Keynote Address by Cr Balram Kistaiya, Mayor, Nadi


Friday, 8th May, 2004 at Prince Charles Park, Nadi


Thank you for inviting me to address this evening's programme. It is indeed a privilege and a pleasure to be with you here today.

Today marks the first day of a week long commemoration of the arrival of our forefathers as Girmitiyas in this land we now call home.

It is therefore only fitting that I reflect a little on the historical significance of today's celebration.

14th of May, 1879 as the history books have it, was the day that Girmitiyas first landed in Fiji. It was the beginning of what would become an example of human struggle, sacrifice and resilience. Today, several generations later, we can testify to the fruits of that struggle, pain and sacrifices of those early days.

I need not remind you of the sufferings, humiliation and exploitation of our forefathers by the Colonists, Capitalists and the Elite of the day. It would be suffice to say that tremendous sacrifices were made by our forefathers in developing and maintaining the sugar industry whose greatest beneficiary was the Colonial Sugar Refinery Company. Notably, the sugar industry was to subsequently kick start the economic engine of the colony which was later to be independent Fiji's economic backbone.

Imported as indentured labourers which really is a nicer way of saying you are now a slave of the CSR, the Girmitiyas faced monumental challenges which they had overcome with dignity and now evident in the relative prosperity that today's generation enjoys.

Consequently, today's generation must recognise the difficulties, challenges and the pain and suffering of our forefathers as the foundation upon which we now enjoy a reasonably comfortable life. They painfully laid the bricks upon which the early colony was able to grow economically and financially.

Central in our review of the past and of recent history is the resonant theme of hard work, sacrifice and a desire to see the next generation enjoy a better and prosperous platform.

It is these lessons of the past that we must derive propulsion from to achieve goals of the future. It is the lessons we learn from our Girmitiya forefathers' that must drive us on in achieving our dreams of the future.

Today's youth must draw inspiration from the hardship and sacrifice of those gone before us. It is a challenge for the youth of today to emulate the significant progress achieved by those early Girmitiyas. They have shown that in the face of despair and slavery, men can move mountains and move mountains they have.

A little over a week ago our Nation was galvanised in its grief when it lost one of its greatest son's and statesman, the Late Ratu Sir Kamisese Kaipaiwai Tuimacilai Mara. On reflection you will all agree with me that tomorrow's Fiji must seriously realign itself with the principles and vision of our beloved Ratu Sir Kamisese K. T. Mara. We cannot anymore ignore the foundation of Ratu Mara's vision of Nation Building for Fiji.

We now live in challenging and exciting times. It is now 125 years since the arrival of the Girmitiyas. It is also now thirty four (34) years since Fiji's Independence. We recognise the challenges of living in a plural or multicultural society and as such must continue to strive and ensure that our goals are inclusive and that collectively as one Nation, we may be able to achieve significant gain as our Girmit forefathers did.

Indeed we must as leaders of the future imbue ourselves with those tremendous qualities of our forefathers - hard work, sacrifice and resilience and that the pages of history may also some day read that we have risen to the challenges and have turned obstacles into giant stepping stones.

In conclusion I urge the generation and leaders of the day that a path is mapped out for you to propel your destiny and build future of the nation.

May God Bless Fiji And You.