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Fiji and Hawaii Compared -- Racial Supremacy By Law in Fiji Resembles What Hawaiian Sovereignty Activists Are Seeking (both Akaka bill and independence proposals)


(c) Copyright 2004 - 2013 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D.


OVERVIEW OF THE MAIN POINTS

The history of Fiji has many similarities to the history of Hawaii; and recent ethnic strife in Fiji raises important questions for Hawaii's future.

The Akaka bill, and proposals for Hawaiian independence, threaten to take Hawaii down a path leading to the kind of social and political system that has plagued Fiji for many years, devastating Fiji's economy and resulting in the violent overthrow of the government on several occasions in the past 20 years. This essay examines the history of Fiji and its recent ethnic strife, paying special attention to similarities to Hawaii regarding voting rights, property rights, and racial supremacy written into law.

Fiji and Hawaii are both tropical island archipelagos in the Pacific, separated from their neighbors by long distances across the ocean. In both Fiji and Hawaii, non-native immigrants and their descendants (some with 8 generations of residence) have come to feel entitled to equal rights with the natives. But in both Fiji and Hawaii, racial equality has been called into doubt in recent years, as some of the citizens with native ancestry assert with increasing stridency that they have a right to racial supremacy in political power and control of the land.

Indo-Fijians are Asian citizens of Fiji whose ancestors were from India. They desperately want to have the rights that Asians have in Hawaii (Asians whose ancestors came from China, Japan, and the Phillipines rather than India). But the Native Fijians have always held racial supremacy by law, and in recent years have used their control of the military to overthrow democratically elected governments that threatened to give full equality to Asians and establish race-neutral laws.

In Hawaii the Constitution of the United States theoretically guarantees that everyone must be treated equally by government, without regard to race. Asian immigrants and their descendants have long-since achieved theoretical equality under the law. They have full voting rights and property rights, and have obtained economic and political power on an equal basis with whites and natives. But some ethnic Hawaiians insist that Hawaii rightfully belongs to themselves. They are doing everything possible to seize power for themselves and to relegate everyone else (Asians, whites, and African-Americans) to second-class citizenship just like the second-class citizenship Asian Indians now suffer in Fiji.

Ethnic Hawaiians already have some degree of racial supremacy under the law. Hawaiians of native ancestry (even "one drop" of native blood) have over 160 government programs that benefit benefit themselves to the exclusion of Asians and whites. Some Hawaiians of native ancestry, and the wealthy and powerful institutions they control, are now demanding special status under the law that would give them far greater racial supremacy, similar to what the Native Fijians have.

Supporters of the Akaka bill and supporters of Hawaii becoming an independent nation quarrel with each other primarily over the question which of their theories would provide better assurance of ethnic Hawaiian racial supremacy. Neither group is at all concerned about what would be best for all the people of Hawaii.

Those who favor the Hawaiian recognition bill (Akaka bill) want to create a tribe-like government exclusively for ethnic Hawaiians to be funded with federal and state money taken from all the people, and to exercise racial control over land that currently belongs to all people regardless of race. Ethnic Hawaiians would also continue to benefit from all other government programs and use the lands available to all citizens. Supporters of the Akaka bill claim that the special protections given to "indigenous people" (Native Americans and Native Alaskans) under American law are more likely to be effective in guaranteeing racial supremacy than the uncertain status ethnic Hawaiians would have as a 20% minority of the population in an independent nation of Hawaii.

Some Hawaiian sovereignty activists favor independence. They want Hawaii to become an independent nation just like Fiji, where people with native ancestry would have guaranteed racial supremacy in voting rights and property rights. Some constitutions proposed for an independent Hawaii provide a guaranteed parliamentary majority for ethnic Hawaiians, plus a guarantee that the head of government must be a native, and all members of the most important governing councils must be natives (like the Great Council of Chiefs in Fiji). Some Hawaiian independence constitutions propose a lower house of parliament elected by all the citizens in race-neutral districts but that the upper house of parliament must be exclusively for ethnic Hawaiians, with veto power over all legislation coming out of the race-neutral lower house on topics such as foreign policy, immigration, land-use policy, and the special rights of the ethnic Hawaiians.

The concept of racial supremacy for ethnic Hawaiians in an independent Hawaii closely resembles the reality of racial supremacy for ethnic Fijians written into the laws of Fiji. The Fijian racial supremacy laws were defended by several military coups during the past 20 years. These were violent overthrows of democratically elected governments where Asians had acquired powerful leadership positions and were threatening to change the laws to provide greater equality. For example, the new constitution imposed in 1990 following the racial supremacy military coup of 1887 specified that Asian Indians could have only 27 seats in the 71 member parliament (substantially less than their 45% of the population would warrant), and that Asians could vote only for candidates for the Asian seats but not for candidates for the Native Fijian seats. (A similar racial restriction existed in Hawaii until the Rice v. Cayetano decision of 2000 -- voters were asked to identify their race when getting their ballots on election day, and people with no native ancestry were refused the right to vote for candidates in the general elections for seats on a state government agency that controls a portion of state government revenues and expenditures and has special power over some government lands).

A book published by the University of Hawaii Press in 2008 demonstrates very clearly that ethnic Hawaiian sovereignty activists have an agenda of suppressing Asian-Americans' right to full equality in order to elevate ethnic Hawaiians to racial supremacy; just as Asian-Fijians are already second-class citizens in Fiji. The book is deeply insulting to Hawaii's people of Asian ancestry. The first insult comes by telling them that they are guilty of collaborating with Caucasians to oppress ethnic Hawaiians. The next insult comes by telling them that even if their families have lived in Hawaii for several generations, they are merely "settlers" in someone else's homeland and they have a duty to abandon their hard-won equal rights in order to accept a position of subservience to ethnic Hawaiians. Perhaps the deepest insult of all is the book's attempt to undermine the patriotism of Asian Americans by telling them they have a moral duty to help Hawaiian sovereignty activists liberate Hawaii from American colonialism and rip the 50th star off the flag. If anyone thinks this paragraph is an exaggeration, or a case of fear-mongering, then please read the entire book review, including the book's five-page celebratory explanation of the metaphors in a political cartoon showing Hawaii's first Filipino Governor, Ben Cayetano, lynching a Native Hawaiian in order to give pleasure to a Caucasian. See a major book review of "Asian Settler Colonialism", including lengthy excerpts, at
http://www.angelfire.com/big09a/AsianSettlerColonialism.html

Here is a list of the topics to be explored below. Please read the list of topics to see important points of comparison between Fiji and Hawaii. Then scroll down to read the topics of interest to you.

TWO LETTERS TO EDITOR in HONOLULU NEWSPAPERS FROM SUMMER 2000, FOLLOWING THE RACIAL MILITARY COUP IN FIJI, COMPARING FIJI WITH Hawaii

TWO IMPORTANT ARTICLES FROM THE HONOLULU ADVERTISER OF APRIL 25, 2004 CLEARLY SHOW THAT BOTH THE AKAKA BILL SUPPORTERS AND THE INDEPENDENCE SUPPORTERS ARE SEEKING RACIAL SUPREMACY FOR ETHNIC HAWAIIANS (THE TWO THEORIES OF SOVEREIGNTY QUARREL OVER WHICH THEORY IS BETTER ABLE TO DELIVER RACIAL SUPREMACY)

HISTORY OF FIJI COMPARED WITH Hawaii; FOCUSING ON SUGAR PLANTATIONS, ASIAN CONTRACT LABORERS, LAND OWNERSHIP, POLITICAL POWER, AND ETHNIC RELATIONS

VOTING RIGHTS, ELECTION RESULTS, AND MILITARY COUPS IN FIJI

HONOLULU NEWSPAPER EULOGIES OF FIJI STATESMAN RATU SIR KAMISESE MARA (PUBLISHED APRIL 20, 2004) -- Mara was a native chief who became the first president of Fiji following independence in 1970, and who tried to move gradually toward a policy of racial equality until he was deposed by a racial military coup against his government.

RATU MARA'S VISION GUIDES FIJI'S FUTURE (EDITORIAL EULOGY PUBLISHED IN THE "FIJI SUN" NEWSPAPER ON MAY 4, 2004)

AFTER 125 YEARS, FIJI'S INDO-FIJIANS IN RETREAT (excerpts from a lengthy special report written by Sanjay Ramesh for the Pacific Islands Report of the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii, May 5, 2004)

NATIVE FIJIAN PARTY LEADER DENOUNCES DEMOCRACY; URGES VOTING ALONG RACIAL LINES TO ENSURE RACIAL SUPREMACY (News report of May 28, 2004)

FIJI MARKS SOBERING ANNIVERARY OF 2000 COUP (May 19, 2005)

FIVE YEARS LATER, FIJI STILL IN QUAGMIRE (May 20, 2005)

FIJI MILITARY CHIEF WARNS GOVERNMENT AGAINST ANARCHY (July 7, 2005)

WESTERN DEMOCRACY STILL ALIEN TO FIJIANS: QARASE (August 29, 2005)

FIJI POLICE REOPEN COUP PROBE AFTER ALLEGATIONS (January 6, 2006)

LETTER REVEALS METHODIST SUPPORT FOR 2000 FIJI COUP (March 16, 2006)

FIJI'S FUTURE UNCERTAIN AS INDIANS CONTINUE EXODUS (April 27, 2006) [major article]

QARASE LOATHE TO CHANGE FIJI'S ETHNIC VOTING (August 14, 2006)

THE CALCULUS OF FIJI POLITICS IS CHANGING (September 7, 2006)

November 1,2 2006 Talk of possible military coup in the offing.

November 13, 2006; Proposal to restore native Fijian exclusive fishing rights

April 24, 2007: Respected Fiji political commentator seems to say that since Asian Fijians have been leaving Fiji in large numbers in recent years, due to race-based political coups, therefore ethnic Fijians will soon outnumber Asian Fijians by 2-1. Therefore Fiji can move forward without any need for laws guaranteeing racial supremacy for natives (they'll reign supreme simply by being the overwhelming majority, having scared away the non-natives).

October 07, 2007: A sympathetic view of indigenous concerns: indigenous people have a right to self-determination and to guaranteed legislative majority

Fiji's Indian population collapsing (March 10, 2009)
Fiji's ethnic Indian population is rapidly collapsing as people flee the coup plagued nation. Data from last year's census, released today by Government Statistician Timoci Bainimarama - brother of Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama - shows Indians now make up only 37.5 percent of the 837,000 people.

August 16, 2009: Indo-Fijians migrate to Australia; many professionals and business owners have already left; now the latest wave to leave is blue collar plumbers, electricians, construction workers.

October 17, 2009: Fiji’s Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has paid tribute to Fiji’s Indians, thanking them for their contribution to the nation. In a message to mark the Hindu festival of lights (Diwali), he praised Indo-Fijian contributions to Fiji's culture. He has previously promised to replace race-based voting with a new electoral system.

Late October, 2009: Scholarly article by Jon Fraenkel, Senior Research Fellow at the Australian National University, based on a speech he gave in August entitled THE FIJI COUP AND THE POLITICS OF ETHNICITY. Analyzes whether Bainimarama's military coup of 2006 can eventually succeed in his announced purpose of eliminating Fiji's long-standing policy of racial supremacy for ethnic Fijians.

December 17, 2009: Rev. Akuila Yabaki, who heads Fiji Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF) recently presented a paper to the Pacific Islands Political Studies Association (PIPSA) conference held at the University of Auckland. The paper was titled ”From paramountcy to equality: Constitutionalism, dialogue and ethno-political conflict in Fiji” and asserted how Fiji ought to rid itself of its coup-culture and institutionalise an egalitarian, non-race-based society.

September 26, 2011: BAINIMARAMA PROMISES NEW CONSTITUTION BY 2013 Goal to create society free of discrimination. "The road map clearly states that in the process the new Fijian constitution must do away with racial categorisation and discrimination, so that for the first time in Fiji’s history, Fijians will go to elections in 2014 on the basis of common and equal suffrage." He said the roadmap will undo decades of undemocratic laws and policies inherited from our colonial past and entrenched in past constitutions, which have impeded our nation’s progress. "This is a determined move to create a society based on substantive equality and justice, and respect for the dignity of all Fijians."

On March 15, 2012 there were news reports that Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) or Bose Levu Vakaturaga has been abolished, 136 years after it was set up. Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said the institution had become irrelevant in an era that Fiji seeks common and equal citizenry. However, former coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka, a defender of GCC and supporter of racial supremacy under law for native Fijians, commented that democracy as it is practiced in other parts of the world may not be applicable in Fiji. A Fiji army spokesman said the elimination of race-based politics would eliminate future military coups against the government. One of the paramount chiefs, a member of the Great Council, has publicly supported the elimination of the Great Council.

April 16, 2012: A New Zealand magazine says a titanic struggle looms between the old and new orders in Fiji for the hearts and minds of the indigenous majority – the i-Taukei. It’s a struggle that will determine the future for all Fiji citizens and on present indications, the portents don’t look good. Because the old order – the i-Taukei chiefs – seem determined to make race the centerpiece of their campaign, to mine all the old prejudices that have retarded independent Fiji’s development right from the start. The evidence for this is an astonishing letter to the self-proclaimed leader of the "New Order" – Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama – from one of the country’s paramount chiefs –Ro Teimumu Kepa – in which she raises the specter of "racial calamity" in Fiji. The phrase has sent a chill through the ranks of non-indigenous Fijians, who comprise 40 percent of the population. Because however much Bainimarama assures them of a bright multiracial future, the old racial skeletons are being rattled at the apex of indigenous society.

April 18, 2013: The Minority Rights Group International says there's widespread concern in Fiji that the interim government is unwilling to relinquish power. Fiji Regime Reportedly Undermining Constitutional Process. Minority Rights Group calls for laws to prohibit ethnic discrimination.

August 22, 2013: Fiji's fourth Constitution that will underpin the first genuine democracy in the country's history has been released to the public. His Excellency the President will give his assent to the document on September 6th. The document will be the supreme law of the country and pave the way for elections by September 30th 2014 conducted, for the first time, on the basis of equal votes of equal value.

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TWO LETTERS TO EDITOR in HONOLULU NEWSPAPERS FROM SUMMER 2000, FOLLOWING THE RACIAL MILITARY COUP IN FIJI, COMPARING FIJI WITH Hawaii

http://starbulletin.com/2000/06/07/editorial/letters.html

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday, June 7, 2000

Coups show isles aren't immune to ethnic unrest

Ethnic strife in Fiji and the Solomon Islands reminds us that small Pacific islands are not immune to the terrors of the Middle East, Rwanda and Bosnia. Fiji for the Fijians! Indians go home! Make a constitution guaranteeing power for ethnic Fijians!

One racial or ethnic group claims political supremacy based on superior religion or culture, spiritual connection with the land, or being the first settlers there. Various races and cultures contributed capital investment, expertise and sweat equity for generations as full partners. They built a multiethnic democracy, which gets trashed by one group claiming racial supremacy.

As we listen to the demands of the Hawaiian sovereignty activists, let's remember how fortunate we are to live in the strong and stable democracy of the United States. It is wrong for any one group to demand automatic supremacy. It is wrong for politicians or newspapers to say that only one group's opinions count, giving them power by default.

Democracy is hard work. Use it or lose it! The sovereignty issue should be part of our election-year discussion. Sovereignty is not for kanaka maoli alone to decide.

Ken Conklin
Kaneohe

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http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/2000/Jul/23/letters.html

Posted on: Sunday, July 23, 2000

Lessons from Fiji on democracy

In memory of Fiji's democracy, oppose the Akaka bill. Multi-generation descendants of sugar plantation workers toiled, contributed to the culture and economy, became full partners, grew wealthy, and were democratically elected or appointed as high government officials. Sound familiar?

A group of radical native nationalists, shouting "Fiji for Fijians," ousted the non-natives. They demanded guarantees of native power through racial restrictions on voting rights and property rights.

The Akaka bill threatens similar results in Hawai‘i. Kama‘aina of all races must speak out to oppose it.

Before the overthrow in 1893, more than half the population of Hawai‘i had no native blood. Thousands of nonnative children of plantation workers and other settlers were born in Hawai‘i even before the overthrow, and their descendants are here today. Hawai‘i belongs morally to all kama‘aina, and legally to all residents.

It is wrong for our leaders to divide Hawai‘i racially. They won't listen to 80 percent of us. They shut out even the likely majority of kanaka maoli who also reject apartheid.

Let's flush the Akaka kukae and restore aloha for all. Please see www.angelfire.com/hi2/hawaiiansovereignty/OpposeAkakaBill.html.

Kenneth R. Conklin
Kane'ohe

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TWO IMPORTANT ARTICLES FROM THE HONOLULU ADVERTISER OF APRIL 25, 2004 CLEARLY SHOW THAT BOTH THE AKAKA BILL SUPPORTERS AND THE INDEPENDENCE SUPPORTERS ARE SEEKING RACIAL SUPREMACY FOR ETHNIC HAWAIIANS (THE TWO THEORIES OF SOVEREIGNTY QUARREL OVER WHICH THEORY IS BETTER ABLE TO DELIVER RACIAL SUPREMACY)

These articles are very important, but also lengthy. Excerpts have been selected to show that each viewpoint seeks racial supremacy. Afterward, a link is provided to a webpage supporting a third alternative of unity, equality, and aloha for all.

http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2004/Apr/25/op/op10a.html

The Honolulu Advertiser, Sunday, April 25, 2004 ** excerpts **

AKAKA BILL YES: Independence does not offer same guaranteed protection of Native rights

By Davianna Pomaika'i McGregor

I support the unique and distinct rights and entitlements of Native Hawaiians as ancestral vested rights of inheritance from our ancestors who first settled and established sovereignty over the Hawaiian archipelago.

The Akaka bill affords the best protection for these rights as long as Hawaii is under the United States. There is no guarantee that independence for the multi-ethnic society of Hawaii will afford protection or recognition of the unique and distinct rights and entitlements of our nation of kanaka 'oiwi. [native people; people of the bones]

From 1915 to 1921, Native Hawaiians in the organization 'Ahahui Pu'uhonua 'O Na Hawaii, led by Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana'ole, succeeded in establishing a trust relationship for Native Hawaiians under the Hawaiian Homelands trust. ...

The Akaka bill will formalize and state explicitly the existing federal policy of a trust relationship with Native Hawaiians, a policy that has been implicitly supported by Native Hawaiians throughout the 20th century. ...

Native Hawaiians are an indigenous people and have the right of self-governance and sovereignty. In the United States, only indigenous peoples have this right. Racial and ethnic groups do not have this right. ...

Forming such a government will set up an entity through which Native Hawaiians can more fully exercise our political rights. It will also set up an entity that can receive, hold and manage the lands and resources of the Native Hawaiian nation. With the formation of a Native Hawaiian government, the ali'i trusts established under the monarchy can be recognized as part of the assets of the Native Hawaiian nation and function under the laws of the Native Hawaiian nation rather than state law. ...

Native Hawaiians also have the right to form an autonomous government under the government of an independent Hawaii. ...

Most advocates of independence have not explained how the unique and distinct rights and assets of Native Hawaiians will be protected under an independent Hawaii government. ...

Advocates of independence for Hawaii who oppose the Akaka bill collapse the status of Native Hawaiians with that of the multi-ethnic Hawaii society. They do not recognize that the rights and political status of Native Hawaiians are distinct from the rights and status of the multi-ethnic Hawaii society.

