November 29, 2017-11-29 Honourable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama Prime Minister Minister for i-Taukei Affairs, Sugar Immigration and Waterways 4th Floor Government Buildings SUVA Dear Prime Minister
Re: Removal of Ban (Prohibition of Entry): – Professor Brij Vilash and Dr Padma Narsey Lal
We humbly request you to rescind the ban or prohibition of entry on two outstanding individuals who were banished from the land of their birth almost 8 years ago. As you undoubtedly are aware, an indefinite ban on entering Fiji has been placed on former Fiji citizens Professor Brij Vilash Lal and his wife Dr Padma Narsey Lal since November 2009 and January 2010 respectively. Professor Lal has been writing to the Department of Immigration since October 2014 regarding both he and his wife’s prohibited status. Soon after the general elections Professor Lal also wrote to the then Minister for Immigration Timoci Natuva who replied that they could travel to Fiji and advised him to contact the Director or his Deputy of the Department of Immigration. Professor Lal contacted the Immigration Department’s Edward Brown, who I believe was the Deputy Director. Mr Brown advised Professor Lal that while Immigration did not have any problem in removing the ban, they would have to get clearance from the Prime Minister’s Office. In December 2014, Mr Brown advised Professor Lal that their names were still on the “controversial list” that had been given to Immigration by the PM’s Office. Mr Brown also informed Professor Lal that Immigration would write to the PM’s Office to “seek comment and endorsement on whether the names should remain on the list or not”. After a lapse of four months and following publicity on the issue when it was raised in Parliament by the NFP through Honourable Prem Singh, the Lal’s were told to re-apply. This was after then Minister Natuva, after having told Parliament the actions of the Lal’s were viewed as prejudicial to security, public safety, public order and defence (parliamentary hansard 18th March 2015), stated that the Lals could re-apply for the ban to be lifted, like 30 other people. This they duly did in April 2015 but Mr Brown informed them that the ban was never lifted.
Prime Minister, I had the opportunity of visiting Professor Brij Vilash Lal and Dr Padma Narsey Lal in Brisbane, Australia, recently. They dearly miss the land of their birth. They were forced to sell off their home, a piece of prime real estate in Suva Point because they could not come back and retire in Fiji. Professor Lal has been honoured by Fiji for his contribution to the country, especially his work on the Constitution Review Commission. In June 2015, he was honoured with a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to education through preservation and teaching of Pacific history as a scholar, author and commentator. They have much to contribute towards the development of Fiji. Professor Lal is the preeminent authority and historian whose work in documenting the struggle and history of the Girmitiya and their descendants is unparalleled. Anyone around the world interested in the history of Fiji and indentured labourers cannot escape the eminent contribution of Professor Lal. Prime Minister, the Lals have been treated like common criminals and stopped from entering and residing in the land of their birth. All they did was to defend democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms. We are a parliamentary democracy and it does not make sense for Government to treat its former and eminent citizens as threats to our national security. We therefore humbly request you to direct the Immigration Department to remove the names of Professor Brij Vilash Lal and Padma Narsey Lal from the list of those prohibited from entering Fiji. I thank you and look forward to your favourable response and action.
Yours sincerely Professor Biman Prasad Leader c.c. Honourable Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum – Attorney General and Minister for Justice Honourable Ratu Inoke Kubuabola – Minister for National Security and Defence