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.