Pain of exile

When I was a little child in kindy there was another girl in my class who was really funny and smart, with an infectious smile.

She used to read The Fiji Times to us and explain things that we couldn’t quite understand yet.

Yogi, the smart newspaper-reading child grew up and now lives in Australia, as do her parents, part of the great Fijian diaspora in that country.

Yogi’s parents have strong roots in Fiji; her dad comes from a canefarming family in Tabia, Labasa, and her mum’s family ran a laundry in Toorak.

Our PM visited Australia and warmly invited all Fijians to come home and help our country, to take part in what we are building here.

The thing is, though, that Yogi’s parents aren’t allowed to come home.

Their names are Professor Brij Lal and Dr Padma Lal, and they are still banned from entering Fiji.

My own dad, a true son of Fiji who was born in the Rewa Delta, died three years ago this month.

Such as Yogi’s dad, his whole life revolved around this country.

Dad was a civil servant, a snorkeller and explorer, a connoisseur of goat curry and fine whiskey, and loved arguing politics with his many friends from all sides of the political spectrum.

And like most Fijians, my dad cheerfully criticised every government and every leader we’ve ever had.

Luckily, this did not exile him from his home, which he fiercely loved to the end of his days.

Please, don’t let Yogi’s mum and dad grow old without being able to return home.

It would be a sign of great strength to show empathy for the pain of exile, and let Dr Padma and Prof Brij come back to Fiji.

Tara Chetty


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