Wednesday, October 12, 2022





FIJI PUNDIT - Thakur Ranjit Singh


Fiji Indians in general and Fiji Indian Seniors in particular in Auckland feel they miss out on most resources available and recognition as Fiji Indians because they appear to be a fragmented community. This weakness leads to them being discriminated against when funding resources are allocated, as they lack a united voice. 


FIJI GIRMIT FOUNDATION NZ, since it inception in 2012, has focussed on recognition of its Seniors/Elders. Pictured here are some elders over 80 who were recognised with Girmit medals in 2014, and three in the photo are no longer with us today. Om Satgati to them.

Some Fiji Indian organisations have complained of being denied funding when compared to sister Indian organisations, where funding appears to be handled by vested interests. To improve this poor state of treatment and image, Fiji Indian Seniors are organising the first ever event where its Seniors scattered around Auckland will come together to celebrate themselves in collaboration and cooperation to mark INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR ELDER PEOPLE, and seek their identity. This is at A1 Event Centre in Papatoetoe, Auckland on Sunday 16 October, 2022 from 11 am to 3pm.


Fiji Indians have been coming to New Zealand from early 1960 when they came here to cut gorse (scrub) to clear the land for farming. Some stayed back, others came in larger numbers since 1987 coup when David Lange allowed free entry and others through skills category like this author.


While there have been no separate record keeping of Fiji Indians, it is estimated that of the 300,000 Indians claimed to be in New Zealand, at least 40% are Pacifica Indians from Fiji, hence they number at least 100,000 if not more, and are not Indians in the real sense of the word. Many Fiji Indians feel that when it comes to statistics, Indians count them in, but when it comes to their recognition in other areas, including funding, they are ignored as aliens. They hope to unite to stop this anomaly.


The problem of getting correct numbers is because of conflicting, confusing and their muddled-up identity, where Fiji Indians are either classed as Indians, Asians, South Asians or others. They claim they are none of these but a distinct ancestry of Fiji Indians who rose from cane farms of Fiji over fourteen decades ago with a distinct culture, religious practices, language and as Pacifica identity.


To address this identity confusion the community is having talks with New Zealand government in general, and its Census team in particular to ensure they are properly recorded in the next census as FIJI INDIANS, a distinct Pacifica people. They make second largest Pacifica people in Aotearoa after Samoans, but have no separate category as Fiji Indians to identify their ancestry or ethnicity as a category in any official documents despite their large numbers. Even some students are denied scholarships reserved for Pacifica people, as they are wrongly classed as “Indians”


Three of the visionary founding Trustees of FIJI GITMIT FOUNDATION NZ. L-R: Thakur Ranjit Singh, Master Shiu Charan and Sardar Harnam Singh Golian. Masterji and Sardarji have now been elevated as Life members of the Foundation. The other three Founding Trustees are Krish Naidu and Author Rajendra Prasad, and Pundit Devakar Prasad (Deceased)

While individually Fiji Indians in Aotearoa have done well, they have failed to unite under one banner. There are multitudes of Mandirs, (temples) Mandalis, (religious groups), pocket Senior and other groups, but they rarely showed unity among themselves. Many are celebrated academics, lawyers, doctors, professionals in high positions, one has been a former Governor General, another is a High Court judge, one had been former MP, many successful businesses, there are many millionaires with huge property portfolio, doing very well. Yes, the community did and performed very well individually, but collectively, they have never been united as one people or never had any leadership or organisation which could unite them under one banner.


This was until 2012, when some six visionary Fiji Indian leaders got together and initiated FIJI GIRMIT FOUNDATION NZ, which after ten years of its existence, has made its presence felt, and is taking the argument of their identity forward and their recognition as Pacifica people. The term Girmit itself denotes them as Fiji Indians without mentioning any race, as their forebears came as Indentured Indian labourers over 143 years ago.