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http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2004/Apr/25/op/op11a.html

The Honolulu Advertiser, Sunday, April 25, 2004 ** excerpts **

AKAKA BILL NO: Unnecessary bargain extinguishes all claims in exchange for recognition

By J. Kehaulani Kauanui

The U.S. apology of 1993 recognizes that "the indigenous Hawaiian people never directly relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people or over their national lands to the United States, either through their monarchy or through a plebiscite or referendum." Passage of the bill would mark the first time in history that we acquiesce to the illegal U.S.-backed overthrow in 1893. If the bill passes, we would have to give all of our power to be self-determining to the secretary of the interior and the Congress forever. ...

Acceptance of programs for Native Hawaiians does not indicate acceptance of domestic dependent nationhood within the United States. International law does not require oppressed peoples to refuse support for their survival while working for independence. As a colonial power, the United States has the duty to offer these services until it relinquishes its control.

When the United States helped to overthrow the queen in 1893 and illegally annexed Hawaii in 1898, it deprived kingdom citizens of their right to their independent nation. Descendants of those citizens are entitled to recover that status and their citizenship therein. An independent Hawaii would then be able to invoke measures under international law to guarantee our distinctive indigenous status. ...

There is no reason we should assume we would escape state law under the bill. Tribal nations are continuously plagued by court challenges brought by states and nonindigenous individuals challenging their sovereignty and assets, especially when the Supreme Court routinely privileges states' rights. ...

Our claims to independence under international law stem from the fact that our loss of self-determination at no time amounted to a legal termination of political sovereignty, which was not lost via conquest, cession or adjudication. ...

Supporters of the bill ... depend on the Indigenous Peoples Model within the United Nations, whereas independence supporters opposed to the bill rely on the model of either decolonization or de-occupation.

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http://www.angelfire.com/hi2/hawaiiansovereignty/akakavsindepvsunityequality.html

Three Choices For Hawaii's Future: Akaka Bill vs. Independence vs. Unity and Equality

Summary: The Honolulu Advertiser of Sunday April 25, 2004, had two articles about the Hawaiian Recognition bill (Akaka bill) S.344 and H.R.665. One supports the Akaka bill. The other opposes it and supports independence from America instead. The Advertiser presents only those two concepts. But we do not need to choose between two evils. There is another possibility -- the aloha choice of unity and equality.

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HISTORY OF FIJI COMPARED WITH Hawaii; FOCUSING ON SUGAR PLANTATIONS, ASIAN CONTRACT LABORERS, LAND OWNERSHIP, POLITICAL POWER, AND ETHNIC RELATIONS

In both Fiji and Hawaii, during about 150 years between the mid-1800s to the late1900s, sugar plantations were extremely important in the local economy. In both Fiji and Hawaii, white English-speaking foreigners invested huge amounts of capital to buy or lease land for growing sugar cane and to build machinery for harvesting, transporting, and processing it. In both countries, the local native population was unable or unwilling to supply the labor needed for the sugar plantations, so white business owners and native political leaders cooperated to recruit tens of thousands of foreign contract laborers from Asia. The whites, and native chiefs, profited greatly from the low-cost labor of the Asians. The laborers were glad to live in conditions that seemed deplorable to whites and natives but seemed normal to the Asian laborers; and they were glad and to work long and hard for wages that seemed very low to whites and natives but seemed very high to the Asian laborers. As time went by the laborers saved money out of their meager wages to send home to their families in Asia; and their families back home arranged marriages with "picture brides" who then came to Fiji and Hawaii and started families. As time went by, many of the first-generation immigrants who completed their labor contracts decided to stay in Fiji and Hawaii. They and their second and third generation descendants often left the sugar plantations to become homeowners, workers in other businesses, and owners of small businesses or rental housing. Some second, third, and fourth generation Asians acquired substantial wealth and also political power, becoming captains of industry and urban real estate, and also becoming appointed and elected officials at all levels of government.

There are important differences between Fiji and Hawaii, which provide different shades of meaning to political events but do not negate the basic conceptual similarities of ethnic strife in the 1990s and 2000s.

Control of Fiji was gradually given to Britain in the 1850s and 1860s by Fijian chiefs, especially Chief Cakobau who relied heavily on British support to become paramount chief. In the 1850s Christianity became influential, cannibalism gradually died out, and tribal warfare ended. In 1854 Cakobau converted to Christianity. Eventually a Council of Chiefs decided to cede Fiji to Britain, and in 1874 Britain formally proclaimed that Fiji was its colony. Fiji remained a British colony for 96 years, until it was granted independence in 1970. Thereafter Fiji remained a member of the British Commonwealth of nations, with Queen Elizabeth II as the formal head of state; until Fiji was thrown out of the Commonwealth following the first racial military coup of 1987.

Hawaii, like Fiji, had its first Western contact from England (Captain Cook). And as in Fiji, the British in Hawaii provided military equipment and expertise to one favored chief (Kamehameha), enabling him to defeat all his enemies and to become paramount chief. However, Britain never established Hawaii as its colony (and neither did America). A takeover of the Hawaiian Kingdom by a renegade British naval officer in 1843 was disavowed and reversed a few months later.

Despite the fact that Hawaii's first Western contact was with England, and English military and political expertise guided Kamehameha for about 40 years thereafter, it was the United States that became Hawaii's closest friend and trading partner. Beginning in the early 1800s several native Hawaiians made their way to New England, where they found a place at Yale University divinity school. One of those natives was George Kaumuali'i, son of King Kaumuali'i of Kaua'i. Another native at Yale was Opukaha'ia, who went there in 1809 and remained several years, converting to Christianity and pleading for missionaries to be sent to Hawaii. In 1820 American missionaries arrived, and quickly established strong relationships with Hawaiian high chiefs and with many thousands of natives. Some of the American missionaries became the most trusted advisors of King Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III, and were influential in getting him to produce an American-style constitution in 1840. Most of Hawaii's sugar production went to America. Eventually a treaty was signed whereby the U.S. obtained a lease for the use of Pearl Harbor in return for giving sugar from Hawaii a reduced tarrif. A revolution in 1887 that forced King Kalakaua to proclaim a new constitution was led mostly by Hawaii residents of American ancestry, many of whom were naturalized subjects of the Kingdom but still had business and family ties to America. The revolution in 1893 that finally toppled the monarchy was again led by many of the same people of American ancestry who had led the events of 1887. In addition a detachment of 162 blue-jackets from an American naval vessel protected lives and property during the revolution, and their presence on the streets might have helped persuade the Queen to give up without a fight. Since many leaders of the Hawaiian revolutions had business and family connections to the United States, there was never any doubt that America would be the country Hawaii would become annexed to, and not Britain. But Hawaii was never a colony of America in the same way Fiji was a colony of Britain.

In the end Hawaii became one of the 50 states of the United States by way of a plebiscite in 1959 where 94% of the voters said "yes" to statehood; while Fiji became an independent nation in 1970 after Britain gave up its colonial power. In Hawaii, statehood brought great prosperity and continuing political stability; while in Fiji, independence brought continuing economic stagnation, ethnic strife, constant political upheaval, and ethnic military coups appropriate to a "banana republic."

The Asians who came to Hawaii at first were primarily from China, because of the sandalwood trade. Individual Chinese were seen in Hawaii even before 1800; but the first group of Chinese coolies arrived in 1852. The first shipload of Japanese workers arrived in 1868; but Japanese workers did not begin arriving in large numbers until several years after Kalakaua stopped in Japan and tried to recruit them on his round the world cruise in 1881. Following the annexation of Hawaii and the takeover of the Phillipines by the United States, significant numbers of Filipinos began coming to Hawaii as laborers. By contrast, the Asians who went to Fiji to work on the sugar plantations were from India, because India was under British control just like Fiji. Indians were brought to Fiji by the British from 1879 to 1916, when the the importation of contract laborers was put to an end by a British policy decision (Although the labor contracts bound the workers for 10 years, the Briitish colonial government in 1820 terminated all remaining contracts only 4 years after stopping the issuance of new ones). The end result is that in Hawaii there are several different ethnic groups with significant percentages of the total population, including Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, British, American, Filipino, and Hawaiian. But in Fiji the only significant population groups are native Fijians and Asian Indians. In Hawaii all the ethnic groups worked together on the plantations. Whites, Hawaiians, Filipinos, and many Chinese shared the Christian religion, and many Japanese became Christian even while continuing some Shinto and Buddhist customs. There was considerable social interaction and intermarriage. In Fiji the natives and the Indians did not share work experiences, religion, or living arrangements; and there was not very much intermarriage. Thus in Hawaii there are many ethnicities and subcultures acknowledging equal rights for each other and intermarrying. But in Fiji there are only two ethnic groups of any substantial size, with the Indians having about 45% of the population and a heritage as indentured servants and contract laborers on ethnic Fijian lands.

The history of land ownership has been very different between Fiji and Hawaii; and that difference helps explain why Fiji has had economic malaise, ethnic strife and political upheaval while Hawaii has been prosperous and stable.

In Hawaii, the conquest of all the islands by Kamehameha I gave him control of all the land, including the right to redistribute land among his family members and other chiefs. In Fiji, there was never any conquest of all the islands by Chief Cakobau. Hereditary chiefs kept control of their lands in their own families, unchallenged by any central authority. When Britain formally established itself as the colonial power in Fiji, it upheld the property rights of the hereditary chiefs and established a colonial government under a Council of Chiefs, later supplemented by an elected parliament. Thus, land ownership remained in native hands; and land ownership was an important basis for political power.

In Hawaii King Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III who was sole owner of all the lands of the Hawaiian islands, by right of conquest and inheritance, was persuaded by his white and native advisers to create a Western system of land ownership. Beginning in 1848 the King created three classes of land ownership: government lands held by the government for roads, harbors, schools, etc. to benefit all Hawaii's people; crown lands held as the King's private property (but after 1865 owned by the government with revenues allocated to support the office of head of state); and private lands given in fee simple royal patent deeds to the chiefs, with provisions for the rights of tenants whose homes and small farms were on the chiefs' property. Before long there were thousands of small landowners with fee-simple titles. In Hawaii land ownership was never a requirement for political power, until Lot Kamehameha V imposed property requirements for the legislators in the constitution he unilaterally proclaimed in 1864 (requirements for property ownership were also included in the Reform (Bayonet) Constitution of 1887 under Kalakaua). Following annexation in 1898 and the Organic Act of 1900, U.S. law ensured there were never again any property requirements for political office in Hawaii. By contrast, the chiefs in Fiji today continue to inherit both their land holdings and their right to exercise political power as members of the Council of Chiefs.

Ethnic Fijians own 90% of the land and control most of the political power. The Asian Indians in Fiji are relegated to second-class citizenship, even though they comprise 45% of the population, own most of the nation's wealth (other than land), and produce 90% of the sugar which is the nation's largest export commodity. Homes and businesses owned by Asian Indians operate on land they lease but can never own, always under threat that when the lease expires it might not be renewed by the ethnic Fijian owner. Improvements remaining on leased land after a lease expires become the property of the landowner -- valuable things like houses, factories, roads, railroads, irrigation canals. Therefore, wealthy Indians are often unwilling to invest in assets that would produce goods and services, and the economy stagnates or declines. By contrast, Hawaii has made progress in land reform, at least in residential land. There is a state law that forces landowners such as Bishop Estate (Kamehameha Schools) to sell the fee-simple ownership of land to leaseholders who own and reside in a freestanding home on that land. The City and County of Honolulu also has a similar law that allows owners of condominium apartments to force the sale of land to them, under specific conditions. As yet there is no law forcing the sale of land to leaseholders of commercial property. And in Hawaii, voting rights belong equally to every person who is a citizen of Hawaii, regardless whether he has any land holdings.

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VOTING RIGHTS, ELECTION RESULTS, AND MILITARY COUPS IN FIJI

Excerpts from
http://www.iexplore.com/dmap/Fiji/History

Ethnic tensions flared shortly after the nation gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1970. Those tensions escalated in 1987 after elections seated a coalition government dominated by ethnic Indians. A coup led by Sitiveni Rabuka, a native Fijian military leader, overthrew the civilian government. A new constitution was written giving preferential treatment to ethnic Fijians. Pressure from the international community led to changes in the constitution in 1997, which eased tensions for a time. The situation took another turn for the worse in 2000, when a radical group of ethnic Fijian nationalists launched an armed takeover of the democratically elected government. Government forces thwarted the takeover, revoked the 1997 constitution and appointed an interim civilian government.

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Excerpts from
http://www.naia.com.fj/fiji/history.html

By 1985, a new Coalition party was formed which claimed to better represent the working people in Fiji, the majority of whom are Indian. The Coalition party, dedicated to eliminating the prerogatives of the chiefly oligarchy, won the elections in 1987 and threatened to turn Fijian politics on its ear. This proved to be too much for the extremist taukei (landowners).

In May, 1987, Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka led a bloodless coup to take over government on behalf of the Fijian people. Many of the hard-line old-timers were invited back into government, but when the new Government of National Unity threatened to sack Rabuka, he held another coup and pronounced himself head of state of the new Republic of Fiji. With the support of the traditional Great Council of Chiefs, Rabuka pressed for a government of customary rule unthreatened by the Indian presence, dedicated to Christianity as the official religion, and guided by cultural fundamentalism.

The coups had a devastating effect on the Fijian economy. Fiji was thrown out of the Commonwealth, suffered an 11% decline in the gross domestic product, and lost thousands of Indian professionals and their families to overseas emigration: nearly 30,000 all told. But, like all predominantly agrarian peoples whose chiefs and politicians are constantly bickering, the people of Fiji, both Fijian and Indian, continued their normal lives with little attention paid to government. These people, with next to no help from above, put the country back on its feet.

During free elections in 1992, (now Major-General) Rabuka was elected Prime Minister. A new Constitution was promulgated which permanently guarantees government control by Fijians, a blatantly racist document but one which is working for the time being. Fiji's economy has rebounded to previously unmatched levels, and government has once again earned the trust of outside investors.

While the Indian population in Fiji is specifically isolated from full representation in government, an argument can be made in support of the new Constitution: there are very few countries left in the world which are unambiguously ruled by their endemic people. And, in comparison to surrounding Pacific nations, Fiji is well-run and prosperous.

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Excerpts from
http://www.boh.com/econ/pacific/fj/fj_05-hist.asp

Bank of Hawaii -- Fiji Economic Report -- A Brief History

The Fijian-dominated Alliance Party (AP) ruled Fiji's political life after independence. In the 1977 election, the Indian-led opposition won the majority of seats in the House of Representatives but did not form a government because its leaders were uncertain whether or not Fijians would accept an Indian leadership. In the 1982 election, the AP won 28 seats and the Indian-dominated National Federation Party (NFP) won 22 seats. Tensions increased between the two groups soon after the election, leading in 1985 to the founding of a new multi-racial labor-dominated party, the Fiji Labor Party (FLP).

Support from the Fijian Trades Union Conference helped form the new party which intended to play an assertive opposition role, running on a political platform of free education and a national medical and health service program. In the 1987 general election a coalition of the NFP and FLP won 28 seats in the House as opposed to AP's 24 seats, thus defeating the long-dominant AP. The election was followed by a month of disquiet fomented by nationalist Fijians who saw danger to Fijian political dominance because more than half the new ministers were Indian, although the Prime Minister and all ministers concerning Fijian affairs were Fijian. The new government proposed an inquiry into the country's perennial land lease problems and promised other reforms as well.

The change and the direction the new government was taking led to threats of violence, especially from nationalist elements. The third-ranking officer of the Fijian army led the first of two coups and seized power. Although they disrupted the established political process and took away from a large segment of the population rights basic to a functioning democracy, the coups had widespread support among Fijians because of their fear that they were losing control in their own land. Vocal discontent among the minority Maori in New Zealand and the Aborigines in Australia probably further stimulated the fears of ethnic Fijians. In fact comparisons with other indigenous populations in the area's economies do not necessarily apply, given that the Fijians in one form or another control over 90 percent of Fiji's land and have dominated the political process since independence.

The 1990 constitution limits the Indians to a maximum of 27 seats in the 71-seat Parliament regardless of their share of the population. This, and the fact that while Indians cultivate the land it is Fijians who control it, have created anxiety and resentment among Fiji's Indian population. One way the Indians have dealt with Fiji's dilemma is by emigrating: nearly a decade after the 1987 coups emigration continues to average 4,000–5,000 persons a year and will likely rise in the years ahead without the changes the Indian community seeks. Most Indian emigrants are educated and affluent, people who have been instrumental in making the economy prosper.

A Constitutional Review Commission was to report to the Parliament in August 1996 what changes, if any, should be made to the constitution. Then Parliament and the Council of Chiefs will have a year to act. As it now stands Fiji's constitution makes its Indian population a permanent political minority. The constitution also prohibits Fijians and Indians from cross voting, that is, Indians can vote for Indian candidates and Fijian voters for Fijian candidates only.

Fiji's neighbors Australia and New Zealand, which have long-standing geopolitical and economic interests in the region, have informally indicated their preference that Fiji move to a racially neutral law. The United States and the United Kingdom have been more explicit in their demands for the adoption of a non-racial constitution. Japan is the only major economy that has kept silent about Fiji's domestic conflict and has in fact recently increased aid to Fiji. In the absence of constructive dialogue there is a clearly evident wait-and-see attitude among individuals and businesses in Fiji that is consistent with reality on the ground.

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Excerpts from the World Socialist Website, May 31, 2000 regarding the military coup then in progress

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2000/may2000/fiji-m31.shtml
(World Socialist Website ** excerpts **)

Fiji's military leaders move to impose racialists' demands

By Mike Head, 31 May 2000

With Fiji's political crisis threatening to spiral completely out of control, the country's military high command mobilised troops onto the streets, revoked the Constitution and declared martial law on Monday. Armed forces chief Commodore Frank Bainimarama announced that he had assumed executive authority and would establish a military government. His statement followed discussions at military headquarters involving 1987 military coup leader, former Major General Sitiveni Rabuka.

While Bainimarama claimed to have acted with "reluctance," his measures revoked all political and democratic rights. Soldiers were given "shoot to kill" orders to enforce a 48-hour curfew. Troops on leave and all reservists were recalled to barracks. Soldiers wearing flak jackets and armed with automatic weapons replaced unarmed police at checkpoints in Suva. The next day, Bainimarama said he would assume the country's Presidency for at least two years.

The takeover appeared to be sanctioned by Fiji's traditional establishment, including Rabuka and President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. It followed the failure of Mara's last bid to resolve the crisis triggered by the May 19 seizure of parliament and hostage-taking of government ministers by racialist gunmen led by failed businessman George Speight.

The armed forces leaders and their advisers have moved to grant Speight's remaining demands—the abrogation of the Constitution, an unconditional pardon for himself and the gunmen who seized parliament and the inclusion of his associates in an interim government. Abolishing the Constitution will mean a reversion to the system established by Rabuka's 1987 coup, whereby the prime ministership and key cabinet posts were reserved for indigenous Fijians.

Resort to military rule is the latest in a series of moves by the country's ruling circles to accommodate Speight and his backers. Last week the Great Council of Chiefs, a hereditary body created by the British colonialists in 1870, acceded to most of Speight's demands but splits appeared to exist over the retention of Mara and the Constitution.

