Honourable Cabinet Ministers, and Honourable Members of Parliament,
Your Excellences, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Guests,
School Students and Teachers,
Ladies and Gentlemen, and
Members of the Media.
Ni sa Bula Vinaka, Namaste, and a very good morning to you all.
I warmly welcome you all today, the 13th of May to commemorate the legacy of the Girmitiyas, who have permanently engraved their ancestral heritage on our nation. We are blessed to hold this event at the Lautoka Girmit Multi-Cultural Centre, and I thank the organizers for their commitment to seeing this commemorative event through.
While our children and youths seize this opportunity to recreate yester-moments in costumes of Girmitya descendants as well as enjoy recreational activities, we also reflect on the impact that Girmitiyas had on setting the foundation of our nation. We reflect and cherish the impactful contribution that the descendants of Girmitiyas have had and continue to demonstrate in improving our socio-economic standards and shaping our nation's economy.
In honouring the contributions of Girmitiyas and their descendants, we have gathered here today to award and appreciate some of the decedents who were born just after the end of the Girmit era and try our best to honour most of them in the celebrations.
Before I continue, I welcome all Fijians, here and abroad, who are watching the live telecast of Girmit Day festivities throughout on their televisions and mobile phones. Wherever you are across the nation and overseas, I encourage you to take this moment to reflect on the significance of this public holiday. While the decision made over a century ago by the then authoritative officials to bring ship-loads of labour force across the ocean is historical, it is deeply embedded in our history books and conversations. One hundred and forty five years ago, 463 indentured labourers from India arrived on our shores.
Girmit Day marks their arrival from India to Fiji on the 14th of May, 1879. Thereafter, in the four decades that followed from 1879 to 1916, around 60,553 Indians were brought to Fiji who we know as Girmitiyas. The vast majority of these men, women and children had never heard of Fiji. We acknowledge their journey to a land that was unknown to them. A journey and existence that was punctuated with insurmountable challenges. I sincerely acknowledge their tenacious spirit to endure the hardship of their time. Their sheer resilience in the face of adversity can never be forgotten.
We salute the Girmityas for choosing Fiji as their home. While a portion returned to India, the majority of Girmitiyas remained and established roots in Fiji. They leased land to plant sugarcane, the crop which has been the strength of our nation’s economy and one that we value as part of our history. We also pay tribute to their posterity that took the baton from them to make Fiji a prosperous nation, therefore we remember their sacrifices, struggles and contribution in building a new Fiji.
The Girmitiyas have played a crucial role in Fiji's economy, particularly in sectors such as agriculture, commerce, and small-scale entrepreneurship. They supplied much of the hard labour in cane fields, building roads and laying the foundations of many of the settlements and villages that we live in today.
Many of this Girmitiyas are successful business owners, farmers, professionals, and skilled workers, contributing to the country's economic prosperity and development. Commerce and education were their cornerstone.This has also given Fiji a unique strength in terms of its economy in the Pacific Region. We all have benefitted and will continue to benefit through their hard work in these areas.
But one of their greatest legacies was borne from the value they placed in education, which is the pillar for change in the societies and invested into setting up the schools and education system in Fiji to build the knowledge based, skills, abilities and institutions of success and progress. Therefore, the legacy of the indenture system in Fiji is inspirational and profound. One of the significant changes was that Fiji also became a multi-racial country.
The Indians had brought their rich cultural heritage to Fiji, contributing to its vibrant multicultural society. Their traditions, languages, cuisine, music, and festivals have added depth and diversity to Fiji's cultural landscape, fostering a sense of inclusivity and mutual understanding among its people.
Through this intercultural dialogue, community engagement, and initiatives has aimed at bridging ethnic-cohesion and they have helped nurture a more inclusive and unified society.
The citizens of Indian Descendants and i-Taukei interactions has shaped the total socio-cultural environment in which both groups inhabit. So, as you remember the years back, think about the many interactions you have each day with other multi-cultural groups in Fiji.

I am also happy to hear that the three-day commemoration at the Lautoka Girmit Multi-Cultural Centre had an event full of folk, cultural and traditional performances from the school students, women’s groups, religious groups and artist which shows that the tradition and practices have been inherited and passed on from generation to generation which we are very proud off.
On this Girmit Day, we remember the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity. We remember the sacrifices that laid the foundation for the multi-cultural society that we all call home.
Let us keep the authenticity of our respective cultures and genuinely appreciate the diversity that each ethnic group brings to the table. As we move forward as a nation, I urge every Fiji citizen to strive for tolerance and understanding in our actions, and maintain the values of inclusivity, respect, and compassion for the betterment of all our people and our nation.
Ladies, Gentlemen and Children, I wish you all a blessed 145th Girmit Commemoration and Remembrance Day.
May God bless you all and may God bless our nation.
Dhanyavaad, Vinaka Vakalevu and Thank You.