The Chairperson of FIJI GIRMIT FOUNDATION NZ, Sam Achary, presenting Girmit Recognition Award and Girmit Medal to 101 year old recipient at Girmit Anniversary in Auckland in May, 2022. The Foundation always emphasised on recognition and respect of its elders

The Foundation had already taken leadership position to unite Fiji Indians in NZ. Once again it showed leadership by initiating unity among separate Fiji Indian Seniors in collecting them together to mark International Day of Elder persons.


National Senior Citizens Day falls in August each year, and last August Fiji Indians Seniors had planned to come together at Shri Ram Mandir. However, they were halted by the lockdown a week before the event after everything had been planned and finalised. Since then and even after clearance from Covid, this initiative was placed on the backburner and was forgotten.


The recipients of Fiji Girmit Recognition Award for elders with Life Members of FIJI GIRMIT FOUNDATION NZ, Harnam Singh Golian and Shiu Charan during 140 th Anniversary in May 2019.

It would have remained so, however, Fiji Girmit Foundation NZ, together with Waitakere Seniors Association, and three other Fiji Indian Seniors came together to complete the unfinished business and mark International Day of Elders, and work collectively and collaboratively.


International Day for Older Persons, with emphasis on elder abuse awareness falls in October every year with the underlying theme of Building Strong Support for Elders.


Fiji Indian Seniors have organised this jointly with the intention of three-pronged (trishul/trident) approach, (1) with a view to celebrating International Day for Seniors, (2) marking Fiji Day and (3) holding discussion on a possible future formation of an umbrella body, uniting as one group of Fiji Seniors, to get noticed and recognised.


A group of Fiji Indian Seniors in Fiji Girmit anniversary function in May, 2022 in Auckland

Hence, FIJI GIRMIT FOUNDATION NZ, together with Auckland Fiji Indian Senior Citizens Association, South Auckland Senior Citizens Association and Waitakere Senior Association, has taken the ball up to unite Fiji Indians in Auckland. Some other Seniors from West and South Auckland were invited but they opted out and it is hoped they will join later. However, their members individually are attending and other Fiji Indian seniors are attending as well.


The International Day for Elders on Sunday 16th October, 2022 at A1 Event Centre in Papatoetoe is meant as a day for the Elders, by the elder and of the elders where they will mix and mingle, have information sharing, sharing refreshment and lunch, sharing talks on health, mental, Seniors Wellbeing, and most important, singing, dancing and entertainment. Even Thakur and Thakuraain are performing a dance item, with other Waitakere Seniors on the 1959 Dalip Kumar/Vaijantimala song, “ure jab jab julfein teri.” Another Senior group is reported to be preparing a Fijian (Itaukei) song, the famous ..”Chulu lulu..” to mark Fiji Day.


A reflection to 2015 Girmit Anniversary in May, 2015 in Auckland when the Chief Guest was the then Foreign Affairs Minister of Fiji, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola (Centre), who is now the Fiji High Commissioner to New Zealand. Flanking him are the Founding Trustee of the Foundation, Author Rajendra Prasad (left) and Life Member, Sardar Harnam Singh Golian (right)

Indeed, it is meant as a historical day where Fiji Indians in general and their Elders in particular, will put a stamp on their unity and identity, and seek resources and recognition that they have been missing on by pledging to work in cooperation and collaboration.


Happy International Day for Elder Persons in general, and Fiji Indian Seniors in particular.



[About the author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a journalist and media commentator who operates his blog FIJI PUNDIT. He is a community worker within Fiji Indian Community in New Zealand and passionate about improving the wellbeing of his people who are fighting for their true identity and resources they deserve with their large numbers]



Thursday, April 21, 2022






Thakur Ranjit Singh

The greatest Fiji Historian and Girmit son, Professor Brij Lal said our Girmitiyas were ordinary people who did extraordinary things in extraordinary circumstances. We have inherited their trait to 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.

And in doing so, they developed and used items before the modernisation to make their living-the artifacts, tools and equipment to make their living. 

This article illustrated and explains some of them. They are not exhaustive, but includes many.


Dhenki (pronounced as “dharki” as well)

This traditional rice husker was constructed using a wooden beam and a stone bowl. To work this machine one had to step on the rear end of the beam, which had crude cuts to provide some grip. Once stepped on, the beam was then released, allowing the front of the beam to fall into the stone bowl containing the grains of rice. This process was repeated until all the grains were husked and ready to be separated from the chaff using the soop. Length: 2.3m.


