately, his commendable efforts went in vain as corruption and power of high Chiefs and influential people won, and this scandal was swept under the carpet by a so-called flourishing democracy in Fiji.
The intention of the motion was to reveal odd and strange method known to a selected group of shareholders who took advantage of this to borrow funds from the Fiji Development Bank (FDB) or the National Bank of Fiji (NBF) in order to buy shares in FHL.

As example of this a whole Province has only $50,000 Class A shares while a family private company shares add up to $200,000, which is a scam in any language. It is obvious someone somewhere had not been honest and loyal to the Fijian people in not telling them the truth.

FHL was primarily created to be owned by the Provincial Councils, Fijian people and Fijian institutions, NOT the elite limited liability family companies. The Great Council of Chiefs, right from its inception was unanimous to see that FHL was to be owned by 14 Provinces, Native Land Trust Board (NLTB) and Fijian Affairs Board (FAB). 

However the irony and shame is that according to 1992 annual report, 14 Provincial Councils and two Fijian institutions, NLTB and FAB hold only 30 % of total shares while the elite Fijians with their family limited liability companies hold 70% of shares. This is a fraud on the common indigenous people who are supposed to be shareholders of FHL through their respective provinces!

People of Fiji need to be made aware of Fijian Initiative. This Fijian advisory body comprised of intellectuals, professionals, businessmen and senior executives in the private and public sector. The aim of this initiative is to pull these resources, convene regular meetings and seminars to enable it to come up with recommendations to develop and assist Fijians to better themselves in all aspects of life, more so in the field of trade and commerce.

Senator Manu Korovulavula reported to Senate that it was interesting to know that some of the senior members of the Fijian Initiative did not consider it appropriate to advise the 14 Provincial Councils that they could borrow three or four times more from FDB, the amount of shares which they already had in FHL.
All this while, these senior Fijian sons took secretive actions to line their own and family’s pockets at the cost of Provincial Councils!

Senator Korovulavula revealed private shareholding of three provinces with which he was familiar. Please note that all figures, amounts and situations reported are as at 1993, and they may have changed now.

KADAVU PROVINCE

In Kadavu Province, he spoke about 3 companies. The first, Kadavu Development Company, which is fully owned by people of Kadavu, owned only $50,000 shares.
 
Former Qarase's Cabinet Minister Konisi Yabaki's Family Company owned $100,000 Class A shares when his Province Kadavu owned only half those shares.


The other, KJY Investment Limited, owned by Qarase’s Cabinet Minister Konisi Yabaki and his family, owned $100,000 shares.

The third, Taoi Investment Limited, owned $200,000 shares. Shareholding in this Company then belonged to Jesoni Vitusagavulu and Ulaiasi Taoi. Vitusagavulu is former staff of FDB, former Air Pacific Executive, former Director of Fiji Trade and Investment Board and former Fiji’s High Commissioner to USA, appointed by deposed PM Qarase. Taoi used to be President of Indigenous Fijian Business Council. Previously Rodney Acraman also used to own shares which have since been bought by the remaining two shareholders.

Jesoni Vitusagavulu, who together with Ulai Taoi, once head of Fijian Indigenous Chamber of Commerce owned four times ($200,000) the shares that their Kadavu province owned ($50,000).


The interesting issue here in that Konisi Yabaki was then the Chairman while Vitusagavulu was Secretary respectively of Kadavu Development Company. They went ahead, used their positions to build their own interests at the cost of Kadavu Province.

LOMAIVITI PROVINCE

The next province is Lomaiviti, which had only $55,100 shares while KB Investment Limited and 5X Investment Limited owned $100,000 each while Vensalisi Investment Limited had $80,000 shares.

KB Investment Limited, with $100, 000 shares is owned by Bakani family. The head of this family Kalivati Bakani is former executive of FDB, former Deputy General Manager of NBF, former Carpenters Executive and former CEO of NLTB. The purchase of shares was financed by NBF

Kalivati Bakani, once former boss of your truly at Carpenters Fiji Limited, owned $100,000 shares compared to $55,100 by his Lomaiviti Province.


