#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2010-12-26

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jai Ram Reddy story reflects what might have been for Fiji

REDDY AND RABUKA: File pic ex Fiji Times.

"The failed political ambitions of Reddy are a key piece in the puzzle of why Fiji has suffered so much in the last decade."-George Williams.

In the Eye of the Storm: Jai Ram Reddy and the politics of postcolonial Fiji’ was launched in Canberra  on 15 December by eminent constitutional lawyer George Williams, Anthony Mason Professor of Law at the University of New South Wales. He is highly respected in Fiji as one of the leading counsels in the famous Chandrika Prasad case which is internationally recognised as setting the benchmark for judging the success of coup.

Professor Brij Lal, in reply, spoke about the process and perils of writing history, historical amnesia among his people and the fading away of history from school curricula in Fiji.  He reiterated the conclusion of his book that if the Rabuka-Reddy project of political cooperation had succeeded, Fiji would have been spared the turmoil it was later to encounter.

When Professor Lal alluded to a recent attack on him saying that the reason why Labour leader Mahendra Chaudhry comes out in the book the way he does is because FLP victory in 1999 prevented Lal from becoming the Vice President of Fiji,' the audience laughed at this blatant untruth. As Dr Lal writes in the book, the person in consideration was Sir Moti Tikaram, who confirmed it to Dr Lal.

The book has been widely praised a singular contribution to understanding the dynamics of postcolonial Fiji .

Herein is the speech of Professor Williams: “It is a pleasure to be here tonight to launch Brij Lal’s latest book. I am a relative newcomer to Fiji. Sadly, I have never been to the islands for pleasure, only business, and often for the wrong reasons.

"My first contact came in 2000 when, in the wake of the George Speight coup attempt, I received an unusual call at my office at the ANU law school. I was asked if I would travel to Fiji to argue that the George Speight coup, and the military takeover that followed, breached the 1997 constitution.

"After some thought, I accepted the brief, and spent much of the next year in and out of Fiji working on the case with a formidable team of local lawyers and others including prominent international QC Geoffrey Robertson.

"After hearings in the High Court and Court of Appeal, the case was won. It was the first such victory in a domestic court in overturning a coup in world history. Unfortunately, of course, the result proved only to be a temporary victory of the rule of law and democracy in Fiji, and more recent events have once again proved the vulnerable state of those principles.

"My interest has been so fixed on the last decade of events in Fiji that I have neglected my own understanding of Fijian political history. Given that, I was delighted when the opportunity came to launch this book.

"I was very happy to be asked to launch this book because of its author. I have never had any doubt about the authoritative work of Brij Lal in this field. Rarely has any one person been so intertwined with the telling of the story of a nation. It is, however, certainly the case here.

"Brij Lal has been prolific in telling the modern story of Fiji. His first book appeared in 1983 and, remarkably, the work I am launching tonight is his 37th. Two more are expected to follow next year.

"Even before I first visited Fiji in 2000, I was well aware of Brij Lal’s work. Then and since he has been rightly regarded as the leading writer of Fijian political history. As an academic, you would expect his books to be accurate and well researched. Indeed, there is no doubt that they are.

"In addition, what sets his work apart from others is that he writes with such honesty and insight into Fiji and its problems. He is able to the sympathetic yet open-minded, and writes with authority and courage. It is these qualities that make his works the best in the field.

"Given the way he writes, I was not surprised that he was deported last year from Fiji by the military regime. Brij Lal is willing to speak truth to power. His honesty and willingness to confront directly the problems of Fiji is fundamentally incompatible with the approach of the coup government.

"Brij Lal may have written 37 books, but this one is special. It is not only the product of a decade of research and writing, but it is subject, Jai Ram Reddy, is someone for whom Brij Lal has an undoubted sympathy.

"What impressed me most about this book is that Brij Lal was still able to write such a revealing, sometimes painful, account of this colossus of the late twentieth century Fijian political scene. It seems that sometimes you need to understand a person and their political philosophy to also fully appreciate their mistakes and failings.