Originally known as the kula in India, this type of basket was woven from strips of bamboo and was brought to Fiji by the Girmitiyas who later called it 'soop' in Fiji Hindi. After the rice was separated from the stalks (threshing) and husked using the dhenki (rice husker), women used the soop to shake and toss the rice so that only the grain was left as the chaff blew away into the air.


Fiji Indians call this agricultural tool the hasua. There were two variants of this sickle. One was constructed from a curved metal blade attached to a wooden handle and the other was forged entirely out of metal. The hasua was generally used by Girmitiyas to harvest crops like rice and wheat.


The chakki is a grinding tool made from naturally occurring stones with rough surfaces and was used to grind spices and grains. It consists of a stationary stone disk on the bottom, upon which another stone disk is rotated using an attached wooden handle.

Crosscut saw

There was more than one type of crosscut saw used during indenture. This two-person crosscut saw was symmetrical and had a peg-tooth design which ran the entire length of the saw. The tooth side of the saw was slightly crescent-shaped. The attached wooden handles allowed labourers to each pull on their end and thus accomplish the task of sawing timber.


Hand rice pounder

Although it required more labour than when using the dhenki, this simple but carefully designed tool was also used to husk rice. It basically works like a mortar and pestle. The object shown is the pestle, while the mortar part of the pounder (not shown) is generally a stone cylinder, but in some countries in Asia it is also wooden. The thicker part with a metal ring on the end is what goes into the rice-filled mortar. The narrow section closer to the top of the pounder is where women would hold it.


The Kurpi was fashioned out of tin and steel with a curved wooden handle attached to it. When not using their bare hands, women would squat in fields using this type of traditional hand hoe to clear the weeds.

Wood planer

This type of wood planer from the Girmit era has been used throughout the centuries across many cultures. It is a woodworking tool which was simply used to smooth out rough or uneven wooden surfaces.



Sil -Lohra and Karahi

Sil is only useful with a lorha.

An East Indian utensil made of stone and is used to grind seasonings and spices. The sil is the flat stone where the seasonings or spices are placed on top of.  The Lorha grinds the seasonings on top of the sil. 

Their union is so essential that even in Hindu weddings, the bride and groom have to touch their foot to sil - lorha when going round the fire in "bhawar" to symbolise that one is useless without the other.

Karahi and Channa- (Puri waala -Above Sil-Lohra in the photo above)

The black Karahi or what Chinese call a wok, is used for deep-frying/making Puri during weddings and other functions. Puri is taken out from the boiling oil/Ghee with the help of channa, a metal scoop with holes , that collects puri, but lets the oil dring back into the Karahi. A Chimta may also be used.



Churning of milk-dahi to extract butter and then by product Matha-buttermilk -used for making lassi and other drinks.


 Hurricane Lamp

Hand-pushed grass -cutter

Benzine/kerosene light

Cane-top, grass -chopper

Normally cane tops are chopped, and mixed with molasses and fed to cattle

Coconut Scraper

Used for scraping coconut to make into sweets or squeeze for coconut milk

Kerosene Primus

Used for cooking food

Grog Pounder

Either made of iron, or wood, used for pounding Kava, yagona

Lentil Mincer

Used to mince lentils, dhal and other grains to be used to make into other food. May also be used to mince meat.

"Negro" Cast Iron pots

Used for boiling milk and other food items

Mohar (Mohur)

The Mohur is a gold coin that was formerly minted by several governments, including British India.

It used to be worn in thick black thread around neck of women and were passed down the generations during weddings. Like a new bride gets one or some from the woman leader of the family. 


Assorted Displays 


The above has been an illustration and explanation on the early tools and equipment used by the pioneer Indians in Fiji.

This would give good exposure and information, especially to many in the new generation in Fiji Indian Diaspora, who may not have used or seen these items. 

Once again, a salute to those Girmitiyas.



