Former Fiji politician KC Ramrakha, ran foul of the Indiandominated National Federation Party during the faction fighting of 1977. He speaks to ISLANDS BUSINESS about politics, sugar and life. PART TWO
The kind that every family knows only too well and tolerates even after flooding your email inbox with an avalanche of miscellaneous items. He confesses to being a luddite still grappling with technology and the internet but the sheer volume of emails in this scribe’s tells me the opposite. KC has a meticulous eye for detail in his storytelling and I get the impression that nothing misses this gentleman with the mind of a steel trap. In Deryck Scarr’s biography of late Fijian statesman, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara (Tuimacilai), Karam Chand Ramrakha is described as a “vociferous young” politician. In one memorable passage, Scarr takes the reader back some 40 years when the young KC took a trip to Mauritius, of all places, to present a tabua to the incoming president. Back in Fiji, members of the i-Taukei (Indigenous Fijian) establishment were none too happy that this improbable neophyte looked like he’d lost his way while trying to find his true calling. KC, for his part, simply thought he was doing it as “the highest token that a Fijian could give”
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AS a student from Fiji arriving for the first time in Australia to study at Sydney University, Karam Chand Ramrakah would probably never have guessed that he would one day return permanently to make a new life in this country. In the early 50s, this former Fiji union leader and politician shared a house with his two younger brothers in Annandale purchased by their father.
KC was studying law while his twin brothers studied medicine at Sydney Uni. In the days before gentrification, Annandale’s residents were the pre-dawn risers, the rough-hewn labourers, the 40-hour-a-week cogs in the city’s engine room. These were the salt of Sydney’s working classes – weaned on a mantra of the Protestant work ethic, picket fences and White Australia. But at 16 Taylor Street, they would appear in droves and there in the sparsely furnished lounge, amid the heady fragrances of marsala and unfamiliar scents wafting in from the kitchen, they chose to forget – for a few moments – their colour differences in return for the privilege of free medical care and legal advice from its young occupants.
The semi-detached cottage at 16 Taylor must have stood out as a beacon of the cultural rainbow rising on the distant horizon. “It was like a temple for anyone who didn’t have anywhere to sleep,” KC recalls fondly of those days. We would cook rotis and curries for the working people there – they were happy to have two med students there tending to their medical causes,” he says......
THERE is a rousing story that still now, inspires me. As with many other Fijians of my generation and older, the narrative of Rusiate Nayacakalou – the first indigenous Fijian to obtain a doctoral degree or Phd – is perhaps the closest thing to a contemporary legend. The story about Nayacakalou’s rise from simple village boy to academia in one of the world’s most prestigious universities is nothing short of brilliant.
It is so unbelievable that it sounds like something out of the realm of fiction. It dazzles in its brutal undiluted truth. Traditionally from Draubuta Village, Tailevu province in Fiji’s east, Rusiate Nayacakalou was not born into chiefly status or ties. As a young boy, he was sent to Suva to stay with relatives who paid his school fees until it simply reached a point where they could no longer afford to continue paying his fees.
Nayacakalou, however, was so keen – or, obsessed, more like it – with obtaining an education that what he did next was astounding. He would wake up well before dawn – to go and clean buses along Edinburgh Drive in the city. The money he earned from cleaning buses went towards his school fees. The young lad basically paid his way through school from cleaning buses. Imagine that. A boy so fiercely determined and so disciplined about his passion for learning that this was the grinding slog he was willing to subject himself to.