Sunday, July 27, 2014

Government by Greed: PART 2: Role of the Fiji Military

Government by Greed: PART 2: Role of the Fiji Military

By Guest Writer-Subhash Appana

SUBHASH APPANA, Guest Writer for FIJI PUNDIT blog site, giving you an insight into the historical role and intentions of Royal Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) and how it was intended to ALWAYS support a Fijian and Chiefly-led Alliance Government.

The British system of running the military with a class structure and inbuilt systems of discrimination became accepted practice. That’s partly why Indian demands for equal pay to join the military after 1939 was seen as treachery.

Selective recruitment had already been established as part of the Native Constabulary where loyal eastern Fijians (as opposed to westerners) had privileged access and Indians did not feature at all. Later Indians were barred through elaborate physical requirements of height and weight. This, after Indian troops from the sub-continent had already shed 85,000 lives for the Crown and Churchill had described them as “splendid fighting men”

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Role of the Fiji Military

The last Greed article focused on the Fiji Military and how it evolved from the Royal Army of Ratu Seru Cakobau that was used to subjugate renegade tribes in the highlands of Viti Levu, to the Armed Native Constabulary that confronted Indo-Fijian worker strikes, to the Royal Fiji Military Forces that saw Fiji through independence in 1970. Just what was the role of the RFMF in the independent, democratic sovereign state of Fiji was either deliberately or conveniently left unclear at that juncture.

Going back to Fiji military participation in the two world wars on behalf of Bolatagane (or Land of Men) and empire, WW1 (1914-18) was waged for “democracy”. The same happened in WW2 (1939-45) with its focus on thwarting fascism. And during the Malayan Emergency (1948-60), the enemy were communist insurgents who again presented a threat to democracy. Ironically, while these manly international campaigns were being waged for “freedom” and “democracy”, leaders in Fiji were totally unconcerned about the pleas of Fiji’s very own semi-slaves, THE GIRMITIYA.

The forgotten GIRMITIYAS, who Fiji's history as well as the colonial government ignored. While RFMF was waging  ' international campaigns" in honour and name of "freedom" and "democracy", the leaders in Fiji were blind to the plight of these slaves, under  another name for slavery - Indenture or Girmit.

Another, more insidious, military reality of the time involved the establishment of a white officer-class and a 2-tier system of pay and discriminatory recruitment into the military. Ironically Fiji’s most distinguished son, Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, joined the French Foreign Legion because of this very same discriminatory recruitment in the British Army – Ratu Sukuna was refused entry into the British Army.

British Army was an epitome of discrimination. Fiji's proud son and military leader, RATU SIR LALA SUKUNA,  was refused entry in the British Army, so he joined the French Foreign Legion.
At independence in 1970 Fijian troops had thus participated in 3 major British military campaigns on behalf of democracy, but were never really apprised of its mechanics and implications. The British system of running the military with a class structure and inbuilt systems of discrimination became accepted practice. That’s partly why Indian demands for equal pay to join the military after 1939 was seen as treachery.

Moreover, selective recruitment had already been established as part of the Native Constabulary where loyal eastern Fijians (as opposed to westerners) had privileged access and Indians did not feature at all. Later Indians were barred through elaborate physical requirements of height and weight. This, after Indian troops from the sub-continent had already shed 85,000 lives for the Crown and Churchill had described them as “splendid fighting men” (Mason 1976, Perry 1988).

Thus at independence the RFMF was loaded with eastern Fijians or those loyal to their chieftainship, had a predominance of chiefs at its apex, was not sure about its role within the democratic framework, and had ominous confusions about its loyalties vis a vis central government and the carefully nurtured chiefly system, which was always in effect, a shadow government.

It was contended in the last Greed article that the RFMF and the Fiji government were expected to be linked forever through chiefly control of both institutions. This was supposed to ensure military support for government at all times. Thus in the initial post-1970 scheme of governance (and politics), the RFMF was supposed to be a silent partner that could be called on at any time should the need arise. There were a number of problems with the assumptions underlying that model of governance.

Firstly, Fijian unity under the chiefly system was never guaranteed. Fiji was not alone in this regard as many other traditional societies continued to be challenged through the expansion of the paid economy and its links with modern education. The post-independence Fijian government attempted to slow the ravages of this process through an elaborate system of patronage within the civil service, but this lacked capacity and burst at the seams down the line.

