Girmit Day celebrations shape unit, reconciliation and healing
Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and former PM Mahendra Chaudhry embrace during the historic and emotional church service last Sunday to mark a day of forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. Picture: Fiji Government
By YUKTA CHAND
Girmit Day 2023 shone a transformative light on Fiji, sparking an unprecedented journey towards unity, reconciliation, and healing, while embracing the nation’s rich diversity.
The day, steeped in history, paid a heartfelt homage to the Girmityas, Indian indentured labourers, whose journey to Fiji under British colonial rule from 1879 to 1916 shaped the nation’s socio-cultural landscape.
Spearheading the historic act of reconciliation was Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, who called for forgiveness during a heartfelt service organised by the Methodist Church of Fiji last Sunday.
Emphasizing the divine nature of forgiveness, he said, “The power to forgive is beyond our human power. The power to forgive is Godly.”
Mr Rabuka, bearing his soul, clarified his intent:
“This confession isn’t on behalf of the vanua of Navatu or the Government, but on behalf of myself and those who participated with me in the coup.”
He shared the poignant fact that he had sought forgiveness 36 years ago for those who supported the 1987 military coup.
Standing alongside him in this pivotal moment, deputy PM Biman Prasad, spoke about the dawn of healing.
“Today, we see the beginnings of healing, a resetting of our moral compass, and a repairing of our social, moral, and political fabric,” he said.
He voiced his support for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, aiming to “close an ugly chapter of upheavals and halt the propagation of fear and ill-will”.
Echoing these sentiments, former PM and Leader of the Fiji Labour Party, Mahendra Chaudhry, commended the Methodist Church of Fiji for their role in organising the reconciliation service and urged everyone to participate in the healing process.
He advocated for a future devoid of political violence.
“We must look to the future and take concrete measures to prevent coups and other forms of political violence from ever again destroying the fabric of our society,” Mr Chaudhry said.
Amid these significant political dialogues, the Minister for Women, Children, and Poverty Alleviation, Lynda Tabuya, graced the Girmit Day by presiding over the India-Fiji friendship forum cultural performances and attire exhibition.
She accentuated the necessity of preserving Fiji’s rich cultural heritage and promoting understanding and tolerance among its diverse population.
“As children of this beautiful nation, I encourage us to enjoy diversity while understanding our unique culture and heritage,” she said.
Pundit Kamlesh Arya, the chairperson of the Girmit Day celebration and representative of Arya Prathinidthi Sabha of Fiji, echoed these sentiments.
“The significance of the day is noted with a public holiday (May 15) which awakens a very substitute emotional and provides us a stepping stone to direct and ensure us as a community that we are able to make greater input and greater strides and also build on the inclusivity and diversity,” Mr Arya said.
He revealed that the Sabha has arranged numerous events for the Mahila Mandal and Maha Gayatri Yaj, ensuring that everyone could partake in this historic commemoration.