Speight and his spokesmen have generally welcomed the military intervention. Speight's self-proclaimed deputy prime minister Rata Timoci Silatolu said it was to be expected. "I suppose for the maintenance of law and order and for the safety of the lives of the public that was the only option for the military to take. And we are keen to negotiate with them, someone who understands the hostage situation—an institution that is totally Fijian."

The military intervened in a desperate attempt to control the unstable situation. Gangs incited by Speight had rampaged through Suva, trashing a television station and terrorising residents and media representatives. Speight had announced a march on Government House, Mara's official residence. Fijian-Indian families and foreign citizens had begun to flee the capital. Further anti-Indian violence has been reported in Suva today.

For Fiji's ruling strata there is a danger that the turmoil can spark wider resistance to the ouster of the Chaudhry government. There are signs of developing opposition among working people—Indo-Fijian and ethnic Fijian alike—to Speight's reign of terror. In the tourist capital Nadi, on Fiji's western coast, banners were erected on some homes of indigenous Fijians denouncing Speight. The slogans included: "Mr President give us our government back" and "We want Chaudhry. Go to hell Speight".

Various media and academic commentators have begun to laud Rabuka, the last Fijian military strongman, as a "charismatic" figure who could satisfy the Fijian nationalists while restoring a democratic façade, as he did by putting in place the 1997 Constitution.

That Constitution, however, entrenched not only racism—with the majority of parliamentary seats allocated by race—but also the privileges of the Great Council of Chiefs. Under Rabuka's Constitution, the chiefs nominate the President and Vice President, and their 14 nominees for the Senate (one for each province) exercise a parliamentary veto over legislation relating to the affairs of ethnic Fijians.

To provide a more democratic image for the country, constitutional changes were adopted in 1997 that reduced some of the entrenched political privileges of indigenous Fijian leaders.

In May 1999, in the first elections held under that Constitution, Rabuka was ousted as prime minister. His Fijian nationalist party, Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei (SVT) won only seven of the 71 seats and his chief coalition partner, the Indian business-backed National Federation Party lost all 19 "Indian"-designated seats to Chaudhry's Labour Party.

The Chaudhry government has continued the process of opening the economy to global exploitation, particularly by abandoning promised minimum wage laws and by extending commercial leases over agricultural land. This has inflamed power struggles, intrigues and splits within the Fijian elite, with many of the participants seeking to incite anti-Indian chauvinism as a means of acquiring a social base. According to former SVT official Jone Dakuvula, SVT-inspired agitation and destabilisation activities against Chaudhry began almost immediately.

Ah Koy, who was finance minister in Rabuka's last government, has known Speight's family for 30 years, helped Speight's short-lived business career and has expressed sympathy for Speight's aims. Speaking on television last week, Ah Koy said Speight's group's move was unconstitutional and illegal but he understood their frustrations and anger. He blamed the Chaudhry government's "arrogance and obduracy in not listening to the sensitivities of the indigenous Fijians".

Ordinary Fijians and Indians alike have suffered severe cuts in living standards over the past three decades since Britain handed political control over Fiji to the local elites, led by Mara. Between the 1970s and the 1990s, real wages fell by a staggering 25 percent. This impoverishment is expected to worsen in the coming period as the European Union phases out its subsidy of 40 percent of the sugar crop.

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HONOLULU NEWSPAPER EULOGIES OF FIJI STATESMAN RATU SIR KAMISESE MARA (PUBLISHED APRIL 20, 2004) -- Mara was a native chief who became the first president of Fiji following independence in 1970, and who tried to move gradually toward a multiracial democracy with a policy of racial equality, until he was deposed by a racial military coup against his government. His statesmanship influenced politics throughout the Pacific basin.

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http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2004/Apr/20/op/op02a.html

Posted on: Tuesday, April 20, 2004

EDITORIAL

Ratu Sir K. Mara an island visionary

Hawaii lost a friend and the Pacific Islands lost a great leader this week with the death of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, Fiji's founding prime minister and a towering political figure throughout the Pacific.

While Mara's political legacy was strongest in his native Fiji, he was a respected leader of many multilateral and multinational organizations within the Pacific.

He was a founder of the South Pacific Forum and the Pacific Islands Conference of leaders, which established the Pacific Islands Development Program at the East-West Center.

In fact, Mara was a familiar figure at the center, serving on the center's International Board of Governors from 1976 to 1986 and from 1998 to 2001.

It was in 1975 that Mara delivered the Dillingham Lecture at the center in which he elaborated on the concept, also contained in his memoirs, of the "Pacific Way," a vision of peaceful multiracial and multicultural development and growth.

That vision was challenged in 1987 by two military coups in Fiji led by then army Col. Sitiveni Rabuka.

In 2000, Mara stepped aside as president of Fiji in an effort to bring calm to the nation after an armed assault on the Fijian Parliament.

Ratu Mara will long be remembered as a regional leader of international stature. The best memorial to him will be for the people of the Pacific to rededicate themselves to the principles of peace and cooperative progress embodied in his ideal of a Pacific Way.

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http://starbulletin.com/2004/04/20/news/story13.html

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

RATU SIR KAMISESE MARA / 1920-2004

Former prime minister helped in stabilizing Fiji

By Robert Keith-Reid
Associated Press

SUVA, Fiji >> Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, Fiji's first prime minister and a key U.S. ally in the South Pacific during the Cold War, has died. He was 83.

Mara, the dominant statesman in Pacific island regional affairs for nearly 30 years, died late Sunday in a hospital in the Fijian capital, Suva. Hospital officials said the cause was complications from a stroke he had in 2001.

His death plunged this nation of 850,000 into mourning. Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase went on state television yesterday evening to confirm Mara had died.

"We have lost a giant among men," Qarase said. "For as long as many of us could remember, he dominated our national life."

Qarase said arrangements were under way for a state funeral, but no date had been set.

Mara was the last of a group of powerful, mostly hereditary Pacific island chiefs who led their countries to independence from British, Australian, New Zealand and U.S. colonial rule from the mid-1960s.

The paramount chief of the Lau Islands of eastern Fiji, he was revered for holding together bickering tribes as he welded Fiji into a stable, multiracial nation after 96 years of colonial British rule. Fiji gained independence in 1970.

"His leadership was marked by discipline, vision and a keen and penetrating intellect," Qarase said. "His dedication to this country was total."

Through the '70s and '80s, the United States, Australia and New Zealand regarded Mara as key to keeping the South Pacific free of communist influences.

The United States persuaded him to ban Soviet vessels from Fiji's ports during a period when Moscow was trying to establish a presence in the region.

Mara also was a major figure for many years in trade and aid negotiations between the European Union and more than 70 Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark lauded him as a leading Pacific statesman and a "father figure" for Fiji. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Mara was an "important stabilizing influence" in Fiji.

Visitors to his homes were often startled to see Mara -- an international statesman who preached democracy and equality -- become angered if visitors did not approach him on their knees as tribal custom called for.

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RATU MARA'S VISION GUIDES FIJI'S FUTURE (EDITORIAL EULOGY PUBLISHED IN THE "FIJI SUN" NEWSPAPER ON MAY 4, 2004)

Here is an editorial eulogy of Ratu Mara published in the Fiji Sun of Tuesday, May 4, 2004, as reprinted in the Pacific Islands Report of the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii on May 5, 2004.

http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2004/May/05-05-ed1.htm

Editorial

RATU MARA'S VISION GUIDES FIJI'S FUTURE

SUVA, Fiji (May 4) - History will be generous to the man laid to rest yesterday in a fitting and moving ceremony watched by everyone in Fiji who could find access to a television set and listened to by all of those within earshot of a radio.

In fact, it is likely to be more generous to the late former president and prime minister, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, than some of his own people were during his lifetime.

And history, the final earthly arbiter of the lives of the great, will be far less generous towards those who ultimately betrayed him.

But history's verdict remains far beyond today's horizon.

That Ratu Mara played a historic role in the events of most of his 83 years is beyond dispute. His many achievements – and his few failures – continue to affect the everyday lives of the people of his nation and will do so for generations to come.

For Ratu Sir Kamisese Kapaiwai Tuimacilau Mara was indeed a man of destiny. Perhaps the last of the born-to-rule great chiefs, his duty and his destiny were clear to him throughout his long lifetime. He knew his fate from an early age and he accepted it not always without protest but always with a sense of duty.

Yet his vision of a multiracial, multicultural Fiji seems further away than ever.

His personal tragedy – and he was keenly aware of it – was that while he could inspire many in the Indo-Fijian community to believe in him, he could never persuade sufficient numbers of them to vote for him.

There may well be a number of reasons for that but chief among them must have been the fact that it was not in the interest of the political apparatchiks of the time to campaign for multiculturalism. Thus was the politics of race woven into the fabric of Fiji's existence and thus was Ratu Mara's dream shattered.

Now the communities are – at least politically – more polarised than ever under leaders who show little if any inclination to work together.

If their division was purely on party political and hence policy grounds, it would be understandable.

But race has become politics and policy has become race and until the three can be disentangled there is unlikely to be permanent stability for Fiji.

But for all that, Ratu Mara's vision has survived his physical demise and remains the best hope for this nation. It only lacks a leader of similar stature to bring it closer to reality.

May 5, 2004

FijiSUN: http://www.sun.com.fj/

=================

AFTER 125 YEARS, FIJI'S INDO-FIJIANS IN RETREAT (excerpts from a lengthy special report written by Sanjay Ramesh for the Pacific Islands Report of the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii, May 5, 2004)

On May 5, 2004 the Pacific Islands Report of the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii published a lengthy summary of the history of the Asian Indians in Fiji, and their current situation. The entire report is well worth reading. Here are some excerpts focusing on issues especially relevant to Hawaii.

http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2004/May/05-05-ana.htm

AFTER 125 YEARS, FIJI'S INDO-FIJIANS IN RETREAT

By Sanjay Ramesh

A majority of Fiji Indians are the descendants of the indentured laborer, who were brought to Fiji as contract workers to develop the colonial sugar economy. The Indians came from different regions, spoke different dialects, and practiced different customs and religions.

After the final indenture contracts were rescinded in 1920, the Indians rebelled against the colonial state. The disturbances of 1920-21,1941, and 1959-60 were attempts to challenge the colonial order, which saw Indians as a 'problem'.

The Fijian colonial system was designed to cater to the interests of the eastern indigenous Fijian chiefs, the European settlers and investors, and above all the British Empire. Indians were a necessary labor resource, which sustained Fiji as well as other British colonies economic infrastructure. The Indenture Experience

The first Governor to Fiji devised a paternalistic system of native administration, which spared the indigenous Fijians from the destructive forces of colonial capitalism. To ensure that the Fijian way of life was preserved, Gordon instituted the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) as the 'official' custodian of native custom and tradition. The Council campaigned on behalf of indigenous Fijians and requested the colonial government to stop using growing but small army of Fijian laborer. According to the chiefs, the rigors of plantation life destroyed the "Fijian way of life", which was based on communal mode of production. Gordon enthusiastically endorsed the viewpoint of the chiefs, but was mindful of the fact that survival of the Colony of Fiji depended on establishing a viable economy for the islands were located at a great distance from the European trading centers.

It was not until 1879 that the Fiji government, under the direction of Governor Sir Arthur Gordon, started to import Indians under the indentured labor scheme, which existed in the British colonies since the 1837. The Indians were to come to Fiji and work for five years and another five as a "Khula" or a free' laborer. The indenture agreement stated that upon the completion of ten years on the colony, the laborer would qualify for a paid trip back to India, and those who did not wish to return could stay in the colony as British subjects.

In 1916,the Indians were partly successful in their struggle for political representation. Responding to the pressure from the Fiji Indians and India, the government appointed an Indian colonial sympathizer, Badri Maharaj, to the Legislative Council. The reason for a nominated Indian member for it provided hope to the colonial authorities in Fiji that India would resume sending laborer to Fiji, despite anti-indenture activism by Indian nationalists. But by 1920, India exhausted all avenues for acquiring Labor, and the indentured system became a thing of the past.

At first, the Indians were seen as sugar producing machine. But after the strikes of 1920-21, the Indians became a problem for the colonial government. If unchecked, these Indians could contaminate the whole island with their anti-establishment ideas. Fiji's colonial administrators argued persistently that Indians wanted to establish an Indian government in Fiji by using their ever-increasing population. In 1921, there were 60,634 Indians in the colony of Fiji but by 1936, the number had increased to 85,002.

Under the leadership of Siddiq Koya, Indo-Fijians entered the 1972 election as a divided community. Despite attempts to woe indigenous Fijian votes, the National Federation Party failed to win majority of the seats. Following the election defeat, the National Federation Party pressured Prime Minister Ratu Mara to implement common roll electoral system based on one person one vote. This was particularly troublesome to indigenous Fijians because Indo-Fijians were a growing majority and continuing demands from the Indo-Fijian leaders on the issue was seen by nationalists as an attempt to disenfranchise indigenous Fijians and to alienate native land.

By 1977, National Federation Party secured itself as the communal voice of Indo-Fijians in Fiji and in a surprise turn of events, Federation won the 1977 general elections. But while Indo-Fijians fully supported the party, rank and file members that formed the party cadre were bitterly divided. The National Federation Party victory was short-lived as divisions within the party started to take its toll. For two-days, Federation party officials argued relentlessly on next steps and one of the newly elected Indo-Fijian members, Jai Ram Reddy, publicly stated that there was nobody in the National Federation Party with the stature to lead the country.

Unable to form a government, the National Federation Party fractured along cultural and religious lines. The party was unable to function and as a result lost the general elections, giving political power back to Ratu Mara's Alliance Party. Immediately afterwards, Jai Ram Reddy became the leader of the National Federation Party after Siddiq Koya lost his seat due to factional in-fighting. Reddy was unable to stop the political machinery of Ratu Mara's Alliance Party and lost the 1982 elections, even after forming an alliance with the regional indigenous separatist movement called Western United Front (WUF).

By 1985, Indo-Fijian frustration with the National Federation Party had grown and a new political party, the Fiji Labor Party, was formed by Indo-Fijian and indigenous Fijian trade unionists. In the 1987 elections, the Fiji Labor Party formed a coalition with the dying National Federation Party and was successful in dislodging Ratu Mara's Alliance Party. This single success for multiracial unity was shattered by the coups of 1987. Indo-Fijians were targeted by the coup supporters at all levels of government and pro-indigenous Fijian Taukei Movement rioted in the streets of Suva.

Indo-Fijians in large numbers migrated overseas as Methodist fundamentalist imposed Sunday ban with the help of the military government. The multiracial 1970 constitution was quickly torn up and in its place a pro-indigenous Fijian Constitution was implemented. The events of 1987 decimated the Indo-Fijian community. While many skilled professionals migrated, others became frightened of political participation. A new racial contract was drawn up in the name of indigenous rights as Indo-Fijians were relegated to permanent opposition in a new parliament, which convened following the May 1992 general elections.

Indo-Fijians remained divided in the 1990s, splitting votes evenly between the National Federation Party and the Fiji Labor Party. However by 1999, Indo-Fijians had snubbed the leader of the National Federation Party, Jai Ram Reddy, for engaging in political partnership with Sitiveni Rabuka, who remains accused of causing pain and suffering to the Indo-Fijian community in 1987 and beyond. Interestingly, though, it was Sitiveni Rabuka who fought off hardliners within his party to push through, with the support of Indo-Fijians, an internationally acceptable 1997 Constitution.

It was under this constitution that the Fiji Labor Party won the 1999 general elections and Mahendra Chaudhry became Fiji's first Indo-Fijian Prime Minister. On 19 May 2000, armed gunmen incapacitated the Government of Mahendra Chaudhry.

The crisis created by the armed hijacking of parliament had far reaching impact for Indo-Fijians in remote and rural areas, where support for the armed insurrection was strongest. A number of Indo-Fijians were attacked by indigenous Fijians in rural Fiji, including Muaniweni, Dawasamu, Wainibokasi, Dreketi, Korovou, and Tailevu. Many fled with their belongings to the Fiji Girmit Centre in Lautoka. The center, which was the symbol of celebrating Indo-Fijian culture in Fiji, was transformed into a refugee camp.

Another mass exodus of Indo-Fijians in thirteen years started and is continuing because Indo-Fijians do not have any confidence in the current indigenous Fijian government, despite assurances that the events of 1987 and 2000 will not repeat. Most problematic are thoughts that Indo-Fijians may become caught in power struggles within the indigenous Fijian community, which is quick to lash out at Indo-Fijians for the push effects of economic globalization and modernization.

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NATIVE FIJIAN PARTY LEADER DENOUNCES DEMOCRACY; URGES VOTING ALONG RACIAL LINES TO ENSURE RACIAL SUPREMACY (News report of May 28, 2004)

http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2004/May/05-28-06.htm
Pacific Island Reports, East-West Center, University of Hawaii, May 28, 2004

FIJI PARTY LEADER DENOUNCES DEMOCRACY

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNZI, May 27) - The president of Fiji's ruling SDL party has reportedly attacked democracy as ill suited for the island nation.

Ratu Kalokalo Loki said the economic and social problems faced by indigenous Fijians and Rotumans are "brought about by the ravages of democracy."

The Daily Post reports that Ratu Kalokalo made the comment during his opening address at annual general meeting of the SDL party now under way in Suva.

He reportedly said the SDL party no longer believes in a government of national unity. Instead, Ratu Kalokalo says the party only subscribes to the idea of unity in diversity.

Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase has also criticized the constitutional provision for a multi-party government, saying the idea is unworkable.

As well, Mr Qarase says it is better for indigenous Fijians to vote along racial lines because this would ensure they have a majority in the elections and form the government.

================

http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2005/May/05-19-09.htm

PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i

FIJI MARKS SOBERING ANNIVERARY OF 2000 COUP

By Maika Bolatiki

SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, May 19) – Today is the fifth anniversary of the May 2000 coup.

The coup had promised a brighter future for the indigenous Fijians but at the end it shattered the myth of a united Fijian people.

Its ghost still haunts the nation today.

On that dreadful day of May 19, 2000, a small group of army rebels and civilians, including their self-proclaimed leader, George Speight, under gunpoint removed the one-year-old People's Coalition Government. When the plan did not fall into place, Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and his Cabinet and other parliamentarians were taken hostage.

The perpetrators said they were fighting for the indigenous Fijians' interests and gained unanimous support from Fijian chiefs and their people.

The country experienced the greatest crisis in its history.

One of the biggest mistakes made by the coup makers was their demand for the President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, to step down from the high office. This demand was taken on board a naval vessel by the military and a group of senior officers, including Commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, who traditionally asked the paramount chief to step aside.

In an interview with the Fiji One Television, Ratu Sir Kamisese said when he accepted to step aside, he told the commander and his senior officers that he would "not return and no one will solve the 2000 problem".

The words of the great late Statesman still stand today. There is still no solution to what happened. In fact. the coup was incomplete. When the military took over, it did not complete the business. The army abrogated the Constitution using the Doctrine of Necessity, but when things returned to normal, High Court judge Justice Anthony Gates, on November 15, 2000, declared the Interim Government and the abrogation of the Constitution by the military illegal. The Court of Appeal upheld this decision on March 1, 2001. It was this decision that opened up the investigations into all those who were involved in the 2000 political upheaval, and it is still ongoing, thus opening more wounds into the indigenous Fijian community.

