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Sir Moti relives early days

Maneesha Karan
Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Born in Lami, jurist Sir Moti Tikaram dreamt of journalism as a career. Now 82 years of age, he remembers the sweet victories in his lifes journey.

Sir Moti was the first local to be appointed a Stipendiary Magistrate in 1959 and in 1967 the first local named as a High Court judge.

Brought up with six brothers and four sisters, Sir Moti is the fourth eldest siblings.

"My brothers, sisters and I were very fond of rivers and sea.

"At that time the water in the Lami River was pristinely clear and we used to go to the river for picnic and swims," he recalled.

"We would launch boats in the river and have a marvellous time.

"There was no difficulty in our upbringing.

"My parents had arrived from Uttar Pradesh, in India, in 1912 and my father was the sardar for the workers.

"In the early years when I attended Samabula Government Indian School.

"I used to walk about four miles from home in Lami," he said.

After attending Samabula Government Indian School up to Class 4, Sir Moti switched to Suva Methodist Primary School, staying up to Class 8.

"I still remember my Class Five teacher Mr Semesa Sikivou because of the ways he was equipped to make students excel academically.

"He had a clever way of encouraging students to study.

"He made the students who scored highest sit in front of the class and the student with poor results at the back.

"Students wanted to sit in front, so they improved in their studies.

"Secondly, I was the only Indian who learnt how to play rugby under his guidance.

"I am proud of my Class Five teacher," said Sir Moti.

"I have particular interest in sports, especially rugby and am proud that I learnt about the game under Mr Sikivou."

Sir Moti is a patron of many national sports bodies, including the Fiji Football Association, Fiji Lawn Tennis Association and Fiji Table Tennis Association.

Sir Moti attended Marist Brothers High School.

"Marist Brothers had a big influence on me despite me being a Hindu and studying in a Catholic school.

"The school gave me good experiences.

"I learnt nice things in sad times.

"When Brother Lambert (first principal of the school) died, I was asked to deliver a eulogy at his funeral," he said.

With aspirations of becoming a journalist, he went to study abroad.

"Initially, I wanted do journalism and studied the program for two years in Auckland University, in New Zealand. But I later realised that journalism would not be a wise occupation to be in so I abandoned that and started law studies.

"Law took me about seven years and I completed my studies in Wellington, not Auckland.

"I have carried the Governor-General of New Zealand, Anand Satyanand, in my arms.

"He was only two years old then.

"We are still in contact," said Sir Moti.

"The greatest support I received during my studying years was from my parents.

"They supported me by sending money for my education."

Sir Moti remembers asking his elder brother to sell the van Sir Moti owned to send money for his education.

"I had the van I owned sold for my studies, but all that was worth it.

"The greatest case I have ever fought was where I defended a Tongan parliamentarian in Tonga in 1956.

"The case lasted for eight days.

"But I won the case not because of a technicality that was involved but because of the advice I had followed that was given by a little helper.

"He told me to talk to the Tongan heart not to the Tongan mind.

"And I did that. I prepared an emotional speech instead of the technical one that I had been working. And it worked.

"After a few minutes the jury came in and said we are for the lawyer instead of saying that they were for the defendant.

"That was one case which I really worked hard for enjoyed," he said.

Sir Moti remembers how he befriended Fijis first heavyweight boxing champion Isimeli Radrodro.

"I was in Suva Methodist Primary School when I bumped into Radrodro and we picked a fight with each other.

"And after the fight we were told to cut grass as our punishment.

"But instead of becoming enemies, we became friends.

"And in his first fight when he claimed his title, he thrust his hand through the boxing ring and shook hands with me.

"He asked me in a joyous mood whether I remembered the fight we had during our school days."

Sir Moti is widower, with three children, Savita, Anil and Sunil.

He was appointed Fijis first Ombudsman in 1972.

He was made a knight commander of the most Order of the British Empire in 1980.

At the time of his retirement in 1987, he was the longest serving national ombudsman in the world.

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