16 May 2019

Brij Lal ban subject of furore in Fiji parliament

2:19 pm on 16 May 2019

The leader of the National Federation Party Biman Prasad has attacked the Fiji government over its ban on exiled scholar Brij Lal.

The deputy leader of the opposition in Fiji and NFP president Biman Prasad.

The deputy leader of the opposition in Fiji and NFP president Biman Prasad. Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Koroi Hawkins

Professor Prasad's fierce defence of Professor Lal on Wednesday in parliament came during remarks from both sides of the house to commemorate the 140th anniversary of the arrival of indentured labourers, known as girmitiya, from India.

Professor Prasad said Professor Lal's contribution to the history of the girmitiya was unsurpassed yet the FijiFirst government had banned him and his wife Padma Lal from returning home.

The NFP leader's comments led to uproar in the house and finger-pointing between the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Professor Prasad.

"When a government develops that kind of venom and hate for an individual and his wife and bans them from this country and has the audacity to talk about celebrating girmit in this country, is ridiculous, only because this man was critical of the military coup in this country.

"They talk about working together, they talk about unity, yet they have banned the son of a girmitiya," he said.

Professor Lal who helped draft the 1997 constitution, abrogated in 2009, has been a fierce critic of the Bainimarama-led government.

In 2015 the government said Professor Lal would remain banned from Fiji indefinitely.