(From L-R): Mr Hasmukh Lal, Pacific TAFE Director, Honourable Jone Usamate, Chief Guest and Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations and Honourable Dr Brij Lal, author of the book, during the launch.
The Pacific Technical and Further Education (Pacific TAFE) of The University of the South Pacific (USP) hosted the launch of a book titled, Forgotten Struggles of Fiji Girmit on 12 May 2017 at its Workforce Development Training Unit in Walu Bay, Suva.
The book, authored by Honourable Dr Brij Lal, brings back the forgotten memories of Girmit and stories associated with Girmit in Fiji.
It also brings back memories of India, journey from India to Fiji, Girmit Life in Fiji and Life after Girmit. The launch coincided with this year’s Girmit celebration.
Honourable Jone Usamate, the Chief Guest and Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations, while launching the book encouraged everyone to read it.
Honourable Usamate urged people to read and learn about each other’s history, culture and tradition.
This, he added, will give them the ability for a better understanding of history and thus make Fiji a better place for all.
“This book is dedicated to the family members, but it is worth reading by all. I am sure it will motivate others to do similar writing. I encourage everyone to buy a copy of the book and refresh your memories with the forgotten struggles of Fiji Girmit,” Honourable Usamate said.
The book also contains the history of the start of formal education in Fiji, establishment of all Indian organisations in Fiji during girmit, the progress made by Indians in business, purchase of land, farming and their family lives.
Honourable Dr Lal has included historical information about Labasa and Bua. While Labasa developed due to its cane farming, Bua has a history of sandal wood and the tea and coffee farms of Wainunu.
As part of his address, Honourable Dr Lal talked about the title of the book, Forgotten Struggles of Fiji Girmit, which suggests that the book contains bulk of the information and pictures that are several years old, and a reminder of the of struggle of the Girmityas.
“It is this struggle of our forefathers that has made us what we are today,” Dr Lal highlighted.
Honourable Dr Lal informed the guests that the book tells readers that there were Indians in Fiji before the arrival of the first ship Leonidas in 1879.
He further stated that the first Indians to arrive in Fiji were those that came on ships to collect sandalwood in Bua in 1805. There was a dispute on the ship and an Indian jumped off the boat, swam to the shore and stayed back in Bua.
Honourable Dr Lal also talked about other Indians who arrived in Fiji before 1879.
“A good book has no ending so I have challenged my grandfather’s third or fourth generation to expand this book by updating it,” he said.
Mr Hasmukh Lal Director Pacific TAFE, said that University encourages Pacific Islanders to write about Pacific heritage to preserve the knowledge and cultural practises.
Mr Lal added that Forgotten Struggles of Fiji Girmit is a pertinent publication, which preserves the experience of indentured labourers and educates the current generation.
“Writing culture is diminishing in this fast paced globalised society and it is imperative to reincarnate or else our future generation will not have anything to find in retro world,” Mr Lal said.
The book is being sold for FJD 15 in local book stores.
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