Friday, May 30, 2014

SANIL KUMAR TRAGEDY: Imposing death sentence: Government action heartless - Fiji Indian Association, Wellington

SANIL KUMAR TRAGEDY: Imposing death sentence: Government action heartless

Sanil Kumar: his plea to NZ authorities that Fiji did not have proper facilities, and he was being sent to certain death, fell on deaf years.. His prediction came true and he lost his life due to a system without milk of human kindness and a heart.

Media release by

Salim A. Singh, President, Fiji Indian Association

The Fiji Indian Association, Wellington Inc has described as “heartless” the decision of the New Zealand Government to send the late Mr Sanil Kumar back to Fiji, despite his proven need for a kidney transplant. 

“By refusing to allow him to remain in New Zealand, the Associate Minister of Immigration, Nikki Kaye actually imposed a death sentence on this young man.” 

Nikki Kaye, NZ Associate Minister of Immigration, who despite NZ outlawing capital punishment, sentenced Sanil Kumar to certain death by sending him to a country which did not have proper medical facilities, contrary to advice to her by faceless people. Is this lady hiding behind privacy issues? FIJI PUNDIT is still carrying out investigations in this issue.
The Minister’s refusal to intervene clearly shows the lack of compassion and human values of the current Government and the decision to send Sanil Kumar back to Fiji is condemned in the strongest terms possible.

It is clear that the Government is now indulging in media spin by saying the Fijian Ministry of Health had assured it that facilities were available in Fiji for Mr Kumar’s care and treatment.

Mr Kumar’s family and well-wishers had raised funds for his treatment and his presence in New Zealand would not have been detrimental to New Zealand’s health system or citizens and his continued presence would not have been contrary to the public interest.
Salim Ashwin Singh, President of Fiji Indian Association , Wellington. "Associate Minister for Immigration, Nikki Kaye actually imposed a death sentence on this young man.” he said, in a media release by the Association.This is perhaps one of the first, and only functioning umbrella organisation representing Indo-Fijians in their respective area. They were the first organisation in New Zealand which started commemorating Girmit Remembrance Day. They are at website:
President, Salim A Singh says the New Zealand Government decision was heartless and Mr Kumar’s demise should be on the collective conscience of the current Government. Mr Singh says he is confident such a decision would not have been taken by Governments led by leaders like the late David Lange, Helen Clark and Jim Bolger and that the manner in which this matter has been handled by the Government shows a clear departure from normal New Zealand humanitarian values.

The Association expresses its heartfelt condolences to the Kumar family.
E- Mail: Salim Ashwin Singh:

[FIJI PUNDIT also joins with Fiji Indian Association of Wellington, New Zealand, in expressing its deepest condolences to families of Sanil Kumar, who was sent to certain death by NZ Associate Minister for Immigration and her heartless and faceless bureaucratic advisers.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Girmitiya grandson pays tribute to his granddad and Girmitiyas.

A Girmitiya Grandson pays tribute to his forefathers from Italy

By Guest Writer, Ronald Ranjeet Roshan Singh

Fiji Girmit Foundation of New Zealand is creating awareness about indenture and Girmit history with the theme of: Reconnecting, reclaiming and restoring Indo-Fijian history.

The Foundation encourages and promotes commemoration of FIJI GIRMIT THANKSGIVING DAY on 14 May.

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 should not Girmitiya descendant Fiji Indians, thank, honour and celebrate those who sacrificed their lives and gave us the comforsts that they themselves never dreamt of?

Here, we are showing the respect and honour a 4th generation Girmitiya great-granson for his forebears. Hope this enlightenment and enthusiasm for their heritage is held by other young generation in the Indo-Fijian (Fiji Indian) Diaspora (in overseas countries), enjoying the comforts and good life in Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand. Little do they realise that this is entirely due to sacrifices, suffering and  vision of those ordinary people with extra-ordinary resolve -our FIJI GIRMITIYAS.

Ronald Singh's Girmitiya great- grandfather Bansi, who came to Fiji during tail end of Indenture (Girmit) from Karouli, Rajasthan, India in in 1915. A Bansi Reunion was held in Surrey, Vancouver, Canada in 2015 and in Ba, Fiji in 2016. This was to enlighten the fourth and fifth generations born in Fiji and abroad, about their history, heritage and tales of forebears. People overseas in Indo-Fijian Diaspora are encouraged to further light this flame and have such reunions to tell the new generation about their history. There is need need for them to having pride in these ordinary people with extraordinary dreams, vision and resolve.

