Girmit celebrations

A SERIES of events to mark 100 years since the last ship ferrying indentured labourers from India arrived in the country will begin in Lautoka on November 11.

Organised by the Fiji Girmit Council, the celebrations will include a carnival, trade show, book fair, moving history display, food, art and agriculture.

Association general secretary Jagannath Sami said sports events including soccer, rugby, netball, volleyball, hockey, cricket and golf were also part of the program.

Mr Sami added celebrations would also include a film festival, local drama and plays and musical performances at the Girmit Centre in Lautoka.

He also added an academic conference featuring local and international scholars on indenture and colonialism were also planned as well as debates, oratory contests and quizzes.

“Between 1879 and 1916, a total of 42 ships made 87 voyages, carrying Indian indentured labourers to work on sugarcane plantations in Fiji. A total of 60,965 passengers left India but only 60,553 (including births at sea) arrived in Fiji.

“Under their contracts or ‘girmit’, the indentured labourers were bonded for five years, working, living and often dying in squalid, degrading and brutal conditions. Public outrage in India forced a halt to the scheme in 1916.

“The last ship with immigrants, Sutlej V, with 883 indentured labourers arrived in Fiji on November 11, 1916.

“In 1917 indenture labour emigration from India was suspended. All existing indenture was cancelled on January 1, 1920.”