Former Fiji opposition leader Jai Ram Reddy dies

The Late Jai Ram Reddy with People's Alliance Party Leader Sitiveni Rabuka
(L-R) The Late Jai Ram Reddy with People's Alliance Party Leader Sitiveni Rabuka. PHOTO: NFP/Facebook

Former Fiji leader of the opposition, judge and political trailblazer, Jai Ram Reddy has died.

Reddy, 85, passed away in Auckland on Monday night.

He was born in Lautoka in 1937 and had a long and illustrious career as a lawyer, politician, and judge.

Reddy established a reputation as a staunch advocate for equity, social justice, and racial equality in Fiji.

He was appointed as the Attorney-General and Justice Minister of Fiji in 1987, when Fiji’s first coup took place.

Reddy served twice as leader of the opposition in parliament, first from 1977 to 1983 and a second time from 1992 to 1999.

Following his time in politics, Reddy served as the president of the Fiji Court of Appeal in the early 2000s.

In 2003, he was selected by the UN General Assembly as a member of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

He finished serving as an international judge in 2008.

National Federation Party Leader Biman Prasad said the late Reddy was deeply committed to democracy, the rule of law and the politics of dialogue and cooperation.

“Justice Reddy is a towering figure in Fiji’s history. Like NFP’s founder leaders, A D Patel and S M Koya it is remarkable that he is remembered for his time in Opposition, not in Government. In that way, he proved the importance of leadership and vision over the narrow objects of political contests. He had a vision for the next generation, not the next election. He was deeply committed to democracy, the rule of law and the politics of dialogue and cooperation,” said Prasad.

His daughter, Helen Nalina Reddy, in a tribute to her Father, said, “Those who knew him intimately will recall his reverence for the prose of William Shakespeare and his uncanny ability to recite Shakespearean sonnets and soliloquies – even when his Alzheimer’s was quite advanced. As a young, idealistic student, he developed an interest in philosophy and his outlook and perspectives were shaped by both Eastern and Western writers and intellectuals. Possessing a dry, acerbic wit, he enjoyed satire and comedy – particularly the British variety – and was an ardent fan of all things involving Monty Python and other comics of that tradition. He also liked old Hindi songs but loved Ghazals the most.

“I am conscious that many of those who will read this piece is, like me, the descendants of indentured labourers “Girmitiyas” who were brought from India to Fiji during colonial rule. Like many of their generation, my grandparents, Pethi and Yenkatamma Reddy were farming folk who wanted a better future for their children. They worked in the field and saved with a view to sending their eldest son, Jai Ram, to study law in New Zealand. Their dreams were realised, and my father was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in 1960. I never did have the opportunity to observe my father in the courtroom, but I have heard and read much about his formidable advocacy skills and forensic legal mind. His areas of practice were broad, but he was particularly invested in criminal law and practice. I understand he could be a pit bull in the courtroom and had an unwavering commitment to his clients. Rest in Peace my dear Father,” she said.

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