Welcome Address by Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi
LAUNCHING OF "GIRMITYA" MAGAZINE OF NATIONAL
FARMERS' UNION TO MARK 125TH ANNIVERSARY
SATURDAY 8TH MAY, 2004 AT SYRIA PARK,
Hon Mr Mahendra Chaudhry, Mrs Chaudhry, Your
Worship the Mayor of Nausori, Councillor Moti Lal, Hon Members
of Parliament, Hon Senators, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am honoured to be here this morning
because this is a significant occasion for the Indo-Fijian
community. It is a reminder of the early struggles your
forebears had to endure and overcome. In the process it
brought out in them the indomitable spirit that has
contributed so much to building modern Fiji. The site for this
launching was chosen because it commemorates the rescue of
Girmitiya from one of the early indenture ships the
"Syria" by indigenous Fijians.
In one hundred and twenty-five years here,
you have known triumph and despair, feast and famine,
adversity and peace. We your hosts have not always treated you
as well as we might. Mutual suspicion and distrust continue to
temper our engagement with each other. But we continue to
learn the difficult lessons of living together. It is a
miracle that we have built a nation, in spite of all its
imperfections, at arms length as it were.
You belong to an ancient civilization and
you have been here but a blink of an eye. Yet in that time,
you have had a profound effect on this country. The economic
wellbeing of Fiji, first as colony than as independent State,
was built largely on your backs. Your presence has contributed
to the political development of our nation. It encouraged the
evolution of a Fijian identity apart from vanua or provincial
considerations among the i Taukei.
Practicing the virtues of disciple, thrift,
industry and restraint, you have obliged the rest of us to
raise our standards in order to match yours. This exercise has
been fraught with difficulties. Only time will tell whether
the latest of State initiatives taken since independence will
be any more successful than the others.
When this magazine was first mooted, I hoped
that it would be more than merely a collection of goodwill
messages from civic leaders. For this is an appropriate moment
for reflection. To take stock and see where you and I are
going. It was also my wish that this publication would be
diverse in both contributors and articles. It would include
poems, essays, reflections and interviews.
People from all walks of life, but
particularly descendants of Girmitiya, would participate. It
was important that the work belong to the community. This
would do justice to the subject and honour the memory of your
forebears. All that has come to pass. We celebrate the
extraordinary tale of ordinary men, women and children from a
faraway land who came in search of a better life. In doing so,
they also bettered ours.
We do not know what is in store for us in
the next one hundred and twenty-five years. On past
experience, there will be twists and turns and adventures,
good and bad, on the way. But I for one am willing to give you
my hand if you will take it and forward we may journey
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have much pleasure
in launching the magazine "Girmitiya". Thank you and
have a good day.
8 May, 2004