The Guardian May 31, 2000


Editorial:
Restore elected government

It was, perhaps, inevitable that the seizure of power in Fiji by a 
terrorist would be followed by the establishment of military rule. With the 
Prime Minister and all elected members of parliament held as hostages at 
the point of a gun and given the failure of the President to act decisively 
when the attempted coup first occurred, no power existed which could face 
up to George Speight and his henchmen in crime. It remains to be seen 
whether this is the intention of the armed forces.

This is no ordinary coup, given that its leader is not only a terrorist but 
is also deranged.

This is the second coup attempt. The first was in 1987 when Colonel 
Sitiveni Rabuka seized power. He had the same basic intention as the 
present coup leader  to re-establish the undivided authority of 
indigenous Fijians over the political, economic and cultural life of the 
country.

It is an attempt to turn the clock back to a time that has passed. The 
traditional power structures which were vested in unelected hereditary 
chiefs and communal land ownership have been replaced by an elected 
parliamentary form of constitutional government.

Speight played on these traditions and the undoubted difficulty that many 
of the indigenous people have in coming to terms with the multi-national 
and multi-cultural nature of today's Fijian society. It is also a fact that 
the emergence of a capitalist economic and political system, has left many 
with poorly paid jobs ($60 per week), unemployment and no clear 
understanding or acceptance of the changes taking place in the population 
mix. Capitalism breaks down the system of communal land ownership as well 
as creating wage workers who are dependent on an employer for even a 
pauper's wage. George Speight is one such employer and speculator who is 
reported to have been less than honest in his economic dealings. He is 
hardly a friend of the working people although he has attempted to pose as 
such.

Given the historic changes that have taken place in Fijian society, 
Speight's attempt to reverse the process will fail. He cannot succeed in 
re-establishing what has already been swept away any more than the 1987 
coup leader, Rabuka, was successful.

Rabuka came up against, first of all, the reality of today's Fijian society 
as well as the pressure from other countries, including Australian 
governments which are fervent upholders of the Westminister system of 
parliamentary bourgeois democracy.

Contrary to the situation at the time of Rabuka's coup when the indigenous 
Fijian society was united in its support, the indigenous Fijian population 
is now split. This is indicated by the fact that Rabuka is now a supporter 
of the restoration of constitutional government although he also 
sympathises with the aims of the Speight coup. A Fijian middle class has 
emerged which is moving away from the tradition of unelected chiefs and 
moving towards an elected government based on a constitution.

The dismal failure of the Great Council of Chiefs in the current crisis may 
well have delivered it a fatal blow although such anachronistic 
organisations often take a long time in the dying.

Furthermore, the military will also find that rule by martial law is not 
acceptable for long, either to the Fijian people or to the international 
community.

It is not possible to foretell the time it may take to unfold but it is 
absolutely certain that not only will Speight be chased out for the 
charlatan and terrorist that he is, but an elected government based on a 
more-or-less democratic constitution will be restored in time  just as 
Rabuka was forced to do.

This is a necessary historic process that is unfolding or has already 
unfolded throughout the world. The immediate demand must be for the 
unconditional restoration of the elected government led by Mahendra 
Chaudry.

In time, the Fijian people, indigenous and non-indigenous together, will 
find the way to move their society further forward, establishing really 
democratic governments which will implement social and economic policies 
which will give to all the Fijian working people a place in the beautiful 
Fijian Sun and sharing the wealth that they already collectively produce.
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