Bechu Prasad - oldest girmitiya of Fiji -
passed away at the age of 104
We bring you here some
selected articles from various sources.
Bechu leaves legacy of harmony
Sun, 8 September 2005) -
oldest inhabitant, Bechu Prasad, has died peacefully at his
home. The 105-year-old, who would rise before sunrise and start
his day by walking to his farm, cane knife in hand, died at his
Sabeto home in Nadi on Tuesday evening.
Mr Prasad, an inspiration to many, was also a
community worker who preached peace and harmony between Fiji’s
two major races. Family, relatives and close friends gathered at
his home yesterday to pay their respects to possibly the last of
Mr Prasad, who had aged gracefully, proved
many wrong by doing his own daily chores and working on his farm
until a few days before his death. Eldest son Hari Prasad, 71,
yesterday said that his father died peacefully in his sleep and
had being feeling weak before passing away.
The family has not confirmed funeral
arrangements as yet, awaiting the arrival of the youngest
daughter. “We have not finalised a date for the funeral right
now as we are waiting for my sister to arrive from overseas,”
said Mr Prasad. “However, the funeral will be held before the
end of the week and we will let everyone know when.”
Mr Prasad was born on May 10, 1901, in
Rakiraki after his parents arrived in Fiji from India during the
indentured labourers time before moving to Sabeto, Nadi. He is
survived by his ten children – four boys and six girls of whom
eight are still alive. Mr Prasad was a strict vegetarian.
Chaudhry hails a man of inspiration
Bechu Prasad has been a source of great
inspiration to the people of Fiji. Fiji Labour Party leader
Mahendra Chaudhry said the party was profoundly saddened by the
passing of Mr Prasad, a girmatiya, a centenarian, cane farmer
and a man who had been a source of great inspiration. “From an
early age, Mr Prasad was taught the value of hard work and
sacrifice, tenets that were to serve him well all his life,”
said Mr Chaudhry.
“He always believed in hard work and using his
time to the best of his ability. As such he was a very
disciplined, a successful farmer and community worker who
enjoyed excellent physical and mental health throughout his
life.” Mr Chaudhry said Mr Prasad’s community service was
exemplary and he was recognised by the Government for his
contribution to the Lautoka Advisory Council, of which he was a
member for more than 60 years.
“Mr Prasad also acknowledged the problems of
youths today and their lack of respect for others, especially
their parents,” said Mr Chaudhry. “This, he said, was
contributing to moral decadence and I totally agree with him.
“Mr Prasad's exemplary life saw him being a guest of royalty on
two very important occasions the first being during the 1970
independence celebrations and recently during Prince Charles’
visit to Fiji in March this year.
“There would not be too many leaders in Fiji
that would be accorded such honour but Mr Prasad was an
exceptionally special person who first saw the suffering of the
girmatiyas, the development of Fiji from the early days of
colonial rule and whose selfless sacrifice through his numerous
acts of community service had ensured him national respect and
“With his passing, we have lost an important
link with our past. However, being mindful of his hard work,
strong moral values and commitment to this country, we can all
learn from this great son of Fiji. “My deepest and sincerest
condolences to his family. May his soul rest in peace.”
It’s a loss, says NFP
The sudden death of Fiji’s centenarian, Bechu
Prasad, was an irreplaceable loss to Fiji, said the National
Federation Party. Party president Raman Pratap Singh said Mr
Prasad was one of the last surviving girmitiya and personified
the struggle and sacrifice of indentured labourers whose
descendents have made Fiji their motherland.
“The NFP extends to the family of Mr Bechu
Prasad its most sincere condolences and may the Lord Almighty
grant them comfort and solace,” said Mr Singh.
Mr Prasad, until his death, had led an active
life and his keen interest in politics, social and community
work pre-occupied much of his life. “He was also a dedicated
patriarch and forever preached morality, ethics, religious and
racial tolerance,” said Mr Singh.
“Babuji, as Mr Prasad was revered and
respected for, was a national icon. His words of wisdom, advice,
love and affection towards all the people of Fiji will be long
remembered.” He said that the best tribute that one could pay to
Bechu Prasad was to follow his ideals for a united and
So Long Babuji
Times, Thursday, September 08, 2005)
of the last surviving Girmitiyas, Bechu Prasad, has died at the
age of 105.