Sunday, February 20, 2022




Thakur Ranjit Singh

Synopsis of Parts 1-3

Part 1

After 4 coups and approval by four Prime Ministers, the tertiary health project seems to be stuck now with Fiji First government which seems to frustrate this development by going into a PPP - a public, private partnership with an Australian company ASPEN, which is not suited to what is proposed by the two doctors. Agreements with them (Aspen) were signed over 3 years ago to run Ba and Lautoka hospitals, but little progress to date, except broken promises.

The whole series of articles suggest and plead to people of Fiji to change the government if they wish to see changes to the trend of dying people in our sick and run-down hospitals, and where a 40-year project is now hindered by the Fiji First Government.

Part 2

We defined levels of hospital services: primary, secondary and tertiary. We have primary and secondary services which are acutely run down, and despite claims from ASPEN, Lautoka Hospital cannot be redesigned to work as a tertiary facility where they can hardly afford toilet papers and basic needs, with buildings and facilities falling apart.

An advantage of the new tertiary institution is the synergy of support from a highly educated Fiji Indian Diaspora in medical services around the world, and their contacts with medical fraternity who could help in this project. In addition, retired Fijian Diaspora, Fiji people who left because of deficient health services may wish to come back. Hence this project brings great deal of economic, social, tourism, patriotic, agricultural and other associated benefits.

Both Bainimarama and Khaiyum would have been treated here in Fiji with top-class international medical care and facilities if this project was allowed to proceed when they took charge to clean Fiji up over 15 years ago.

SITIVENI RABUKA - The leader of Peoples Alliance Party (PAP), commanding the lead in polls in Fiji election is likely to be a mover and shaker in the next government. He is a supporter of the Tertiary institution, and like Mahendra Chaudhry, remains the other former PM of Fiji who has given their blessings to this development in Fiji and still support South Pacific Hospitals in Fiji. Therefore this project will proceed if he becomes the next Prime Minister of Fiji, or a key decision-maker in the next government.


Part 3

Financial viability is through insurance coverage by FNPF, Civil servants, FSC for cane farmers, Land Owners via ILTB, Fiji care and all other institutions with medical coverage for their employees or members.

This facility would further enhance regional cooperation with treatment and training facilities for Pacific countries lacking tertiary hospitals.

Lautoka hospital which is now politically projected by Fiji First for tertiary facility is ill-equipped to do that with basic facilities and support missing. It could be a good recuperating and healing facility after a thorough renovation and cleansing. A secondary hospital, with Asbestos which cannot provide toilet papers and Panadol cannot be expected to be turned into a 24/7 heart by-pass facility overnight.

Now let’s see why and what a brand-new tertiary facility looks like, especially for those who think a rusty 737 (Lautoka Hospital) can be repainted and converted to a Jumbo 747. (Tertiary Hospital). No, we need a new one which delivers reliable facility. Please read why and what….

LAUTOKA HOSPITAL - A secondary hospital, with asbestos, and grossly run-down, lacking basis amenities like toilet paper, Panadol and pillows, is now used as an election gimmick by the Government to provide 24/7 heart bypass tertiary hospital. First it needs to be renovated to provide the services for which it was originally built than to be falsely, mischievously  and politically elevated to a higher level it cannot medically do. No surgeon worth his salt would wish to operate in this junk which lack of vision and underfunding has degenerated it into.


Current State of Fiji Healthcare

The South Pacific Islands region is one of the very few frontiers in the world where there is limited tertiary care facilities available to the citizens. This affects growth in many industries including tourism. The current hospital structure is struggling to provide services in accordance with the demand.

With underfunding and lack of successive visionary medical leaders in Fiji governments, hospital facilities are grossly rundown.

Fiji has a high rate of diabetes and hypertension with kidney damage. Basic services such as haemodialysis are not readily available. Current treatments for Cardiovascular, Neurological and Kidney diseases are not readily available in Fiji. Many people migrate because of lack of good health care. Currently patients travel abroad to India, New Zealand or Australia if they can overcome stringent Visa requirements.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports show that up to 82% of the population will succumb to NCD (Non-communicable diseases) in the region and hence tertiary health care services are critical to address this plague.

