Anu Patel: Farewell to a dear friend and mentor
I have always thought of Anu Patel as the ‘barefoot lawyer’. That is because when I first saw him across the road from the Fiji Times newsroom in Lautoka in 1978, he had his lawyer’s suit on, but no shoes. Those of us who covered court stories in those days were intrigued by this newly arrived, sartorially-dressed, lawyer with the beautiful wife. When I sat in Lautoka Court trying to figure out a reporting angle from those interminable court cases, I would look over at Anu’s bare feet just to save myself from utter boredom.
Everyone knew, of course, that he was the son of the famous Mr S.B. Patel whose legal acumen for protection of people’s rights had, for decades, been the envy of every political pundit in Fiji. But his father’s honourable reputation just added to Anu’s aura and he held up that reputation proudly, without fanfare, all his life. Mr S. B. Patel’s calm and philosophical personality, and his ability to bring harmony to potentially dangerous political situations in Fiji’s turbulent 20th century past, are qualities that Anu enviably inherited from his father and brought to his legal work.
But the Anu Patel I grew to know properly much later had carved his own place in Fiji’s legal community. His father would have been proud of that. Anu was not political; at least not party political. What he had, almost instinctively, was a deep and abiding sense of justice. Anu knew the important difference between law and justice and that was more than enough to secure his rightful place as one of the few leading lawyers of our generation.
I myself experienced Anu’s sense of duty towards those who suffered in our society. In 2000, when Speight’s supporters swept through Muaniweni causing mayhem and pillage in that small settlement, Anu was one of less than a handful of lawyers who, without any payment, or concern about his own safety, stepped up to help get the Chandrika Prasad case first through the Lautoka High Court and then in the Court of Appeal. He even kept QC Geoffrey Robertson in check at the bar table during that appeal – just as Geoffrey was embarking on a slight frolic of his own contrary to instructions. Anu wasn’t scared of anyone.
Of course my relationship with Anu was not all smooth when we were preparing the Prasad case- he thought he was doing the case one way; I told him no, this way. He had a temper when roused, did Anu. But only once did he walk off in a huff after one of our arguments. I am told he was walked around the block by his good friends Chen Bunn Young and Mick Beddoes, and then he came right back and settled down. That was Anu; he never held a grudge. A man with a big heart.
And he knew where to find the best crab curry in Lautoka- usually a hole in the wall café. I also knew, as everyone else did I am sure, where to find Anu when he wasn’t answering his mobile- in the Northern Club. Legend has it that he personally cut the wire fence between the courthouse and the Club for easy access.
Well, this great lawyer, a giant of a personality, a kind and generous soul, a dear friend, our own ‘barefoot lawyer’- now gone, but will always be remembered with respect and love. Rest in Peace dearest Anu.
They ripped off their fellow Fijians…The funds of ordinary Fijians were misappropriated.
These elites effectively robbed their own countrymen and women – decent, hardworking ordinary people who had put their trust in the FNPF and the Government, a Government that treated the contracts of the aged with contempt”
This is my Flag, it is tattered and torn, it has recently been verbally abused by people who should know better, good men have, since 1970, given their lives for this very flag, they and the flag demand the respect of us all.
My flag embodies symbols from Fiji’s original flags going back over 140 years, it is my flag because I have spent the majority of my life under this flag and I respect the people who have made sacrifices for our nation under our flag, which include the men and women who gave their lives, the colonialists who shaped our nation and brought the rule of law, people like Gwynn Watkins who was responsible for one of the largest plantations of mahogany in the world, which our nation is now reaping the benefit of.
Commander Stan Brown, who the PM may remember if he thinks carefully, a man who loved Fiji and always had her best interests at heart, could and has been referred to as a colonialist.
Change is the only constant in this world we live in, and change to the Fiji flag may be inevitable, but my flag, your flag, the flag of our nations departed, does not need to be subjected to criticism and ridicule, our Flag deserves a guard of honour at it’s burial and a 21 gun salute, which is more than one can say of it’s critics.
BLUNT TALK FROM SHIRLEY PARK PROTESTORS: Why can’t Meghjis build their hotel opposite their liquor and eatery and bar – the LOUNGE
Shirley Park hearing set for 12 February and fireworks fly from objectors!
FROM ONE OF THE PETITIONERS (Denise Gibson):
Why we should save Shirley Park- additional comments to my petition on behalf of the 520
When it comes to recreation and the value of the Shirley Park location to the sea, its central location in the city center and what it means to a healthy lifestyle to the people of Lautoka, the Minister for Local Government, the Attorney General, P Meghji and the Director of Town and Country Planning should know that for those that use the park, the market vendors on time off, students from the university and other institutions in the city and the ordinary man and woman on a minimum wage who can’t afford the luxury of a day at the beach or a night at a fancy hotel who value Shirley Park, they come with their friends and family, their children for relaxation, for picnics and simple recreation.
To give one third of an already small park to construction, will take away the meaning and essence of Shirley Park as its stood for decades, it will increase congestion with what is left of it after the hotel is built and decrease privacy for those using it with a narrow strip of green space left to one side
Building along the foreshore area of the park will block out and take away through- flow of fresh air into the park and into the city center.
There is the likelihood of increasing the temperature in the city center, as this is the only wide open break surrounding concrete and stone in an area of high population density ( on any working day).
Regarding the proximity and location of Shirley Park to so many in the city, Churchill park is now one fifth if not more smaller now because of the Tappoo construction and there’s been the removal of trees and space which leaves that park with hardly any shade . It has no view to speak of being surrounded by built up areas, a stadium and shops.
