Manukau Gardens Crematorium, Manukau

Over thirty members joined the Mayor Sir Barry Curtis at the Dedication Ceremony and presentation of an artifact from the Association to the Manakau Gardens Crematorium reopening29th June 2006. A big Thank You goes to members who donated funds and attended the function on a cold winter morning.

The Association accepted an invitation from the Mayor of Manukau Sir Barry Curtis to join in the dedication ceremony of the refurbished crematorium, taking seating from one hundred and twenty in the chapel, to nearly five hundred as well as state of the art audio and video facilities.

The Committee agreed to mark the special occasion by remembering the S S Syria, which sank near Fiji on 11 May 1884. The Syria was on its maiden voyage to the Pacific with one hundred and eighty passengers from India.
On the evening of 11 May 1884, the vessel struck a reef near Nasilai, just thirty miles from the coast of Viti Levu, the main island in the archipelago.

Sixty Indian nationals were lost in the raging sea.

However the brave efforts of nearby Fijians led by Dr William McGregor from the Suva Medical Post, saved one hundred and twenty. These brave men risked their own lives many times over in the effort, taking the survivors to their villages where they were cared for and sent on their way to their destinations in various parts of Fiji.

The Association chose to gift the Mayor, for permanent display in the crematorium foyer, a hundred year old tree trunk root, shaped into a 2 m bench, with its look of something from a ship wreck.

The tree root was recovered from the swamp.

Two plaques were placed on it, in Hindi and in English with the Syria story.

The bench was handed to the Mayor after a dedication service to remember the Syria victims and their rescuers and their descendants.

Speaking at the Service on behalf of the Association, Dr Satendra Singh told the large gathering that the Syria provided not just Fiji, but everyone else with a great lesson in brotherhood.

Sir Barry Curtis said the gift was a magnificent one and something that would be treasured.

The Vice President of Fiji, His Excellency Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, said in a message, "In remembering the lives lost, we also celebrate the rescue of Indo Fijians by their Fijian brothers reminding us always of our common humanity."

The High Commissioner of Fiji to New Zealand His Excellency Mr Bal Ram said he was extremely pleased and grateful the Association had selected such an appropriate gift and in particular, the Syria tragedy to commemorate.

The High Commissioner of India to New Zealand His Excellency Mr K Earnest said he was touched that the Association was remembering the men women and children of India who were lost in the Syria wreck. The High Commissioner was pleased to join with the Association in commending the Mayor Sir Barry Curtis.

From India, the Fiji High Commissioner in New Delhi, Mr Luke Rokovada said he was delighted and moved that the Auckland community was remembering such an important incident from Fiji's past in the dedication and presentation of a gift to the Memorial Gardens.

The artifact was gifted from donations received from members of the Association.

Over fifty members attended the dedication ceremony and expressed their pleasure at the selection of the gift.

The story was well reported in Fiji, India and New Zealand with photographs in several leading newspapers, including the Fiji Post, Fiji Times Shanti Dut, Manukau Courier, Indian Tribune and the Eastern Courier.