Fiji’s former academic, the late Professor Brij Lal was accorded his final funeral rites at Tabia College in Labasa today, before the family’s internment of his ashes in the Tabia River.
The grandson of a Girmitiya who arrived in Fiji in 1908, the late Prof Brij Lal was born on August 21 1952 in Tabia, Labasa.
Renowned for his research on the history and politics of 20th Century Fiji, as well as biographies of leading Indo-Fijian political leaders who fought for democracy, the late Prof Brij Lal played an influential role in the formulation of the 1999 Constitution.
Paying tribute to the late Professor’s commitment to upholding democracy particularly freedom of speech, Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka said the late academic was patriotic, articulate and cheerful.
On behalf of the Coalition government and the people of Fiji, Prime Minister Rabuka expressed his profound sincere apologies to the late Professor Lal’s family.
“I am duty-bound to announce a full official apology to Professor Brij Lal’s family on behalf of the Government and our people.
“We are sorry and ashamed for the way you and Professor Lal were treated and promise that during our term, such injustices will not be repeated.”
Prime Minister Rabuka reaffirmed that the Coalition Government believes that multiracial societies should strive for multiracial governments and that, as a matter of principle, all groups should have the constitutional right to share.
“Goodbye Professor. Thank you for your service and sacrifice for your country- I and others who value freedom in this country, who value the same values as you had, promise you today, that during our tenure of leadership it will not happen again.”
In 2009, Professor Brij Lal and his wife, Padma, were banned from Fiji by the Bainimarama-led government after which they moved to Australia and remained in exile.
Professor Lal taught in several universities, including the Australian National University (ANU), the University of Hawaii (UoH), the University of South Pacific (USP) and the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG).
He authored and/or edited 55 academic books, more than 150 journal articles and countless newspaper articles for the media in Fiji and around the world.
Prof Brij Lal died in Brisbane on Christmas Day 2021.
He is survived by his wife, Padma, two children – Niraj and Yogi – and five grandchildren.