"In many ways this book is a tragedy. The failed political ambitions of Reddy are a key piece in the puzzle of why Fiji has suffered so much in the last decade.

"As a lawyer myself, I can understand Reddy’s approach to Fiji’s problems. I am sympathetic to his approach of principled pragmatism. I also share his perspective of the need to reach out across all groups to build a society based upon common values and mutual prosperity.

"It is a disappointment to me that my own involvement with Fiji only began when Reddy’s political career ended do disastrously in 1999. I am proud, however, that my role involved a defence of what Brij Lal describes as Reddy’s greatest achievement, Fiji’s 1997 Constitution. I note also Brij Lal’s central role in the drafting of a document as a member of the Fiji constitution review commission, a body to which he was appointed after being nominated by Reddy.

"The 1997 Constitution remains one of the best ever drafted in the world. It represents an unfulfilled vision for Fiji. It is indeed a melancholy task to speculate on ‘what might have been’.

"This book is dedicated to the people of Fiji, and does them a great service. It is only by understanding Reddy’s career and political philosophy that the last decade can be properly understood. This history, and Reddy’s contributions over the course of decades, must never be forgotten. This book will ensure that this is the case”.

Both the book and Reddy have been acclaimed. The following is a review by ANU PHd candidate Jone Baledrokadroka.

This book is a comprehensive and eloquent re-telling of the story of Fiji politics from independence in 1970 to 1999 through the perspective of possibly Fiji’s greatest living statesman, Jai Ram Reddy. 
As a student of Fiji’s post colonial politics the book brings back vivid memories of growing up with the political issues in a youthful nation full of promises and yet dashed hopes. This book is a must- read for all yearning for a better future for Fiji through understanding our past.  

It is a decade now that Reddy departed the political scene. I am one with political sociologist Steven Ratuva’s judgement: ‘Jai Ram Reddy was, and still is, the only Indo-Fijian leader capable of assuming the heights of multi-ethnic statesmanship’. 

He was the only Indo-Fijian leader ever trusted by the Fijians. He was genuine and humble and indigenous Fijian leaders saw these virtues clearly and related to them. However to quote Professor Lal, “Sadly what was virtue to one community, the indigenous Fijians, was vice to another, the Indo-Fijians”. 

Richard Naidu’s broad assessment is enduring of the man: “Jai Ram Reddy, who survived the rough and tumble of politics for more than 20 years with his reputation for integrity intact, without succumbing to the compromises of politics in a coup-ridden country, surely ranks heads and shoulders above any other politician of his generation.”

The final assessment of the Indo-Fijian community by Professor Lal, however, is haunting: “The Indo- Fijian community which Jai Ram Reddy led for a generation now lies hobbled in a cul-de-sac after a brief moment of hope and opportunities in the late 1990s. Accusation fly about who supported and did not support the 2006 coup, which deposed a democratically elected government headed by an Indigenous Fijian.”

And that ... “None of the problems facing it has been resolved… Jai Ram Reddy’s fate epitomizes the tragedy of modern Fiji: a country endowed with enviable human talent and natural resources.. but strangely prone to self-inflicted wounds that hobble its prospects and dent its future , a veritable Churchill’s Russia in the Pacific: a riddle, rapped in mystery, inside an enigma.”

Lal’s apt quote of Proverbs 29:18 in unraveling our present enigma for Fiji’s future befit today’s leaders, ‘Where there is no vision the people perish.’ Jai Ram Reddy is indeed a truly distinguished son of Fiji who envisioned a peaceful multiracial Fiji - yet to come."

WikiLeaks: The PIF suspension of Fiji

"The British High Commissioner recently had lunch with FM McCully, who reportedly said that it may be time to push Fiji down the list of priority issues until conditions allow for improved engagement. He allegedly indicated that perhaps things need to get much worse in Fiji before Fijians themselves decide to create the circumstances under which the international community can help things improve."