Ronald Ranjeet Roshan Singh is a fourth generation Girmitiya grandson, who was born in New Zealand and spent most of his life away from Fiji. He is son of FIJI PUNDIT, Thakur Ranjit Singh. On FIJI GIRMIT THANKSGIVING DAY, he remembers his grandparents and is thankful to and appreciates his Fiji heritage. And he does it from the shores of Lake Garda in Italy.

Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy. It is a popular holiday location and is located in Northern Italy, about half-way between Brescia and Verona, and between Venice and Milan.  Here he pays tribute to his maternal and paternal grandfathers.

Guest Writer, Ronald Ranjeet Roshan Singh, who loves travelling and writing, is a fourth generation Indo-Fijian, yet appreciative of the unique culture given by Girmitiyas (Indian Indentured Labourers) in Fiji. He wrote this article some over 20 months ago from Italy. He is son  of FIJI PUNDIT Blogger, Thakur Ranjit Singh- like father, like son- having respect for your heritage and "pitra devata" -the departed forebears.

Here is an extract from his diary:

"Fiji Girmit Ancestors” – entry written Lake Garda, Italy around 5:45 am Sunday September 22, 2013. I had just called and spoken to my dear parents in Auckland, New Zealand (11 hours ahead).

Beautiful lake Garda also produces beautiful thoughts about your forebears.. it is important for young generation to have pride in their heritage. Ronald's writing is a challenge to other young people to develop an interest in their history and heritage.

Here beside Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy, in this moment, I am listening to Fiji Tambura Bhajan and Fiji Fagua; soulful, beautiful and unique music of my Fiji Girmit people created out of the hardships they endured. And I remember my two late grandfathers, Mr Hans Raj Singh and Mr Shiu Shankar. Truly great men."......And he continues this article.......

You both passed away when I was very young. Now, as a grown man who has traveled the world and is extremely thankful to have discovered himself, discovered the meaning of true, close friendship and discovered the meaning of life, your grandson is listening to music of our people so very, very far from tropical Fiji where your souls rest in peace.

Lake Garda, Italy
This moment reminds me of the hardships and sacrifices my people went through so that one day, their child could be learned and become a true Citizen of Earth and travel far and wide in comfort and reflect on his roots through soulful, beautiful and unique music. I kindly thank you Mr Hans Raj Singh and Mr Shiu Shankar and I kindly thank all you Girmitiyas.

Ronald Singh loves travelling. Here , he is seen in the upper deck of the largest passenger airline, Emirates Airbus A-380, on a trip from Melbourne to Auckland, where he travels often to see his parents and family. And he says he develops those writing thoughts when travelling.

This moment in time is for all you Girmitiyas. You are all here with me living, laughing and adventuring by the fresh waters of Lake Garda, Italy so very, very far from tropical Fiji. This is the precious result of your hardships and sacrifices. Not for one minute do I take this moment for granted. I truly count my blessings.

I have been blessed to be able to do so much in my life. I travel, I write, I surf, I ski, I skydive, I live life, I celebrate life. None of this would have been possible if it wasn't for your long term vision created from the difficulties you faced.  

Lake Garda, Italy
Words cannot describe how truly and kindly thankful I am to you all. Thank you so very much. And I promise you with all my heart that one day, my children and grandchildren will thank you as well.

Bless the precious souls of my two late grandfathers, Mr Hans Raj Singh and Mr Shiu Shankar. Truly great men. Bless the precious souls of the Girmitiyas. Truly great people.

Your forever thankful son, Ronnie (Mr Global Pacific Brother!)”


[About the Author: Ronald (Ranjeet Roshan) Singh is a New Zealand -born Kiwi who lives in Melbourne, Australia. Like his father, Thakur Ranjit Singh, he has got a flare and interest in writing. He intends to write a book on his travels and experience. He has a special Facebook page for his travels and views: "The Dancing Voyager-Ron Singh"

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Remembering Girmit on 14 May- this year and every year on

Remembering Girmit – May 14 - this year, and every year on

By Guest Writer,  Rajendra Prasad

Cover of " TEARS IN PARADISE - Suffering and Struggles of Indians in Fiji-1879- 2004" This is the book authored by our Guest Writer, Rajendra Prasad, who spent some seven years to research this book. He is also a Trustee of Fiji Girmit Foundation of New Zealand
On this Fiji Girmit Remembrance Day on 14 May, we salute the sacrifices and vision of our Girmitiya forebears. Their resolve ensured that the plan of British to keep Girmitiya children uneducated failed. Girmitiyas pooled in their own resources and built primary schools in the villages. They felt a strong conviction in their hearts that education of their children would liberate them from servitude and poverty. That is exactly what happened. Today, we are the beneficiaries of that vision.