Fijians are not happy that three prominent high chiefs – Ratu Jope Seniloli, the former Vice President, Tui Cakau and former Minister for Lands and Minerals, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu and the Turaga na Qaranivalu, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata – had been jailed together with those involved in the coup. Police inquiries so far have implicated more than 2500 citizens. 705 civilians have been convicted and many others are still under investigation. More than a hundred soldiers are also in jail for their involvement. During the looting in the city of Suva, the then President said: "What happened will be remembered as a day of shame. "We went down on a similar road in 1987 and it led us to no where. Armed interventions and attempted coups are not the way to reach political and economic goals."

Until today, Fiji Labour Party leader, now the Leader of the Opposition, Mahendra Chaudhry, had not forgiven those who forcefully removed his government from office. Reconciliation efforts by the Interim Government and the current Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Coalition Government had failed. The question that remained unanswered today is the real reason of the coup. Was it really true that most indigenous Fijians were disadvantaged given the resources they owned? This was the reason given by Speight and his men. In the 1987 coup leader, Sitiveni Rabuka, had also said he did it to protect the Fijian interests. Majority of the indigenous Fijians live in rural areas and they are the most disadvantaged.

The perception that Fijians do not figure prominently in the country's economy and are economically disadvantaged might have substance. A small Fijian minority had done well but not the bulk of the Fijian population. Most do not understand the nature of the economy they are part of and how it is integrated into the global economy. On the book titled, Government by the Gun, by William Sutherland and Robbie Robertson, it said: "Fiji's leaders have exploited the disadvantage of the Fijian masses by protecting it as disadvantage of all the Fijian people, the elites included. They have used the rhetoric of ‘the paramountcy of Fijian interests' to hide the reality of the paramountcy of elite Fijian interests. The interests of the Fijian masses have always come a distant second. The 2000 crisis brought this contradiction into focus as ever before."

It went on further by saying - "How, to resolve it is the indigenous question. It is the key question facing Fiji today. It's Fiji's unfinished business." The government of the day, acting on the demands made during the 2000 upheaval, had put in place the Social Justice Act in which the Affirmative Action programmes had been included. Out of the 29 programmes, 10 are specifically for Fijians and Rotumans. However, it seemed Fijians are still not happy with all that had been done to them. From Mr Chaudhry's side, they are still demanding justice. After winning court cases in relation to the events of 2000, they are now claiming compensation and is now before the court. The 2000 coup was totally different from the two coups in 1987. In 2000, Fijians confronted Fijians. Fijians killed Fijians. Commoners defied chiefs. There were differences among chiefs.

While the government of the day had spent thousands dollars on reconciliation to bring the people together after the divide brought by the unrest, the divide is still there. Last October, a National Reconciliation Day was organized specifically for those who were affected. While some responded, Mr Chaudhry and his group declined the invitation to be part of the programme. The highlight of the programme was the presentation of a traditional apology by those who were involved in the cup to the victims and the nation. President Ratu Josefa Iloilo accepted this presentation. As a last resort to end the impasse, government will table in this Parliament session a proposed legislation on Reconciliation and Unity Commission. This again had opened another huge outburst and Mr Chaudhry and his group had totally rejected it and were joined by the United People's Party, New Labour Unity Party, National Federation Party and the National Alliance Part of Fiji.

A group of parliamentarians, Poseci Bune, Ofa Swann, Daniel Urai and Mick Beddoes are threatening to take the government to court if it tables the Bill. The military that was heavily involved in the unrest of 2000 had also rejected the Bill. Government firmly believes that the proposed legislation will help to bring a greater degree of closure to what happened in 2000. It will enable government to effectively concentrate on nation building, strengthening the economy and improving living standards, especially for the poor It is only proper that Mr Chaudhry and his government be compensated.

Late President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara had said that if Mr Chaudhry had completed his term in office, he could prove to be one of the best prime ministers Fiji had ever had. It is time that we forget about what happened in 2000 and political leaders should map a common path for all Fiji citizens to follow. With the ghost of the 2000 haunting nation in the last five years, the economy has been put on the path of growth and is creating employment. Investment, so vital for rebuilding, has started to increase and we must thank the government of the day for that. The way forward is there but the political divide is the stumbling block.

May 19, 2005
FijiSUN: http://www.sun.com.fj/

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http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2005/May/05-20-ed2.htm

PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT

Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i

Editorial

FIVE YEARS LATER, FIJI STILL IN QUAGMIRE

Fiji Times

SUVA, Fiji (May 20) – Those who took time to reflect on what happened to this nation five years ago yesterday would have mixed feelings on how far we have travelled since that fateful day.

While the nation has made some progress in areas such as rescuing the economy from the quagmire into which it was quickly sinking after May 19, 2000, much work is still to be done on healing the wounds suffered by many.

Today some are still hurting individually and as the community is hurting collectively in the aftermath of those dark days.

Five years obviously is too short for people to forget what happened to them and their properties. The shock and painful memories of those terrible times still haunt them and it will take more than national days of prayer and national reconciliation programs to erase them.

Of course everyone wants reconciliation but the Government, sadly, is wasting a lot of money setting up programs and planning legislation that fails to address the hurt and loss. To rub salt into the wound it now comes up with proposed legislation that may offer amnesty to the perpetrators.

Those who suffered just become more angry and insulted when they hear of such plans and it leads to questions about how sincere and genuine the current administration has been all along in its desire to promote national unity and peaceful co-existence.

It may be that all the Government will achieve is to harden feelings and force the two major races to continue to pull apart, rather than to come together and go forward as one.

It comes back to the lack of good governance and agendas tainted with racial bias.

It hurts people when they realise that one race is being favoured ahead of the rest. The will to survive and the moral strength to tackle the challenges of tomorrow have largely been undermined to the extent that confidence in justice and fair play is seriously eroded.

Five years down the road, so much still needs to be done to restore some hope in our existence as a democratic nation that respects law and order and in the protection of our legal rights as citizens.

There is still so much flouting of the law and infringement of the rights of individuals that some people view each other with suspicion and fear. They are less confident and very pessimistic about their future in this country.

What we badly need is something to lift the spirit and confidence of the people in this country, often dubbed the paradise of the Pacific and the way the world should be.

For that we need strong and consistent leadership that caters for the welfare of everyone, not just one race.

May 20, 2005
Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com

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http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2005/July/07-12-01.htm
PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i

FIJI MILITARY CHIEF WARNS GOVERNMENT AGAINST ANARCHY

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, July 12) – Fiji military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has warned the government that he will take action to stop any attempt to "destabilize" the country, saying the government's proposed Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill is leading Fiji towards anarchy.

He issued the warning in an eight-page statement, which says that the military is ready to act against those who "destabilize" the country.

"The military will dish out the same fate we dealt George Speight and his group to anyone whom we think deserves this treatment," Bainimarama said yesterday.

He said the Government's Promotion of Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill would only bring about a scenario that would never allow the country to live in peace.

He singled out the Attorney-General, Qoriniasi Bale, and Ministry of Reconciliation chief executive Apisalome Tudreu among civil servants whose work was destabilizing the country.

"This warning is to anyone who will try and destabilize the country and we will see them as George Speight," he said.

[PIR editor's note: The proposed "Reconciliation" bill has drawn controversy over its provision for the possible amnesty of prisoners convicted of crimes against the government, including those found guilty of complicity in the 2000 coup.]

He said he would arrest and help bring to justice anyone who might try to destabilize the country the way it was done in 2000.

"Right now, Nukulau [prison] is about full and if the need arises we will use the island next to Nukulau to fill it with those who want to cause instability," he said.

Commodore Bainimarama said the military would work with police, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the judiciary to bring about an environment that recognised the rule of law. "Not only is it frustrating to see these people get an early release for political expediency, it makes a mockery of all the good work done by the judicial system to bring about the rule of law," he said.

Commodore Bainimarama warned the passage of the Bill would mean the neutralisation of the military because of its endorsement of perpetrators of the 2000 coup. "I will take the people back to the evening of May 28. The reason we asked His Excellency for executive authority, the evening that hundreds of George Speight supporters took to the streets, burned the TV station and shot a policeman. They did that because they knew that the military, the police, the judiciary and the DPP had been neutralised," he said. "That is exactly what we are going to face when they pass this Bill. It is not going to happen overnight, it might start with a Fijian passenger not paying his fare to an Indian driver, or a young Fijian boy climbing over the counter to steal sweets in an Indian shop."

Commodore Bainimarama said the Bill was a ruse by the Government to appease rural Fijians and obtain votes. "Unfortunately we have people in Fiji who stand ready to take advantage of situations such as these. The end result will be anarchy."

He said tribalism and provincialism was only prevented because of the proverbial disciplinary stick.

Commodore Bainimarama said the military would do its utmost to ensure the Bill did not see the light of day. He was critical of the nine provincial councils that have endorsed the Bill, saying they did so because they were misled by the Government. "They are accepting it only on the grounds that the current government is Fijian-dominated and on the grounds of religious principles but they do not know the real meaning of the Bill," he said. "Kadavu and the vanua of Ba all depend on tourism and what about if this Bill protects those who want another coup? What will happen to their sources of income?" he asked. "Tailevu and Naitasiri need their agriculture and what will happen if the markets all close because of another coup?"

When asked to comment yesterday, Minister for Home Affairs Josefa Vosanibola questioned the validity of the military warning. He also questioned the leadership within the military, which he said was only hurting the fine reputation of the Fiji army. "We are proud of our military institutions but its present leadership is questionable," Vosanibola said. "I feel sorry for the institution." He said Commodore Bainimarama should respect the rule of law and the parliamentary process which the Unity Bill was undergoing.

He said the statements made by the military commander were only doing more damage to the army's reputation as one of the best forces in the world. But Mr Vosanibola refused to be drawn on any disciplinary action against the commander.

Vosanibola had earlier told the military to not comment in public on the controvrsial bill.

He said yesterday that he would consult Police commissioner Andrew Hughes and Commodore Bainimarama again on their submissions to the parliamentary committee on Justice, Law and Order. "I am pleased that both of them had presented with submissions on the Bill to the parliamentary committee but now I believe they should respect the parliamentary process," Mr Vosanibola said.

In response to major criticism on the Unity Bill, the Prime Minister's Office released a statement last week that said the Bill would undergo some changes before it was enacted into law. The changes mooted by the PM's Office include the need for the Reconciliation Commission to seek the consent of the judiciary to free a coup-related case from its jurisdiction, as well as consultation with the DPP and police over cases.

July 12, 2005

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com

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http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2005/August/08-30-16.htm
PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT, August 30, 2005

WESTERN DEMOCRACY STILL ALIEN TO FIJIANS: QARASE

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNZI, Aug. 29) - Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, says the Western concept of democracy is still alien to indigenous Fijians.

The Daily Post reports that Mr Qarase made the comment at a workshop for Commonwealth parliamentarians in Nadi.

Mr Qarase has called on the international community to understand how indigenous Fijians view western democracy.

He says the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, vesting every individual with equal rights, is directly opposed to the hierarchical social structure of indigenous Fijians.

He says chiefs are at the very apex by virtue of their birth and rank - the rest have a communal function in this hierarchy.

He says he has been surprised at how many people - mostly from overseas - have had difficulty in understanding this.

Mr Qarase says this is why some very experienced governments were unable to comprehend the nature of Fiji's problems during the coups and urged solutions which reflected dangerously simplistic Western perspectives.

Radio New Zealand International: http://www.rnzi.com

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http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2006/January/01-06-01.htm

PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT

Fiji Live, January 6, 2006

Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i

FIJI POLICE REOPEN COUP PROBE AFTER ALLEGATIONS

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Jan. 5) – Fiji police have reopened files relating to allegations of plots to bomb Nadi International Airport and attack then Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry in 2000.

The Fiji Police Force confirmed today that the investigations were continuing and some of the files in relation to the coup in 2000 have been reconsidered.

Police are still conducting interviews of the seven witnesses named in a statement by former nationalist Josaia Waqabaca late last year about plans to bomb Nadi International Airport and other strategic locations before the May 2000 coup.

Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes had earlier said investigations were continuing and officers had 11 witnesses to interview.

Hughes said he plans to call a press conference later this week to reveal further details and progress of the investigation, police spokeswoman Corporal Prashila Narayan said.

Waqabaca publicly revealed that two prominent Fijian business executives were allegedly behind the plans and offered money to have the plans executed.

Hughes had earlier in a statement said that a lot that is being said inappropriately publicly was dealt with and yet to be finalised by the courts and prosecution.

Waqabaca alleged the two businessmen collected money from the business community to finance people to carry out the bombings. However, he said they were not paid enough money to execute the plans.

Meanwhile, Hughes denied recent criticism that police investigators have been slow to probe the 2000 coup.

"Since my taking office as Commissioner of Police in July 2003, there has been no attempt by senior police officers to disrupt the investigations," Hughes said. "We have 21 officers assigned to these cases and I have approved an extra two senior detectives to assist in finalising the cases.

"In so far as the time it has taken for police to complete this investigation is concerned, I need not remind you that the events under investigation commenced in August 1999 and proceeded until November 2000, some 16 months of chaos, before order was finally restored to Fiji. During that time multifarious offences were committed by a large number of citizens ranging in severity from minor to the most heinous criminal acts," Hughes said.

Police records show that over 2000 people were processed, 782 have been charged and convicted for a total of 28 offence types in the Penal Code.

Commissioner Hughes said in his 30-year policing career he had not come across such a complex case that took police more than five years to untangle.

"The police officers also frustrated by the reluctance of many witnesses to cooperate because of fear of reprisals or because of traditional or family tie loyalties subverting wider civil responsibilities, unrelenting media attention and calls for the investigation to be completely closed by some sectors of the society," he said. "The investigation against seven individuals, six companies and one organisation alleged to have been involved in the financing of the coup is nearing completion as two files on individuals are the DPP while all remaining files will be forwarded to DPP next week."

January 6, 2006
Fijilive: http://www.fijilive.com

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http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2006/March/03-17-11.htm

PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT

Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i

LETTER REVEALS METHODIST SUPPORT FOR 2000 FIJI COUP

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, March 16) - An Opposition senator in Fiji has revealed in the Upper House that the Methodist Church supported the May 2000 coup.

Senator Ponipate Lesavua made the claim while reading a letter from former Methodist Church President Reverend Tomasi Kanailagi to coup front man George Speight almost a month after the takeover in parliament.

He said a translation of the letter, dated June 16, 2000, and written in Fijian, showed that the church leadership backed the coup.

"I wish to confirm that I fully support the course that you are now taking and that we are together in the fight as we had in the past," Kanailagi wrote.

In the letter he praises George Speight's group.

"I wish to remind you that your names will be remembered by all for the courageous act you have performed on behalf of the indigenous population."

But Kanailagi also warned in the letter that the standing committee was calling for an end to the bloodshed and the release of the hostages.

"I also have made the request that we move forward with the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution," Kanailagi wrote. "We must work together and promote the well-being of the indigenous. Even though we have disagreements, it is important that we must bear with each other as in the words of the early church leaders, ‘let us agree to disagree agreeably'. The doors of the church will be open to receive the Domo ni Taukei (Voice of the Indigenous)," he wrote.

March 17, 2006
Fijilive:

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http://archives.pireport.org/archive/2006/April/04-27-ft2.htm
PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i

Feature

Islands Business, April 27, 2006

FIJI'S FUTURE UNCERTAIN AS INDIANS CONTINUE EXODUS

By Michael Field

SUVA, Fiji (Islands Business Magazine, April 26) – Huddled together, looking cold with fear, a group of Fiji Indians stood on the empty street of Korovou one afternoon in 2000. Makeshift bags at their feet, they waited for a bus to take them to Suva, 50 kilometers south.

Armed with military weapons, rebels had seized Korovou in support of local boy George Speight who was holding hostage the government of Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry.

Days earlier in a Rewa River valley, where Indians had grown vegetables for nearly a century, 16-year-old Romika Nair, told of gangs looting, burning and assaulting Indians.

"The men came back at about nine, and they took all our things."

Shopkeeper Lagan Prasad said it used to be peaceful. "Before, we called this the paradise of Fiji, now this is the darkness of Fiji."

Five years on from the third coup to afflict Fiji since 1987 the real price is emerging. Over 100,000 Indians have left for New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States since 1987 – a stunning loss in a talent-short country of just 900,000. Even the talented indigenous people are leaving.

Brij Lal, a Labasa born Indian academic who co-wrote Fiji's latest constitution with Tomasi Vakatora and New Zealand's Sir Paul Reeves, and expert on the Indian Diaspora, was home recently.

"Every time I visit Suva, I find it becoming more a ‘Fijian' town," he told Islands Business. "Look at the people in the market place – more Fijians there. In the civil service, in government offices, everywhere...We are seeing a huge, historical transition taking place before our own eyes," said Lal.

A tragic story lies in the past, and Indians suffer still in the myth that they are somehow to blame for Fiji's chronic instability.

American author James A Mitchener – much loved for the syrupy book that led to the musical South Pacific – used fierce racism to describe Indo-Fijians as being like mynah birds – raucous, uncultured, uncouth and grubby.

Indo-Fijians are mostly descendants of indentured laborers brought in by the British to work on CSR Australia-owned sugar plantations. Between 1879 and 1916, around 60,000 girmitiyas [indentured Indian laborers] came. All first stayed on Nukulau Island – Speight's prison today – for quarantine purposes.

When the indentured labor system ended, a small but sizeable group of Punjab farmers and Gujerati merchants came, creating a caste-less patchwork of Tamils, Nepalese, North Indians, Sikhs and Bengalis—all speaking a kind of pidgin Hindi.

Like Pakeha New Zealanders, Fiji Indians suffer an identity issue. Professor Lal insists he's Indo-Fijian. "My grandfather's country is not mine", adding that for his children India is "essentially a strange place full of strange people."

In the 1966 census, Indians accounted for 51 percent of the population, Fiji Islands Bureau of Statistics says. Indigenous Fijians were just 42 percent – the rest made up of Chinese, Europeans, Rotumans and other Pacific Islanders.

London colonial masters feared Indians would take over the country and in a long and complicated process – which continues today in the electoral system – measures were taken to ensure indigenous Fijians would never lose their land in the way the Maori had in New Zealand, and that their political supremacy would remain intact.

Following independence in 1970, and under Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara this happened. But in 1987 the Indo-Fijian dominated Fiji Labor Party won power under Prime Minister Timoci Bavadra. That prompted the military's number three, Sitiveni Rabuka, to stage two coups.

Promising a Taukei, or indigenous government, he instituted a racist constitution, producing the first wave of Indo Fijian emigration.

By 1999, even Rabuka had recognized the heavy cost and brought in a multi-racial constitution and a re-organized preferential voting system, albeit still on racial lines. That led to another Fiji Labor Party victory, this time with Chaudhry, although heading a cabinet dominated by indigenous Fijians.

A year later, came Speight's coup and then military commander Voreqe Bainimarama's martial law – a coup in everything but name. Indo-Fijians were revealed as nothing more than a stalking horse for indigenous tribal warfare.

Statistics New Zealand's figures neatly mirrored Fiji's politics. The 1986 census recorded 2,157 people of "Indian ethnicity who were born in Fiji." In 1991 – in the wake of Rabuka – this had leapt to 10,770 and in 1996 it was 12,720. In 2001, a year after the Speight coup, the number was 19,290. The 2001 census recorded 25,725 people in New Zealand who said that Fiji was their birthplace – up from 6671 in 1976.

The United States Embassy in Suva saw the impact dramatically in 2002, the last time the worldwide "Green Card" lottery was held manually – 220,000 people in Fiji entered.

