Late Prof Lal’s Family Grateful To Government For Interment


EMOTIONS were running high as people gathered in the hundreds at Tabia Sanatan College in Labasa to pay their last respects to the late Professor Brij Lal.

His widow, Doctor Padma Lal with her family from Australia with the late professor’s cremated remains for an interment after 12 years of not being able to come back home.

Late Prof. Lal won local and international fame as a writer, historian and an academic while specialising in chronicling the settlers from India, the Girmityas; their later history in Fiji and their politics.

Dr Lal thanked the Coalition Government, in particular Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, for revoking the prohibition order which allowed her to bring her late husband’s ashes to Fiji.

“We are indeed honoured to have the Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and the Deputy Prime Minister Biman Prasad along with all of you to be here with us to mark Brij’s homecoming before the final interment,” she said.

“Our family would like to thank you as this would not have been possible without the decision made by the PM and his Coalition Government. In the 12-years of being in exile, not for one moment Brij and I had lost hope of returning – we remained optimistic.”

“We said, one day, we will return to our country of birth to continue our respective research on issues important to Fiji and the Pacific and continue to contribute in whatever little ways we can,” Dr Lal added.

She added that “over the years, Brij had written several times to the Department of Immigration and to the PM’s Office while petitions were also signed calling for the removal of the travel ban but it was not acknowledged”.
Dr Lal said the personal and professional cost of the travel ban on them was huge. 

Prime Minister Rabuka said the late Professor was “dedicated to the ideals of democracy, particularly freedom of speech and expression which saw him being forced to leave, and return to his academic work in Australia”.

“I am duty-bound to announce a full official apology to Professor Brij Lal’s family on behalf of the Government and the people – we are sorry and ashamed for the way you and the late Professor Lal were treated and promise that during our term such injustices will not be repeated.”

“Like Professor Lal, our Coalition Government believes multiracial societies should strive for multiracial governments and that, as a principle, all groups should have the constitutional right to share power,” PM Rabuka stressed. 

“To the children of Tabia Primary School - ask your teachers to tell you about your famous school member, Professor Lal, and how much he cared about freedom, then follow in his footsteps and become a hero of freedom like him”. 

Minister for Finance, Biman Prasad, said  “justice has been done although in trying, difficult and sad circumstances as we welcome Professor Lal home”.

“This is truly an emotional occasion yet highly symbolic because it permanently buries oppression being endured for the last 16 years in this country. It elevates the Coalition Government and PM Rabuka’s most important principle of full restoration and total respect for fundamental rights and freedom.”

Prof. Lal died at the age of 69 in Brisbane, Australia, on December 25th, 2021 and his ashes were carried to a location on the bank of the Tabia River.