RATU SIR KAMISESES MARA never envisaged the Alliance or the Eastern Chiefs to lose power. Advance indication of this was his loss in 1977, and later the loss in 1987 which resulted in Rabuka's coup.
In quick-time the very non-democratic doctrine of Fijian specialness that ensured Fijian unity found itself at loggerheads with the democratic doctrine of multi-racialism. This was the biggest problem Ratu Mara faced in the run-up to the 1977 elections. His main split with Koya came after he declared special access to scholarships for Fijians in 1975. Hard at his heels was also the hound of Fijian nationalism expounded stridently by firebrand Rewan, Sakeasi Butadroka. The April 1977 elections was thus shockingly lost by Mara and the Alliance Party because of a significant (30%) split in Fijian votes.

SIDDIQUE MOIDEAN (S.M.) KOYA should have been Fiji's first Indio-Fijian Prime Minister when Ratu Mara's Alliance Party lost the 1977 election to National Federation Party (NFP). Internal bickering within NFP gave an "excuse" to the Governor General, Ratu Sir George Cakobau to appoint a minority Prime Minister, Ratu Mara. This scenario was to repeat a decade later in 1987, when a similar thing repeated, with Rabuka's coup.
And while the NFP dithered on presenting SM Koya as PM to Governor General Ratu Sir George Cakobau, rumblings were clearly heard in little gatherings of forcing a takeover. In fact, part of the prolonged disagreement within the NFP also featured concern about how the RFMF would react to an Indian PM. The military option however, paled into insignificance as AG Sir John Falvey and others found a constitutional escape to form a minority government.

Ratu Mara was back as PM, the status quo prevailed and all was well again in God’s Fiji as the NFP hemorrhaged and the Alliance swept into power in the subsequent September 1977 elections. A serious concern however, had been verbalized: could the Fiji Army be relied on to remain neutral in the event of a win by a non Fijian Establishment-backed political party. On the other side of the political spectrum, glimpses had been seen of the role that the military could play in correcting the perceived injustices of a foreign system of governance – democracy.

The RFMF was thus seen as the last line of defence for the Fijian traditional system of governance and all that it entailed at that point in time. In fact expectations in this regard began to mount as the next elections loomed. In 1982, as election fever heated up, the nuclear component of the cold war swept the Pacific, and Fiji for the first time saw a foreign dimension in its elections as amid much acrimony and accusations the Alliance returned with a drastically slimmed margin. 

After 1982, it was clear that the Alliance Party was walking a tightrope. There were increasingly visible criticisms of the Mara government among Fijians, the patronage system of the 1970s had outgrown its capacity, and very importantly, the economy was in contraction mode. As government began to take forced unpopular decisions, the masses began to experience shared hardships.

A commonality of concerns and problems across the carefully established ethnic divide was thus developing in Fiji in a belated manner because it was blocked through selective policies earlier. If the 1970s presented a decade of euphoria and complacence, the 1980s demanded a hard look at reality, democracy and the ballot box. It is this that would finally force the military card in Fiji’s politics

[E-Mail: appanas@hotmail.com  / thakurji@xtra.co.nz

Stay tuned Part 3: Power in Perpetuity or Coup

It is no secret that the architects of the 1970 constitution, apart from the Indian delegation, envisaged power in perpetuity for the Fijian Establishment-backed Alliance Party of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara…..

Democracy in Fiji was thus meant to ensure power in perpetuity to the Alliance Party and no one could really expect any different for the country. The role of the military as a protector of this shakily established fa├žade of democracy was therefore, always open to revolutionary introspection – Rabuka’s coup should not have been such a big surprise.

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[About the AuthorSubhash Appana is an Indo-Fijian academic with Fijian family links. He was brought up in the chiefly village of Vuna in Taveuni and is particularly fond of the Fijian language and culture. Subhash has written extensively on the link between the politics of the vanua, Indo-Fijian aspirations and the continued search for a functioning democracy in Fiji. This series attempts to be both informative and provocative keeping in mind the delicate, distractive and often destructive sensitivities involved in cross-cultural discourses of this type.]

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Government by Greed: PART 1: The Fiji Military - Origins

Government by Greed: PART 1: The Fiji Military - Origins

Guest Writer- Subhash Appana


In Fiji Military, it was always assumed that Chiefs would be at forefront of power in Fiji. And that would have assumed Royal Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) would support the Government.  

The misplaced assumption was  that: 1) Fijians would always remain united under the chiefly system, 2) political opposition would only come from the Indo-Fijian, 3) the RFMF would always be led by a chiefly or chief-supported commander, 4) the RFMF would always support the Fijian establishment and  5) that Fijian chiefly rule would continue unbroken.

