‘We are still not free from the legacy of discrimination….’

Mr Bainiarama said "we were still witnesses to the ugly faces of ethnic and religious hatred in Fiji". Picture: RAMA

“WE are still not free from the legacy of discrimination that defined the darker era of our history”, says Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

While officiating at the Fiji Girmit 140th anniversary celebration at the Albert Park in Suva yesterday, Mr Bainiarama said “we were still witnesses to the ugly faces of ethnic and religious hatred in Fiji”.

“Those voices may have been pushed to the fringes of our society, but they have not disappeared,” he said.

He said Fijians must remain vigilant to ensure those old forces “never creep back into the mainstream of our national life”.

Mr Bainimarama also labelled it a “shame” that many people in Fiji just heard the story of Girmitya’s for the very first time yesterday.

He said for far too long, the history of the Girmitya’s had languished on the side-lines of Fijian history. “It’s a shame that so many in Fiji are just now hearing the stories that I’ve brought with me this morning for the very first time, only because I’m standing here as your Prime Minister, telling you them in person,” he said.

“Please, let us not let this legacy go to waste.”

Mr Bainimarama pleaded with teachers who attended the celebration to carry the universal lessons of Girmit with them to their students with a renewed passion in the years ahead.

He added that while many of those stories may be deeply tragic, they also represented a stunning triumph –– a triumph of human dignity in the face of crushing adversity.

“To the students, whatever your background, I implore you to become ambassadors for preserving and spreading the stories of the Girmitya for years to come,” he said.

“Let us use today’s commemoration as a celebration of what the Girmitya endured, what they contributed to our society, our economy, and our culture, and what we can achieve together, working hand-in-hand, as we continue to progress Fiji forward.”

Fiji saw the arrival of the Leonidas, a ship that travelled many thousands of kilometres from British India on May 14, 1879.

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