5X Investment, with $100,000 shares, is owned by Lote Rabuku, Semesa Matanicake, Delai Sainikinaivalu, Penisoni Gauna and KB Investments. Note that acquisition of these shares was also financed by NBF.

Vensalisi Investment Limited, with $80,000 shares, is owned by Isikeli Mataitoga and family. Isikeli then was Director of Public Prosecutions and is CEO of Foreign Affairs.

Interesting point to note is that in less than two months after registration of 5X Investment, this $1 per Share Company got $75,000 loan from NBF. Additionally, three months after KB Investment Limited was registered, Kalivati Bakani’s wife got $107,000 loan from NBF where her husband was the then Deputy General Manager. Three months after Isikeli Mataitoga’s family company was registered, he obtained $64,000 from FDB which was headed by Qarase.

LAU PROVINCE

Now we move to the Province of deposed Prime Minister Qarase, Lau Provincial Council, which had only $50,100 shares. At same time, Stiks Investment Limited had $150,000, Q-Ten Investment Limited had $200,000 and Kepa Investment Limited had $100,000 worth of shares.
 
Deposed Prime Minister and the leader of FHL Scandal. A clean banker who was appointed by Bainimarama as Interim Prime Minister tasted power and fame and formed SDL political party, won election and sided with ethno-nationalists. He ignored Bainimarama's warnings to his peril when he was deposed on 6 December, 2006 by Bainimarama. His family company, Q-Ten Investments Limited owned almost four times ($200,000) the shares owned by his Lau Province.


Stiks Investment Limited shares of $150,000 are fully owned by Weleilakeba family. Sitiveni Weleilakeba was a former CEO of FHL and one time business partner of democracy activist Laisa Digitaki, together with whom, he tried to run Mobil Walu Bay Service Station which went into receivership and was then acquired by Carpenters Motors. The shares in Stiks had been financed by FDB.
 
Sitiveni Weleilakeba, former CEO of Fijian Holdings Limited owned $150,000 shares, almost three times more than his Lau Province.
Q-Ten Investment Limited held $200,000 shares, which is owned by Laisenia Qarase Family. One property CT 14743, Lot 2 was mortgaged twice to acquire finance for $112,400 and $353,217 respectively. Note that at the time, Laisenia Qarase was the Managing Director of FDB, the lender for share acquisition. At that time, Laisenia Qarase was also the financial advisor to the Fijian Affairs Board, but failed to advise them of this insider information of acquiring shares.

Kepa Investment Limited, with $100,000 shares, was wholly owned by Lakepa family, Satini and Milika, and financed by FDB.

An interesting point is that one of the nine points of Deuba Accord was for government to make $20m interest free LOAN to FHL through Fijian Affairs Board, repayable over 20 years. What taxpayers of Fiji need to know is under whose authority this taxpayers’ loan of $20m was converted to a gift for FHL. Note that board members of FHL, with shares then included Laisenia Qarase, Sitiveni Weleilakeba and Josaia Mar, who has been removed as Chairman of FEA by Commander. Also note that Laisenia Qarase was the interim Prime Minister when this shady and questionable deal took place.

DOES FIJI DESERVE TO BE RULED BY SUCH DECEITFUL I-TAUKEI LEADERS? IS DIVISIVE RACIAL DEMOCRACY NOW OUTDATED IN FIJI? YOU DECIDE

What the Fijian race needs to ponder is that Qarase regime has been projecting Indo- Fijians as the common enemy of the indigenous race, the I-Taukei. Is this really so? Indigenous Fijian people had placed their faith in the hands of these intellectuals, so called professionals and who were supposed to be guiding the I-Taukei (Fijian) race. The FHL was the commercial vehicle through which the wellbeing of Fijian race was intended to be improved. The dependency of the wisdom of Great Council of Chiefs and the elders in the villagers was on the shoulders of the so called Fijian Initiative group. However these very same people tricked their own people while projection Indo-Fijians as villains.

