The 1987 and 2000 coups have forced a good number of Girmit descendants to migrate for safety and security reasons rather than for greener pastures.
This was highlighted by Education Minister, Premila Kumar while opening the weeklong Girmit Carnival at Syria Park in Nausori.
Kumar says the 2000 coup saw further brutality, racial slurs, and the loss of fundamental human rights: freedom of thought, action, assembly, and religion.
She adds during this time Fijians failed to remember the socio-economic development and contributions made by the Girmitiyas during and after the indenture period.
The Minister adds this is the sole reason why the Fijian government adopted the 2013 constitution with a vision of a united and peaceful nation, where every citizen is treated equally.
“The true identity of all Fijians came with our 2013 constitution that allows everyone who is born in Fiji to the right to be called a Fijian, regardless of race, religion, color, gender or socioeconomic status. This is what we all enjoy today.”
Kumar says the resilience of indentured labourers from 1879 to 1916 must be recognized.
This includes their sacrifices to nourish our economy, with the sugar industry being a major economic driver.
The Minister also paid tribute to the 59 Girmitiyas who lost their lives after the Syria ship, which was carrying 498 indentured labourers, went aground in the Nasilai waters in Nausori.
The weeklong carnival ends next Saturday.