4 Nov 2002

Fiji Hindus celebrating Diwali

5:38 pm on 4 November 2002

Fiji's large Hindu population is celebrating Diwali or the Festival of Lights today.

Messages of goodwill have been issued by the president, the prime minister the opposition leader, political party heads and religious leaders.

The day remains a public holiday in Fiji despite a govenrment senator's recent call in the Upper House for its abolition on the grounds that Fiji is a Christian county and the observance of other religions should not be publicly recognised.

The prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, has called on the people to reflect on the moral significance of Diwali which conveys a powerful message of compassion, love and respect for neighbours.

The chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, says Diwali is an occasion when goodwill, goodness, kindness and all the virtuous qualities of humanity are displayed.

He says Diwali is one of those times when the image and hope of a united Fiji is vividly manifested.

THe government has relaxed a ban on fireworks imposed after the coup two years ago and they are expected to light up the skies all over Fiji tonight.

Hindu homes will be lit up with millions of eartherware lamps, electric illuminations and candles as they share food, sweets and gifts with friends of all races.