With friends like the Fijian Initiative, the indigenous race needs no enemies at all. There is a saying that enemy who strike from front is miles better than friends who strike on the back. Fijian Provinces have been dealt commercially fatal blows on their backs by their trusted sons.

Perhaps those who are crying for Qarase regime to come back need to consider whether he is worthy of this honour. The Commander is right in trying to save the indigenous race from the enemy within, as there is no fear from those outside.

Those who were Senators in 1993, and were present in Senate, [including late past President Ratu Iloilo and] like Adi Litia Cakobau need to answer to the Fijian race why this call for investigation was swept under the carpet. Other Great Council of Chiefs nominees in that Senate also need to answer to their people.

And those racist politicians, their hangers-on and democracy refugee advocates in Australia and USA, who are now shedding crocodile tears for democracy (on Facebook), and who projected and put Indo- Fijians as red herrings should be made to answer to the indigenous race of this betrayal and who their real enemies are!



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Friday, June 14, 2013

Auckland Church beats Hindus to mark Girmit Remembrance Day

An Auckland Church leads the way to pay a tribute to Girmitiyas

Guest Writer: Rajendra Prasad, author, Tears in Paradise
[Prologue and Epilogue by FIJI PUNDIT, Thakur Ranjit Singh]

PROLOGUE (By FIJI PUNDIT]

There are some estimated 100,000 people of Indian origin in Auckland, with Indo-Fijians, and descendants of Indentured labourers comprising almost half at around 40-50,000. As the case in Fiji, majority are Hindus, almost 70%. When Indians were initially brought from India to Fiji from poorer states in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, almost all were Hindus, some Muslims. Christians were almost none, until some came from South India towards the tail-end of Girmit.

In Auckland, we have some Indo-Fijian descendants of original scrub-cutters who usd to come to New Zealand in large numbers on a 3-month contract in early 60s and some stayed back, as majority did in Fiji after Girmit. However the influx came in the aftermath of 1987 coup through the then Labour leader, David Lange’s soft heart for Indo-Fijians. They have been trickling in since then, with yours truly being a “green” migrant of less than ten years.

Hindus have multitudes of Mandalis and organisations in small pockets, without being able to unite in any wholesome body. When Ram Naumi comes, it takes more than half an hour on radio to tell where there are sitting and who are pracharaks and Pundits doing katha. One estimate says we have some 70-80 Ramayan and religious Hindu Mandalis/organisations in Auckland. [But none were present during Girmit Divas] While there are three Sanatan Sabhas, they do not really represent anybody, but concentrate of playing soccer or replicate what other Mandalis do.

In 2006, I approached Shiv Mandir at Holmes Road in Manurewa that is seen as an institution on Indo Fijians, to commemorate Girmit Divas. That is seven years ago. My pride was dented and enthusiasm for Girmit died when they demanded money for honouring those who were the very reason for us having Mandirs and religion. It was not until 2012 that Waitakere Indian Association, perhaps the best organised Indian body in New Zealand (none of them featured in the so – called Indian Hall of Sha..oops Fame) held first Girmit Remembrance Day followed later by formation of Fiji Girmit Foundation [that function coverage to come later]

However, as a Hindu, to be invited in a Church of some less than ten years, for commemoration of FIRST-EVER RELIGION-INITIATED event to honour our Girmitiya, I grabbed the opportunity, to visit this function with my wife. I had the first hand experience of what I felt shamed the multitudes of Hindu organisation, who in their three decade of beating drums and having grog parties in name of religion, could not come together to mark any Girmit Divas to date. The story and article below is by my friend, RAJENDRA PRASAD, who is a member of this Church and we happen to come from the same locality near Rarawai Sugar Mill in Ba, Fiji, and are uniquely passionate about honouring the memories of those who most Indo-Fijians have forgotten in their new-found wealth, fame and education, which all came from sacrifices, suffering and vision of Girmitiyas.

