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Kamil retraces father's steps

Matilda Simmons
Sunday, November 12, 2017

WHEN talking about the laws on immigration and its implications, Kamil Lakshman is quite adept at explaining every nook and cranny of it. Her law firm, Idesi Legal Ltd based in New Zealand, is seen as a refuge by many who face immigration issues.

"We deal with clients from around the world," she said.

"Since commencing my law firm in 2009, we've dealt with people at the end of the cliff who are overstayers and we mostly try to legalise them. It's interesting because people have been living there (in New Zealand) for a long time. Currently I'm handling a case of a Samoan lady who's been in NZ for 25 years. She didn't know she was an overstayer!"

Kamil grew up in Suva and is a proud ex-scholar of St Joseph's Secondary School. Last month, she stopped by The Fiji Times office to talk about a personal achievement, something she's wanted as a teenager. Last month, she was admitted to the Bar as a recognised legal practitioner in Fiji. It's a personal wish that was fostered from childhood after she found out her late father, Ravindra Nath, was a lawyer in Fiji.

"Dad died quite young and my being a lawyer was an attempt to make a connection," revealed Kamil.

"I've been a regular visitor to Fiji and this is to create a platform so when I eventually want to make a start I've got all the 'I's dotted and the 'T's crossed."

Admitted to the Bar through a special ceremony presided over by Chief Justice Anthony Gates, Kamil said was sort of a full cycle for her. This included wearing the same robe worn by her late father at his admission to the bar back in the 1960s.

"It's such a huge thing for me because he died when I was three months old," says Kamil. "I have no memory of him and the only association I could think of was the fact that he was a lawyer. So that's why I became one. So wearing the robe and sitting potentially in a room where he sat in to be admitted in Suva made that sort of a full circle. It was a bigger deal for me being admitted here than in New Zealand."

When asked more about her late father, Kamil is not quite forthcoming. You could sense deep emotions welling up in the silence that followed.

And as we moved our interview to her law firm in New Zealand, the Suva-born chatted happily about her law firm which is named after her late grandfather CP Bidesi (with the B dropped) hence Idesi Legal Ltd.

CP Bidesi was a well-known personality of Suva having served in Suva City Council for many years and the Senate. He and Mrs Bidesi brought up Mrs Lakshman and had been a great influence on her.

Apart from playing an active role in the New Zealand Law Society, she is also commencing her third term on the National Law Reform Immigration and Refugee Committee.

Kamil, is also a columnist and publishes articles through various media. She has been a radio personality having had a one hour weekly program on an Indian radio station called "Koffee with Kamil".

"You asked me a question which I don't think I fully answered and thus you probably found my need to have a connection to my deceased father a bit unusual," she said later after the interview.

"It is simply because I really did not know anything about him at all until later. I never grew up with his name thrown around. In fact, there was no mention of him. I was in my sixth form (Year 12) and it came about because a girl at school brought it up as a contentious topic.

"It got me very upset I then went home and wanted to know more and it got me thinking, questioning. It all was rather unusual that there was no mention of him ever.

"As I discovered more, the more I wanted to have a connection of some kind and it was at that moment I decided I wanted to become a lawyer.

"I was shown a photograph. In fact, the only photograph of me with him at his funeral with my mother carrying me and I am looking at him in his deceased state.

"The whole experience caused me much distress as I did not know him growing up and I could not see why he was a silent presence in my life when in fact he was someone one I could be so proud of."

From his humble beginning against all odds, he at a tender age of 23 or thereabouts gained his law degree from Christchurch University in New Zealand in the late '50s or early '60s which in itself was a fine achievement.

"My message to everyone. Do not withhold information for those you are a custodian for particularly if you love them as you cannot protect them from their reality!

"If not told the pain, agony and the sense of deception and abandonment is not a story one should have to deal with in adulthood. Life is too precious and preoccupation with such emotions can act as a deterrent from what this journey of life between birth and death has to offer.

"I was lucky that my fork did not propel me into misery but instead acted as a positive force but for some others they are not so fortunate and it acts as a dark shadow ruining any chance life has to offer.

"This gamble is not worth taking for those you love so my message is, do not take it. Think about them, not about an inconvenient truth given your context because their truth will erupt at some stage, the extent of the eruption will not be known until it occurs so why take that chance, be transparent!

"Control has been taken from them, their birthright has been hidden. They become others puppet, strings being pulled for them without their knowledge, irrespective of the well-intended motives which may include protecting them. This tendency should be avoided. Reconstructed families, donor sperm babies, adopted children and one parent family all are potentially semantic of this.

"These have a flow on effect on the mental and psychological health of our communities and the burden that it places on society as a whole. So a personal choice which is considered to be in the private domain could potentially have a public domain implication.

"Such conversations make people feel uncomfortable and are kept hidden but it should not be kept hidden. It should be discussed and the custodian's withholding tendency should be discouraged if the full implication of the consequences is fully comprehended. This article is meant to highlight these issues," she said with finality.

Kamil, is a proud mother to two boys; Prashant, who is commencing the fifth year of his medical degree and Siddhant, a Year 11 student. Both are supportive of their mum's multifold initiatives.

One of which is her flood and cyclone relief work in 2008, 2012 and 2016, working closely with Swami Tadananda of the Ramakrishna Mission based in Nadi who receives and distributes relief containers she sends.

The last relief appeal during STC Winston was so successful and the outpouring of generosity by the people of Wellington, New Zealand so great that the container company had to ask her to stop requesting for containers, she says with humour.

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