The passing of Professor Brij Lal, notable historian and researcher
Our condolences on the passing on December 24, 2021 of Brij Vilash Lal, notable Indo-Fijian historian and researcher who wrote several outstanding books on the Indian Diaspora. He passed away at his home in Australia. He was born in 1952 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 was living in exile in Australia.
Lal was married to fellow-academic Padma Lal. She, too, has been prohibited from returning to Fiji. Lal was Emeritus Professor of Pacific and Asian History at the School of Culture, History and Language at Australian National University. He had 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 was 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), 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.
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. 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. Lal reacted angrily to the ban on his return.
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