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GUEST WRITER-RAJENDRA PRASAD
Rajendra Prasad (not to be mistaken with Dr Rajen Prasad, Labour List MP). Rajendra Prasad is author of Tears in Paradise-Suffering and Struggles of Indians in Fiji 1879 -2004. He is author of this article and one behind commemoration of Girmit, not only at Calvary Church but also at Fiji Girmit Foundation NZ where he is a founding Executive. He spent seven years in researching his book to fill the vacuum of Indo Fijian History. One so called Indian Hall of Fame remains a shame by not even mentioning this private humble gentleman who does not serve community with a view to getting an award. Indian Hall of Fame is a mere Shame without person of his standing, and it in no way represent Indo-Fijians.

On the 134th anniversary of Girmit, there is a glimmer of hope that the Girmitiyas, warriors of toil and soldiers of peace, will eventually be remembered annually, as a ‘disconnected’ community ultimately becomes connected to its foundational history. This sense of optimism is based on two events that took place in Auckland, New Zealand that have reached worldwide audience. One was organized by the Calvary Indian Assembly of God Church on May 17 and the other by the Fiji Girmit Foundation New Zealand at the Skipton Hall, Papatoetoe on May 18, 2013 [This coverage to come later, EXCLUSIVE to FIJI PUNDIT]. Both drew sizeable audience.

Sahebs (Colonisers in hats) and Coolies ( Indian Girmitiyas in Pagri or turban)- Girmit was the dress-code at Calvary Indian Assembly of God Church at Otahuhu, Auckland, and only of its kind ever held in Auckland. Ramayan mandalis and Sanatans can take a leaf from this little-talking but great-doing Church members who got together to remember those who most of us have forgotten- Girmitiyas.

EK SHAAM GIRMITIYON KE NAAM-an evening dedicated to memories of Indentured labourers. By CALVARY INDIAN ASSEMBLY OF GOD CHURCH, OTAHUHU, AUCKLAND.
Panghat pe Nandlal cher gayo re...people in the festive mood on stage at Calvary Temple, depicting dressing and costumes of Girmit Era.

The Youth Ministry of Calvary Indian Assembly of God Church organized an evening, ‘Ek Shaam Girmitiyon ke Naam’ (An Evening of Tribute to Girmitiyas) on Friday May 17 that stuck a sombre note in the hearts and minds of the audience as never before. All the members of this Church (over 400) are from Fiji and they sat enthralled by the presentations made in remembrance of the Girmitiyas.
Ladies in Girmit costume. Has any Naari Sabha or other Indo-Fijian groups been able to do anything like this anywhere, to mark memory of Girmitiya forbears? 

 A Bidesia (folk song – a lamentation) composed in the sugar cane fields of Fiji by the Girmitiyas, capturing their pain, suffering and angst, was sung in traditional tune and accompanied by traditional music. Speakers strongly alluded to the theme ‘reconnecting, reclaiming and restoring Indo-Fijian history,’ which was noted for its absence in school curriculum.

Kali kothariya mein betey sari ratia, kis koh bataaye hum peeer re Bidesia---live singing of traditional lament song-Bidesia
Violence during the Girmit and its impact on successive generations was alluded to by Mrs Manju Verma, a senior social worker with Child, Youth and family who has closely observed the residual effect of violence on successive generations, perpetrated during the Girmit.

Mori gagri na tor...the traditional water container
The MC for the evening, Ron Chandra stole the show, wearing dhoti, shirt, pagdi and moustache. Other men also dressed in traditional attire but the women were not to be outdone, as they came clad in lehnga, the traditional top with veiled heads that added an aura to a memorable evening that brought tears, joy and celebration beyond everyone’s expectation.