Each of these was to fall with time and propel the country into coup-coup land. Continue reading, and hope for more from our Guest Writer, Subhash Appana


The Fiji Military - Origins


This series has contended throughout that the 2000 coup and subsequent developments involving PM Qarase and his Gang were fuelled by greed – hence the name Government by Greed. Qarase’s cabal (gang)  had its roots in the Fiji civil service which since 1987 had been called on to play a more prominent role in Fiji’s politics. It was members of this cadre of civil servants, a number of disgruntled ambitious chiefs and members of the Methodist hierarchy who formed the platform on which Qarase and his Gang plied their plunder under the all-encompassing umbrella of “Fijian assistance”.

LAISENIA QARASE,  a clean-banker who was appointed as the Interim Prime-Minister of Fiji by Bainimarama, and later removed by him in 2006. After tasting power, he also developed greed, and suddenly transformed into an ethno-nationalist Prime Minster of I-Taukei only, and ignored the other races. This greed was his downfall, and that of democracy in Fiji.

The obvious question that arises then is: so where did the Fiji Military fall within this scheme? This article develops a brief historical outline of the evolution of the Fiji military and the changing roles that it has played in Fiji’s political landscape. The bulk of the focus (in ensuing articles) must, of necessity, fall on the role of the military in the 1987 and 2000 coups before any meaningful discussion can follow on the 2006 coup and Fiji’s present military-supported government.

Fiji's self-made "King" RATU SERU CAKOBAU

In 1874 when Governor Arthur Gordon arrived, Fiji’s self-made “king”, Ratu Seru Cakobau already had a Royal Army organized with the assistance of white settlers who had preceded colonization by Britain. In fact, Fiji’s very first coup took place in Levuka just prior to cession as Cakobau tried to organize a government that could levy taxes and control the whole country from a central administrative office.

At that time Bau’s hold on Fiji was precarious even though its designs were clear. Of particular concern was the non-acceptance of Bau rule by westerners and the “savages” from Colo and Navosa highlands. This was the first target of Gordon’s army and the bloody skirmishes that followed in the highlands is a thing of legend. That’s where the derogatory term “kai colo” comes from. Loosely translated it means junglee or uncivilized.

Sir Arthur Gordon's Little War against Kai Colos, using Fijians against Fijians

Following these campaigns Gordon amalgamated the Royal Army with the Fiji Constabulary (police) to form the Armed Native Constabulary as there was continuing need to subjugate the warrior-like tendencies that prevailed in pockets among the Fijian people. Furthermore, at the turn of the 19th century a third element began to become a national irritant – increasing demands for fairness and political representation by the undefined, un-understood and un-inducted girmitiya or Indian labourers.

The First Governor of Fiji, SIR ARTHUR GORDON, who was instrumental in carving out early history of Fiji, including formation of Great Council of Chiefs and indenture of Indians from India, which changed the demographic landscape of Fiji forever.

It was not long before the Armed Native Constabulary was turned onto this disturbance. A January 1920 strike by Indo-Fijian workers of the Public Works Department that spread into a bigger confrontation was suppressed by force using 200 Fijians from Lau and a number of others co-opted from Rewa and Navua – one Indian died in that attack (Gillion, 1977). One year later, the 1921 cane strike was suppressed by 250 Fijian constables from Bau commissioned through their chiefs.

Ongoing problems with atrocious working conditions within the sugar industry meant that rebellion was a constant threat. The forced suppression of 1921, where desperate workers were beaten up and bundled into submission simply hardened resolve and a second cane strike in 1943 saw soldiers being prominently posted around the western cane belt as part of an intimidation tactic during the strike. Little is made of the resentment towards this overt threat that led to failed negotiations between Ratu Sukuna on behalf of government and cane leaders. 

RATU SIR LALA SUKUNA

Later the December 1959 Oil and Allied Workers strike led by Apisai Tora and James Anthony invoked further threats of violent suppression by government (Lal, 1992, pp. 165-169). Again little was made of the multi-racial composition of that worker revolt as the army gradually became an unarticulated instrument to ensure that the Indo-Fijian population stayed in its undefined “place” and “behaved”. 

This has to be coupled with the fact that government in Fiji was predicated on the back of a traditional system that was shaped, fossilized and maintained by the colonial administration. The chiefly system thus formed the back of the liberal-democratic system that presented the “face” of government in Fiji after independence in 1970. It was therefore very important that the hierarchy seen at the back (ie. the chiefly structure) reflected that seen at the front (ie. the government).

