This is a difficult time for all of us, particularly Mrs Margaret Caine, Abel and Chris and the entire family.
We gather here this morning to farewell a husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, cousin and a dear friend.
We gather here to farewell a retired veteran politician, a veteran trade unionist, a former military officer, an adventurer of the seas, a businessman, a community and social worker and a devout Catholic who lived by his Christian values.
Frederick William Caine or Fred who like to be called by his friends as YUMBO, which is the registration plate of his vehicle, was a man of many talents. His unique ability to be at ease amongst young and old and new people demonstrated his humility and kindness.
His care and concern for the people of Fiji was admirable. For the last five years, Fred was not only a member of the National Federation Party but a stalwart.
He became a permanent fixture at the NFP Headquarters. He was amongst those who could walk into the Leader’s Office and have a private conversation with him – often providing the Leader a snapshot of what was happening on the ground and offering counsel and advice.
Fred accompanied the Leader to many meetings during the 2014 election campaign and thereafter until he fell suddenly ill. We say he was a permanent fixture because if Fred won’t be seen around for a single day, the Leader would ask his whereabouts.
And if someone else was missing, Fred would start asking around. Such was the camaraderie.
The Leader Professor Biman Prasad, who is unfortunately not here due to prior and pressing commitments overseas, was devastated like all of us when he was relayed the message that Fred will never come to the NFP HQ anymore.
He visited Fred a few times in hospital, the last being just before Fred was being taken for an operation. Being the jovial person that he was, Fred said nobody should worry as Change is Coming.
He said the same to another colleague who went to visit him after he came out of coma. That was Fred – even when on a hospital bed his mind was elsewhere – thinking about general elections and how to effect change that he very much desired and sought for the people of our beloved country.
At 30 years, Fred became a Member of Parliament in the April 1977 general elections, five months shy of his 31st birthday. He was re-elected during the snap general elections in September when he turned 31. At that time he was the youngest Member of Parliament and this in itself was a remarkable achievement. He was a youth MP – youth is defined between the ages of 18 and 35 years.
He served the then ruling Alliance Party under the leadership of Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara with distinction. Fred declined to contest the July 1982 elections even though he wasn’t 35 years old.
He opted to launch a vigorous campaign to get his political mentor re-elected as Prime Minister as the 1982 elections was too close to call with the NFP under the leadership of Honourable Justice Jai Ram Reddy running neck to neck with the ruling party.
However political rivalry aside, Fred became good friends with Justice Reddy, Mr Siddiq Koya albeit he served with him in parliament briefly but lived in the same city of Lautoka and Mr Harish Sharma.
He also told us about the important role that Public Accounts Committee played during his tenure of parliament – and that there was total respect for the Opposition and the then PAC Chairman the late Mr H M Lodhia – Hargovind Madhavji Lodhia – whose son Chandrakant Lodhia is the current NFP Treasurer.
And he used to tell us how he admired the lawn tennis prowess of Mr Harish Sharma. And how he told Justice Reddy that he should leave politics and become the Chief Justice.
The lesson here is that Fred believed in bipartisanship – cooperating with the Opposition in the national interest. Personal interests were cast aside. True there were bitter, acrimonious debates and finger-pointing in parliament but national interest prevailed.
And the lack of it is what irked Fred – as national interest has been buried in the current parliament. It was so unlike him to get angry and use four letter words – but he did when watching parliamentary proceedings in exasperation – at what was going on.
And he took to his i-pad to show the way for the wanna-be politicians and leaders. He was fearless. He was a giant in every sense of the word – beyond harm by mere mortals – but his friends a gentle giant.
Having a tanoa of grog – then urging others to have one for the road – then if there was time – a baby mix – before taking to their respective homes his Namadi crew in two other invaluable personalities in his YUMBO.
Now only one is left and the circle around the tanoa is thinner by two. Two of the three Namadi crew have left to watch us to effect Change. We will not fail them.
Frederick William Caine has done all his duties required of him as a mortal. He has completed his duty to his family – apart from scraping coconuts for the biscuits etc. – served his country – and the people with dignity. Above all he served God.
Fearless, yet passionate, kind, caring and a person of humility. While you are irreplaceable and we will miss you, we will ensure that Change will come to the country that you so dearly loved.
Goodbye, dear Fred.