A historic moment for the Hindus and Sikhs in Fiji, especially those living the Suva area, was witnessed with the opening of the Vatuwaqa Funeral Rites Facility.
It was made possible through Government funding of more than $900,000.
Nine religious bodies have united to enable people to perform the final rites for their loved ones in a more dignified way.
The nine organisations are: Arya Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji, Gujrat Samaj of Fiji, the Then India Sanmarga Ikya Sangam (TISI Sangam) Fiji, Shree Sanatan Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji, Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, Kabir Sat Dharam Pracharak Maha Sabha, Shree Sanatan Dharam Purohit Brahman Maha Sabha Fiji, Gandharva Sangeetayla, and Fiji Sevashram Sangha.
Not only have the nine bodies formed a committee, the executives have also donated $1000 each for the up-keep of the facility.
TISI Sangam president Sadasivan Naicker said: “The good news is that the facility will be available free of charge to those who wish to make use of it.
“Many of our fellow Fijians will benefit immensely by being able to perform their last rites of their loved ones with dignity,” stated by Mr Naicker.
He said the uniquely civic facility should be used responsibly and respectfully so that it becomes a model of good partnership.
Rewa Nari Sabha’s general secretary, Raveena Prasad, said the provision of the facility would be easily accessed by families who want to perform the last rites for their loved ones.
Also, the ‘Hawan’ ritual – in which making offerings into a consecrated fire is the primary action – and other Hindu ceremonies can be held under one place, as this facility has the equipment to cater for them.
Rewa Nari Sabha treasurer Pratima Devi said: “I did not think it was even possible that a facility like this would cater for the requirements of the last rites in a Hindu crematory would be built in Fiji.
“I really appreciate what Government has done for us today. There was never a provision made for us to consecrate the ashes.”
Pundit Guru Datt of Arya Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji, said the new facility can help curb pollution. In recent times the last rites were performed in any form, particularly in Nasese. This facility can be a ‘fixed’ location and the performance of last rites will be legal.
Vice President of Vatuwaqa Funeral Rites Facility and member of Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee Mangal Singh said: “Every person goes through certain passages of life, and the final passage is death. We have no control over birth nor death.
“Death is the final passage and it is in our control to give uttermost respect to our loved ones who are passing.”
Mr Singh also said that this facility enables families to perform their final farewells of their loved ones with dignity and respect.
“It is even more interesting to note that everyone will go through this passage of life. Even people of different faiths, denominations, and beliefs get together to work on a common goal. It is a milestone for the people of Fiji.”
Kamal Gounder, Manager of Infrastructure in Ministry of Economy ,said that it was the first time that the nine different religious bodies came together to work as a committee.
He said there was top level discussion between the nine bodies and their executives in the decision-making process.
“As they are now a registered committee, the Vatuwaqa Funeral Rites Facility, they have to prepare annual reports and audits to present it to the Ministry of Economy,” he said.
The facility was opened by the Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.