May 1, 2009
New Zealand: PIF to suspend Fiji on May 2

source:Embassy Wellington
RUEHWL #0107/01 1210432 ZNY CCCCC ZZH P 010432Z MAY 09 FM AMEMBASSY
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/01/2024
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/01/2024
Classified By: Acting DCM Margaret B. McKean; Reason 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (U) On May 1, Australian media reported that Fijian military leader Bainimarama offered to hold a summit with Australia and New Zealand to persuade both countries that Bainimarama's proposed timetable for a return to democracy in Fiji is necessary. Bainimarama further predicted that other PIF members would not support Fiji's suspension from the Pacific Island Forum (PIF). (Note: If the PIF does agree to suspend Fiji, it will be the first time that a PIF member state is suspended. End Note.) In remarks to the press on April 30, New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully assured reporters that Fiji's suspension will be automatic as of May 2 because Fiji has not met the May 1 deadline for setting an election date by year's end -- as demanded by the Pacific Island Forum leaders earlier this year. McCully further added that the PIF Secretariat would remain in Suva for the time being, noting that any retaliatory action by the Fijian authorities that affects PIF operations likely would prompt further review among member states. McCully's statements follow on Fijian Attorney General Sayed-Khaiyum's April 29 statements concluding that the Forum would not suspend Fiji. McCully's response to the Attorney General's remarks was "I admire his optimism."

2. (U) Bainimarama's media remarks affirmed that he has no plans for an early election, and reiterated the call for a 2014 election date. The Fijian military leader said that an election in 2009 would only return former Fijian Prime Minister Qarase to power, and that the latter cannot be allowed to resume the leadership of Fiji. Bainimarama asked
Australia and New Zealand to drop their demands for 2009 elections, and called on the other PIF states to not listen to Australia and New Zealand. He also credited U.S. Representative Eni Faleomavaega with having a better understanding of the situation in Samoa and that Faleomavaega's views, rather than those of Australia and New Zealand, should form the basis of USG policy towards Fiji. 

3. (C) A/DCM contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) Pacific Division on May 1, and spoke with Fiji desk officer Brian Hewson about next steps. The MFAT official said that the Ministry had received a draft letter from the Forum Chair (Niuean Prime Minister Tolagi) confirming Fiji's suspension on May 2 after the deadline of May 1 had passed. The letter would note the Forum's deep regret that the regime in Suva did not take the actions recommended by Forum leaders, and as a consequence, the PIF leaders have no choice but to confirm Fiji's suspension from PIF activities.

4. (C) Hewson noted that New Zealand will not issue a statement in response to Bainimarama's summit proposal or anything further on the Forum's action until after the Forum Chair makes the news public -- which will likely be May 2. MFAT has concluded that Bainimarama's recent statements and summit proposal were a last-ditch effort to delay suspension and try to drive a wedge between Australia and New Zealand on the one hand, and the rest of the PIF members. He also stated that the summit proposal was an attempt to convince a naive audience that Fiji is willing to engage and only Australia and New Zealand are the problem. Hewson said that Bainimarama had floated a similar proposal before, and referred to the period just prior to the expulsion of the New Zealand acting High Commissioner in late 2008 when the Fiji authorities' offered to send a three-person delegation to New Zealand to sort out differences. Hewson confirmed that a summit meeting with Fiji on Bainimarama's terms was a non-starter.

5. (C) New Zealand and Australia are consulting closely on Fiji, said Hewson, particularly with respect to what the post-May 1 environment will be like after the suspension is announced. Neither country has a clear idea as to how the Fijian authorities will react and whether some of the small island states who are dependent on Fiji for transport and other linkages will be negatively affected.

6. (C) The British High Commissioner recently had lunch with FM McCully, who reportedly said that it may be time to push Fiji down the list of priority issues until conditions allow for improved engagement. He allegedly indicated that perhaps things need to get much worse in Fiji before Fijians themselves decide to create the circumstances under which the international community can help things improve.
WELLINGTON 00000107 002 OF 002

Pictures: Toke Talagi (top) and Murray McCully.