An embassy official told Islands Business that under the computerized lottery, 800 Fiji families (they do not give out race) get green cards each year. A startling five Fiji families a day get residency visas normally.

In Fiji, no one knows for sure what is happening. Fiji last had a census 10 years ago and migration cards in recipient countries don't record race.

Fiji's statistics bureau estimates the population at December 2004 at 840,201, including 320,659 Indians, approximately 38 percent of the total population. In 2000, Indians were 41 percent of the population.

The radical change is shown in the way the bureau estimates how long it would take a population to double in size.

In 1986, it reckoned the indigenous population would double in 29 years and the Indians in 40 years. In 1996, the figure was 39 years for indigenous, and never for Indians – minus 241 years.

Human and development geographer Manoranjan Mohanty of the University of the South Pacific notes that since the Speight coup Fiji has lost over 3,800 professionals, technical and related workers.

"This represents over half of Fiji's stock of middle to high level workers. Teachers are the single most dominant professional group that Fiji has been losing."

The cost of Fiji's "human capital loss" is around F$45 million [US$25.8 million] a year.

One clue to what is happening came last month with the new electoral rolls. Of the 502,574 registered voters, just 35 percent are Indians.

It would rise to 40 percent were it not for the inexplicable fact that 26,000 fewer Indians are on the rolls this year than they were at the last election in 2001.

As Fiji TV News puts it: "Political pundits say this is a worrying trend which shows that the Indo-Fijian population is falling rapidly, and this will have a huge impact on Indian-dominated or controlled parties this year and in the future."

Its not gerrymandering, says Professor Lal. "A lot of Indo-Fijian people are apathetic and apprehensive about politics generally and about elections, in particular."

Indians feared a Fiji Labor Party-Chaudhry win and the prospect of more upheavals.

"That fear resides deep in their hearts. The recent threatened confrontation between the army and government does not augur well for them. Why bother with Fiji when you want to leave any anyway? When you are emotionally uprooted with children overseas? Better to keep a low profile, get things done, get by and hope that no one will bother you. Even if they are not in the direct line of fire, when Fijians confront Fijians, they know they will suffer collateral damage. Makes perfect sense to me," said Professor Lal.

Vice-president Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi says the "nightmarish experience" of the Girmitya instilled in the Indo-Fijian community discipline, frugality, industry and sacrifice.

He was saddened by the loss of Indians. "While it is always a matter of choice, and there is in all of us a sense of seeking greener pastures, this is our home, yours and mine together."

A paramount chief (of Speight's district), Madraiwiwi spoke of the "tragic legacy of misunderstanding that is our joint heritage." Neither group would make the compromise necessary for a more cohesive society – each fearing that to yield would end in apocalypse.

"Those who find the constant jockeying and endless bickering for advantage wearying, leave," he says.

Few reporters have ever seen reaction to a story like Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had one Sunday night in May 2000.

Nine days earlier Speight had seized the government of Chaudhry and was holding it hostage as Sayed-Khaiyum went to air with a live panel discussion on the coup.

The program finished at 7 p.m. and 45 minutes later Sayed-Khaiyum headed home. Within an hour, an angry Speight mob arrived at Fiji TV and smashed it up. Later that night, they murdered a policeman.

A big fish in a small pond, Sayed-Khaiyum and his family--including his first-born child who arrived five days after the coup--are now on the latest leg of the Indian Diaspora. He works for the television program Asia Downunder in Auckland.

Away from home he finds Indo-Fijians hankering for Fiji. "My theory is that with Indo Fijians, because they have never been made to feel like they belong in Fiji, they are always striving to feel like they belong. It is a strange thing."

Many of those who emigrated from Fiji would return, he believes, if conditions improved. But their children won't. The Indo-Fijian tribe was facing extinction. Very likely the case if enough Indo-Fijians don't stay back in Fiji. We will dwindle down to almost nothing."

Fiji Hindi was already disappearing.

"Although New Zealand has a very Pacific influence, there are certain things about people from Fiji that is very Pacific, and that is what differentiates us from mainland Indians. We are more relaxed, we are friendlier, our sense of humor is very Pacific."

He feared they were doomed to be perpetual people of the Diaspora. "It is heartbreaking, firstly, because people don't think we belong, and then we are forced to leave.

Most people who leave Fiji feel they have to leave because they feel they are being discriminated against. Yet they yearn to be back in that environment."

Like many, his family decided on New Zealand over Australia because its Indo-Fijian community was more contained than it was in the sprawl of Sydney and Brisbane. "It seems like a nice small place, a bigger version of Fiji may be, the personal friendly touch, a better place to bring up the kids."

Twenty-one-year old physiotherapist Renee Karan spent her first 10 years in Fiji. "My race is Indian but I'm a third generation Fijian," she says.

Indians from India don't necessarily see her as a "true" Indian and Fijians don't see her as Fijian. "But Fiji is a part of me and my family members were raised there, lived there, we earned and lived off the land and gave back to it. After three generations we consider ourselves part of the land.

"Fiji is happiness, my childhood, safety, simplicity, beauty, sunsets that painted the sky crimson red, feeling of belonging, looking at a Fijian and seeing myself in them."

Auckland businessman Rajendra Prasad, who left Fiji in the week following Sitiveni Rabuka's first coup, has devoted seven years to putting together "Tears in Paradise," a searing account of the girmit years.

A former town clerk of Ba, on the northern coast of Viti Levu, he says India has almost no significance for Indo-Fijians.

"In my conscience when the term ‘home' is used, what comes to mind is Fiji, not India."

But Indo-Fijians live with the painful dilemma.

"Our people have experienced through the coups and the policies of the government that we are not wanted."

Most who leave come to the "grim conclusion that Fiji will not be secure and stable for them in the future." They do well in New Zealand.

"At least, they don't have to live with the trauma of Fiji. Fiji is an illusion, a nightmare for most. But in their heart Fiji is still magnetic."

But, says Prasad, they feel nameless, landless and stateless. We have been lumped with India and when our children make applications for Pacific grants for education, they are disqualified. We don't seem to have an identity.

"We have a distinct culture which has been tampered and refined by exposure to Pacific cultures and also to the western culture. We are distinctly different to India's Indians."

As a man who enjoyed high-level contact with leaders of the indigenous community, he fears Fijians have not recognized the impact of the loss they will suffer with the departure of Indians.

"One of the advantages Fijians have had is that the Indo-Fijian community is not a violent community. In all the coups, they have never taken to violence and avoided them. Any other community would have turned to violence."

April 27, 2006

Islands Business: http://www.pacificislands.cc/pm82003/index.php

Copyright © 2006 Islands Business. All Rights Reserved

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http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2006/August/08-15-05.htm

PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i

QARASE LOATHE TO CHANGE FIJI'S ETHNIC VOTING

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Aug. 14) – Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase says he does not support calls for Fiji to move away from an electoral system based on race.

Fiji's system requires the two main races, "indigenous Fijians and ethnic Indians," to vote only for their own kind at the polling station (Communal Seats).

In only 25 of the 71 seats in the Lower House of Representatives are voters allowed to choose anyone regardless of ethnicity.

Some political commentators are calling for more Open Seats in a bid to bring the two main races together.

An architect of Fiji's Constitution, academic Dr. Brij Lal, said both communal allocations for Fijians (23) and Indians (19) should be reduced progressively by five, for the 2011 General Election.

"Personally I am not in favor of more Open Seats because it does not address the purpose intended," said Qarase.

However, Qarase said that adopting a proportionate form of representation "might be the best thing for Fiji" at this point. "It might come in when reviewing the Constitution," he said. The issue requires lots of thinking. It is important."

Qarase said the current Multi-party Cabinet had provided a basis for what could well be proportionate representation in Parliament.

"When we have people well represented in Parliament it would also mean a multi-ethnic government," he said.

Qarase's 36-member Cabinet has all the major ethnicities represented.

August 15, 2006
Fijilive: http://www.fijilive.com

----------------

http://archives.pireport.org/archive/2006/September/09-07-an.htm
PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i

The following is a talk given at Fiji Update & Pacific 2020 in Suva on August 29, 2006

Analysis

THE CALCULUS OF FIJI POLITICS IS CHANGING

By Dr. Jon Fraenkel

Fiji in 2006 defied expectations in some ways, but ran to form in others. Things that were not anticipated surprisingly occurred, and things that widely expected to fail suddenly, at least temporarily, succeeded. Some things were predictable.

The 2006 election turned out to be a collision of landslides; two parties demonstrated that they were the undisputed representatives of their respective communities and took nearly all the seats. That much had been suggested by a string of earlier by-election results, and the weakness of centrist parties even back at the 2001 polls.

Less easy to envisage for those who lived through the 1987 or 2000 coups, was that the RFMF [Republic of Fiji Military Forces] would so turn against the government it had originally put into office. The electoral impact of that was probably to sharpen the communal fears that so characterised the 2006 polls.

Surprising also was that, in the wake of the 2006 polls, an electoral system intended to facilitate the emergence of multiple political parties came now to be defended as generating a robust two party system. One wonders whether that will remain so as the next election approaches, or whether the major political parties will revert to the more usual style of communal politics – seeking to sustain a united ethnically-based party representing one's own ethnic group, while doing everything humanly possible to encourage the emergence of small splinter parties in the other ethnic group.

Unexpected, for many, was the formation of a multi-party cabinet. Most anticipated a repeat of the failures of power sharing after the 1999 and 2001 polls. Instead, the portfolios offered were substantial, and nine Labour members entered cabinet.

There was a subsequent reversal of previous roles; with Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase increasingly warming to the idea of a multi-ethnic government, and Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry, on last week's Have Your Say on Fiji TV, responding to accusations of having an overly confrontational approach by saying that this was an accusation levelled in the past at many other ‘Indian leaders'.

Oddly, the 2004 Supreme Court decision allowing independents and senators to enter cabinet outside the constrained party formulas of section 99 of the constitution – worked reasonably well in the aftermath of the 2006 polls, at least in giving some greater flexibility to the government formation process (even if this encouraged the emergence of a costly and oversized cabinet).

But the problems ahead will be severe, unless the Labour ministers are able to show substantial political gains to the Indian community, for example over land leasing legislation or by amendments to the amnesty provisions in the RTU Bill. Growing economic difficulties also limit scope for manoeuvre to deliver the kind of broad improvements in living standards that might consolidate Indian support over the longer-run behind the new top-level institutional arrangements.

Unexpected, for many, was that the dispute in the ranks of the Fiji Labour Party would so quickly flare out into the public gaze.

We were told that this was about disagreements over whether former MP Vijay Singh would get a Labour ticket on the Senate. More broadly, it was an inevitable consequence of the difficulties Labour faced in adjusting to the new multi-party cabinet arrangements.

Without the FLP leader entering cabinet, the relationship with the party's new ministers was always likely to be fraught with difficulties.

Power-sharing agreements are never simple; notorious failures occurred in Cyprus in the 1960s and Lebanon in the 1970s.

It is hard to imagine multi-party cabinet having worked well in South Africa if F.W. De Clerk had chosen to remain on the backbenches. Nor are Northern Ireland's new arrangements ever likely to work effectively if Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams were to decline a position at Stormont preferring instead to look after the best interests of Sinn Fein or the IRA.

In the longer-run, one of three options seem most likely; either Fiji's multi-party cabinet arrangement will fail, or the Labour leader will enter cabinet or there will eventually be a leadership change. In most other countries that have power-sharing arrangements, the leader of the minority party receives a deputy premiership (or presidency).

The calculus of Fiji politics is changing, but political visions have not yet altered sufficiently.

The changing proportion of the two ethnic groups has major repercussions in a country where race-based voting is strongly entrenched. And as more Fiji Indians than Fijians are emigrating, the arithmetic of demography is working relentlessly against the Fiji Labour Party. Might the ironic effect be to enhance inter-ethnic cooperation in government as the Fiji Indians, losing numbers all the time, recognize that power sharing offers the best chance of a place at the table?

More doubtful is whether communal solidarity can and will prevail, particularly amongst the Fijians, as the forces that bound both communities into a bipolar two party system dissipate. If it does not, the electoral mechanics and campaign strategies of future elections will be very different from 1999, 2001 and 2006.

That will complicate matters, and may - if one is hopeful - by that odd, long and painful route, make the victors in future elections those who are less steeped in the communal politics of the past.

September 7, 2006

Jon Fraenkel is a Senior Research Fellow at the Pacific Institute of Advanced Studies in Development & Governance at the University of the South Pacific.

-----------------

http://starbulletin.com/2006/11/01/news/story12.html Honolulu Star-Bulletin, November 1, 2006

Pressure increases to oust Fijian military leader
Australian and American officials express concerns about a possible coup

By Pita Ligaiula
Associated Press

SUVA, Fiji » Fiji's military chief was under intense pressure to resign today, as the United States expressed concern about a possible coup in the Pacific island and Australia put warships on standby for evacuation of its nationals.

As tensions between the Fiji government and military heightened, the island's Cabinet met in emergency session after the government failed to force military commander Frank Bainimarama from his post yesterday.

Fiji has been rocked by three coups in the past 20 years and fears of a fourth putsch in this former British colony have simmered since the re-election of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase in May.

Police commissioner Andrew Hughes said today he had briefed Qarase and Home Affairs Minister Josefa Vosanibola on the nation's security situation ahead of the emergency Cabinet meeting today.

Hughes described the security situation in Fiji as calm.

Qarase met yesterday with President Ratu Josefa Iloilo to ask that Bainimarama, who is currently visiting Fijian peacekeeping troops in the Middle East, be sacked and replaced by a subordinate officer.

Senior military officers said Bainimarama's proposed replacement, Lt. Col. Meli Saubulinayau, had declined the offer, saying he did not have the support of the island nation's military forces, according to local media.

Bainimarama remains an unrelenting critic of a government he has labeled "racist" and "corrupt" and threatens to force from office -- threats that the United States, Australia and New Zealand regard as direct military interference in the democratic process.

Seen by some as caught up in the belief that he saved the nation when he ended the last coup in 2000, Bainimarama has built strong personal loyalty in the officer corps after he was nearly assassinated by renegade troops during a bloody mutiny within months of the coup that first elevated Qarase to power.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said yesterday Bainimarama should accept the decision of the Fiji government and step down when he returns from the Middle East.

"The strong advice we have is the commander must himself follow the Fiji constitution," she said.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said he remained "deeply concerned" by the threat of a coup after a telephone conversation with Qarase late yesterday.

"We are worried about the possibility of a military coup," Howard told Adelaide radio 5AA.

"We will take all measures necessary if they're needed to look after our own people," he added.

Bainimarama said from the Middle East he would continue demanding that Qarase's government resign.

"I'll be back to see that Qarase and his cronies step down," he told the Fiji Sun newspaper in a report published today.

The commander said the armed forces were Fiji's only hope of stamping out corruption in the Pacific island nation.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said warships were on standby to evacuate 7,000 Australian nationals from Fiji in the event of a coup. He said Australia had no plans to send troops to Fiji if the government were attacked.

The United States threatened to suspend U.S. aid to Fiji if the military seizes power.

----------------

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=1&ObjectID=10408799
New Zealand Herald, Thursday November 2, 2006

PM leading Fiji to bloodshed, says military chief Bainimarama [+audio, video]

By Ruth Berry and Agencies

Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase's refusal to buckle to military demands is leading the country towards bloodshed, the country's military commander Frank Bainimarama says.

Mr Bainamarama said today he was prepared to continue talking to the government, but reiterated it needed to accede to his demands.

That included dumping contentious legislation that would give amnesty to some of those involved in the 2000 coup and key figures in the government stepping down.

"The last thing we want to do is have violence, the last thing we want to do is have bloodshed, but Qarase is pointing us in that direction," he said on Radio New Zealand.

"The fact that he does not want to accede to our request, the fact that he does not want to resign and his call for the meeting of the great council of chiefs means to the military that he has put us in a situation where there is going to be bloodshed and violence."

Wellington has plans to evacuate New Zealanders from Fiji if the stand-off erupts into hostilities.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters said the Government was "looking at having every contingency ready" for an evacuation if need be.

He would not go into details, but it is likely the armed forces have been put on stand-by. Chartered commercial planes might be used.

Between 3500 and 7000 New Zealanders are on holiday in Fiji at any given time.

Australian warships have been placed on stand-by in case its nationals have to be evacuated.

The Fiji military yesterday refused to accept the appointment of a new commander and also defied a police order and removed seven tonnes of ammunition sitting on a Suva wharf. Military heads refused to take Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes' calls, further heightening tensions.

There was speculation in Fiji yesterday that Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase might resign.

But late yesterday he declared "emphatically that there is absolutely no question of me resigning" and outlined a series of "inappropriate and illegitimate actions" taken by Commodore Bainimarama.

Mr Qarase is to ask the Great Council of Chiefs to convene a special meeting in the hope they could help resolve the conflict.

Mediate

The council, comprising the most senior chiefs in the country, has a constitutional role and appoints the President and has been called on to mediate in Fiji's past coups.

Commodore Bainimarama is in the Middle East, but is expected back on Sunday or early next week, a military spokesman said today.

Three weeks ago Commodore Bainimarama warned the Government would have to resign if it refused to dump controversial legislation opposed by the armed forces - including a bill which would offer an amnesty to former 2002 coup supporters.

Mr Qarase said he had exercised "great patience" in response to the commander's string of threats, which were under police investigation.

He was ready to engage in open dialogue with the commander "with a view to finding resolutions that serve the best interests of Fiji".

He stressed, however, that the Army was under the control of the Government and "the rule of law must prevail".

Mr Peters said the Government was "deeply concerned" about the developments and reiterated Prime Minister Helen Clark's call for Commodore Bainimarama to stand down.

Helen Clark said Fiji's Government was legitimately elected and appeared to have followed proper process in its bid to oust the outspoken military chief.

"The strong advice we have is the commander must himself follow the Fiji constitution," she said.

"One would have thought that if the President seeks to suspend him then those orders from a legitimate government should be followed."

Helen Clark spoke to Australian Prime Minister John Howard about the crisis on Tuesday night.

Mr Howard has refused to say whether military help had been sought by the Fijian Government, but Mr Peters said the Government here had received no such request.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry yesterday issued a renewed travel advisory for Fiji, but did not advise holidaymakers to abandon travel plans.

"Although the situation is currently calm, this could change with little warning."

New Zealanders planning to visit Fiji should monitor the media and the ministry's "safe travel" website for updates, it said.

Fiji police head Andrew Hughes said the military's decision to seize the seven tonnes of ammunition was "unprofessional" and under investigation as he had not issued the necessary licence.

"They've broken the law."

Military Land Force commander Colonel Pita Driti told Fijilive.com: "There will not be another coup. We will stick by our words."

-----------------

** The question is whether the offshore reefs (including fishing and mineral rights) of the Fiji islands should be owned by individual chiefs in the same way the chiefs own the land, or whether the reefs should be regarded as the property of the government on behalf of all the people. The qoliqoli bill in parliament would "right a historical wrong" by giving the reefs to the private ownership of the chiefs, who of course are all native Fijians; thereby depriving the non-native citizens of rights they now enjoy. People of Hawaii should take note of this issue, in contemplation of either Hawaiian independence or passage of the Akaka bill or OHA Plan B. The following article states the position of the native Fijian chiefs. **

http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2006/November/11-14-comm1.htm
PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i

Commentary

FIJI ‘QOLIQOLI BILL' WOULD RIGHT HISTORICAL WRONG

By Dr. Tupeni Baba

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Nov. 13) – The restoration of the qoliqoli [traditional fishing grounds] to indigenous owners represents the outcome of a long struggle by the indigenous Fijians led by their chiefs, especially those who were signatories of the Deed of Cession and their descendants, to ensure the return of their resources in land, forests, rivers and qoliqoli, in accordance with Fijian chiefly custom.

