Government Does Not Understand What Makes Good Academics Tick: Permanent Banns on Brij and Padma Lal

Every person's upbringing, training and life experience leads them to behave in different ways from other people. Military people value discipline and obedience. Academics favour independent thought. The Lals were not opposing democracy. They are in a far more principled position than the likes of Michael Field who also is permanently banned from entering Fiji.

They were expressing a view shared by many about the legality of the Bainimarama takeover in 2006.  It was not a position with which I agreed but as an academic my training and experience demands that I respect their opinion.  Government's decision shows a regrettable shortcoming in its post election leadership and a total ignorance of the intellectual qualities required of those filling academic positions in a democratic society. It also deprives universities in Fiji of  the assistance the Lal's  could offer to their staff and students in Fiji and in Australia.  Six months on when the issue has cooled, I would hope and expect academics in Fiji to  work for a reversal of this regrettable decision.  -- Croz

Exiled academic's 'sacrifice'

Siteri Sauvakacolo Fiji Times| Thursday, March 19, 2015
ACADEMIC and former Fiji citizen Professor Brij Lal and his wife Dr Padma Lal have been banned from Fiji indefinitely.
This was confirmed in Parliament yesterday by the Defence and Immigration Minister Timoci Natuva following questions by member of Opposition Prem Singh on why the two former Fiji citizens, who are currently Australian passport holders, were banned from entering Fiji in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
"Fiji is a sovereign state and the authority to prohibit a foreigner to enter or re-enter the country rests with the State," Mr Natuva said.
"For this particular person, he has been very vocal and opposed the move towards democracy after the events of 2006, his actions were viewed by the Government of the day as prejudicial to the peace, defence, public safety, public order, security of the Government of Fiji.
"The Minister of Defence's decision was that he was given a prohibition status indefinitely, we had reviewed the decision when I came into office and after studying the case, I concurred with the earlier decision by the former Defence Minister."
The Defence Minister explained in Parliament that this indefinite ban applied to the couple and the duration for prohibition differed according to the circumstances surrounding the case and it goes from 12 months or indefinite period.
Prof Lal said he was sorry to hear the minister's decision.
"I do not accept that I opposed Fiji's return to democracy after the coup of 2006. I stood up for the rule of law, the values of democracy and a strict observance of the constitutional process," Prof Lal said.
"But all that is moot now. The country has a new constitution and a newly elected Parliament.
"The reasons for which my wife and I were deported do not apply any more. I have not broken any law, I have no criminal record. But if exile is the price I have to pay for standing up for freedom of speech, then I have no choice but to pay the price."

Comments

Rolando Cocom said…
Good move Croz; Lal deserves the support
Tuisese said…
The rules of Democracy seems to apply to some at certain points in time to others when convenient to some hardly at all. Well Brig it is the Fiji Governments tune you now dance to as it is also the case with other Democracies eg NZ, Australia, USA, UK, Israel. They do not have to give you any reason- they can just ban you under any excuse! Terrorism is now the flavour of times?
Anonymous said…
Tuisese I agree with your comment.

Also, Brij Lal is a narrowly focused academic light weight. I can't see why the Fijian government doesn't just let him back in the country. What harm can he do? He has dominated the popular media in Australia for too long and he is on his way out.

Lal can be critical all he likes about Fiji but won't say anything about the injustices and unscrupulous behavior of the Australian State, Businesses and individuals who rip off Pacific Islanders in a country that he lives ie, some who have 457 Visas. Then there is the issue of off-shore detentions centres and the treatment of Indigneous people in this so-called democratic country that does not even recognise the rights of Indigenous people in their constitution. Then again, he doesn't seem to be a big fan of Indigenous people does he? If he does get let back into Fiji what use will his obviously conservative views of the world matter? Fiji has moved on from his race based politics.

I wonder whether he really want to go back to Fiji? Here is a quote from his book Intersections: History, Memory and Discipline pg 302 "BL: I have had my opportunity. I have said what I think is appropriate. Emotionally Fiji will always be a part of me. That will always be there... I'll probably not go back to Fiji. I want to work on a history of Australian relations with the Pacific from 1800 to 2000, because I live here now. I'd like to explain this part of the world to people in this country because Australia has been a dominant power in this region. That's one thing I would like to do...I don't see myself in academia for long. I've had a good run. if something better comes up I'll certainly think about it. For the time being academic life seems to be the best alternative I have." How dominant is Australia in the region? They didn't do much to sway or undermine the rise and popularity of Bainimarama and his current Government. I can imagine Lal's message to the Pacific about Australia would include a lot of finger wagging opinions and no doubt have strong John Howard overtones.

I definately think that his wife Padma Lal should be given a break and allowed back into the country. She was doing something useful and important for Fiji's future on mangrove conservation and replanting. I think she was unjustly penalised for her husbands political game playing. If anything, why should she be kicked out the country just because she is the wife of Brij Lal! Padma Lal is the one who is being punished unreasonably here and all we ever hear about in the popular press and blogs like this and Wadan Narsey's propaganda blog is Brij Lal's point of view.

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