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In the Eye of the Storm

In the Eye of the Storm: Jai Ram Reddy and the Politics of Postcolonial Fiji OPEN ACCESS

BRIJ V. LAL
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: ANU Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24hctv
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  • Book Info
    In the Eye of the Storm
    Book Description:

    To read this evocative book is to be thrust into a Fiji that has, for the moment, been snuffed out by military might: a Fiji of political parties, parliamentary politics, elections, manifestoes, campaigns, democractic defence of interests, party manoeuvres, and constitutional protection of rights and freedoms. It is a comprehensive and eloquent re-telling of the story of Fiji politics from independence in 1970 to 1999 through the perspective of Fiji's greatest living statesman, Jai Ram Reddy, by one of the world's most distinguished scholars of its history and politics.

    eISBN: 978-1-921666-53-7
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. INTRODUCTION (pp. 1-38)

    April 2003. Jai Ram Reddy, his wife Chandra, and I drive to their Teidamu farm house in his four-wheel drive to sort out his private papers kept there. Reddy is on his way to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha (Tanzania) as one of its permanent judges, and I would like his papers arranged and stored before he departs. It is a sad, slightly disconcerting drive. Not a free conversationalist even at the happiest of times, Reddy is quiet, forehead furrowed, concentrating on the rough, unmaintained road meandering up to the top. The green tin roof-top house has...

  2. Jai Ram Reddy was born at Lautoka Hospital on 12 May 1937, the eldest child of Pethi and Yenkattama Reddy. The place of birth was unusual for those days when most children were born at home. So, too, was the mode of birth: caesarean. There was celebration in the Reddy household for the first born, a son, a celebration made all the more poignant because of the death of an earlier child, a girl, either during childbirth or early infancy. Pregnancy could be precarious even at the best of times, and infant mortality, while declining, still tore at the heart...

  3. Jai Ram Reddy was appointed to the Senate in 1972 by Siddiq Koya, which he accepted after some months of private deliberation. His term in the Senate was unremarkable, certainly in contrast to what was to follow in the late 1970s. He was, for the most part, an interested bystander, not an active participant, in Indo-Fijian politics and had no ambition for a political career, let alone political leadership of the Indo-Fijian community. Law was his passion not politics. But given his reputation and status as a leading barrister and his cultural background, it was inevitable that he would be...

  4. ‘I have only had a short experience of Mr Reddy,’ Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara said in December 1978, ‘and I have a lot of admiration for him. Whether I like it or not, I think it is good for the country for a man like that to help run it.’¹ Finance Minister Charles Walker was equally laudatory in his praise for the NFP leader. Reddy would make ‘an excellent spokesman for us in the North/South dialogue,’ he said. ‘I sincerely hope, if we get a composite team, he would be on it.’² Len Usher, former journalist and Alliance functionary, called...

  5. An emergency session of parliament on 15 December 1983 was debating a Supplementary Appropriation of $5 million Christmas ‘Cost of Living Adjustment’ payment to civil servants as part of their settlement under the Nicole and Hurst job evaluation report. Siddiq Koya was on his feet, and in his speech referred to Alliance backbencher and millionaire Jim Ah Koy’s challenge to the Opposition parliamentarians to accept a pay cut in view of the dire state of the economy. Finance Minister Charles Walker had already resigned his portfolio rather than authorise pay increase for civil servants of up to $25 million. But...

  6. Jai Ram Reddy was sitting third on Prime Minister Bavadra’s right when soon after 10 O’clock on 14 May 1987, ten hooded soldiers entered the Fiji Parliament. ‘Sit down everybody, sit down,’ shouted one of them to everyone’s consternation. ‘This is a take-over. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a military take-over. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. You are requested to stay cool, stay down and listen to what we are going to tell you.’¹ Their leader, Lt Col. Sitiveni Rabuka, in powder blue safari suit with a pistol in his hand, then marched straight towards the Speaker’s Chair occupied...

  7. 12 May 1987 was Jai Ram Reddy’s 50th birthday. It had been an eventful half century for the lad from rural Lautoka, handed the short straw like so many of his time and place, and growing up in the long, lingering shadow cast by the events of World War II: the dislocation of the farming community in western Viti Levu caused by the war-time work, the effects of the crippling strikes in the sugar industry, and the deteriorating race relations resulting from the varying degrees of enthusiasm with which the different communities had approached the war effort. After an indifferent...

  8. ‘We see a new order of hope, of peace, reconciliation, and progress in which the fundamental rights and freedoms of all citizens are guaranteed,’ President Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau said, promulgating the 1990 Constitution. ‘We seek understanding, trust and tolerance.’ The new constitution was not based on ‘some revolutionary and radical proposition,’ he continued; it simply provided ‘for a continuation, and an enlargement, of an idea which has become an established part of our power-sharing arrangements.’ By this, Ratu Penaia meant the entrenchment of the principle of Fijian political paramountcy. This was necessary, he continued, to protect the Fijian identity,...

  9. For Jai Ram Reddy, a fair and just constitution was the absolute prerequisite to addressing the problems facing the people of Fiji. To that end, the review of the 1990 Constitution was a matter of the highest urgency for him. ‘You can talk about the land problem, or the economic problems, or the law and order problems,’ he said, but the ‘truth is that solution to all these is dependent on the kind of constitution that is put in place and the kind of government that emerges from it. A government that has a captive vote bank confined within a...

  10. The sun was a ripe orange over the Nadi Bay as dusty campaign vehicles festooned with leaves and frayed party flags began arriving at the Nadi Sangam Secondary grounds at the back of the tourist town. In the corrugated iron shed there sat perhaps two dozen exhausted party supporters and hangers-on, drinking kava, killing time and pondering the events of the day and of weeks of what had been a gruelling campaign. This was the end of the road, with little else to do but to sit and wait for the results. Long gone by now was the euphoria of...

  11. After the elections, Jai Ram Reddy returned to his private practice in Lautoka. But starting all over again was not easy for someone who had been away from the law for so many years, when the field of law itself, its practice and its needs and demands, had moved on. He rented an office in the city and made a start, but after a hectic lifetime in the public arena, mundane matters of criminal and civil litigation did not engage his imagination or spirit. For several months, he was listless, brooding, withdrawn. His friends and colleagues were concerned. He deserved...