What stood in the way for the achievement of the goal of this struggle or quiet revolution were the settlers as represented by the planters, traders, industrialists and others whose understanding of the meaning of the annexation of Fiji was at odds with those of the chiefs and the Fijian people.

The idea of creating a competent body to allow aggrieved chiefs and their people to present their historical grievances for consideration is an important part of this process. Since the 1880s, Fijians have used the Native Lands Commission to deal with many issues specifically relating to land, so the process of dealing with competent bodies to discuss and settle issues and grievances has been part of their history and consciousness. It is not unrelated to their traditional way of dealing with Fijian disputes except that the partners to their historical grievances are often non-Fijians and usually, they are the settlers or people with settler mentality. This is why the Indigenous Claims Tribunal which will deal with all types of historical grievances relating to their resources is so central to the so called chiefly and indigenous Fijian struggle.

It is often difficult for non- Fijians to understand why the chiefs who were signatories to Cession decided to sign away or hand over unconditionally all their people's resources to Queen Victoria in return for being governed by her, her heirs and successors.

The chiefs had raised and sought clarifications on the implications of this move with and from Sir Hercules Robinson, before the act of Cession was finalised. One of them said: "We would like His Excellency to make clear to us what our position will be in the event of Cession taking place with regards to our fishing and forest rights. We are confident that His Excellency will give us the kindest consideration"

Soon after Cession in 1875 and again in 1879 and 1880 at the Council of Chiefs meeting in Waikava, Cakaudrove; on Bau, Tailevu and, Mualevu in Lau respectively, the chiefs actively sought the return of their resources especially their land and qoliqoli. The process with regards to the return of their land quickly got off the ground with the work of the Native Lands Commission headed by Wilkinson in the 1880s, and later by Maxwell in the early 1900.

With regards to their qoliqoli, the chiefs maintained that it was owned in a similar way as their land and should be treated similarly. At the end of the Council of Chiefs meeting at Mualevu in November 1880, the Roko Tui Lau, Ma'afu, as the host of the meeting said in concluding the meeting: "There is, however, one other matter which gives us concern, namely our reefs.All reefs have ownership from the past down to the present time; that is clear to us and it is a matter which has often given rise to quarrelling and disputes. We beg of your Majesty (the Governor Sir Arthur Gordon) that they may be registered with our lands or that some regulation be made that the rights of the owners may be fixed on a clear basis as with our lands."

The above concluding statement by Ma'afu at the Council of Chiefs meeting in Mualevu was part of a detailed Memorandum of Sir Arthur Gordon that he sent to the Colonial Secretary as background to his dispatch of November 15 which contained the Native Lands Ordinance xxi of 1880. He referred to this Ordinance in the dispatch as follows: "This is one of the most important ordinances which was been passed by the Legislature in Fiji. It is the result of five years of careful thought and inquiry."

So the qoliqoli issues were always treated in a similar way as native lands and the chiefs wanted it. As mentioned by the Roko Tui Lau, Ma'afu that some regulation be made that the rights of owners may be fixed on a clear basis as that of native lands.

The chiefs had a sympathetic Governor in Sir Arthur Gordon and he was able to move promptly on the return of Fijian land in spite of the strong pressures by the settlers and planters who were keen to purchase land in Fiji. Sir Arthur Gordon was the architect of the colonial land policy and accepted the Fijian notion of ownership that all lands, forests, foreshores and qoliqoli were owned irrespective of whether they were being occupied or not, at a particular time. The settlers on the other hand widely shared the opposite notion of terra nullius', that unoccupied land or empty spaces' were not owned and this has been questioned in the well known Mabo Case in Australia, not long ago.

The chiefs and Sir Arthur Gordon himself, had to struggle against the strong views of the settlers and this was more evident when Sir Arthur finished his term as Governor at the end of 1880. His dispatch, he wrote at Mualevu, was one of the last he wrote as Governor and as he wrote, his emotions came to the fore as he realised he had not completed the work on the return of qoliqoli in his six years as Governor. This was why he saw the need to include the closing statement of the Roko Tui Lau, Ma'afu, in his detailed Memorandum that followed his dispatch of November 15, 1880.

The result of the chiefs requests on the qoliqoli came in the following year, 1881, and was read to the Council of Chiefs meeting on April 14 in Nailaga Ba, by the new Governor, William Desvouex. He said to the chiefs at the Opening:

"I have to tell you with regard to your representation on the subject of the reefs, that the matter will be carefully investigated and that it is her Majesty's desire that neither you nor your people should be deprived of any rights in those reefs, which you have enjoyed under your own laws and customs; and I may tell you, on my own part, that measures will be taken for securing to each Mataqali the reefs, which properly belong to it, exactly in the same way as the rest of their land will be secured to them."

Many of the successive governors including William Desvouex, were unable to carry through successfully this task until well into Fiji's independence as the settlers and planters increased their pressures to open up more land for alienation and commercial use. Even one governor, Governor Im Thurn in the early 1900, supported the settlers and planters case openly.

In 1907 he sent a petition from the Planters Association signed by six prominent planters to the Colonial Secretary seeking the opening up of unoccupied land for their commercial development. He stated that the planters' case was a reasonable one and the tone of his comments showed he shared their views somewhat.

The case was discussed in the British Parliament and Sir Arthur Gordon at that time, as Lord Stanmore was greatly disturbed by the move. His work he felt had not been carried out in accordance with the express wish of the Queen Victoria. As he stood up in the House of Lords and spoke he said he was on that occasion, speaking as Turaga i Taukei' (land owning chief) in view of the two islands in Fiji the Fijian chiefs had given him, through a Crown Grant in appreciation of his services to the Fijian people.

"On two separate occasions her late Majesty did me the honour to convey to me her commands from her own lips that I was to tell the Fijian people that their lands were theirs and should never be taken from them," Stanmore said. "I told them on the authority of our Sovereign and I do trust the pledge then given, will be maintained."

The move by the planters and settlers were defeated and in the colony, Lord Stamore was criticised and publicly vilified in The Fiji Times (Fiji Times in November, 1908), which was controlled, by the settlers and planters in Fiji. This reflected the pressures that were exerted on future governors following Sir Arthur Gordon that it took more meetings of the great Council of Chiefs like the meeting in Bau in 1982, the insistence of the Alliance Government, the support of the SVT Government and now the SDL and the multi-party Government to bring this important issue to Parliament.

The emergence of the current Qoliqoli Bill is an outcome of a long struggle by the chiefs beginning with the signatories of the Deed of Cession to return to Fijian people what they owned according to their understanding of what they were expected as chiefs when they agreed to give Fiji unconditionally to Queen Victoria in 1874. It appears that the holders of opposing perspectives to the current debate have much to learn from our local history.

Dr Tupeni Baba is an academic and politician, who founded the New Labour Unity Party. He is also the co-author of "Speight of Violence." He is a senator in the Qarase Government.

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com.

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** Ken Conklin's note: Respected Fiji political commentator seems to say that since Asian Fijians have been leaving Fiji in large numbers in recent years, due to race-based political coups, therefore ethnic Fijians will soon outnumber Asian Fijians by 2-1. Therefore Fiji can move forward without any need for laws guaranteeing racial supremacy for natives (they'll reign supreme simply by being the overwhelming majority, having scared away the non-natives). Consider the implications for Hawaii!

http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2007/April/04-25-24.htm

PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i

COUPS, RACISM, TRADITION CHALLENGE FIJI FUTURE

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, April 24) – One of the architects of Fiji's Constitution, Dr Brij Lal says the country faces three main challenges, as its leaders contemplate its future.

The three challenges facing Fiji is its coup culture, its politics of race, and the role and place of traditional institutions and practices in the modern political arena, he says.

Dr Lal said this as Fiji prepares to mark the 20th anniversary of its first coup on May 14. On this day in 1987, the little known Major General Sitiveni Rabuka staged the first of two military coups, "to reassert ethnic supremacy" following the 1987 elections which had brought an Indian dominated government to power. Some say it laid the foundation for more coups taking place, with the latest staged on December 5 last year.

"It would be a cliché to say that Fiji is at the cross-roads again, because it has been there before," said Dr Lal, a Professor in Pacific and Asian History at the Australian National University.

But nonetheless, Fiji faces several acute, path-altering challenges as its leaders contemplate its future, he added.

Dr Lal says Fiji's first challenge is to deal with its coup culture.

"The 1987 and 2006 (coups) may have different causes and rationales and significantly different outcomes, but in the end they have one feature in common: the military overthrow of a legally elected government."

He believes that if an important test of a democracy is its ability to survive a change of government, then Fiji has failed the test.

"What will it take to break the cycle?" he asks.

Dr Lal says there are those who want the military disbanded. "But that is unrealistic in the present circumstances.

"Should ways be devised to incorporate the military in the overarching framework of democracy so that the military is privy to and participant in, and not simply a recipient of decisions at the national level," Dr Lal asks.

He feels it is important to inculcate into the populace fundamental respect for law and order.

"Violence as an instrument of public policy does not solve problems, it merely compounds them," he noted.

"As one New Zealand writer has said, ‘Violence always compromises or ruins the cause it means to serve: it produces as much wrong as it tries to remedy'."

Dr Lal says the second challenge for Fiji is to move away from its preoccupation with the politics of race.

"It is an obsession of the past that should not be allowed to hobble the present and the future."

He says the demographic transition of the last two decades has fundamentally altered Fiji's landscape.

"Within the next two decades, the indigenous community will be two thirds of the population of Fiji, putting paid to the fears of ‘Indian domination' that underpinned Fijian political discourse for much of the 20th Century."

Dr Lal says the Interim Administration's proposal to dismantle the race-based electoral system is to be applauded, "provided it is done with wide public consultation and support rather than through a decree."

In this regard, the recommendations of the Reeves Commission may be worth re-visiting, he added.

The third major challenge facing Fiji, according to Dr Lal, is the role and place of traditional institutions and practices in the modern political arena.

"It is, in the final analysis, a question for the indigenous community to ponder.

"The recent spectacle of the tussle between the Great Council of Chiefs and the Military must have been a source of much dismay and discomfort to indigenous Fijians, for they are not used to seeing such confrontation and war of words in the open."

He says two of the principal institutions of the indigenous community, the Methodist Church and the Great Council of Chiefs, have been sidelined and silenced, institutions to which ordinary Fijians looked for leadership.

"Much has been said about the future of the chiefly system, and there has been talk of a ‘chiefless' society in Fiji.

"The chiefly system itself is not at fault; errant behaviour of some of its members is," he noted.

"Is the GCC equipped to deal with issues of national importance when there is no ‘national input' into its decision making?" Dr Lal asks.

"The GCC appoints the President and the Vice President, but does it seek advice and counsel of others beyond the membership of this ethnically exclusive body?"

Fijilive Copyright © 2007 Fijilive. All Rights Reserved.

--------------------

http://www.fijitime s.com/story. aspx?id=71884
Fiji Times Online, Sunday, October 07, 2007

A sympathetic view of indigenous concerns

Ema Tagicakibau

The UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights (UNDIR) was finally adopted at the UN General Assembly in New York on September 13, 2007, following 22 years of intense debate and negotiation between member states and representatives of the world's 370 million indigenous peoples including the Pacific.

Ema Tagicakibau of the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre (PCRC) shares both professional and personal views on the implications of the Declaration on indigenous peoples and in response to concerns raised that the Declaration should not be used to abuse the rights of others.1. Why is the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights important for PCRC?

PCRC was born out of indigenous resistance to certain arrogant colonial practices and violations inflicted upon Pacific peoples such as the French nuclear tests, the forced displacement and removal of natives from their ancestral lands to make way for US military bases, nuclear testing programs, extractive industries such as mining, large-scale plantations, development projects and urbanisation, with resulting environmental damages, destruction of their subsistence livelihoods and dislocation of the social cohesion of indigenous peoples.

Though not legally binding, the Declaration recognises that violations were inflicted on indigenous peoples as a group through colonialism and globalisation and that states have a moral responsibility for redress and protection of their rights to their cultures, environment and resources for their sustainable development. 2. What are some relevant provisions of the Declaration?

The right to self-determination, to freely determine their political status, remains a challenge for people of Kanaky, Tahiti Nui, Hawaii or West Papua to name a few, particularly as they are still under the control of those they share no traditional, cultural or linguistic links with.

Others include the protection of ethnic identity, historical sites and intellectual property rights (indigenous knowledge), recognition of the special needs of elders, women, youth, children and the disabled and the right of indigenous women and children to be free from violence.

More importantly is the need to obtain their free, prior and informed consent for any development plans or military activities on their lands, resources or territories, with just and fair compensation where need be.

In Fiji and the region a major source of conflict is the failure to respect the rights of resource owners to be fully consulted in development projects such as tourism or extractive industries like mining and logging that would affect their environments and subsistence livelihood. This is just a matter of courtesy and respect which is fundamental to human rights. 3. How does the Declaration affect the rights of non-indigenous peoples in Fiji ?

The Declaration does not take away or diminish the rights of others as guaranteed under the Constitution, so it should not be taken as a threat.

Having said this, I would like to respond to concerns raised elsewhere that the Declaration must not be used to abuse the rights of others. I think this is a very disrespectful call that insults the intelligence of indigenous peoples.

It seems that some human rights advocates are quite uncomfortable talking about "indigenous rights" and become defensive whenever it is mentioned by waving "universal" rights or avoiding it altogether. This is because they reduce indigenous rights only to "ethnicity" or along racial lines.

This discomfort is based on certain misplaced assumptions about indigenous people being already at a greater advantage compared to others due to the amount of land they hold, the special institutions directed towards their well being, being the majority population, affirmative action policies etc.

Such assumptions are dangerous because they overlook the fact that indigenous peoples as a group have been subjected to some of the most atrocious violations which the Declaration recognises and calls to redress.

Take for example, the reference to Fijians holding 83 per cent of land. Based on my experience growing up on Taveuni, most of the land held by our clan is really rugged and mountainous terrain and cliffs that are hard to access. The best arable and accessible lands near to the villages had been parceled out to settlers (estate owners), the big plantation companies such as BP, MH or Carpenters (1970s) so villagers had to travel further inland for subsistence farming or rely on the generosity of those with nearby lands.

Then you have those who have been dispossessed and forcibly resettled elsewhere after their ancestral lands were traded off under dubious deals or to make way for development projects, infrastructure and urbanisation. These clans have remained among the landless and most marginalised in Fiji . For them the Declaration is a tool for redress.

Recent calls to abolish communal seats from the voting system in order to get away from the current ethnicity-based system benefits non-indigenous peoples who have nothing to lose, but it touches at the very core of ethnic identity for a Fijian which violates the right to security, integrity as a distinct people and to be represented by their own people, according to the Declaration.

Ethnicity can and must not be avoided but it must be managed more effectively and not be manipulated to the demise of the indigenous peoples. The Kanaks had the same fear when the French government decided to have all citizens registered as French in a new Census in New Caledonia . Attempts to neutralise the identity of indigenous peoples must not be a violation of the Declaration.

There is an expectation by human rights advocates in Fiji that indigenous people must be the ones to compromise and accommodate all the time.

Fijians have been historically and socially conditioned through colonisation to have patience with respect to their rights, subordinating them to the rights of others.

This imposes a subjective role that leads them to believe that that they can not have rights until everyone else has theirs. They then become exploited, deprived or hoodwinked by people far advanced in worldly views.

Thus any attempt to protect their rights through affirmative action is viewed as racism, even though non-indigenous peoples, whose cultures have survived over thousands of years of ancient civilisations, are better adapted to globalisation than the Fijian who was only colonised and converted around a century ago.

Why is the National anthem sung only in English at the IRB World Cup when the team is all Fijian and the beauty of the Fijian words can invoke deep sentiments of loyalty, patriotism and the responsibility to one's nation?

Fijians have to accept that as a multi-racial country we have to be sensitive to the feelings of others. But why can't it be the other way around and we they can sing both versions (like South Africa ) and be proud of it because this is Fiji ? So when can we see gestures of respect, integration and reciprocity?

Racial integration cannot be a one-sided affair, forced across the table of brotherhood or sisterhood.

Human rights advocates must respect indigenous rights and not sacrifice them at the altar of universal human rights.

Otherwise they are guilty of inflicting the very violations against indigenous peoples that they try to protect at the universal level.

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http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/south-pacific/2248175/Fijis-Indian-population-collapsing
Stuff (newspaper, New Zealand), March 10, 2009

Fiji's Indian population collapsing

By MICHAEL FIELD

Fiji's ethnic Indian population is rapidly collapsing as people flee the coup plagued nation.

Data from last year's census, released today by Government Statistician Timoci Bainimarama - brother of Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama - shows Indians now make up only 37.5 percent of the 837,000 people.

In 1966 Indians made up 51 percent of the population.

Other bureau data reveals that last year over 5000 people emigrated from Fiji, over 80 percent of them Indian.

Commodore Bainimarama staged a military coup in 2006, overthrowing an indigenous dominated democratic government and was justified by the commodore on the grounds of ending race based politics in Fiji.

However his brother's data suggests that the Indians, who predominantly supported his coup, are still leaving.

The statistician said the "dramatic change of the ethnic composition of the population" started in the 1950s, gained momentum with Sitiveni Rabuka's 1987 coups and continued in the two further coups between 1996 and 2007.

Indigenous Fijians made up 56.8 percent of the population, 37.5 percent Indian and the remaining groups including Chinese made up 5.7 percent.

In the 11 years to 2007 the Indian population fell 25,020.

Mr Bainimarama said this was the result of a "continuing very high emigration rate for Indians. "Since 1987, this is undoubtedly by far the most important factor."

Fertility among the remaining population was declining fast as well.

Some of the provincial data showed the drastic decline.

In the sugar growing Ba Province the Indian population was 94 percent larger than the indigenous population. By last year it was just 33 percent larger.

Earlier data shows that since Rabuka's 1987 coups over 100,000 Indians had left.

Indo-Fijians are mostly descendants of indentured labourers bought in by the British to work on CSR Australia owned sugar plantations.

Between 1879 and 1916 around 60,000 "girmitiyas", a corruption of a Hindi word for contract, came.

In the 1966 census Indians accounted for 51 percent of the population. Indigenous Fijians were just 42 percent - the rest made up of Chinese, Europeans, Rotumans and other Pacific Islanders.

Then under British rule, London colonial masters feared Indians would take over the country and in a long and complicated process measures were taken to ensure indigenous Fijians would never lose their land or political dominance.

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http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2009/August/08-18-14.htm

INDO-FIJIANS MIGRATE TO AUSTRALIA
Latest wave to leave is blue collar

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, August 16, 2009) - A leader of the Indo-Fijian community in the Australian city of Sydney says more and more blue collar workers are leaving Fiji in search of work in Australia and New Zealand.

For years, Fijian professionals like doctors, accountants, lawyers and managers have been leaving the country for jobs in Australia and New Zealand.