An elaborate link between government and the military was maintained through a system of recruitment and promotion that ensured that those with traditional status (ie. the chiefs) progressed through the ranks faster and held positions of power within the military. A run through the list of commanders shows Brigadier D.J. Aitken, Colonel Paul Manueli (1974-79), Colonel Ian Thorpe (1979-82), Brigadier-General Ratu Epeli Nailatikau (1982-87), Major-General Sitiveni Rabuka (1987- 92), Brigadier-General Ratu Epeli Ganilau (1992-99), Rear Admiral Frank Bainimarama (1999 - 2014) and Brigadier-General Mosese Tikoitoga (2014 -).


Former Commanders of Royal Fiji Military Forces ( RFMF), from left Brigadier - General RATU EPELI NAILATIKAU ( 1982-87), Colonel PAUL MANUELI ((1974-79), Brigadier General RATU EPELI GANILAU (1992-99)  and Rear Admiral FRANK BAINIMARAMA (1999-2014)
A closer scrutiny shows that Paul Manueli became commander during the era of multi-racialism and at a time when there were virtually no other local candidates. Rabuka on the other hand, simply wrested the position through his coup. Bainimarama appeared at a time when there were no chiefly successors and commoner senior officers had begun to agitate for the position. The other 2 long-serving commanders of the RFMF were chiefs of very high rank.

Former RFMF Commander and original Coup - maker, SITIVENI RABUKA

Thus in the initial post-1970 scheme of governance (and politics) in Fiji, the hierarchy of the Royal Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) was supposed to reflect that of national government. And both were predicated on the chiefly system - chiefs were expected to be at the forefront of power in Fiji. This was the intricate link that guaranteed RFMF support for government.

The assumptions within this framework were that: Fijians would always remain united under the chiefly system, political opposition would only come from the Indo-Fijian, the RFMF would always be led by a chiefly or chief-supported commander, the RFMF would always support the Fijian establishment and that Fijian chiefly rule would continue unbroken. Each of these was to fall with time and propel the country into coup-coup land. 
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Stay Tuned: Part 2 : Government by Greed- Role of the Military. 

Read................


"Ironically, while these manly international campaigns were being waged for “freedom” and “democracy”, leaders in Fiji were totally unconcerned about the pleas of Fiji’s very own semi-slaves, the Girmitiya......"

"The British system of running the military with a class structure and inbuilt systems of discrimination became accepted practice. That’s partly why Indian demands for equal pay to join the military after 1939 was seen as treachery...."

[Read in Part 2...coming soon...]
 E-Mail: appanas@hotmail.com  / thakurji@xtra.co.nz
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[About the Author: Subhash Appana is an Indo-Fijian academic with Fijian family links. He has researched and presented papers at international conferences throughout the world. This has inevitably resulted in publications in respected international journals.

Subhash was brought up in the chiefly village of Vuna in Taveuni and is particularly fond of the Fijian language and culture. His paper on the Fijian chiefly system (2005) was the first of its kind after the landmark book on the same by Rusiate Nayacalou in 1975.

Subhash has written extensively on the link between the politics of the vanua, Indo-Fijian aspirations and the continued search for a functioning democracy in Fiji. This series attempts to be both informative and provocative keeping in mind the delicate, distractive and often destructive sensitivities involved in cross-cultural discourses of this type.]

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Fiji Girmitiyas: Ordinary people did extraordinary things in extraordinary circumstances.

Fiji Girmitiyas: Ordinary people did extraordinary things in extraordinary circumstances.

Professor Brij V. Lal

[Transcript and translation from Hindi by Thakur Ranjit Singh]

Professor Brij Lal clarifies our history, removes misconceptions, and implores Indo-Fijians to record their current history. He addresses audience at Fiji Girmit Remembrance Day in Auckland on 17 May, 2014.

Professor Brij Lal addressing audience at Calvary Indian Assembly of God Church during Girmit Remembrance Day on 17 May, 2014. Single-handedly, this proud son of Fiji from Tabia, Labasa, placed Fiji on the world map, and coined the word "Girmitiya" which is now recognized worldwide as referring to Indo-Fijian indentured laborers. His research cleared many misconceptions about Girmitiyas from India. 
This evening I am happy as well as pleasantly amazed to see so many of you. Happy because you have all come here and started a new life, which appears to be quite prosperous. Amazed because some two decades ago, such an occasion would have been impossible because of our fewer numbers then.

