The Guardian July 12, 2000


Fiji:
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.

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