Muche hoh toh Nathu Lal jaisi -. Master of Ceremony, Ron Kumar, left, with his father at Girmit function.
Those wearing traditional attire proudly displayed their costumes, which brought wide applause and also evoked memories of an era when clothes were essentially worn to cover the human body in accordance with the societal norms.
A close-up of the humble Girmit attire by ladies at the evening's function.
The evening concluded with a feast of supper that was specially prepared by qualified chefs who are members of the church. The occasion ignited a thirst for knowledge on Girmit and reconnection with our Girmitiya forebears and preparations are now underway to make it bigger, better and brighter for the 135th anniversary next year. The occasion is to reflect the spirit of the Girmitiyas that transcended the barriers of race, religion or caste, allowing others to share the occasion, as they did in their pain and suffering during the Girmit.

Yours truly, Thakur Ranjit Singh (left) and Rajendra Prasad, the engine room of Girmit commemoration with wives respectively Shashi Kala Singh (extreme right) and Aruna Prasad, next to her better half Rajendra .
Consequently, Pastor Andrew Pratap pledged that next year the doors of the Church will be opened to all those who are descendants of Girmitiyas to share an evening with the Church members. Display of Girmit artefacts and Girmit Dinner is expected to precede the function. Indeed, people will be encouraged to wear traditional clothes, which will be a physical manifestation of an era that evokes varied feelings and emotions.

Display of Girmit artefacts, including sugar cane, Indian wok 9karhaiya), coconut leaves broom, Sil/ Lohra (grinding stone), hurricane lamp, Ketli (kettle) etc.

EPILOGUE [By FIJI PUNDIT]

As a Hindu I was ashamed that as over 80% of Girmitiyas were Hindus, and we have multitudes of bodies shouting praises of Hinduism, yet we could not come together to honour the memories of those who were honoured by a recent minority Church. It is an advice to the so-called Hindu Indo-Fijian leaders and priests to come out and learn from Indian Churches in what and how they do to advance the status of youth and unfortunate in our community. Our Brahmins and Pundits, who are the biggest beneficiaries of legacies of Girmit, failed to show at Girmit Remembrance Day at Skipton hall the next day on 18 May, 2013.  But that is another story, FIJI PUNDIT will tell later.

FIJI PUNDIT salutes Pastor Andrew Pratap and his Calvary Indian Assembly of God Church for their initiative and love for their heritage. My only wish is that our Hindu organisations, priests and Brahmins will also have some motivation to become functioning part of our community to contribute handsomely to the community well-being  and not only remain beneficiaries of a legacy we have forgotten. AMEN.

[Thakur Ranjit Singh -E-mail: thakurji@xtra.co.nz]





Sunday, June 2, 2013

Indian Ghettoes and ethnic enclaves in Auckland?


Indian Ghettoes and ethnic enclaves in Auckland?

Thakur Ranjit Singh

My distrust and contempt for the Indian business community was formed from early days in 1950 – 80 as a child and adult when I grew as a third generation Girmitiya Indo-Fijian on a cane farm in Rarawai, Ba. I witnessed the neo-Girmit our people suffered under the free-settler migrant Indian business community from India. World is a testament to the fact that wealth and fortunes growth of business community in Fiji (and other Third-World countries (read Uganda) where they settled) WERE INVERSELY RELATED TO THE POVERTY OF GENERAL POPULATION. This gave rise to political discontent by the indigenous people as happened in Uganda in 1970s and political upheaval in Fiji in 1987 and following years, particularly in 2000. Therefore when I see migrants and business community from India introducing such poor human traces and social justice of India in New Zealand, FIJI PUNDIT can no longer remain silent, and hence this article. This is my reflex action as Satyamev Jayate stance, where truth shall prevail. [Await my other article: GURU-BUSTERS] 

When first shiploads of Indentured Indian labourers were off-loaded in Fiji in 1879, it created an opportunity for the British and Australian colonisers to gain out of their exploitation, after slavery has ended. Indenture was a new version of slavery, but worse. This also gave room for Indian businessmen in India’s more progressive states like Gujarat and Maharashtra, to take business and financial advantage from this opportunity. Indenture and shipment of Indians from its poorer populous agriculture-based states of India provided an opportunity to such businessmen to follow these Indians.
The result now is multitudes of such millionaires in Fiji and other parts of Africa and former British colonies. While life for such businessmen was difficult and struggle at first, it also made the businesses into millionaires within one generation when the offspring of Indentured labourers are still reeling in poverty after four to five generations.

