Brij Lal (historian)

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Brij V. Lal AM, FAHA is an Indo-Fijian historian. He was born in Labasa, on the northern island of Vanua Levu. He was educated at the University of the South Pacific, the University of British Columbia and the Australian National University. A harsh critic of the Bainimarama government, which originated in the military coup of 2006 and retained power in the 2014 elections, he is currently living in exile in Australia.[1]

Academic career[edit]

Lal is currently Emeritus Professor of Pacific and Asian History at the School of Culture, History and Language at Australian National University. He has previously lectured at University of the South Pacific in Suva, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and at the University of Papua New Guinea. He is also a Visiting Professor at University of the South Pacific and, simultaneously, head of the Centre for Diasporic Studies at the University of Fiji.

Among his many books are an autobiography, Mr Tulsi's Store: A Fijian Journey (2001), which won the San Francisco-based Kiriyama Prize in 2002. He is also the author of Chalo Jahaji: On a journey through indenture in Fiji (2000) and editor of Bittersweet: The Indo-Fijian Experience (2004),[2] the latter two recounting the history of the trials and triumphs of the Indo-Fijian community. He is the present Editor of the Journal of Pacific History and the Founding Editor of the literary journal, Conversations.

Honours[edit]

Lal was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities (FAHA) in 1996.[3] On 1 January 2001 he was awarded a Centenary Medal "for service to Australian society and the humanities in the study of Pacific history".[4]

On 3 November 2005, it was announced that Lal had been awarded the inaugural Distinguished Pacific Scholar Award by the UNESCO-sponsored International Council for the Study of the Pacific Islands, in recognition of his research into Fijian and Pacific history. He has also written widely about the Indian Diaspora, including the history of indentured service.

Lal was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the 2015 Queen's Birthday Honours (Australia) "for significant service to education, through the preservation and teaching of Pacific history, as a scholar, author and commentator".[5]

Lal has been honoured by the Fiji Millennium Committee for distinguished scholarship. He has also been named as one of the seventy people who have helped shape Fiji's history in the 20th century.

Pro-democracy activities[edit]

In the 1990s, Lal served as the nominee of the Leader of the opposition, Jai Ram Reddy on the three-member Constitutional Review Commission, whose work culminated in the adoption of the present constitution in 1997-1998.

Lal condemned the Military coup d'état which deposed the government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase on 5 December 2006. Fiji Live quoted him as saying on 7 December that the coup was not different in essence from the two coups staged by Sitiveni Rabuka in 1987, or George Speight's coup of 2000. This time, however, race was not seen to be a factor, he said, unlike the previous occasions when ethnic issues were used, he claimed, as a scapegoat for other interests.[6]

In November 2009, Lal discussed the ongoing political situation in Fiji after the expulsion of the Australian and New Zealand high commissioners, in an interview with Radio New Zealand. Shortly afterwards he was taken into custody and questioned about his comments. During the questioning, Lal reported that he was subjected to foul language and advised to leave the country within 24 hours, which he did. Lal has subsequently clarified that he was expelled rather than being deported.[7]

Forced exile[edit]

In March 2015, Defence Minister Timoci Natuva announced that Lal was prohibited indefinitely from returning to Fiji because his actions were "prejudicial to the peace, defence, public safety, public order and security of Government of Fiji". This decision was reiterated in late June or early July 2015.[8] Lal reacted angrily to the ban on his return.

The original decision was based on the false premise that I opposed Fiji's return to democracy after the coup of 2006," he said. "That is a travesty of the truth and of the historical record. I did nothing of the sort. And it is ludicrous to assert that my wife and I are a threat to the security of Fiji. The decision is nothing short of petty vindictiveness. We are disappointed but the Government is diminished by it. For our part, we will continue to stand up for the principles and values we believe in," he told the Fiji Times by e-mail on 2 July 2015.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Lal is married to fellow-academic Padma Lal. She, too, has been prohibited from returning to Fiji.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Vuibau, Tevita. "Lal remains in exile". The Fiji Times Online. Retrieved 3 July 2015. 
  2. ^ Brij V. Lal, ed. (2004). Bittersweet: the Indo-Fijian experience. photographs by Peter Hendrie. Canberra: Pandanus Books. p. 407. ISBN 1740761170. 
  3. ^ "Brij Lal". Australian Academy of the Humanities. Retrieved 2 March 2018. 
  4. ^ "LAL, Brij Vilash". Australian Honours Search Facility, Dept of Prime Minister & Cabinet. Retrieved 2 March 2018. 
  5. ^ "LAL, Brij Vilash". Australian Honours Search Facility, Dept of Prime Minister & Cabinet. Retrieved 2 March 2018. 
  6. ^ http://www.fijilive.com/news/show/news/2006/12/07/07Fijilive31.html
  7. ^ "'I have no reason to lie on this' says Brij Lal". Radio Australia. November 6, 2009. 
  8. ^ Vuibau, Tevita. "Lal remains in exile". The Fiji Times Online. Retrieved 3 July 2015. 
  9. ^ Vuibau, Tevita. "Lal remains in exile". The Fiji Times Online. Retrieved 3 July 2015. 
  10. ^ Vuibau, Tevita. "Lal remains in exile". The Fiji Times Online. Retrieved 3 July 2015. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Doug Munro, "Brij V. Lal—Journeys and transformations", The Ivory Tower and Beyond : Participant Historians of the Pacific, Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009, pp. 243-309.

External links[edit]