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Chiefs say sorry to Girmit descendants

Fiji Sun, Saturday, 15 May 2004
By Frederica Elbourne

Ratu Epeli tells of Indian rights

The Great Council of Chiefs has publicly apologised to descendants of girmitiyas for the events that led to racial tension following the events of 1987 and 2000.

And Indians have “deservedly earned the right to be a member” of Fiji, GCC chairman Ratu Epeli Ganilau said at the launch of the Girmitiya commemorative magazine last night.

“I am not claiming perfection and unfailing wisdom in the administration of the Great Council of Chiefs for the past 130 years or even today. I do admit that there have been momentary lapses like in 1987 and 2000 where we allowed our politics to emphasise our racial differences because we have allowed ill-will and intolerance to cloud our judgement,” he said.
“For what it’s worth, I apologise for any action of inaction on the part of the Great Council of Chiefs that may have caused inconvenience, hardship and strife to the people of the country. The time for bitterness is over. The time for blame should be put behind us.

“Contrary to what some people may wish to make out, the Great Council of Chiefs has always made every effort to honour its commitment to act in the best interest of the Fijians and Fiji as a whole.”
He said multiracialism was born in Fiji when indentured labourers arrived more than 125 years ago.

"Indians are here to stay and increase trade and industry and this has been done in the best interest of Fijians and Fiji," Ratu Epeli said.
The GCC, he said, had unconditionally endorsed this 130 years ago and that was what the council had uncompromisingly honoured for the past 125 years.

"This is what the GCC will, God willing, vigilantly uphold in the 125 years ahead," Ratu Epeli said. And the council could not carry this burden alone, he said. "We need the support of each and every community," Ratu Epeli said.

He reiterated the council's chiefly commitment to the Indian community after the presentation of the Indian community at the 2003 GCC meeting in Vuda.

"It demands men and women who are willing to stand up and be counted, to make sacrifices for the sake of the nation and all its people," Ratu Epeli said in a moving speech.

"To some generations much is given, from others much is asked," he said.

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