Guest Write of FIJI PUNDIT, Rajendra Prasad, former Town Clerk of Ba and author of Tears in Paradise. He hails fro the the banks of Ba River at Vaqia, Ba, Fiji
Every year, the spectre of Girmit stalks us and again, around May 14 we will again appear before the tomb of Girmit with hearts laden with sorrow and gratitude for sacrifices of the pioneer generation. To many it is a distant memory, which is best left to dissipate and disappear in the mist of time. Ignorance is the fruit of their selfish choice but to people like me, Girmit cannot be erased from my conscious memory. It is the spring of my life where I return frequently to pay my debt of gratitude to the sacrifices that my grandparents made at the altar of Girmit. Their suffering and sorrows; grief and tears, nourished the lives of successive generations, leaving a debt of gratitude that cries for recognition and remembrance.

Our detachment from our Girmit history was another successful British plan. Successive generations were completely cut off, as if Girmit did not exist. The simple reason for this was that disclosure of British crimes against the Girmitiyas could have inspired them to seek redress. In addition to this, illiteracy was widespread until the emergence of the third generation by when the crimes of Girmit were submerged. History books written, largely by European writers, did not disclose the horrid crimes of Girmit to protect British interests. The descendants of the Girmitiyas were made to learn the history of other nations and cultures, including the British and indigenous Fijian history but not their own.

Koronubu Indian School - schools like this spread throughout Fiji were built through sacrifices of Girmitiyas, who spoilt the British plan of keeping Indians uneducated, and slaves for life.
In the British plan for Fiji, the descendants of the Girmitiyas were not to be educated to ensure that they remained a labouring class, working as cooks, gardeners and performing other menial tasks for their white masters. So provision of schools by the Government was scarce. This was one area where the British failed. The Girmitiyas did not wait for provision of schools by the Government. They pooled in their own resources and built primary schools in the villages. They felt a strong conviction in their hearts that education of their children would liberate them from servitude and poverty. It was a mammoth battle and the sweetest victory. If this vision of the Girmitiyas was not pursued with courage, wisdom and sacrifice, our community would have remained illiterate, unskilled and earning our livelihood as menial workers. For their sacrifices, the Girmitiyas placed upon us a debt of gratitude that must ring through generations. Education remains the most treasured weapon, bequeathed to us by the Girmitiyas, which will be the lamps to our feet in guiding us to our destinies.

Our Girmitiya forebears had simple life, but had vision for their children
The Girmitiyas endured their suffering and captured them in different ways. This bidesia, a deep lamentation, was composed in the sugarcane fields of Fiji by an unknown Girmitiya. It captures their helplessness, anguish, anxiety and pain.

Kali kothariya ma biteye nahin ratiyaan ho,
Kiske batayee ham peer re bidesia.
Din raat hamri beeti dukhwa mein umariya ho,
Sukha re naynwa ke neer re bidesia.

(In the dark rooms (of the coolie lines), the nights are difficult to endure. Who do we tell the depth of our pains? Day and night of our lives are consumed in suffering. Tears have dried from our eyes. [This song is normally sung in GITMIT DAY Commemoration in Auckland and elsewhere, where Indo-Fijian Diaspora has some pride and honour in their heritage and forebears, to mark this day]

When the cruel masters ignored their pleas and justice system failed them, they found relief and comfort, capturing their emotions in their own mysterious ways. In groups, they gathered, shared, consoled and wiped each other’s tears. Bidesia was a common song that Girmitiyas sang and shared. It was a folksong that captured the longing and lament of the heart of the victims and the singer, usually a woman, sang with tears streaming down.

Hard work paid in the end with a distinct Indo-Fijian culture.
When they were around, I did not, at that time, understand the depth of pain and sorrow that radiated from those innocent eyes, tormented minds and tortured bodies. I did not understand the bowed legs, caused by carrying heavy loads or those that walked with a limp. These were the emblems of Girmit that the Girmitiyas took to their graves. In the innocence of our bachpana (childhood) we teased, mocked or laughed at them and today, I want to hug and apologize to them for my failings. The very thought of it fills my eyes with tears. But where do I go? My heart pants with desire to mitigate my guilt. The least I can now do is to remember and pay my debt of gratitude to them on May 14 and seek forgiveness. We have built our lives on the foundations of their lives. I invite all Indo-Fijians to join me at this altar of gratitude.It will be partial redemption but satisfying.