These Indian businessmen were still in touch with their families and business contacts in India, and hence could source cheap Indian goods which were sold at huge profits and margins, comparing rupees with British pounds in those days. That is history, and like the untold History of Girmit, the exploitation of our Girmitiyas by free-settler Indian business community also remains untold.

Having experienced their stance in Fiji, when I migrated to New Zealand a decade ago, I was wary of Indian businessmen, as my forbears in Fiji were short-changed by them. And when Indian leadership in Auckland, formed a lynch-mob to punish me for calling some home-truths about India, I lost all respectability for such people. These are group of influential so-called community leaders, Indian politicians in NZ and media, which gang-up to shut people like yours truly. That is what gave rise to this Satyamev Jayate blogsite, FIJI PUNDIT and my battle with hypocrisy and aim to speak what others are afraid to say. They ganged up to shoot the messenger (read FIJI PUNDIT....... http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=207937644965682419#editor/target=post;postID=2063838836524626424;onPublishedMenu=overview;onClosedMenu=overview;postNum=20;src=postname). Hence I only have contempt for those who try to bring their home culture to New Zealand.

What is noticeable as a media student for me is that Indian media in Auckland is that they subscribe to the model of media we call PROPAGANDA MODEL. Generally, media is perceived as an agent to expose corporate, community and government misconduct and aggressively portray themselves as spokesmen for free speech and the general community interest. Contrary to this misconception, Propaganda Model argues that media is in the pockets of rich, mighty and influential. And that leaves most of us common mortal Indians without a voice, as media no longer fights for our rights or speaks for us, as it becomes a lapdog of the rich and the influential. Indian media is Auckland is in dire need for community touch, journalistic principles and is no longer a watchdog of common people. They are mere money-making machines for their owners.

It hurts to see so much of us Indians in news for wrong reasons, because of the vices of India in human rights and social justice have been imported to New Zealand. When I migrated to New Zealand some 10 years ago, I thought I was going to a “clean” First World Developed nation. I never thought that I was going to a country where we now have developing Indian ghettos and ethnic enclaves aided and abetted by silent Indians and partisan media which fail to highlight social ills, and remain silent so they do not lose their advertising dollars.

Indians comprise only some 2.5% of New Zealand population, but for the amount of reported cases of deviant behaviour in news, we are very high. In other words, People of Indian Origin comprise only some 107,000 people in a country of 4.3 million, yet the cases of negative reporting and our adherence to culture back home brings the whole community in disrepute.
There are reports that many elderly migrant parents, (over 400 Indians) sponsored by their children under a family reunification scheme, are being left to fend for themselves in New Zealand.

On the heels of this negative story implicating Indians, NZ authorities are looking into complaints about an Auckland restaurant chain allegedly paying an "Indian salary".

FIJI PUNDIT has been reliably informed that this is just the tip of iceberg. Many other Indian (and Indo-Fijian) business should be on the radar of New Zealand authorities for abuse of human rights and breach of laws granting justice and fair wages to workers.

It is now a challenge for Indian leadership in Auckland to stop having big conferences, business and other awards, singing praises of their business contribution to NZ, and concentrate on moral decay we are introducing in New Zealand. I understand Bhartiya Samaj is already calling on Indian organisations to pitch in to celebrate Indian Independence Day later in August.

I wonder, with such damning track record of vices, moral decay, lack of humanity and social justice, what is there to celebrate about. It appears the rottenness of Mumbai streets and other cities in India are now imported to New Zealand.

It is time Indian Community leaders and politicians should stop shooting the messenger, stop bragging about their economic prowess and concentrate on vices and bad practices we are importing to a “clean” New Zealand.

Such negativities tarnish and bring disrepute to all people of Indian origin.


[E-mail: thakurji@xtra.co.nz]