A conservative government based on racism will fail
The Fiji crisis may take another turn later this week when there is a new possibility that the members of Fiji's Government who have been held hostage for over 50 days will be released. In almost comic opera manoeuvrings, George Speight and the inept Fiji military have continued to play out negotiations, all of which are aimed a replacing the democratically elected government with one based on racism and acceptable to the ruling elite of Fijian society. The matter seems now to be in the hands of Fiji's "Great Council of Chiefs", a thoroughly undemocratic body which is unelected and not representative of Fijian society in that it completely excludes the almost 50 percent of Fijian society made up of Fiji-Indians. After rousing declarations that the seizure of hostages by Speight (branded as a terrorist by Mr Downer) was a violation of the principles of democratic government and that the existing constitution must be upheld and the elected government restored, the Australian Government has sat on the sidelines and taken no real action to support the deposed government of Mahendra Chaudry. The failure of the Australian Government to support its declared principles is reminiscent of the same situation created in 1987 when another democratically elected government, that of Dr Bavandra (a Fijian), was overthrown by the then military leader, Sitiveni Rabuka. At that time Bob Hawke was the Prime Minister of Australia but did nothing to back the Bavandra Government even though it was a Fijian Labour Party government. After a short time the Australian Government extended recognition to the racist and authoritarian government that was established by the coup leaders and it could well be that the Howard Government will follow the same course today. The proposed new Prime Minister is a Fijian banker and would be very acceptable to the Australian Government. The underlying reason for the coup is not that Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudry is of Indian origin but that he was committed to and was legislating more in the interests of the working people of Fiji, whether of Fijian or Indian origin. In the same way that the first Fijian coup proved incapable of meeting the needs of Fijian society, any new government based on racism and conservative politics will prove incapable of meeting the needs of the Fijian working people and farmers. It will take some time for the overthrown government leaders and their supporters to re-establish their positions but that they will do so in time, is certain. Those in Fiji who are defenders of the democratically elected government deserve the full support of all Australian progressive opinion in the weeks and months ahead.