Historical news will be published later. In the meantime why not have a look at this excellent introduction to the Girmit era.

 

The day 'Leonidas' arrived in Fiji
Extract from "Fiji Times" article, published May 17, 1879
The ship Leonidas, Captain McLachlan, which sailed from Calcutta on March 3rd, arrived at the port on the afternoon of Wednesday ...[more]

 

The wreck of the 'Syria', 1884
Extract from an article by Brij V Lal, published in "Fiji Times", 12 Mary 1979
At 8.30pm on Sunday, 11 May 1884, the Indian immigrant ship Syria - the fifth to reach Fiji - was wrecked on the Nasilai reef. By the time ...[more]
The timeline of the Girmit era:

Girmit At A Glance

1833 - Britain abolishes slavery

1834 - Indenture system, an alternate source of labour for British Empire, first started with the labourers being sent to work in Mauritius, Uganda and Nigeria for an initial 5 year period. This system became widely known as "Girmit" - a mispronunciation of the word "agreement" by the non English speaking Indian labourers.

1874 - Fiji's Deed of Cession to Britain

1875 - Fiji first Governor Arthur Gordon arrives. He has already served as Governor in Mauritius and Trinindad and has encountered indentured labourers. His preference for indentured labour as opposed to native labour stems from his unwillingness to employ native labour on the grounds that it will disrupt village life.

1879 - First indentured labourers arrive in Fiji aboard the Leonidas. The ship set sail in Calcutta on March 03 and arrived in Fiji on May 14, with 373 male and 149 female labourers. Cholera, dysentery and smallpox were also onboard - 17 labourers had already succumbed to these diseases.

1882 - Colonial Sugar Refining (CSR) company of Australia sets up its first sugar mill in Nausori.

Second emigrant ship arrives in Fiji

Fiji's capital moved from Levuka to Suva

1884 - The fifth emigrant ship to Fiji, Syria was wrecked on the Nasilai reef, off Nausori on May 11 killing fifty six immigrants and three lascars (Indian sailors).

First lot of labourers complete their five year contract. Sixty percent choose to remain in Fiji.

1908 - Sizes of "Lines" in which the labourers are housed is changed from 10 feet by 7 feet to 10 feet by 12 feet.

1912 - Legislation passed requiring employers of indentured labourers to provide school buildings.

1917 - Government grant assistance extended to vernacular schools

1916 - Indenture system is officially abolished by Britain.

The last shipload of labourers arrive in November aboard the Sutlej V. This is the 87th ship that brought labourers to Fiji. Some 60, 553 labourers came to Fiji between 1879 and 1916

1920 - All indenture in Fiji is cancelled

1921 - Census show 84,475 Fijians and 60,634 Indians and a balance of 12,117 made up of Europeans, Chinese, Rotumans and others.

Sources:

Girmit - A centenary Anthology 1879 - 1979,
Suva, Fiji: Girmit Centenary Celebrations National Committee, 1979.

Girmit: Its Significance in Fiji
Ali, Ahmed, Kumar Printers PVT Limited New Delhi, India, 1979.

Crossing the Kala Pani: A Documentary History of Indian Indenture in Fiji
Lal, Brij V, Australian National University and Fiji Museum, Suva, 1998

Fiji Times, Special Girmit liftout,
Suva, Fiji, May 12, 1979 pp 05 -36

 

 

 

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Last modified 20 May 2008
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