Non-communicable diseases are chronic health conditions that are not contagious to others. The main types of NCD are cardiovascular diseases (such as heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes


A study by Asian Development Bank (ADB) identified that tertiary health care facility is very important for economic development of the region as well.

What will the proposed hospital provide:

·      A healing environment that incorporates advanced technology and full spectrum of advanced tertiary health care. The high site of the facility with exotic unhindered sea view is classed as a great healing balm.


·      A world-class specialty health care facility at affordable cost. No relocating cost overseas, no visa-issue, and cost-effective healing accommodation at a renovated Lautoka hospital, with specialist care facility next door.


The facility will also provide the development of postgraduate training programs for doctors, nurses and allied health professionals for Fiji and the entire South Pacific Region. This would enhance regional cooperation raptured by a myopic USP Vice Chancellor saga of the Fiji First Government.


Facilities in the proposed hospital


·      120 – 200 beds, with a provision to go up, depending on the demand.


·      Specialised Operating Theatres


·      Dialysis chairs/machines


·      Extensive Diagnostics capabilities


·      Very Comprehensive Medical Laboratories.


·      Pharmacy


·      Specialist doctors in various different areas of medicine.


Clinical Profile:

▪ Accident & Emergency ▪ Critical Care Medicine ▪ Day Surgery Unit ▪ Outpatient ▪ Diagnostics Centre ▪ Education Centre ▪ Neurology Unit ▪ Cardiology Unit ▪ Gynaecology Unit ▪ Orthopaedics Unit ▪ Nephrology Unit ▪ Oncology Unit ▪ Rehabilitation Unit


SOUTH PACIFIC HOSPITA, as proposed by Prime Health South Pacific would provide state of art facilities, as detailed in this article. This has been a dream in making for the last four decades, and can only become a reality in Fiji if there is a change of Government. The Fiji First Government is not giving approval for these facilities which Fiji acutely deserves.

State-of-the-Art Technology

▪ The latest MRI and CT scanners. MRI is magnetic resonance imaging. It determines the extent of injury, and whether the person needs surgery. CT scan is a computerized tomography (CT) scan which combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angles around your body. CT scan images provide more-detailed information than plain X-rays do.

▪ Dual head gamma camera ▪ Third generation operating rooms ▪ Referral laboratory ▪ Fully equipped ambulance


Key benefits

·      South Pacific Hospital (SPH) is to provide low cost, high-powered tertiary healthcare, to the people of Fiji and the South Pacific region.


·      Stimulate improvement in healthcare generally in other government and private hospitals around Fiji and the Pacific.


·      Boosts tourism potential and promote medical tourism to the region. As already stated, there is huge potential of this with huge tourism facilities in Fiji.


·      Stop the tremendous loss of foreign exchange from Fiji when patients seek expensive tertiary healthcare overseas. Furthermore, it can potentially earn significant foreign exchange once we develop world class health tourism.


·      Traditionally, Fiji has depended on Australia, New Zealand and India for its tertiary healthcare. This has added to the vulnerability of the nation as restrictions have been put on Fijian lives. This dependency will cease


Target markets


A.          Local Fijians ▪ Emergence of the Empowered Consumer ▪ Increasing Accessibility to Health Insurance. Insurance for FNPF members, Cane Farmers, Civil Servants, Teachers, Land Owners through ILTB and those already covered by specialist medical cover. No need to travel overseas, costs and visa issues.


B.          General Tourists - Tourism has seen a boom in entire South Pacific region. This will prevent exodus of such tourists needing medical attention to overseas. Medical tourism is a multi-billion income worldwide and Fiji can tap into this market as a low-cost centre in exotic tourist location with tourism infrastructure like Thailand.


C.           South Pacific Islanders -Aims to develop a HUB and Spoke Model, with hub being the advanced Tertiary care hospital in Fiji supported by Secondary care facilities in neighbouring countries, like Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga and others.


D.          Medical Tourists ▪ Better quality care ▪ Improved patient experience ▪ Excluded treatments ▪ Speciality treatments ▪ Shorter waiting periods.


