In what has been described as a historic moment for Fiji, leaders signed a declaration on Sunday to mark a major step towards unity and reconciliation between the two largest races in the country.
The 'Forward Fiji Declaration' hopes to usher in a new era of understanding between the indigenous (iTaukei) and Indo-Fijian people and leave behind the hurt and animosity of the past that have plagued the nation for decades.
The declaration has been touted to hold great significance as the country's political leaders attempt to address deep-rooted issues which have affected the relationship between the two main ethnic communities in Fiji.
At the forefront of these issues have been the racially motivated political upheavals of 1987 and 2000, in which coups targeted Fijian-Indians, whose forefathers arrived in Fiji as indentured labourers known as Girmitiyas 144 years ago.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Biman Prasad, Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma President Reverend Ili Vunisuwai, Former Prime Minister and Leader of Fiji Labour Party Mahendra Chaudhry, and other religious organisation leaders formalised a promise to acknowledge and leave the past behind.
Under this agreement, Fiji commits to a future free from political coups but democracy and the rule of law, no disunity but love and understanding, no racism but respect and mutual awareness, and no religious intolerance but common good for all.
This declaration comes at the back of an apology and confession issued by the Methodist congregation who under the then-leadership was in support of the 1987 and 2000 coups.
Reverend Vunisuwai, who led the apology, sought forgiveness through confession to the descendants of the Girmityas in a reconciliation and thanksgiving service.
The Reverend said the "difficulties and hardships" faced by the Fijian-Indian community was "so immense".
"We have wronged you and are deeply conscious of our weakness and failure to uphold your human dignity and unrighteous acts of 1987, 2000, and 2006," the church said.
"[We] humbly seek your forgiveness and loving favour to set us and our beloved nation free."
The church said the way forward was by "peace and harmony".
An emotional Prime Minister Rabuka, who was the leader of the 1987 coup also made his confession.
"I make this confession on my own behalf and on the behalf of all those who took part with me in the military coup on the 14th of May, 1987. We confess our wrongdoings, we confess that we have hurt so many of our people in Fiji, particularly those of the Indo-Fijian community," Rabuka said.
"I admit our wrongdoings, you are correct to have blamed us, you have every right to blame us for the difficulties you went through, we do not blame you for being angry with us or even hate us, you are justified in your anger and your hate. I stand here to confess and to ask for your forgiveness."
This was backed by an apology from paramount Chief of the Kubuna Confederacy, Turaga Bale Na Vunivalu of Bau, Tui Kaba, Ratu Epenisa Cakobau.
"My deepest regret and sincere apology for the wrongs and violence that were committed by my people that has infected you and your families in an inhuman way," Ratu Epenisa said.
"As a traditional leader, I have a responsibility to lead by example and to create a safe and inclusive environment for all members of our community."
He called on his people and other stakeholders to work "together to build bridges" and "celebrate diversity while promoting unity".
Former prime minister and Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry accepted the apology on behalf of the Girmitiyas.
Chaudhry was Fiji's first Indo-Fijian prime minister, elected to lead the country in 1999.
But after a year in power, his government was overthrown by a civilian-led putsch in May 2000.
"I accept the apology by you and by the Methodist Church," Chaudhry said.
He described the painful events of the past and said he was touched by the magnanimous gesture displayed at the service.
"We are deeply honored and touched," he said.
"Prime Minister Rabuka, I also accept your apology be that it is in your personal capacity that you apologise."
The Labour leader believed a sincere apology was owed to the entire nation, as the misguided and unlawful actions of a few extremists had severe consequences for everyone.
The nation as a whole paid a heavy price for the senseless actions of a minority, Chaudhry said.
"Despite the lofty motives given for the coups, the majority of our indigenous people today are far worse off than they were in 1987," he said.
"Latest statistics show that our iTaukei community comprise 75 percent of those living in poverty. These are shocking statistics. But it also reveals how these simple people were used and misled.
"Someone needs to apologise to them too."
Deputy Prime Minister and National Federation Party leader Prasad, on behalf of the descendants of the Girmitiyas, has also "unreservedly and unequivocally" accepted the apology from the church and Rabuka.
"This milestone will now be part of an indelible history of our nation," Prasad said.
Prasad acknowledged Rabuka's leadership to get this stage.
"At critical crossroads, but collectively overcame insurmountable challenges by harnessing the talents and qualities of all its people."
Another prominent Indo-Fijian leader and the assistant women's minister, Sashi Kiran, also extended her acceptance.
"Thank you for releasing the pain of my people, of my elders," Kiran said.
She said the anger and hate of the Fijian-Indian people was rooted in their lack of acceptance by the Vanua (people and land).
"When our people have shown anger, hate and pain ... when our people heard that they do not belong, [it] was one of the most painful things to hear," she said.
"This is the only motherland our people [Indo-Fijians] know."
Kiran also extended an apology from the Fijian-Indian community for its mistreatment towards the iTaukei people.
"In the last 144 years, we were fighting the British, initially, then we were fighting for our rights, then we kept fighting. We did not pause to embrace the place we are in. We did not pause to express gratitude."
Kiran's apology was accepted by Reverend Vunisuwai on behalf of the Vanua.