We have come from humble beginning, I, hailing from Tabia, Labasa, being a poor cane-farmer’s son, whose parents were not formally educated. My father had 10 acres of farmland, which now has been reserved and taken away. We came from a so-called era of “darkness”, without internet, IPad, e-mail or mobiles. We did not have Facebook or Twitter. Youngsters nowadays equate that with days of darkness, as they cannot live without these modern inventions and gadgets. Therefore, we the generation of Fiji Girmit descendants should be thankful for what we are today.

Church members enacting a wedding  song, as done during the days of Girmit, to seek some happiness and escape from a difficult life.

In 1987, we celebrated the 108th anniversary of girmit in Fiji. Then, our Indo-Fijian population was 50%, today it is a mere 34% and getting smaller. Now, magnets and our center of gravity have changed, they are now Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne, Calgary, Brisbane, Vancouver, Sacramento and so on. The irony is that between 1879 and 1916, some 60,000 Girmitiyas came to Fiji, but from 1987 to now, some 120,000 people have left the country – twice the number. This demographic transformation is a fundamental development - exodus of our people from Fiji. But to see all these people doing so well overseas is very pleasing and a wonderful thing. We need to appreciate that we went into Fiji through immigration, and came out through emigration. So, the history of our people will have a theme: from immigration to emigration: the history of Fiji Indians. Many people in decades to come may find it hard to believe that in the recent past, Indo-Fijians comprised 50% of Fiji’s population.

I recall my days in rural Labasa in the 1960s. My girmitiya grandfather used to socialise on a regular basis with other girmitiyas at our place. As a kid, I wondered, who these funnily-dressed, strange and unusual people were, speaking in a language that we did not understand. I wondered who they were and how they ended up in Fiji. Then, in 1970 I went to University of the South Pacific (USP) and later in 1977 when I went to do my PhD at the Australian National University (ANU), I had not forgotten these people. Then I decided to do a research on girmitiyas and find out: who they were, how and why they came to Fiji, under what condition and how they maintained their tradition, culture, language, religion and way of life.

Members of Calvary Indian Assembly of God Church  depicting Girmit attire.

You may appreciate that during the 1970s and before, there was very little written on girmitiyas or on Fiji. All the material was there in the archives, but there was little research. All the information about the girmitiyas was there in the Emigration Passes: next of kin, caste, where the immigrants were registered, what their districts of origin were, their age. Sixty thousand people came- 45,000 were from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Calcutta and nearby areas and 15,000 people after 1903 from Madras. In six months, I analysed the 45,000 Passes in a dark room at the National Library of Australia, 12 hours a day, viewing microfiche in a dark room, coded them and analysed through the computer. That was a novel experience then. Computers were giant, humming machines; there were no PCs. In those days there was an impression abroad and we were made to believe that the girmitiyas were like the flotsam and jetsam of humanity, people from the lowest strata of society. The British system made us believe this lie, the underpinning of colonial thinking was that since we were from the lowest caste, we did not deserve equal rights, we deserved the lower treatment, and whatever crumbs we got we should be thankful for that.

However my research showed that Indians who came to Fiji represented a fair cross-section of rural Indian society- people who came from Indo- Gangetic plains, from Bihar and nearby areas. People who came were of all caste: upper, middle, lower and so on. Because of that research, wherever you go in Indian Indenture Diaspora, people cite this research by an Indo-Fijian Professor Brij Lal, to show that they deserve better. Hence the mind-set of the people changed.

Master Shiu Charan, (left), a community leader , former Fiji Parliamentarian, and a Trustee and Executive of Fiji Girmit Foundation of NZ seen with Professor Brij Lal
And then, finding out where they were from. I spent one year in India and visited places where our people were from: Baharaich, Faizabaad, Gonda, Gorakhpur, Sultanpur, Azamgarh, Balia, Ghazipur, I have been to all these areas. I wanted to know why they left India. We are told that people were tricked and misled into coming to Fiji. This is true to some extent. But after living with the people, talking to them at length, I found out that Indians were on the move, in search of employment, within India, going to big cities with industries like Assam, Calcutta, Mumbai etc. Hence the idea of moving out to seek employment was nothing new to people from this part of the world. The people who moved out of India formed this mass of humanity who were out to seek employment.  They thought Fiji was somewhere near Calcutta and they could easily come back after earning for five years. The idea of our people migrating permanently was not in their heads. But once they had been out, they developed attachments to people and place, and were wondering what the reception would be if they returned to their villages. These were among some of the reasons why our people stayed back in Fiji.