He died at his Sabeto home on Tuesday night
after a short illness. The farmer, social and community worker
was born on May 10, 1901.
One of his sons Lekh Ram Prasad, 63, said the
family respected him.
He said his dad worked hard, was
health-conscious and wise and always had the public at heart.
"He was always helping the people," he said.
Opposition Leader Mahendra Chaudhry said Mr
Prasad was a source of inspiration to the people of Fiji and
with his passing, Fiji had lost an important link with his past.
Mr Chaudhry said Mr Prasad was an
exceptionally special person who saw first-hand the suffering of
the Girmitiyas, the development of Fiji from the early days of
colonial rule to what it is today.
He said Mr Prasad's selfless sacrifice —
through his many acts of of community service, endeared him
national respect and admiration.
National Federation Party president Pratap
Singh said the best tribute one could pay Mr Prasad was to
follow his ideals for a united Fiji. Arya Prantinidhi Sabha of
Fiji president Kamlesh Arya said Mr Prasad had been an untiring
social worker, a community servant and a strong advocate of
peace and reconciliation.
His family are awaiting the arrival of one of
his daughters from America before they finalise the funeral
Mr Prasad is survived by four sons, four
daughters, 20 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.
(Editorial in Fiji Times,
Thursday, September 08, 2005)
The nation today mourns the passing away of
centenarian Bechu Prasad.
Mr Prasad, 105, was the son of an indentured
labourer who arrived in the country from India more than 120
years ago. He became a widely respected and admired national
figure because of not only longevity but also his immense
contribution to the social, political and economic development
of this land he called home.
He was actively involved in the sugar industry
all his life but also took interest in the general welfare of
young people and the future of Indians in the country.
In his two last interviews with this newspaper
early this year, Mr Prasad called on Indians to unite and form a
single political party to represent their views on important
"I have noticed that Indians are more divided
now. I believe they cannot unite unless the two political
parties representing them come together. Everyone wants to be
On the sugar industry: "Leaders should learn
from the past and concentrate on the progress of the sugar
industry instead of struggling for power."
On young people: "Respect your mothers and
fathers and treat elders with respect."
On the future of Indians: "The future of
Indians is neither in your hands nor in mine but in the hands of
Babuji, as he was affectionately called by
those he was closely associated with, has been a symbol of love,
affection, peaceful co-existence, tolerance and goodwill.
Many people of all races and faiths over the
years benefited from his words of wisdom and fatherly advice. He
was always willing to offer those in trouble various forms of
Hardworking, kind and caring, the humble
farmer from Sabeto in Nadi rubbed shoulders with royalty, heads
of governments and high chiefs because he was liked and
respected for his work.
It was also in recognition of the hard work
and sacrifice put in by the girmitiyas in the development of not
only the sugar industry but the economy at large.
In many of his public statements, Mr Prasad
advocated the importance of national unity, racial harmony and
goodwill among the various communities. He believed in sharing
and caring as vital ingredients for progress and prosperity in
As we say Sa Moce Babuji, it is best and to
our advantage that we all learn from and take to heart the
examples he set and the words of advice he gave to the citizens
of this country.
We will certainly miss him.
Passing away of an era
by Verenaisi Raicola
(Feature in Fiji Times,
Thursday, September 08, 2005)
death this week of Bechu Prasad - centenarian, girmitya, Justice
of Peace and community worker, represents the coming to a close
of an era in Fiji.
Cane Farmers Cooperative Savings and Loans
Association manager Jone Kedraika who worked closely with the
late Mr Prasad since 1977, said his death, though expected, was
a great loss, especially to the farmers in the Western Division.
Mr Prasad, a life member of the Association
since 1973, visited the office in Nadi every Tuesday and
Wednesday to sign documents for farmers applying for assistance.
"He was doing that for years until the last
two weeks when he became too sick to travel.
"He used to witness documents for us and we
will greatly miss him because now we would be getting the same
papers signed at a cost of $50 to $60."
Mr Kedraika said Mr Prasad taught him many
things, among the most important being the virtues of hard work,
love, honesty and service.
