The People’s Alliance Leader, Sitiveni Rabuka.
The People’s Alliance Leader, Sitiveni Rabuka has denied claims that his 1987 coup and the 2000 coup forced the Girmit descendants to leave the country.
As Fiji is celebrating the 143 years of the arrival of the Girmitiyas as indentured labourers to work in sugarcane fields, Minister for Heritage and Arts, Premila Kumar highlighted the struggles they endured during their journey.
Kumar says the Girmitiyas faced abuse, deceit and violence between 1879 and 1916, while contributing to the development of our nation.
The Minister says sadly on 14th May 1987, the anniversary of the arrival of the Girmitiyas the first coup was executed by Rabuka.
She adds history repeated itself during the 1987 and 2000 coups, which forced the Girmit descendants to migrate for safety and security reasons.
Kumar states the 2000 coup saw further brutality, racial slurs, and the loss of fundamental human rights including freedom of thought, action, assembly, and religion.
The Minister says during this time Fijians failed to remember the socio-economic development and contributions made by the Girmitiyas during and after the indenture period.
However, Sitiveni Rabuka thinks otherwise, claiming Indo Fijians were very safe during his time as the leader of the Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei government.
“That was the time when some of them started coming back and they are still coming back – those who left. How many of them went back to India? None. Fiji gave them an opportunity to develop so that they can easily go into other countries in the world. So, we have both benefitted. We benefitted from their presence here and they’ve benefitted from their presence also here.”
The arrival of the Girmitiyas and their contribution to nation building is being celebrated throughout the country.