Suicide

There were other subjects on which I did research and wrote short articles. One of them was “suicide”. In 1900, suicide rate among the Indian immigrants in Fiji was among the highest in the world, certainly compared to all the places where Indian indentured labourers went.

A tear-jerker, and emotional act, depicting hardship on plantation to child-bearing women, who were never given opportunity to take care of children, many of who die because of lack of care. In this enactment, the baby dies and the wailing of women left everybody in tears in the Church Hall, revealing the harsh reality of hardship for those pioneers who paved a better future for us through their suffering. They deserved to be remembered at least on Girmit Remembrance Day, day earmarked for their memory.
We were made to believe that women were the main cause of this, as there were fewer in number, and they changed their partners for gold jewellery. They were like mercenaries. Knowing Indian women, I found this hard to believe. Hence I did further research and sought information from a Suicide Register kept at National Archives in Fiji. These recorded, among others, when the people who committed suicide came to Fiji, at what age, when they were married, and how they died - things of that sort. There were some 200 cases of suicide between 1884 and 1920, and my research showed conclusively that blaming women was a gross misconception. What I found out was that the major cause was their disillusionment and despair with life on the plantations. They had come with high hopes of earning money, and the environment they found themselves in became unbearable, and hence they decided to end their lives.

My other paper was “Kunti’s cry”, the experience of Indian women on the plantations.  The other topics I studied were strikes and resistance, disease, death and so on. They are all there in my 400 page book “Chalo Jahaji” which I am leaving behind in your library for people to read.

"Chalo Jahaji" - the mammoth 400-page book by Professor Brij Lal, (right) being autographed before being gifted to Pastor Andrew Pratap (left) of  Calvary Indian Assembly of God Church. Looking on, in the center is author of "Tears in Paradise" Rajendra Prasad, who is also a Trustee and Executive of Fiji Girmit Foundation of NZ, which was behind getting Professor Brij Lal to Auckland. 

One of my life’s ambition has been to remember what others have forgotten or chosen to forget – to give our people a voice and a modicum of humanity, to give them a place at the table of history. We need to remind the new generation about our history: history doesn't only belong to the victors but to the vanquished as well. One thing I have done in life before I go is to give these voiceless people a voice-a sense of place, a sense of purpose. People will remember this aspect by history. I do not celebrate struggles and sacrifices and sufferings of our people. What I marvel at is how ordinary people did extraordinary things in extraordinary circumstances. We, their descendants, have inherited those traits and legacy of our forebears. And that is that even in difficult circumstances, we never give up and we never compromise. There is a kind of dignity within us, where did it come from? It comes from people who travelled thousands of miles in difficult circumstances, but never gave up. This is the legacy of Girmit that I think we are celebrating, not those horrible things we read in books many years ago.

Now, to my final point - our Girmit. In a sense this is our Girmit, really we are new Girmitiyas in the Indian Diaspora. The difference is that instead of coming in sailing and later steamships, we came via aeroplanes, but we are also starting afresh in a new country in new circumstances.

In my schooldays, we were discouraged from doing history. My teacher said History was for “no-hopers’. Good people do science, so we never bothered to ask the old timers about our past, we were embarrassed about our past, we did not want to be reminded of our long journey. Now when we want to know, they are gone. Now you are here, we will need to answer to our new generation about our story. That is why I implore you to put your thoughts down on paper, on videos. Our people are very resourceful, we are rich, earn money, have big houses, but we are poor because we do not preserve our history, and have that hollowness within us. Preserve your memories, write your own stories, even do it on video if you are not a writer; without memories, we are nothing. You, the elders of the community, have a responsibility to yourselves, to your children and grandchildren - to preserve the memories of our stories, Girmit is over, but your stories and memories have to be preserved.

Secretary and a Trustee of Fiji Girmit Foundation of NZ, Thakur Ranjit Singh (left) with Chief Guest for Fiji Girmit events in Auckland ( 17th and 18th May, 2014), Professor Brij Lal, who accepted the invitation to grace the occasion at his own cost.
The final point is: If we do not do this, who will? Thank you very much.

[This is English translation of Hindi speech by Professor Brij Lal at Calvary Indian Assembly of Church, Otahuhu, Auckland , New Zealand on 17 May, 2014 during occasion of marking Fiji Girmit Remembrance Day. Transcribed and translated from digital voice recording for FIJI PUNDIT blog site, by Thakur Ranjit Singh.]