Retiree’s ‘other’ duty

AT over 60 years old, a retired Chandra Singh could have sat back and enjoyed the fruits of work from his younger days. But the former civil servant is not ready to retire from his “other” duties.

“I had been involved in community work in Caubati Housing area since 1997 when Nasinu area was under the administration of Suva Local Rural Authority,” he explained.

“I have also served as the president of Sivi Rd (Caubati) Tenants Association and secretary of Nasinu Development Network Committee that was done through the Housing Authority (of Fiji). I am also a justice of the peace and provide voluntary service to members of the public,” he said proudly.

Born in Rakiraki, Chandra was brought up mostly by foster parents in a farming community in Wairuku. He received his primary/secondary education in Rakiraki and tertiary education in India, New Zealand and Australia.

“I have 28 years of experience in the government’s Ministry of Information starting as an assistant information officer in June 1981 and rose to the position of senior information officer in October 1995.

“I retired from civil service in 2009 and served as the communication officer with Save the Children for two years (2011-2012).”

But a topic that is very close to the heart of the Rakiraki native is the preservation and promotion of the Indian tradition/culture and language of Hindu communities in Fiji.

Chandra is the assistant secretary of GOPIO (Fiji) or the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin in Fiji. The organisation looks into the welfare of descendants of indentured labourers around the world.

Its Fiji office was launched on March 19, 2017 in Suva by the former minister for education, Dr Mahendra Reddy.

“It is estimated that around one million indentured labourers were taken to around 20 countries between 1834-1917 and the largest group went to Mauritius, British Guiana, Tobago, Trinidad, Natal/South Africa, Fiji, Jamaica, Surinam and East Africa,” said Chandra.

“There are now migrating generations living in various parts of the world that includes the US, Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands, France, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other smaller nations.

“Many descendents of indentured labourers are providing exceptional services in the political, economic, social, cultural, medical, science and other fields in many parts of this globe and their contributions are highly respected and recognised.”

According to Chandra, the GOPIO International was established in 1989 in New York with chapters in several countries around the globe. There are now 80 such chapters spread around the globe with an estimated 30 million people of Indian origin living outside India.

“GOPIO’s large objective is ‘Think Globally and Act Locally’. It is a non-partisan, non-profit, secular organisation and its volunteers are committed to also building bonds, friendships, alliance and comradeship,” said Chandra.

While he carries on diligently with his work with the organisation, the 60-year-old says he is content with what they have achieved.

“The indentured labourers are no longer around us but the third and forth generations of Indo-Fijians have integrated themselves into the Fiji landscape, continue to be part of this multiracial nation and are fully supportive of the economic development of this nation.”

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