But Sanjay Ramesh, political editor of the Fiji Times, an Indo-Fijian community newspaper in Sydney, says now plumbers, construction workers and electricians are increasingly joining the migration trend.

"They are really concerned about the future," he said."They think that there is no resolution in sight in Fiji and that’s what’s driving them out of there. They think that Fiji is heading towards some sort of economic disaster."

Radio Australia: www.abc.net.au/ra

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http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2009/October/10-21-13.htm

BAINIMARAMA THANKS FIJI INDIANS AT FESTIVAL
‘You have made our nation culturally vibrant’

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, October 17, 2009) – Fiji’s Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has paid tribute to Fiji’s Indians, thanking them for their contribution to the nation.

In a message to mark the Hindu festival of lights - Diwali (or Deepawali, meaning row of lamps) - Bainimarama thanked "our Indo-Fijian brothers and sisters for the colour, excitement and joy that they have brought into our communities".

"You have made our nation culturally vibrant and rich in its diversity. And for that we shall be forever grateful".

Drawing parallels with the Diwali message of light overcoming darkness, Bainimarama reiterated his government would remain steadfast in its vision for the nation.

"The trials of darkness that the few in the local and international community seek to subject our nation to, will be challenged and overcome," he said, in apparent reference to efforts by overseas governments to pressure Fiji into early elections through sanctions.

At the same time, Bainimarama said the people of Fiji must accept and respect that there is a reason and purpose for their being together as "a people of one nation and with one destiny".

Since 1987, two Indian-led governments have been overthrown in military and civilian-led coups.

Bainimarama has promised to eliminate ethnic thinking from the national psyche by replacing race-based voting with a new electoral system before further elections are held from 2014, as a way of breaking Fiji’s "coup cycle"

Fijilive: http://www.fijilive.com

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http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2009/October/10-21-an.htm

Analysis

THE FIJI COUP AND THE POLITICS OF ETHNICITY

By Jon Fraenkel

Fiji’s December 2006 military coup and the abrogation of the country’s constitution in April 2009 have generated conflicting reactions. Australia, New Zealand, the European Union, the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum have condemned the actions of coup leader Frank Bainimarama, who currently serves as interim prime minister. They have sought to get Bainimarama to agree to fresh elections and restart the ‘President’s Forum’ dialogue with elected politicians, which he abandoned in April. But a significant minority of the civil society movement within Fiji has backed the post-coup government’s reformist agenda, even in some cases to the point of accepting that this must be enacted through authoritarian means.

Overseas, Bainimarama’s government also has outspoken sympathisers who tend to be still more enthusiastic about the regime’s objectives, and less critical of military repression, than the coup leader’s fellow travellers in Fiji. Within the country, those with opposing views have been silenced, particularly since the media clampdown of April 2009. As a result, Fiji’s government has been able to complain loudly, without provoking a storm of protest in the local press, that criticisms of its actions are based on ignorance of Fiji’s history and a lack of awareness of the unique difficulties that the country has faced since independence. That claim is deeply misleading.

Those who attempt to justify Fiji’s December 2006 coup argue that the military’s action was necessary to move the country’s political arena away from control by ethnically based politicians and parties. According to the Vanuatu-based Pacific Institute of Public Policy, for example, the coup provided a "circuit breaker" that may rid Fiji of corruption and racism, reform a "gerrymandered electoral system" and "embrace one-person one-vote." Even the abrogation of Fiji’s constitution in April has not stilled the sympathy of those who believe Bainimarama’s coup constitutes a "revolution for clean-up," as the Fiji Labour Party’s Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi called it in June 2007. (His leader Mahendra Chaudhry is now furiously backtracking on such claims, following his party’s departure from Bainimarama’s government.) The claim that the coup is "revolutionary" is, after all, the only plausible rejoinder to those who argue for the sanctity of the rule of law and the inviolability of democracy. Father Kevin Barr, one of several Catholic leftists who have taken up positions in the new order, argued back in December 2006 that Bainimarama’s coup should be seen in the context of those many cases in the history of nations in which "kings were deposed, wars were fought, governments were ousted or revolutions were begun in order to bring about a more just regime change."

In accordance with this type of insurrectionist interpretation, Bainimarama has cast himself in the role of a modern-day Robespierre seeking to transcend the parochial divisions of the ancien regime, or as a reborn Kamal Attaturk intent on building a modern secular order. It would be hard to deny that the early history of nationbuilding has often involved crushing communalist challenges to the emergence of the modern state, often as the domestic by-product of external wars. But international opinion has swung against suppressing communalist ideology as a route to robust state-formation – partly, perhaps, because the world wars of the mid-twentieth century have discredited nationalist ideology. No one seriously imagines that it might be possible to resolve the difficulties in Iraq or Afghanistan by concerted attacks on the Sunni Muslims in Iraq or the Pashtuns in Afghanistan. The recent crushing of Tamil separatists by Sri Lanka’s army may have been a resounding military victory, but it hardly constitutes a durable political settlement. It is inconceivable that an assault on the institutions of indigenous Fijian post-colonial rule might yield a viable future for that country.

Fiji’s military clampdown was not accompanied by mass killing, but would those who sympathise with Bainimarama’s suppression of ethno-nationalism have opposed this had it been? When Bainimarama (through spokesman Neumi Leweni) repudiated any negotiated settlement in the aftermath of the abrogation of the constitution, rejecting Commonwealth/UN efforts to assist in brokering a President’s Forum, he was effectively throwing down a gauntlet to opponents. When the soldiers and police convicted of the murders of three indigenous Fijians, Sakuisa Rabaka, Nimilote Verebasaga and Tevita Malasebe, were released from prison in April, the transparent objective was to send a message to the military rank-and-file that if they shed blood to protect the regime they would be protected from legal action. No violent reaction to Bainimarama’s regime has resulted as yet. The rather desperate hope of coup opponents for a Methodist-inspired uprising in August 2009 failed to materialise (and this was in itself indicative of a striking failure of the political opposition). But were it to do so, how far would the sympathisers of the suppression of ethno-nationalism be prepared to go? Does the coup-regime survive only because of the good graces of its opponents and the absence of the kinds of popular resistance seen recently in Thailand, Honduras, Iran or, a few years back, Pakistan?

Surveying the international experience of coups aimed at bridging ethnic divisions, it is striking how few cases give credence to that objective. West African military coups after independence were frequently depicted as efforts to counter tribalism or tackle civilian corruption, but almost invariably proved to be instruments for the triumph of militarised ethnocracy. Coups aimed at countering ethnic polarisation tend to morph quickly into vehicles for the ascendancy of one or the other group. Bainimarama’s coup started out amidst grandiose claims of multi-racialist objectives, but has tended to morph into a takeover that bears greater resemblance to previous ethno-nationalist seizures of power. Old hands from Rabuka’s post-1987 coup governments, like Foreign Minister (and veteran Taukei movement supporter) Inoke Kubuabola, Chinese ambassador Jim Ah Koy and Education Minister Filipe Bole, have been restored to important positions. Contrary to Bainimarama’s claims at the United Nations General Assembly meeting to be waging a battle of ‘new elites’ against ‘old elites’, aging figures in the Fijian establishment associated with Fiji’s first post-independence Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara – such as Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and Ratu Epeli Ganilau – now occupy pivotal positions in the new order. The early enthusiasm of some in the Fiji Indian political elite for Bainimarama’s coup has faded – with the departure of Mahendra Chaudhry’s Fiji Labour Party from government in August 2008. The multi-culturalist objectives of the coup are still loudly proclaimed at meetings of the UN or before gatherings of ethnic Fijian soldiers at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks, but these nowadays sit awkwardly alongside events at home. For example, the Christian "crusade" against crime recently launched amidst great fanfare by the Fiji Police Commissioner and serving naval officer, Esala Teleni, has provoked a predictable dismay from senior Hindu or Muslim police officers.

The exigencies faced by regimes created by coups, unable to rule by consensus, generally put paid to anti-corruption objectives even faster than the patronage networks cultivated by civilian regimes. Where military forces acquire some legitimacy in the nation-building process, or play some enduring role in guarding secular state traditions (as in Turkey or Indonesia), they generally earn this through prestige acquired during the struggle for independence or in conflicts with external adversaries. More usually, "coups to end all coups" that aim to transcend communal divisions have ended in forms of dictatorship. This was the case in Syria, for example, where after eighteen coup attempts the Ba’ath Party in the 1960s seized office pressing a pan-Arabist and socialist ideology, but by the 1970s, with Hafez al-Assad in control, the party moved to cement the position of an Alawi-dominated ruling elite against popular Sunni opposition.

Fiji’s experience of coups – none killed in 1987, sixteen in 2000 and four so far since 2006 – gives some encouragement to theories of Pacific exceptionalism and non-violence. But many of the early African, Thai and Latin American coups were much less violent than those that followed. With time, there is logic to repeated coups becoming ever more questions of life and death, with perpetrators becoming bound to "make-or-break" suppression of dissent. Bainimarama, if he fails, is unlikely to spend his future basking on a tropical island, as did his predecessor George Speight, leader of the 2000 coup.

In other words, the idea of an army that stands above the fray, insulated from ethnic politics, finds little historical support. And that’s especially the case when the military itself reflects communal divisions – as it does in Fiji, where the military remains 99 per cent indigenous and negligible effort has been made towards broadening its make-up. (The names of new recruits published in the local press attest to the ongoing ethnic imbalance.) Elsewhere, purportedly neutral armies have quickly come down on one or other side in protracted conflicts. In Northern Ireland, the largely Catholic and Republican civil rights movement was suppressed by the Protestant-dominated Royal Ulster Constabulary in the 1960s. British troops arriving to keep the peace in 1969 were notoriously greeted with cups of tea provided by the beleaguered Catholic communities of Derry and West Belfast. Within days, Britain’s claim to be performing a peace-keeping role had been repudiated by Republicans. Bloody Sunday, internment without trial and the hunger strikes followed.

After two decades of civil strife, the eventually agreed peace process in Northern Ireland provides some inspiration for the parties to other seemingly intractable conflicts. The 1998 Good Friday agreement – despite considerable teething difficulties – brought Republican and Loyalist politicians together in a power-sharing arrangement. It was an outcome that accords with what the world now knows about how to handle politicised ethnicity: that the forcible suppression of broadly-backed communalist ideology, however distasteful that ideology may be, rarely works. Power-sharing – as experimented with for the first time since independence in Fiji during May–December 2006 – brings better results, even if lasting transformation of the political order requires a great deal of hard work and effective leadership.

Underpinning theories about the military transformation of Fiji politics there often lies a naive instrumentalist theory of politicised ethnicity. In its crudest version, the prevalence of communal voting in Fiji is blamed on the British legacy of racially based electorates, which survived in the 1970, 1990 and 1997 constitutions. But racially based voting, which is common to both the 57 per cent ethnic Fijian and 38 per cent Fiji Indian populations, does not occur simply in the communal constituencies, but also in the open contests in which all Fiji’s eligible citizens may participate. Societies like Guyana, Bosnia and Northern Ireland also exhibit strong communal voting patterns, but none of these has Fiji-style race-based electoral rolls. Some attribute this situation to the strength of primordial sentiments, as if cultural affinities are always impervious to political change. Constructivist theories, by contrast, reject both instrumentalist interpretations of ethnicity as some kind of "false consciousness" engineered by unscrupulous elites and the primordialist or culturalist theories of innate and inevitable difference. Ethnic identification is not the only possible type of political outlook in societies like Fiji’s, but it can – and in that context did – become a powerful and enduring source of political identification. For that reason, efforts simply to annihilate the political representatives of powerful social forces are unlikely to be successful, and are likely to generate worse problems than they are aimed at resolving. The better approach, as indicated by the Northern Ireland and South African settlements, is to try to accommodate distinct groups in a social compact, and to depoliticise ethnicity.

Perhaps all the lessons of history and global politics will leave exceptionalists and cultural relativists unconvinced. Perhaps Fiji will buck the global trend and, with time, communalist ideologies will fade and electoral loyalties change. Speaking on the SBS’s Dateline program in July, Bainimarama [1] acknowledged that his hostility to elections was driven by the fact that any poll would lead to the re-election of the very government he deposed. If, as this suggests, the regime lacks the ability to rule by consensus, then to survive it at least needs to consolidate a dependable command structure through the state bureaucracy. Yet since the social base of the regime remains weak, its systems of authority will inevitably remain fragile. The post-coup purges of those identified with the old order have now given way to further purges of those who staked their careers on the success of the new, with the core ruling circle growing ever narrower, ever more insular and thus more brittle. Perhaps the response of Samuel Finer, author of The Man on Horseback: The Role of the Military in Politics, to his own question is apposite: he asks why, given the strength of military forces around the world and the consequent vulnerability of civilian governments, there are not more military dictatorships internationally. His answer is twofold: "one weakness is the armed forces’ technical inability to administer any but the most primitive community. The second is their lack of legitimacy: that is to say, their lack of moral title to rule." In other words, soldiers tend not to be very good at politics.

Jon Fraenkel is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian National University. This article is based on a talk given at the Crawford Fiji Updates in Canberra and Brisbane in August.

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http://pacific.scoop.co.nz/2009/12/the-mammoth-task-of-ridding-fiji-of-coup-culture-–-rev-akuila-yabaki/
Pacific Scoop (New Zealand) December 17, 2009

The mammoth task of ridding Fiji of coup culture

by Rev. Akuila Yabaki

Thakur Ranjit Singh is a post graduate student in Communication Studies at AUT and a volunteer at the Pacific Media Centre. He reports on a paper presented by Fiji’s Reverend Akuila Yabaki

Introduction: Fiji’s Reverend Akuila Yabaki, who heads Fiji Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF) recently presented a paper to the Pacific Islands Political Studies Association (PIPSA) conference held at the University of Auckland. The paper was titled ”From paramountcy to equality: Constitutionalism, dialogue and ethno-political conflict in Fiji” and asserted how Fiji ought to rid itself of its coup-culture and institutionalise an egalitarian, non-race-based society.

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The 11th Pacific Islands Political Studies Association (PIPSA) held at University of Auckland earlier this month had Pacific well covered in its discussions. It covered Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, the French Pacific and Pasifika in New Zealand.

Fiji, with its chain of problems was well represented by distinguished presenters. Subhash Appanna from Auckland Institute of Studies presented “From democratic dictatorship to democracy in Fiji”

Susanna Trnka presented her well researched topic on the “Ethnographic analysis of ethnic identity, violence and the state in Fiji.” She is the author of “State of suffering: Political violence and community survival in Fiji.” This book, which is the result of her long research in Fiji has focussed on political violence and embodied practices of citizenship amongst Indo Fijians in Fiji.

The final presenter was none other than the charismatic Reverend Akuila Yabaki, who heads Fiji Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF). His topic was ”From paramountcy to equality: Constitutionalism, dialogue and ethno-political conflict in Fiji.” Rev Yabaki did not only deliver the paper at the PIPSA Conference but also held a special lecture organised by the University of Auckland and facilitated by the President of PIPSA President, well known Pacific Academic, Dr. Steven Ratuva. In addition to this the Reverend also went on air at the Hindi Radio Station, Radio Tarana to brief its listeners on the situation in Fiji.

He told his audience that the 1997 Fiji Constitution was still good despite its shortfalls. It was the Indo Fijian Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry’s leadership style that had created enemies and fuelled those harbouring ethno nationalism. These nationalist elements, supported by some politicians were responsible for the 1987 and 2000 coups. Effectively, the lack of compliance of the Constitution led to the coup. He further added that Fiji’s problems were deep rooted where the country inherited a divided people from the British Colonisers. The divide and rule principles have to be removed before the elections are held because the leaders capitalised on racial slogans to capture votes. The constitution should not be allowed to give legitimacy to a race-based politics and elections in this modern world.

The militarisation, the coup culture and the process of change

He said the rationale for militarisation at the positions of power was to increase efficiency by removing bureaucracy that had been stifling progress. He added that the coup culture in Fiji could only be discussed by discussing the military make up and involving them in the discussions. The National Charter for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF) was a good document with 11 pillars to carve a roadmap for Fiji that was supposed to have been done through a parliamentary process. However removing the race-based politics would endanger support for political parties; hence their narrow political vested interest was the cause of reluctance in supporting this process, especially the Methodist Church and Qarase’s SDL Party.

He said that Fiji have had four coups and therefore there was an urgent need to look at ways to rid Fiji of the coup culture. Bainimarama was correct on racial policies. The ethno nationalist who had supported Rabuka in 1987 and Speight in 2000 were now at the receiving end. The rhetoric of racism had dogged Fiji for long and the Charter was seen as an inclusive approach but the Methodist Church and the SDL, (which are politically aligned) failed to join the process of change.

The Reverend said the CCF went into this process of Charter with some conditions such as sticking to the 1997 Constitution, the process to be inclusive of all, military and police to ensure freedom of information and roadmap to election should have a fixed date. That was when the Charter commenced in 2008 but now the situation has changed with the abrogation of 1997 Constitution on 10 April, 2009. The process of involving the civil society had commenced and the citizen diplomacy had started, involving community and the civil society. However dialogue at the political level had not commenced as there was a need for a genuine desire to change and move the country forward.

Overseas reactions

Yabaki said while New Zealand and Australia had taken a hard line, relationship with USA, especially military cooperation was still on. EU had been a stronger draw card and they were looking at a more inclusive approach. As a result of hard-nosed policies of traditional friends, Fiji was embarking on a look-north policy with Air Pacific commencing direct flights to Hong Kong.

While the Melanesian Spearhead group has been supportive of Bainimarama’s path for change, the relationship with Samoa and Cook Islands was fractured.

Electoral reforms

Rev Yabaki said that at the Charter level, it was strongly felt that the electoral system was what needed to be changed. In this regards, there has to be a mega-leap or an evolution. He reiterated that exploitation of a race-based politics had been the cause of Fiji’s problems. A consultative agreement with political parties would be needed.

He reminded that the timeframe of election was September 2014, with a need for anti-racist legislation so that the institutionalised and legalised forms of racial voting needed to be removed while appealing to one race for fear of land-grab by the other would be outlawed.

Yabaki was very pleased with the developments where the political parties were shifting away from racial slogans.

Positive outlook

When questioned on anything positive coming out of Fiji, Yabaki said that school bus fares had been made free while the budget had been well-received by all sections of the community. Roads were being opened up, they were also kept in good order and the administration was now coming to the people and there appeared to be a change in the traditional bureaucratic civil service mentality.

Talking on Radio Tarana, Yabaki repeated that the divisive political culture that Fiji inherited from the Colonial British had to be removed and the answer to Fiji’s problems had to come from within (Fiji) rather than without. He was hopeful that given the goodwill, the National Charter Council would try its best to guide Fiji to parliamentary democracy.

On the New Zealand government stand on Fiji, Yabaki said that NZ had not succeeded as answers needed to come from Fiji, therefore more conciliatory policies would help inculcate and enhance democracy in Fiji.

The message coming out of his delivery was that the ethno-nationalist instability of 1987 was by the fear mongers and Rabuka had admitted his mistakes and apologised as well. However, some remnants of the 1987 era carried out their agenda with Speight in 2000.

His main message on Fiji was to do what was best for Fiji. He pleaded to all, especially to politicians and even foreign governments to appreciate and realise that they were dealing with the military and hence they needed to find a window of opportunity to make a difference for the better future for democracy in Fiji.

