THE 48th annual Fiji Independence Day celebration on Saturday night at Surrey’s Bollywood Banquet Hall was a resounding success.
The event, hosted by the Fiji Disaster Relief Society (FDRS), was celebrated with patriotic zeal in the presence of Fiji’s ambassador to North America, Naivakarurubalavu Solo Mara, who flew in to join the celebration. Mara was also honoured as the chief guest.
The organizing committee chairperson Kamilla Singh and President Kavin Chand were thrilled to see Fijians and non-Fijians turn out in such large numbers to celebrate and support the event. Many proudly wore the Fiji Bula shirt.
Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto are home to tens of thousands of Fijians. Although there are many Fijians who migrated in the early 60’s and 70’s, however, the majority of them migrated after the 1987 military coup in Fiji, choosing Canada as their permanent home.
Fiji’s Independence Day actually falls on October 10. That’s when Fiji gained its independence in 1970 after 96 years of British rule. However, Fijian diasporas around the globe continue to celebrate for weeks.
Fijians in Edmonton also celebrated a similar event organized by Fijian I Taukei Cultural Association of Alberta.
The celebration on Saturday night in Surrey had a dual purpose—it also promoted a local seniors home and all proceeds from the event were given to the PICS Diversity Village Seniors Home in Surrey. Almost 33% of the long-term care residents there are Fijian Canadians.
The Fiji Disaster Relief Society’s committee members also recognized and presented plaques to four members of the Fijian community for their contribution towards the community.
A 16-year-old Grade 11 student from Queen Elizabeth Secondary School, Pranay Sharma, was recognized for his prodigious achievements in sports. He has won many karate competitions in Vancouver and Portland while representing Canada.
A third-year Simon Fraser University student, Shannon Premal, was acknowledged for her contribution to the community by volunteering for YMCA, Miss Fiji Canada Royalty, Shakti Society for Women, and City of Surrey. Premal was presented with a Youth Volunteer Excellence Award.
The chief guest, Mara, complimented Fiji Disaster Relief Society’s members and the Fijian diaspora for their contribution in strengthening ties between Canada and Fiji.
The event kicked off with the national anthem sung by 12-year-old Maliha Lal and was followed by speeches from Kavin Chand, Salesh Prassd, Mara, Kal Dosanjh and Sukh Dhaliwal. Rhia Prakash and Sunhaina Sharma performed a Bollywood dance.
(By Irshad Khan)