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Chiefs commit to racial unity

Fiji Times, Saturday, May 15, 2004

The Great Council of Chiefs is committed to maintaining a united multiracial Fiji where people of different races, opinions and cultures can live and work together for the good of all.

Ratu Epeli Ganilau made this comment during the launch of the memorial magazine titled Girmits Greatest Gift - 125 years of service to Fiji and its 125th anniversary celebrations at the Suva Civic Auditorium last night.

He said contrary to what some people might wish to make out, the council made every effort to honour its commitment to act in the best interest of the Fijian and for Fiji as a whole.

"We fully agree that the Indo-Fijians came here to increase trade and industry and this has been done in the best interests of the Fijian and Fiji and so they deservedly earned the right to be a member of our nation," said Ratu Epeli.

"The same Deed of Cession afforded recognition and security of pre-emptive rights of the Taukei as indigenous inhabitants, also accords prescriptive rights to the European and all the indentured labourers whether of Indo-Fijian or from other Pacific island origin."

The Deed of Cession was signed on October 10, 1874, where the high chiefs of Fiji unconditionally ceded Fiji to her Majesty, Queen Victoria.

"This is what the council endorsed 130 years ago and uncompromisingly honoured for the past 125 years, and this is what we will vigilantly uphold in years to come," he said.

The first batch of 463 indentured labourers from India arrived in Fiji in 1879 on board the ship called Leonidas.