The Botanical Garden is too far for workers during a lunch break, there is no comparison for proximity to their work places, walking there takes 10-15 minutes each way which defeats the purpose of their down time.
I have sat with people in the park when gathering signatures for my petition so all comments are a fact of discussions with those there in various areas in the city.
The sentiment of historical significance and memories for the older folks is also significant.
Why don’t the Government and Mr. Meghji look at the benefits of building this hotel in a like area that has similar vantage?
Rezone and build in the open space across the road and opposite the P Meghji owned liquor Shop and eatery and bar, the ‘Lounge’ in Lautoka.
This open space across the road is on an incline, there are views of the ocean and waterfront, proximity for their intended guests to the city and will give their own businesses in food and drink a boost.
Two things can be accomplished here, Money, business and much needed employment to Lautoka city and a happier community still having Shirley Park as it stands in size and presence to go to, with responsible government and business decision making taken into account.
A responsibly planned cityscape with balance to green space given to the needs of the community. Build and bring employment and business to Lautoka, but NOT in our parks. There are potential areas elsewhere, the question is has government made a concerted effort to look elsewhere or is it always for big business and those with money to have the best areas of the city at cost to the ordinary citizen.
Shirley Park has always and, still does, serve a wide cross section of the Community. Ranging from the very young to the elderly, and, for a broad spectrum of events from religious to educational. For example a venue for pre-school open days.
. Health awareness programs and activities for example, the Color Explosion Event – Walk for Wellness, which has now been declared exclusive to Lautoka by the organizers. The Red Cross Open Day is also held here.
. Provides a venue for Women’s groups to carry out, and, display their art and craft.
. Plays host to Arbor Week, where there is a varying display of Fiji’s diverse Flora. The public are able to move freely among the booths enjoying the cool sea breeze.
. This year will see a number of Cruise Liners stopping in at Port Lautoka as part of their travel itinerary. At present these visitors can be seen sitting and enjoying the park, as a brief and welcome interlude, from the heat of the city. They are also seen mingling and chatting with the locals picnicking in the park, and, stall vendors. Several have also been approached on their views on the proposed construction, and, have all expressed their dismay at the thought of this Park being lost to commercialism.
. Even if a portion of the Park is utilized for the proposed construction of a Hotel, it would give rise to issues of noise control, and, restrict the freedom of movement of those who participate in the above events at those specific times, and, of the public in general at other times.
In conclusion we would like to therefore re-iterate the value of our Shirley Park to the citizens of Lautoka. Urban dwellers the world over fight tooth and nail to keep the green places in their cities. Let us therefore pose a question:
WHAT WOULD NEW YORKERS OR, SUVA RESIDENTS SAY IF THERE WAS A HOTEL CONSTRUCTED IN THE MIDDLE OF CENTRAL PARK, OR, ALONG THE SEA FRONT END OF SUKUNA PARK?
DATED: 11th FEBRUARY, 2015
28 February, 2015
Allow me to respond to your front page article “Aussies Snubbed? ” of 28 February 2015 and specifically to references to me on Page 3.
It is my firm belief that newspapers not only serve to inform the public but also act as a “Reference” for historical research.
It, therefore, is incumbent on me to set the facts straight rather than let lie what, to me, is becoming slewed and agenda-driven reporting.
Fact One: During my tenure with the Australian High Commission, I held the position of Public Affairs Officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). That, for those like the article’s author who may not be able to fathom the difference, is quite separate to the position of “Communications Specialist” which was how the author of the article described me.
Fact Two: Ms Merewalesi Nailatikau was not my successor. She was Senior Communications Manager for the then AusAID and continued in that capacity when the two Australian departments merged into a single entity. Let me assure the author concerned that Ms Nailatikau is an intelligent and professionally trained individual with the relevant accompanying tertiary qualifications. To insinuate that her personal life might influence her professional status is, if I may offer an opinion, both demeaning of a very intelligent young woman and degrading to professional women and women in general.
Fact Three: I did not “retire” as your author suggests. I opted to take a redundancy package for personal reasons one of which was to re-enter mainstream media reporting in an attempt to bring back some respect and credibility to the profession. In that regard that is the only “agenda” some might wish to accuse me of.
Fact Four: Opinions I expressed (and continue to express) on social media have been both “negative’, and where relevant “positive”, of the Bainimarama Government. Those postings, while employed by the High Commission, were duly prefaced with constant reminders that I was commenting in my capacity as a citizen of Fiji and not as an employee of the Australian Government. Might I say that I am grateful to my former employer for being able to distinguish between my job description and duty statement and my right, as a Fiji citizen, to free speech. It is abundantly clear that some media personnel are obsessed with the childish notion that anyone who offers an opinion that may be critical of the Bainimarama Government is “anti-Bainimarama Government” and even “anti-Fiji”. I make no apologies for pointing out government shortcomings and I am of the opinion that professional journalists, by the very “nature” of their work, are expected to do likewise.
By way of further explanation, my postings on social media questioned the implications and functionality of the Media Industry Development Decree and the Television (Cross Carriage of Designated Events) Decree. Should your author be brave enough to distance himself from what I perceive to be an agenda-driven comfort zone he might admit that both Decrees are now being questioned with suggestions they may be amended or “fine-tuned” to better meet the “realities” of the media profession. And should he have a memory lapse, it’s worth mentioning that the whole of Fiji was, a couple of months back, made painfully aware of the shortcoming in the Media (Cross Carriage) Decree.