"To him service to others was a priority, it
was something he was cut out to do and always reminded us to
"He (Mr Prasad) refused to accept money from
anyone needing his services and as long as I can remember, I
have never seen him in a cab or behind a wheel of a car despite
the fact that he owned one.
"Though he had a car Bechu always traveled
back and forth from Nadi town in a bus and he taught many what
humility was all about."
Mr Kedraika said the office was usually full
of members of the public on Tuesdays and Wednesdays because they
knew where to get forms witnessed at no cost.
Mr Prasad only took less than $10 from the
association to pay for his bus fares.
"Even then he would take the cash with
hesitation," he said.
Two weeks ago, when Mr Prasad, a vegetarian,
was admitted to the Nadi Hospital he emphasized to Mr Kedraika
during a visit the importance of being faithful to God, being
true to people and the importance of wise time management.
Mr Prasad, who in March this year entertained
the Prince of Wales with halua and ladu (Indian sweets) at his
Sabeto home, said at the time during an interview he would live
another 20 years.
In return, Prince Charles promised the farmer
who had been harvesting 300 to 400 tonnes of cane per season
another visit shortly.
During the royal's brief 20-minute visit, Mr
Prasad described Fiji as his homeland where he was brought up
and intended to die despite the fact that he was originally from
Hariyana in Punjab.
He made it clear before his meeting with the
Prince that there would be no discussion of politics.
Mr Prasad said Fiji was a paradise with good
land, people and water.
After their meeting he described Prince
Charles as a very good and humble person who showed a lot of
concern about his health and appreciated being hosted at the
home by his family.
Opposition leader Mahendra Chaudhry who was
profoundly saddened by the death of Mr Prasad, said Fiji had
lost a man who had been a great source of inspiration.
He said Mr Prasad's community service was
exemplary and was recognized by the government, especially his
contribution to the Lautoka Advisory Council, of which he was a
member for 60 years.
"Mr Prasad's exemplary life saw him being a
guest of royalty on two important occasions-the 1970
Independence celebrations and during the recent Prince Charles
visit in March," Mr Chaudhry said.
"There would not be too many leaders in Fiji
let alone persons that would be accorded such an honor.
"But then again Mr Prasad was an exceptionally
special person, who saw first hand the suffering of the
Girmityas, the development of Fiji from the early days of
colonial rule to what it is today.
"His selfless sacrifice through his numerous
acts of community service had endeared him national respect and
"With Mr Prasad's passing we have lost an
important link with our past.
"However by being mindful of his hard work,
strong moral values and commitment to this country we can all
learn from this great son of Fiji,' said Mr Chaudhry.
National Federation Party president Raman
Pratap Singh said the sudden death of Babuji, as he was commonly
known, was an irreplaceable loss for Fiji.
He was one of the last surviving Girmitiyas
and personified the struggles and sacrifice of the indentured
Shiri Sanatan Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji
president Surendra Kumar said Mr Prasad's death was a loss to an
organisation he supported all his life.
"He used to attend our functions and I
remember a lot about this great man."
In one of his last interviews, Mr Prasad, who
had always maintained his links with his ancestors in Northern
India, said things had changed a lot since his days as a young
He said leaders in the country needed to be
concerned about the welfare of everyone as there was no way that
Indians would return to their homeland.
Mr Prasad said he loved Fiji because he was
born here but if the government one day decided to send Indians
back to India, he was willing to return. He had urged Indians to
live peacefully in the country and work hard for their welfare.
He said the younger generation was
uncontrolled with most turning to criminal activities because
they had no respect for others.
"These youths do not respect their parents and
some of them cannot tell the difference between their sisters
and their brothers any more because the values within society
He said Indians and Fijians who played, ate
and lived together should learn to live in harmony. "My advice
to the younger generation is respect your parents and look at
the older generation with love."
He said leaders were setting the wrong
examples by fighting with each other for political benefits,
forgetting that life would one day come to an end.
"More people are educated as lawyers, doctors
and experts but they have political agendas instead of creating
racial harmony for everyone in the country in order to set good
examples for the young," he said.
Mr Prasad, the father of four sons and five
daughters, was born in 1901, the same year his father Mamraj
arrived here as an indentured immigrant from Punjab.