Reverend Yabaki’s parting message was that while the task in Fiji was difficult and mammoth, it nevertheless was not impossible. Hence the hope lives on.

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http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2011/September/09-26-03.htm
East-West Center, University of Hawaii, report for September 26, 2011

BAINIMARAMA PROMISES NEW CONSTITUTION BY 2013
Goal to create society free of discrimination

By Repeka Nasiko

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Sept. 26, 2011) – Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has assured the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) that a new Fiji Constitution will be drafted between September next year and 2013.

Speaking at the 66th session of the UNGA, Commodore Bainimarama said the new constitution will be based on principles developed in the People’s Charter for Peace, Change and Progress.

"The road map clearly states that in the process the new Fijian constitution must do away with racial categorisation and discrimination, so that for the first time in Fiji’s history, Fijians will go to elections in 2014 on the basis of common and equal suffrage."

He said the roadmap will undo decades of undemocratic laws and policies inherited from our colonial past and entrenched in past constitutions, which have impeded our nation’s progress.

"This is a determined move to create a society based on substantive equality and justice, and respect for the dignity of all Fijians."

Commodore Bainimarama said electronic registration of voters for 2014 elections will begin in January next year.

Fijilive: http://www.fijilive.com

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http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2012/March/03-15-01.htm

DECREE ABOLISHES FIJI’S GREAT COUNCIL OF CHIEFS
Traditional body, product of ‘colonial past,’ called ‘irrelevant’

By Mereani Gonedua

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, March 14, 2012) – Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) or Bose Levu Vakaturaga has been abolished, 136 years after it was set up.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said the institution had become irrelevant in an era that Fiji seeks common and equal citizenry.

A decree, the iTaukei Affairs Revocation Regulation, effecting the abolishment was signed by President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, and gazetted on Friday.

Bainimarama said the GCC was an institution created by the British during colonialism and has become politicized to the detriment of Fiji.

"The GCC is a product of our colonial past and Fiji must focus on the future in which all Fijian are represented on the same basis," Bainimarama said. "If all Fijians are to have their say during the consultation for Fiji’s new constitution, then we must ensure every voice is equally heard and equally represented."

He said GCC members and its secretariat have become highly politicized, with members having political affiliations and membership in political parties.

[PIR editor’s note: Labour Party leader and former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry criticized Bainimarama’s actions, saying the fate of the council should be decided by the indigenous people of Fiji, admitting that while the council had become increasingly political in nature, the military had also become a politically-influenced institution after the 1987 coup. Chaudhry added that the abolishment of the council was "surprising, to say the least" prior to the upcoming constitutional consultations.]

The GCC was behind the formation of the Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei, a party led by 1987 coup leader Lieutenant-Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka.

It was created in 1876 by the British, an elite body of iTaukei chiefs known as the Native Council, to help directly and indirectly implement its rule over Fiji.

Bainimarama suspended it in April 2007 after the December 2006 military takeover.

The last GCC chairman was the Tui Tavua, Ratu Ovini Bokini, while the Ratu Sakiusa Makutu of Nadroga was his deputy.

The GCC had comprised 55 members, including the Fiji President:, Vice-President and Prime Minister, 42 provincial councilors with 3 chosen by each of Fiji's 14 provinces, six members appointed by the President on the advice of the Minister for Fijian Affairs, three members of the Rotuma Council and life member Sitiveni Rabuka, the 1987 military coup leader.

All of Fiji’s constitutions gave the GCC a lot of power and influence over politics and government decisions, especially through the Senate.

Fiji's 1970 Independence Constitution allowed the GCC to appoint eight of the 22 members of the Senate.

The 1990 Constitution that came into place after Rabuka's 1987 military coup increased this such that the GCC appointed 24 of the new Senate's 34 members. The GCC would also appoint the President and Vice-President of the nation.

The 1997 Constitution reduced its powers, giving it 14 appointees out of 32 in the Senate.

[PIR editor’s note: Rabuka, who also lead Fiji as Prime Minister, said the Bainimarama government will have to justify its decision to do away with the GCC, warning that while current and future citizens of the country may not want the council, the decision to abolish it should be tested in parliamentary settings.]

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http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2012/March/03-15-17.htm

FORMER FIJI LEADER SAYS DEMOCRACY MAY NOT APPLY
‘People may want to reassess the value of democracy’: Rabuka

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, March 14, 2012) – A former coup leader in Fiji says democracy as it is practiced in other parts of the world may not be applicable in Fiji.

Sitiveni Rabuka’s comment follows the interim prime minister’s announcement of the abolition of the Great Council of Chiefs.

The council was suspended following the 2006 military coup, and in 2008 new regulations governing it were introduced.

Mr. Rabuka, who led the 1987 coup, says when he handed power back to a civilian president he asked him to look at Fiji’s own brand of democracy.

"Which is traditionally socialist, bringing into play and into an active part of the ruling of the nation, the traditional customary rights and leadership. But now the mainstay of that system has now been totally cancelled by this announcement by Bainimarama."

Sitiveni Rabuka says with the economic collapse of democratic countries such as Greece people may want to reassess the value of democracy.

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http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2012/March/03-21-04.htm

FIJI ARMY SPOKESMAN: NEW CONSTITUTION WILL END COUPS
Ending race-based politics key to reduced conflict

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, March 19, 2012) – A new Fiji constitution being drawn up over the next 12 months will mean no more military coups in Fiji, army spokesman Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga says.

Fiji's government, headed by 2006 coup leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama, plans to have a draft constitution ready by February next year.

Colonel Tikoitoga says it will end race-based politics, and subsequently the need for the military to become involved in politics.

"A more liberal policy means a more multi-cultural, multi-national policy that allows the integration of all the races and when that happens there is no reason why coups should happen, because you're not working only in relevance to any particular pressure group but you're actually working for the whole of Fiji," Colonel Tikoitoga told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program.

Colonel Tikoitoga has also defended the government's move to abolish the Great Council of Chiefs last week, saying the 137-year-old institution had become politicized.

"All the Fijian political parties had to do was entice the Great Council of Chiefs with their policies which were, again, racially-biased, and then dictate to them what the party wants and then these chiefs would go back to their villages and dictate to their villages, or to their subjects, what party they should vote [for]," he said.

[PIR editor’s note: Tikoitoga also added that the Methodist Church is, like the GCC, pursuing its own agenda. According to the colonel, "certain ministers" are still actively working for their own political benefit.]

Radio Australia: www.abc.net.au/ra

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http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2012/March/03-21-15.htm

FIJI PROVINCIAL CHIEF SUPPORTS ABOLISHING GREAT COUNCIL
Return village roles a ‘blessing’ to Fiji, says Ratu Katonivere

By Ropate Valemei

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, March 20, 2012) – Fiji's Macuata Province paramount chief Ratu Aisea Katonivere has become the first big chief to publicly approve the government's scrapping of the Great Council of Chiefs.

The former politician says chiefs will now be able to concentrate on their role and people instead of politics.

The GCC was formally abolished on March 9 when the iTaukei Affairs Revocation Regulation decree was signed by President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, and gazetted. The decision was announced by Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama on March 14.

Katonivere said he believes the Bainimarama government is doing the right thing.

"The returning of chiefs to their actual role in their villages will restore blessings in Fiji," he said.

"I also thank the government for the steps they have taken where it allows all Fijians to be treated equally by having their rights and freedom to speak their minds," he said.

Katonivere advised his province on the importance of communication and sharing of ideas.

"I had told my people to make use of their right by talking to their neighbors on what issues they need to raise to be part of the constitution," he said.

Katonivere said the initial role of a chief is to protect his people with honesty and integrity.

However, for the provincial issues, Katonivere said he has to have a meeting with the provincial members to straighten out issues that will be best for his people and also for the whole of Fiji.

Fijilive: http://www.fijilive.com

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http://archives.pireport.org/archive/2012/April/04-17-an.htm

Analysis

FIJI PARAMOUNT CHIEF DEALS THE ‘RACIAL SKELETONS’ CARD

By Graham Davis

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Pacific Scoop, April 16, 2012) –A titanic struggle looms between the old and new orders in Fiji for the hearts and minds of the indigenous majority – the i-Taukei.

It’s a struggle that will determine the future for all Fiji citizens and on present indications, the portents don’t look good.

Because the old order – the i-Taukei chiefs – seem determined to make race the centerpiece of their campaign, to mine all the old prejudices that have retarded independent Fiji’s development right from the start.

The evidence for this is an astonishing letter to the self-proclaimed leader of the "New Order" – Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama – from one of the country’s paramount chiefs –Ro Teimumu Kepa – in which she raises the specter of "racial calamity" in Fiji.

The phrase has sent a chill through the ranks of non-indigenous Fijians, who comprise 40 percent of the population. Because however much Bainimarama assures them of a bright multiracial future, the old racial skeletons are being rattled at the apex of indigenous society.

Ro Teimumu heads one of the three indigenous confederacies – Burebasaqa – and carries the title Roko Tui Dreketi, which she inherited on the death of Ro Lady Lala Mara, the wife of the founder of modern Fiji and multiracial standard bearer, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

From her base in Rewa, outside Suva, Ro Teimumu appears to have embraced the mantle of warrior chieftain – the Boadicea of the South Seas – taking it upon herself to confront Bainimarama head on.

Warrior chieftain?

Her immediate casus belli is Bainimarama’s sudden and unilateral decision to disband Fiji’s Great Council of Chiefs (GCC), depriving it of its previous status in national life and abrogating its power to, among other things, appoint the country’s president.

Chiefs high and low are in revolt, not only over their loss of status and Bainimarama’s lese majeste but also a loss of income as the government bypasses them and channels funding direct to the grassroots.

It has damaged both their pride and their pockets. And many Fijians wonder whether Bainimarama – who has emerged as the ultimate exponent of the "crash through or crash" brand of reform – may have finally overplayed his hand. In any event, he has now been dealt an unwelcome racial card.

In her letter -in which she provocatively addresses the Prime Minister as "Voreqe," his indigenous Christian name – Ro Teimumu describes his decision to abolish the GCC as "a serious error of judgment."

"Despite the shallow criticisms against the role of traditional chiefs, they are the stabilizing factor for Fiji and they have helped to control the ethno-nationalism and facilitate conciliation in ethnic relations in Fiji," she states.

Ro Teimumu continues with a broad attack on a central pillar of Bainimarama’s rule – his multiracial agenda. This includes a level electoral playing field when promised elections are held and the use of the term Fijian to describe all citizens and not just the indigenous majority.

"The obsession to remove racial issues from the governance of this country is short-sighted and ill-conceived, for ethnicity is a fact of life," Ro Teimumu says.

"The revolutionary changes you are making cannot be made without the involvement of the GCC. Any calamity between the races or even between indigenous Fijians themselves can only be resolved with the involvement of the GCC," she declares.

In the Fiji context, such a statement from one of the three most senior chiefs in the country has very serious implications. Is Ro Teimumu signaling that without the formal involvement of the chiefs in national life, racial calamity is inevitable?

Many will note her choice of the word calamity. Racial stresses, even tensions, have long been a fact of life in Fiji.

But racial disaster involving great distress and great suffering – the accepted meaning of calamity? Nothing can be more designed to provoke unease and erode community confidence.

Incitement potential

The wider concern is whether this statement has the potential to incite racial hatred and trigger racial conflict in the vanua – especially those areas of indigenous life over which the chiefs still hold great sway, however much their power has been eroded.

In the immediate aftermath of previous coups, a wave of home invasions and bashings descended on Indo-Fijians living in certain parts of the country. Some of it was described as institutionalized violence, in which the authorities allegedly turned a blind eye to flagrant human rights abuses.

Bainimarama has promised the country this will never happen again. But can the racial minorities in Fiji ever take him at his word when a paramount chief invokes the specter of a "calamitous" reprise?

Ro Teimumu is a formidable opponent – resentful not just of Bainimarama’s truncation of chiefly privileges but from having been a minister in the pro-indigenous SDL government that he removed at gunpoint in 2006. Far from going quietly, she’s been a persistent critic of the regime ever since, forging close ties with the leaders of that other pillar of opposition to the Bainimarama regime – the Methodist Church.

In 2009, she was arrested for defying the military’s ban on the Methodist Church holding its annual conference. She offered to host it herself in Rewa village and was charged with inciting disobedience when she encouraged church members to attend.

Since then, relations between the GCC and the Church have become even closer. The Methodists have strongly criticized the abrogation of the GCC and both cast themselves as the sole remaining bulwarks against Bainimarama’s perceived threat to the indigenous way of life.

Ro Teimumu’s latest missive to the prime minister was the second within days and followed a letter of protest over what she termed the environmental threat posed by the proposed Namosi copper mine outside Suva. That can fairly be cast as the legitimate right of a traditional chief to safeguard the interests of her people.

But raising the prospect of racial conflict in an already volatile wider environment? Even on prominent anti-government blogs like Coup 4.5, Ro Teimumu’s comments have generated a wave of criticism.

One correspondent there termed it "the last gasp of the old order in Fiji" and said even talking about racial calamity made her "unfit to hold any responsible position in national life."

How the regime will respond is yet to be seen. But Ro Teimumu has emerged as arguably the most potent opposition leader in Fiji – the principal standard bearer for the chiefs, the Methodist Church and the many thousands of traditional indigenous Fijians they still claim to represent. The old Fiji versus the new.

Graham Davis is an independent Fiji-born Australian journalist. He publishes the blog Grubsheet.

------------------

http://pidp.org/pireport/2013/April/04-18-01.htm

Fiji Regime Reportedly Undermining Constitutional Process
Minority Rights Group calls for laws to prohibit ethnic discrimination

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, April 17, 2013) – An international human rights group has accused Fiji's interim government of undermining the constitutional process.

The Minority Rights Group International says there's widespread concern in Fiji that the interim government is unwilling to relinquish power.

The findings are in a report released jointly with Fiji's Citizens Constitutional Forum.

The report offers policy recommendations, based on evidence drawn from interviews across all of Fiji's ethnic groups.

It has called on the government to enact legislation to prohibit discrimination and exclusion based on ethnicity, and provide transparent, accessible and effective access to justice for all victims of discrimination.

"The government is trying to address ethnic divisions in Fijian politics," said Chris Chapman, MRG's Head of Conflict Prevention.

"This is laudable, but the message is being lost, as the general public simply focuses on the way the government has interrupted the constitutional process and stifled independent opinion.

"In fact, our research shows that the government could arrive at the same goal by opening up the debate and trusting the people to make their own choices."

In January the Fijian government scrapped the draft constitution drawn up by an independent commission led by Professor Yash Ghai.

The draft was based on around 7,000 submissions received from the public, and submitted to be re-written by the Attorney-General's office.

The rejection was followed by the scrapping of plans to establish a Constituent Assembly that would have deliberated on the new constitution.

Chris Chapman told Radio Australia Fijians were much happier with the previous constitution process carried out by Yash Ghai.

"They were extremely frustrated and they felt that the Yash Ghai constitution, which could have been a blueprint to deal with these difficult issues, was being thrown away," he said.

"It was a lost opportunity and a new constitution was being forced onto the country that didn't involve any proper consultation."

Fiji's Interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama says there has been an overwhelmingly positive response since he took control of the constitution process.

He says he has extended a public consultation period to the end of the month to give Fijians more time to comment.

Radio Australia: www.abc.net.au/ra

----------------------

http://pidp.org/pireport/2013/August/08-23-01.htm
Pacific Island Report [East-West Center, Honolulu], August 23, 2013

Fiji Government Releases New Constitution To Public
Final version contains land control provisions not in draft

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, August 22, 2013) – Fiji's fourth Constitution that will underpin the first genuine democracy in the country's history has been released to the public.

His Excellency the President will give his assent to the document on September 6th.

The document will be the supreme law of the country and pave the way for elections by September 30th 2014 conducted, for the first time, on the basis of equal votes of equal value.

It is in line with the constitutions of some of the world’s most liberal democracies and provides a framework for the development of a modern, progressive state.

As previously flagged by the Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, the final version differs from the Draft Constitution by containing specific provisions that guarantee and strengthen the protection of communally-owned iTaukei, Rotuman and Banaban lands.

During the consultation process that followed the release of the Draft in March, a large number of submissions were received calling for explicit protection clauses. These have been accepted and incorporated into the final document. They provide greater protection and security for iTaukei, Rotuman and Banaban land than ever before.

In addition, for the first time, an extra provision gives any landowner the right to a fair share of royalties derived from the exploitation of resources beneath the surface.

The 98-page constitutional document in English has also, for the first time, been translated into the two main vernacular languages - iTaukei and contemporary Hindi. In the 15 days before His Excellency the President gives his assent on September 6th, members of the public are invited to read the vernacular versions and provide feedback on their accuracy. Some of the legal terms and phraseology in the English language do not have equivalent words in the vernacular and therefore may be open to interpretation.

The Constitution provides for a single chamber 50-member Parliament – up from 45 in the Draft document- which will be the country’s supreme authority and be elected on the basis of one person, one vote, one value. Elections are to be held every four years and every Fijian over the age of 18 is entitled to vote.

[PIR editor’s note: FijiLive also reports that none of the country's four political parties attended constitution consultations organized by government. According to Radio New Zealand International, Fiji's Citizen's Constitutional Forum (CCF) says there was little integrity in finalizing the constitution. Dr. Brij Lal, from the Australian National University in Canberra, discussed some ‘problematic’ changes in an interview with Radio Australia.]

In another alteration to the Draft document, individual regional constituencies are abolished. There will be one national constituency covering the whole of Fiji, as in The Netherlands and Israel. And every voter will get one vote, choosing the candidate who they believe best serves their interests under a proportional representation system.

A Prime Minister who commands the party with the most seats in Parliament will head the elected Government and, in line with current practice, a President will be the Head of State and perform the ceremonial function of Commander in Chief of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.

Among the Constitution’s major provisions are:

A common and equal citizenry.
A voting system of equal votes of equal value.
A secular state and religious liberty.
An independent and impartial judiciary and equal access to the law.
The right to legal aid assistance.
Specific protection of the ownership of iTaukei and Rotuman lands and recognition of their unique culture, customs, traditions and language.
The protection of the rights of leaseholders.
Specific recognition of the culture and language of Indo-Fijians, other Pacific islanders and other immigrants and settlers.
A Bill of Rights containing specific provisions guaranteeing a range of civil and political rights and, for the first time, social and economic rights. These include the right to education, economic participation, a just minimum wage, transport, housing, food and water, health and social security.
A free media and freedom of speech, expression, movement and association. The safeguarding of the environment.
The compulsory teaching of the iTaukei and Fiji Hindi languages at primary school level, along with English as the common language.
The right to multiple citizenship but a provision that only Fijian citizens be entitled to stand for Parliament.
The right to fair employment practices.
The right to join, form or campaign for a political party.
The right to privacy.
An Accountability and Transparency Commission which, for the first time, will hold all public office holders accountable.
A Code of Conduct for public office holders.
A provision requiring public office holders such as civil servants, members of the disciplined forces and trade unionists to resign before contesting a seat in Parliament.
The release of the Constitution follows a community consultation process during which the Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and his team conducted 19 public meetings in urban, rural and maritime areas throughout Fiji, including Vanua Levu, Taveuni, Kadavu, the Mamanucas and the Yasawas.

Submissions were also sought and 1,093 written submissions were received.

Click on this link to view the 2013 Constitution.
http://www.fiji.gov.fj/Govt--Publications/Constitution.aspx


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