*Rajendra Prasad is former Town Clerk of Ba and the author of Tears in Paradise – Suffering and Struggles of Indians in Fiji 1879-2004. His Fiji roots are at the banks of Ba river at Vaqia, Ba, Fiji. He is also a Founding tTustee of Fiji Girmit Foundation of New Zealand]

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A need for Indo-Fijians to reconnect, reclaim and restore their history

                                                                                                                                       A need for Indo-Fijians to reconnect, reclaim and restore their history

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Fiji Girmit Foundation of New Zealand is creating awareness about indenture and Girmit history with the theme of: Reconnecting, reclaiming and restoring Indo-Fijian history.
The Foundation is commemorating, and hence organising Girmit Remembrance Day at Skipton Hall, Mangere, Auckland on Sunday 18 May, 2014 from 1.30- 5.00pm. FIJI PUNDIT will have a string of articles leading to Girmit Day.

14 May is a significant date for Indo-Fijian Diaspora. On this day in 1879 the first ship load of Girmitiyas- Fiji’s indentured labourers – arrived in Fiji at Levuka in the historic vessel, the Leonidas.  I do not blame Indo Fijian for not knowing the history of their heritage, as our school history fails to recognise and acknowledge this fact, which appears to have been stolen from successive Indo Fijian generations. This article is intended to enlighten and awaken the silent pride of Indo-Fijian Diaspora, and urge them to observe FIJI GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY on 14 May of every year.

Leonidas, the first Indenture (Girmit) sail ship that arrived at Levuka, Fiji on 14 May, 1869. That is why MAY 14 HAS BEEN DECLARED: FIJI GIRMIT REMEMBRANCE DAY

Do you ever realise that we now have a distinct Indo-Fijian culture spread around the world? We are a group of Indian migrants, who not only retained their culture and traditions, but in fact strengthened them to the extent that wherever they are settled, they are a distinct breed of Indians, very different from the mainland Indians. We give credit for this preservation of Indianness to the foresight and vision of our Girmitiya forebears who gave priority to education. However, do Indo-Fijians have respect and pride in their heritage?

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?

Girmit Gang getting ready for work. They worked tirelessly to make Fiji what it is today, but Girmitiyas seem to have become derelicts of British Empire, and rarely reflected in History. 

It is time we inculcated pride of the new generation in their history. 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, sacrifices has been those Girmit journeys.

To realise this dream, a group of Indo-Fijians in Auckland New Zealand, have taken steps to reconnect, reclaim and restore Indo-Fijian history. FIJI GIRMIT FOUNDATION NEW ZEALAND has been formed, among other things, to regularly organize commemoration of Girmit in New Zealand every year, and also become an umbrella organisation representing all Girmitiya descendants.

The Foundation is headed by former Deputy General Manager of Fiji Broadcasting Commission, Pundit Devakar Prasad (Chairperson) and other members, among others, include Thakur Ranjit Singh, (Secretary), Krish Naidu (Treasurer), former parliamentarians Master Shiu Charan,   Sardar Harnam Singh Golian, Rajendra Prasad, author of “Tears in Paradise” , Radha Kanhai Reddy and Pundit Ram Kumar Sewak.
The Foundation is organising Fiji Girmit Remembrance Day on Sunday 18 May, 2014 at Auckland, New Zealand. This event is organized to provide opportunity to every Indo-Fijian family 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 day’s programme will remember sacrifices, progress and vision of our forebears through oratory, poems, music and tales of the past. This will be a journey through memory lane which will provide exposure to a history that has been stolen from us, and remains yet to be told. Fiji’s celebrated academic son and historian of Girmit, Professor Brij Lal is the Chief Guest He is Professor of Pacific and Asian History in the College of Asia and the Pacific at The Australian National University, Canberra. And hence he is a very fitting and appropriate Chief Guest.

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The Chief Guest at Girmit Day in Auckland will be Professor Brij Vilash Lal, who is Professor of Pacific and Asian History in the College of Asia and the Pacific at The Australian National University (ANU). He is a proud son of Fiji who has written numerous books on Girmit history to fill the vacuum in our history that the British failed to record.

It is a fervent hope of the Foundation that such activities would assist in restoration of Indo-Fijian history; not only in New Zealand, but everywhere Indo-Fijians are settled. Hence, the theme for this year’s commemoration is:

Reconnecting, reclaiming and restoring Indo-Fijian history

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. 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 unite and get organised and tell our new generation the tales of Girmit that history has failed to acknowledge.

[Visit Fiji Girmit Foundation Facebook]                                                       

 [About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a journalist, a blogger, a media commentator and former Publisher of Fiji’s Daily Post. He is the Secretary of Fiji Girmit Foundation New Zealand. He runs his blog site: FIJI PUNDIT, available at]