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Fiji attempts to eliminate Diwali


Fiji's Hindu and Muslim communities reacted with disbelief and
anger at a government decision announced Sep 5th to abolish
Divali and Prophet Mohammed's birthday in favor of a single
combined holiday to be called "Girmit Day."Josefa Serulagilagi,
Permanent Secretary for Labor and Public Relations, said that
by increasing the number of days people actually work, the Fiji
economy will receive a boost. In the face of overwhelming
opposition from the Indian community, the following day the
government backed down. The acting Prime Minister, Militoni
Leweniqila, 'clarified' that there was no intention to abolish the
two religious holidays or to lump them into one. "The
scrapping of the two religious holidays to be replaced by the
Girmit Day was merely a suggestion," he claimed.
  The retraction averted a call for noncooperation with the new
holiday structure.  Jai Ram Reddy, the Leader of the
Opposition, questioned the government's motives for the
change saying it sought to further "detract from the rights and
self-dignity of the Indian people." Fiji's largest Indian
organization, All India Sanmarga Ikya Sangam said, "This
arbitrary move demonstrates lamentable bad faith on the part
of the government and will attract defiance in many forms
which will prove detrimental to the economic growth."
  Fiji presently has thirteen public holidays. One is Hindu,
Divali, and one Muslim, the Prophet's birthday. Five are secular
(constitution day, etc.) and 5 are Christian. In addition, there is
a full "Sunday Ban" which prevents any business, even taxis, on
Sunday, all 52 weeks of the year. The proposal to have a
"Girmit Day" particularly rankled the Indians. "Girmit" is a
termed coined years ago to replace the words "Indenture
Agreement." It is to the Indians a reminder they came to Fiji as
indentured servants-virtual slaves, according to Reddy. It
would be equivalent in the USA to abolishing Martin Luther
King's birthday as a national holiday in recognition of the
country's Black heritage and replacing it with "Slave Day" set
on the date the first slave ship arrived in America. This action
comes on top of the destruction by arson of five Hindu temples
(one just a few months ago) and a school over the last several
years, vandalism of Hindu shrines and attacks upon Hindu

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