SIKHS IN FIJI POLICE ALLOWED TURBANS
Suva: Navjeath Singh Sohata has become the first Sikh cop to don a turban with the official Fiji Police crown after the island nation’s police force approved changes to the uniform in a bid to promote diversity. Recognising that the respect for diversity and inclusivity are integral to the success of policing efforts, Acting Commissioner of Police Juki Fong Chew approved the wearing of a turban with the official Fiji Police crown.
Police Constable Sohata, 20, is a member of Batch 66 undergoing the Basic Recruits Course Training in Nasova, after being selected from the open market recruitment drive. A devout Sikh, Sohata had marched into the academy knowing the training requirements would require personal sacrifices on his part.
“However, the Acting Commissioner of Police, in respecting Sohata’s rights, approved the wearing of the turban with the official Fiji Police crown,” the Fiji Police said in a statement. Commissioner Chew said the move was a testament of the organisation’s commitment in upholding the fundamental principles of equality and diversity.
According to a book by Stanley Brown, ‘The History of the Fiji Police Force’, the first Sikh constables were recruited in force in the early 1910s. Sharing his experience as a recruit, Sohata, who hails from Dreketi village in Northern Division of Fiji, said it was difficult at first being away from his family. “I have a number of people in my life who I look up to as inspiration and role models, and it is my goal to make them proud and be just as good as them when it comes to my professional life,” Sohata said.
According to records kept by the Lautoka Gurudwara, Sikhs arrived in Fiji towards the end of the indentured labour system and mostly established themselves as farmers, policemen and teachers. The first school built by Sikhs in Fiji was the Khalsa High School in Ba district and the Suva gurdwara, built in 1922, is the oldest of all.