Book launched on Jai Ram Reddy

Written By : SUBHASH APPANA. For much of the 1970s, 80s and 90s, Jai Ram Reddy (with Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara) loomed large in Fiji politics. This is the one
05 Nov 2010 12:00

image Written By : SUBHASH APPANA. For much of the 1970s, 80s and 90s, Jai Ram Reddy (with Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara) loomed large in Fiji politics.
This is the one Indo Fijian leader who continues to be mentioned with respect across the ethnic divide in Fiji.
The i taukei have often remarked about his vakarau vaka turaga (dignified mannerisms and decorum) and veitokoni (cooperative orientation).
In fact many still speculate about what could have been if Reddy had still led the Indo Fijian community.
It is therefore, not surprising that a book had to be written about this prominent son of Fiji.
And it took no less than renowned ANU academic and historian, Professor Brij Vilash Lal, to take on the daunting task of writing a book on Jai Ram Reddy and Fiji politics from independence when Indo Fijian politics was inevitably intertwined with sugar politics to 1999 when Jai Ram Reddy and Sitiveni Rabuka’s vision of an ethnically united Fiji was derailed by a group of destructively greedy opportunists.
That book aptly titled, “In the Eye of the Storm: Jai Ram Reddy and the Politics of Post Colonial Fiji”, was launched at Auckland’s Lynfield College on Saturday 30th June 2010.
In launching the book, Sir Paul Reeves as Chief Guest, highlighted 3 significant experiences from his own life as an international conciliator.
The first was in 1992-93 when he visited South Africa and met Nelson Mandela, Chief Buthelezi and President de Klerk as the country finally prepared to embrace real democracy.
Here he mentioned in particular the courage and pragmatism of President FW de Klerk who realized the need to accept reality in the face of irreversible shifts in the politics of that strife-torn country.
Then he mentioned Guyana as an “ethnically contested country” where it became crucial to “protect the middle ground”. And in Fiji, he presided over often opposed positions taken by fellow constitutional commissioners, Tomasi Vakatora and Brij Lal.
In all three cases, he said, the main obstacle was the need for a dramatic re-orientation that would help forge workable political paths in an ethnically polarized society.
Then the author, Professor Brij Lal took the stage and highlighted the key role that a historian plays and how society tends to overlook this importance.
He said that the book had been in the pipeline for a long time, but somehow or other he had been putting it off until he experienced two events: one, when he addressed a high school history class at a school in Nasinu.
There, as an invited guest, aside from talking about the work of a historian, he asked the 27 students if they knew who Jai Ram Reddy was – not one answered in the affirmative.
The other was a report in the Fiji Times on a visit by a bevy of Hibiscus Contestants to the Maximum Security Gaol in Naboro.
There they met George Speight and each one started gushing about what a “great man” he was and how good he was at “articulating himself”.
One even likened him to Bollywood stars saying that she’d met a star right here in Fiji.
After reading this report, Professor Brij Lal despaired and decided that something was wrong with our school system. Hence he decided to complete the book on a real Great Man from Fiji.
The occasion at Lynfield College was characterized by collegiality as old friends met and mingled.
All the NFP old war horses were there and it brought back memories of heated debates and parliamentary brinkmanship. There was Harish Sharma, Ahmed Bhamji, Sayed Khaiyum, Harnam Golian, Maan Singh, Shiu Charan, Vinod Patel, etc. – these were people who had gradually faded out of the public eye as Fiji continued on its tortured political path. Many appeared to have aged gracefully and looked slim and healthy.
The new NFP was also there in Raman Singh, Dorsami Naidu, Parmod Rae, Prem Singh, Charan Jeeth Singh, etc.
And the man himself, Jai Ram Reddy or Jai as his colleagues called him, was there looking fresh and convivial as he moved through the crowd and smiled as if he was quietly recalling little events and things that I’m sure will have been missed by the book as often happens in the writing of history.
Jai Ram was indeed a reluctant participant who, once he embraced politics, became a key seeker of lasting solutions for Fiji.
In the Eye of the Storm: Jai Ram Reddy and the Politics of Post Colonial Fiji will go a long way in helping understand and appreciate the greatness of this son of Fiji who is now a permanent member of the International Court of Justice.
The opinions contained in this article are entirely those of the author and not necessarily shared by any organizations he may be associated with both in Fiji and abroad. Email appanas@hotmail.com

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