He settled down in Sabeto with his family in
Mr Prasad, whose wife Bagwain died in 1983,
leaves behind nine children, 20 grandchildren and 14 great
We salute and honor a man who served this
country with pride - May his Soul rest in Peace.
Qarase to attend Bechu's funeral
(Fiji Times, Friday,
September 09, 2005)
PRIME Minister Laisenia Qarase will deliver a
eulogy at the funeral of the late Girmitya, Bechu Prasad, today.
Mr Qarase yesterday sent a condolence message
on behalf of the people and the Government.
"We thank God for his long and eventful life,"
the PM said in a statement.
"What impressed me most was his humility, how
he looked after himself and his wise views on issues we faced.
"He was an outstanding patriot and citizen of
Fiji," said Mr Qarase.
Mick Beddoes of the United People's Party said
Bechu's death brought an end to a colourful career of service to
"Bechu epitomised good health and his ability
to remain self reliant up to his death, was itself a feat rarely
achieved by man," said Mr Beddoes.
Jeremaia Waqanisau sent his sympathy from
"It was in January 1997, a few weeks after
assuming the post of Commissioner Western, a very well-dressed
and neat old Indian man entered my office in Lautoka and
introduced himself," Mr Waqanisau recalls.
"Bula vinaka sir, my name is Bechu Prasad,
96-years-old and member of the Lautoka district advisory
committee. I am very glad to see you, sir."
"I was lost for words," said Mr Waqanisau.
"He may have come to Fiji under the indentured
system but he became a loyal and dedicated son."
Bechu's grand-daughter Swastika Prasad said
her grandfather's final journey would start at the Lautoka
Hospital at 8.30am today.
It will be transported through Lautoka City to
Nadovu where dignitaries will deliver their eulogy at an
Then it will be taken to Sabeto where his
family will conduct a private funeral service.
Bechu's body will be taken to Wailoaloa
crematorium at 1.30pm for final rites before cremation.
Village repays Babuji
Saturday, September 10, 2005)
THE 20-acre land on which the late Bechu
Prasad lived all his life will now belong to his family, a
tribute to Fiji's humble ambassador of peace and goodwill.
Mr Prasad's family was yesterday promised the
property as a show of appreciation for the work the 105-year-old
had done for Sabeto villagers.
Delivering a eulogy on behalf of the Tui
Sabeto, Ratu Kaliova Numuni, his spokesman Maikali Turuva said
Mr Prasad was considered to be part of Sabeto Village in Nadi.
Mr Turuva said Ratu Kaliova thought that it
was only fitting that they, as the traditional landowners, hand
over the 20-acre property which Mr Prasad spent most of his life
He said it was a token of thanks from the
landowners for his contribution to the people of Sabeto.
Mr Turuva said Mr Prasad had always had a
close relationship with Sabeto and was involved in all
activities at the village.
"Whenever there is a function at the village,
Mr Prasad either gives money or sees to it that he is present,"
said Mr Turuva.
"We also used to invite Mr Prasad to come to
the village and speak to our youths because they had enormous
respect for him.
"We have never had any problems with the
Prasad family and I think that is why Ratu Kaliova decided to
give the property to his sons and daughters.
"They are also part of Sabeto.
"Ratu Kaliova has already started the process
of ensuring that the handover is documented legally so that no
one will be able to create any problem with the Prasad family in
the future," said Mr Turuva.
He said Mr Prasad's commitment toward the
development and improvement of the standard of living of people
of Sabeto had seen him being involved in almost every project
conducted in the village.
He said all Sabeto villagers were proud to be
associated with Mr Prasad and his family.
And they were looking forward to a long and
continued fruitful relationship together with the members of his
family he left behind.
Mr Turuva said Ratu Kaliova was determined to
see that the Prasad family would continue to live in the area
peacefully and harmoniously for as long as they wanted. He said
the legacy left behind by Mr Prasad would not only remain in the
minds of the present generation.
They would guarantee that the future
generations of Sabeto Village were made aware of the
contributions which Mr Prasad made to the lives of the
Mr Prasad died on Tuesday night after a short
The farmer, social and community worker was
born on May 10, 1901.