E.           South Pacific Diaspora -There exists a large proportion of South Pacific Diaspora in Australia, New Zealand and West Coast of US and Canada that will travel to Fiji in order to access the affordable and quality healthcare facilities.


BA HOSPITAL - This white elephant has been sitting idle for some four years while Ba people have been dying in large numbers in a very deficient and run-down Ba Mission Hospital. Fiji First, to frustrate South Pacific Hospital project has gone into a partnership with Aspen three years ago but little has eventuated. The only way for people of Fiji to improve health services is to see a change of government with visionary leaders.

Strategic Partner -VAMED

·      VAMED is a global provider for hospitals and other facilities in the healthcare sector. 

·      The VAMED portfolio ranges from project development, planning and turnkey construction via maintenance, technical, commercial and infrastructure services to the total facility management of healthcare facilities.

·      With its range of services, VAMED covers all areas of healthcare, from prevention and wellness to acute care, rehabilitation and nursing.

·      VAMED is also the leading private provider of rehabilitation services and, in health tourism, with VAMED Vitality World, the largest operator of thermal spas and health resorts in Austria.

·      Unlike ASPEN, the choice of Fiji First which is an outsourcing operation, VAMED provided full support from the scratch to the end.


CWM HOSPITAL -this has been a pride of Fiji in its prime, but sadly, like Lautoka Hospital, it has been run down and so severely deteriorated that it stinks of human faeces (s***) as one goes to visit their loved ones. With a Tertiary health services proposed by South Pacific Hospital, it will help uplift the capabilities, capacities and speciality services provided by this secondary facility, which also lacks very basic amenities and facilities. Only a change of government and vision can change this sad state of affairs.



Election Gimmick


Fiji First has gone in the election mode and started misleading people with information on medical services that defies logic and reality.


They claim to have 24/7 heart bypass facility at Lautoka Hospital, which is infested with asbestos materials, and can hardly provide toilet paper, Panadol and pillows for its patients. When and how it can be converted to a tertiary facility defies logic. It is an election gimmick.


Fiji government signed PPP (Public Private Partnership) with Aspen over three years ago and no movements are seen at either Lautoka or Ba hospitals to date.


Fiji First Government preventing this development


As already mentioned earlier, this project had been approved by four previous Prime Ministers stretching over 40 years but prevented due to various reasons, especially political instability. Two former PMs, Sitiveni Rabuka and Mahendra Chaudhry are still there, standing in the upcoming election, and they wholeheartedly support this project.


However, Fiji First Government is denying approval for this project, which VAMED would only commence, with approval from Fiji Government. One wonders who is so medically qualified and medically astute amongst Fiji First advisors to deny this facility to Fiji people, and under what rationale?

Aspen cannot provide the requirements as provided by VAMED partnership, and it has been utter failure in the last three years. In the meantime, common Vili and Ramu are dying in run down hospitals, while Fiji leaders are airlifted to Singapore and Australia for their medical treatment.


SITIVENI RABUKA - The leader of Peoples Alliance Party (PAP), commanding the lead in polls in Fiji election is likely to be a mover and shaker in the next government. He is a supporter of the Tertiary institution, and like Mahendra Chaudhry, remains the other former PM of Fiji who has given their blessings to this development in Fiji and still support South Pacific Hospitals in Fiji. Therefore this project will proceed if he becomes the next Prime Minister of Fiji, or a key decision-maker in the next government.

Choice for Fiji People


The only way Fiji will have the facility outlined above is to have visionary, thinking, accommodating, compassionate and visionary leaders, which it lacks now.




FIJI PUNDIT now rests his case. The ball now is in the court of the voters of Fiji.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is former Publisher of Fiji’s Daily Post newspaper. Thakur was fired and removed from positions by two diametrically opposed Prime Ministers: Chaudhry and Qarase for speaking the truth frankly, without fear or favour. This series of articles reflect this trait. He is a media commentator, a journalist and runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT. Thakur is a Post Graduate in Journalism (with honours) from Auckland University of Technology, (AUT), NZ.