Tribute to honour the life and vision of Justice Jai Ram Reddy
Saturday, 10 September, 2022
Girmit Centre, Lautoka
By NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad
On 5th November, 2015, Honourable Justice Jai Ram Reddy, while paying tribute to Vishwa Nadan - a friend, NFP stalwart as well as the party’s general secretary during re-registration as a political party in 2013, said and I quote:-
“One should salute and honour a man like Vishwa and not mourn his death. Death is an absolute necessity of life. If it wasn’t, then dictators, tyrants and despots will continue to live forever. Nothing is permanent in life because life itself is not permanent”. – unquote
Last week we said our final goodbyes, in Auckland, New Zealand, to Mr Jai Ram Reddy – a man who deeply cared about Fiji, its people and its future well-being.
But Mr Reddy was a man of this country, Fiji, and this city of Lautoka. And we in the National Federation Party knew that we must also have this memorial to Mr Reddy, in the place of his birth, and the place where he lived much of his public and private life.
Therefore in keeping with Justice Reddy’s philosophy, it is our duty to honour him and to recall his enormous contribution to our country. He was a man like no other.
Mr Reddy was a leader and a statesman. His vision and wisdom set the course of not just our party, but for all our people of Fiji. And yet, he achieved this without holding political power.
He spent almost all of his political life in opposition.
He achieved this because of the power of his intellect, his foresightedness and his deep understanding of human beings.
Since Mr Reddy’s death, many people have circulated, and reminded us, of Mr Reddy’s historic speech to the Bose Levu Vakaturaga in 1997. He went there because Mr Rabuka invited him.
This encounter was historic because, never before had an Indo-Fijian leader met formally to engage with the traditional leaders of the Taukei. And once again, Mr Reddy, as always, spoke to advise and persuade. And, as Mr Rabuka has told us, Mr Reddy once again, succeeded.
I want to review again some of the historic words Mr Reddy spoke. Those carefully considered words came at a time when our two major communities were once again reaching out to each other, looking for solutions to the hurt and trauma of the past.
Mr Reddy addressed the chiefs of Fiji directly. He asked that they consider themselves leaders not just of the Taukei, but of all of Fiji’s people. He reminded them that Indo-Fijians did not wish to separate themselves from their iTaukei brothers and sisters.
And, speaking for the Indo-Fijian community, this is what he told them:
“Fiji is our home. Fiji is our only home. We have no other. We want no other”.
And then Mr Reddy talked about security. He talked frankly about how all of us in Fiji felt. He talked about fear. He talked about division. And he talked about how this must end.
And this is how he addressed himself to the members of the Great Council of Chiefs and I quote: “We seek not to threaten your security, but to protect it. For in your security lies the basis of our own.”
We must stop and reflect carefully on those words, spoken 25 years ago. Twenty-five years ago. This was the vision and wisdom of this man.
What was Mr Reddy telling us? He was telling us that the way forward is in partnership – deep, meaningful partnership – between our communities.
Recognising our differences. Working together to build on each other’s strengths. Working together, helping each other where we are not so strong.
This is the unified leadership Fiji wants. This is the dignified, co-operative leadership Fiji wants.
Mr Reddy fought for all of us. He used his unique, outstanding gifts – his wisdom and intellect, his vision, his power to reason and his power to persuade.
Mr Reddy had the power to forgive without forgetting. He had the power to understand that if Fiji was to have a brighter future, it could not stay tethered to an unhappy past.
In doing so, Mr Reddy showed then his political maturity and unparalleled wisdom. He showed it took more than courage and conviction – indeed vision for a harmonious Fiji – which was at that time and still is, eluding many who are far more interested in personal advancement than national interest.
But there again lies the hallmark of a person – when the chips are down, that’s when a sterling character rises above the perfidies of deceitful politics of grabbing power at any cost – and Mr Reddy did just that. He stuck to his principles because that was, is and will be the only way forward for a lasting harmonious nation that truly becomes a land of hope and opportunity for all its people.
This is the enduring mark of this great man. This is the legacy Mr Reddy has left us. And this why he will never be forgotten.
We are already in an election campaign. And already there are certain politicians who go to places of worship, where they think they are out of sight. They quietly tell people that only one party can guarantee people’s security. They encourage people to fear leaders of other political parties.
And this is the politics that Mr Reddy would never condone, and which Mr Reddy would never accept. The politics of fear and small-mindedness. Politics which seeks to buy people’s votes.
Politics which does not advise, does not persuade, does not use reason or logic. Politics which plays on people’s fears.
And as our election campaign rolls out, I ask all of us to remember what I have said. To remember, and to ask ourselves, which of our leaders are true to Mr Reddy’s vision? Which leaders look forward, look to deepen understanding and democracy?
And which leaders, instead, want only to cling to power? And which leaders will do and say whatever they need, just to keep power?
In 1997, in Mr Reddy’s finest hour, Fiji was at a critical point. We are now at another one. In this election our very democracy is on the line. We have seen the way the Fiji First government behaves. We are a country that is once again divided and fearful and desperate for new leadership.
I say to you and to all of us, that Mr Jai Ram Reddy’s life is a beacon for us to meet the great challenges of bringing back to Fiji those dear things that he fought for - democracy, rule of law, decency and respect for one another.
Mr Reddy’s party, NFP, has come together again with Mr Rabuka’s party. We owe it to Mr Reddy to continue his vision and his ambition for Fiji.
23 years ago, before the 1999 elections, Mr Reddy said and I quote, ““We face the most momentous elections in our history. The choices we make and the steps we take individually and collectively will determine the kind of society we bequeath to the next generation”. – unquote
We may have failed in 1999. But like Mr Rabuka, I assure Fiji that this time we will succeed because failure is not an option.
We owe it to Justice Jai Ram Reddy and his indestructible vision for Fiji.
We owe it to a giant amongst Fiji’s leaders who played an indelible part in shaping NFP into an impregnable fortress.
We owe it to one of Fiji’s finest statesmen who told his political detractors in March 1998 that his conscience is clean and he is only answerable to his Creator.
And right here in Lautoka, the birth place of Jai Ram Reddy, the NFP pays homage to and salutes a loyal and true son of Fiji.
I thank you all for coming today to honour Mr Reddy’s memory. I ask you all to return home and reflect deeply on Mr Reddy’s life, his sacrifices and his vision for Fiji.
God bless you all.
God bless Fiji.