He is survived by four sons, four daughters,
20 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.
Last salute for a hero
(Fiji Sun, September 10, 2005)
They came in their hundreds from all walks of
life. Young, old, of all races, religions and different
backgrounds. They were united in thought and reflection as one
of Fiji’s last surviving girmitiya, Bechu Prasad, was given a
last farewell befitting a legend.
The 105-year-old farmer, who died peacefully
in his sleep on Tuesday, left an impression on their minds with
his dedication to preaching racial harmony, patriotism and
lifelong devotion to service for the community. Words of comfort
from the Prince of Wales, Charles Philip Arthur George, halfway
across the world, were read and acknowledged by all who lived to
witness a lesson on how life should be led.
Eulogies were read by Prime Minister Laisenia
Qarase, British High Commissioner Charles Mochan, Sugar Cane
Growers Council chief executive Jagannath Sami, Indian High
Commissioner Ajay Singh, chiefs, Members of Parliament, friends
and family at the Girmit Centre in Lautoka, and at his rural
home at Sabeto, Nadi.
New Alliance Party president Ratu Epeli
Ganilau, in his eulogy, said Mr Prasad would be remembered by
many as a great man and “we should all follow in his footsteps”.
“He (Mr Prasad) was a very good friend of my father (the late
President Ratu Penaia Ganilau) and they lived harmonically in a
“We should all follow in his footsteps as he
helped many understand the meaning of multiracialism,” said Ratu
Epeli yesterday. The Tui Sabeto, Ratu Kaliova Numuni, said the
Prasad’s family residence and their farmlands would always
belong to them. He acknowledged the contributions made by Mr
Prasad to people in his traditional jurisdiction.
“We have made an agreement with the Native
Land Trust Board and the Prasad family land will belong to the
family generation after generation because the late Bechu Prasad
was a son of Sabeto,” said his spokesman. “He had done a lot for
the people living in Sabeto. We have most of the business people
living in the area and the late Mr Prasad always showed support
for the Indian community and the indigenous people of Sabeto
without any difference.”
It was a farewell gathering where race and
religion came together in a melting pot of multiracialism that
Mr Prasad always preached about. Mr Prasad’s journey concluded
at the Wailoaloa crematorium where he was cremated after the
final Hindu rites were performed.
Prince pays tribute to Bechu
Saturday, September 10, 2005)
THE passing of Bechu Prasad is a loss to Fiji
and the rest of the world, says the Prince of Wales Prince
Charles, in a condolence message read by British High
Commissioner Charles Mochan.
In his message, Prince Charles recalled the
warm reception he received the last time he visited Mr Prasad at
home, in March this year.
He said he would never forget Mr Prasad
because of the honesty and courtesy he showed during their brief
Mr Mochan said the news of Mr Prasad's death
caused deep sorrow for the prince who described Mr Prasad as
"Fiji's special son".
Mr Mochan was one of many who delivered a
eulogy for Mr Prasad to a multi-racial congregation of about
1500 people at the Girmit Centre in Sabeto. A congregation of a
similar number were gathered at Mr Prasad's home.
Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase said Mr Prasad
had grown to value health, family and the country.
He said Mr Prasad gained tremendous inner
strength enduring distressing periods in the years of his life
as an indentured labourer.
"It was this humility that impressed me most,"
"He was an inspiration to the nation in how he
took care of himself and his family and his willingness to help
those who sought his assistance."
Indian High Commissioner Ajay Singh described
the death of Bechu Prasad as the end of an era.
He said Mr Prasad's death was a huge loss
because he was a living history book of the developments that
took place since the Girmit period.
Jagannath Sami, chief executive of the Sugar
Cane Growers Council, said a quality of Mr Prasad that everyone
admired was his selflessness.
Mr Sami said even though he was going through
difficult times, he made sure the needs of others came first.
Praveen Bala, president of the Fiji Local
Government Association, challenged the country's leaders to work
toward achieving Mr Prasad's dream of a united Fiji.
He said there was no point in offering
condolences or speaking of how great Mr Prasad was if they did
not appreciate the goal he set his life to.
Mr Bala said Mr Prasad always preached about
peace and unity between the two major races.