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Fiji before the storm

Fiji before the storm: Elections and the politics of development

Brij V. Lal
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Fiji before the storm
    Book Description:

    A racially-weighted Constitution, promulgated by decree in 1990, divided the country and invited international condemnation, and the economy suffered from the collapse of institutions of good governance. In 1995, an independent Constitution Review Commision appointed by the Fijian parliament, recommended wide-ranging changes to the Constitution. Its report formed the basis of a new Constitution promulgated, after wide-ranging consultation and debate, in 1997. Two years later, Fiji held a general election under it. This collection of essays looks at the politics and dynamics of that momentous event, and the role of key individuals and institutions in producing an outcome that, a year later, plunged Fiji into its first major crisis of the twenty-first century. The essays look at some of the key political and development issues on the eve of the crisis, but the relevance to the current debates about the nature and meaning of politics in Fiji remains. All the contributors are recognised and longstanding specialists in their fields.

    eISBN: 978-1-922144-63-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Tables and figures
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. Glossary
    (pp. viii-ix)
  5. Contributors
    (pp. x-x)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xi)
    Brij V. Lal
  7. Map
    (pp. xii-xii)
  8. chapter one The future of our past
    (pp. 1-6)
    Brij V. Lal

    January 1990. Fear and uncertainty stalk the country. The 1988 Sunday Observance Decree is in force, restricting recreational, sporting and nonessential activities. Public transport, shops, hotels, restaurants and cinemas operate on strict schedule. One can buy gas at gas stations, but not soft drink. Cremation requires a special police permit. Hindu and Muslim places of worship are torched and desecrated around the country, causing anguish and anger among citizens of all faiths opposed to the recent emergence of religious bigotry. The fragile fabric of multiculturalism is frayed at the edges. Cross-ethnic friendships formed over many years of working and living...

  9. chapter two The Fiji islands in transition: personal reflections
    (pp. 7-20)
    Sitiveni L. Rabuka

    The years from 1987 to 1999 will no doubt be seen by historians writing about the Fiji Islandsʹ political and social development as the Rabuka years. I am not vain enough, or naive enough, to expect that my story and interpretation of that period will prevail. Already a number of books and scholarly articles have been published about this crucial period in the Fiji Islands—some of them authored at the Australian National University. Naturally I donʹt agree with all the theories and conclusions.

    As the person who was at centre stage from the coups through to the May elections,...

  10. chapter three A time to change: the Fiji general elections of 1999
    (pp. 21-48)
    Brij V. Lal

    The 1990s has been a decade of unexpected political change in Fiji, confounding conventional wisdom and supposed understandings about power sharing arrangements in that troubled country. For the sheer momentum and unpredictability of events, it rivals the 1960s, Fijiʹs decade of decolonisation, a time of violence-threatening industrial strikes, keenly contested elections and by-elections, and tense conferences about constitutional systems suited to Fijiʹs multiethnic society. The 1990s too, Fijiʹs decade of progressive political democratisation, has had its tension and turbulence and false starts and extended detours as its people grappled with the unsettling aftermath of the coups and struggled to devise...

  11. chapter four Understanding the results of the 1999 Fiji elections
    (pp. 49-72)
    Robert Norton

    The outcome of the most remarkable parliamentary elections in Fijiʹs history signalled the possibility of a new phase in political development: a government responding to popular interests that cut across the ethnic divide—the lost promise of the ill-fated Bavadra government of 1987.

    While it would be mistaken to infer that the 1999 elections reflect a great weakening of racial or ethnic identities in national politics, it is clear that significant indigenous Fijian support for the still predominantly Indian Fiji Labour Party (FLP) was regained following the dissolution of their interest in it after the military coups 12 years ago....

  12. chapter five Elections and the dilemma of indigenous Fijian political unity
    (pp. 73-92)
    Alumita Durutalo

    The notion of indigenous Fijian political unity was a social construction which emerged after the establishment of the colonial state in 1874. Within Fijian society itself, the idea of political unity was adopted from indigenous forms of knowledge in which the philosophy of unity was embodied in customary leadership practices within the context of sociopolitical constructs such as the I tokatoka, mataqali, yavusa, vanua and matanitu.¹ The colonial administration under Sir Arthur Cordon reinterpreted and adopted these indigenous forms as a basis for national unity under the colonial state. Underlying the new approach was ʹthe colonial myth of homogeneityʹ (Routledge...

  13. chapter six Peripheral visions? Rabi Island in Fiji’s general election
    (pp. 93-110)
    Teresia K. Teaiwa

    In a paper on Rabi and Kioa prepared for the Fiji Constitution Review Commission, I described both resettled groups as ʹperipheral minority communitiesʹ in Fiji. Rabi Islanders, also known as Banabans, were resettled to Fiji in two major waves, the first in 1945 and the second in 1947. They were resettled because colonial and capitalist interests wanted to mine Banaba for phosphate without the encumbrances of a native population. Rabi Islanders became Fiji citizens at Fijiʹs Independence in 1970, and apart from a period in the mid-to-late 1970s when they featured in the media with their legal case against the...

  14. chapter seven Land, Lomé and the Fiji sugar industry
    (pp. 111-134)
    Padma Lal

    The Fiji Sugar industry faces an uncertain future. With the ongoing negotiation over the renewal of the preferential access under the Sugar Protocol of the Lomé Convention, the renewal of native land leases, declining productivity and high costs, the industry is facing major challenges. The viability of the industry will depend on the reforms the industry and government make in the short to medium term. These reforms would need to be underpinned by significant research on crucial aspects of the industry.

    The Sugar Commission of Fiji (SCOF) has identified in its Sugar Industry Strategic Plan a number of reforms needed...

  15. chapter eight Inshore fisheries development in Fiji
    (pp. 135-148)
    Joeli Veitayaki

    Inshore fisheries, which includes the artisanal and subsistence sectors, is arguably one of the most important resource sectors in the Fiji economy, but it is undervalued and poorly understood. Its value and contribution is still based on estimates. However, the value of inshore fisheries is substantial for a variety of reasons, including its contribution to the protein requirements of the majority of the population, the savings to the economy through import substitution, the livelihood of the people who rely on it for income and employment, and the increasingly threatened nature of the resource due to changing environmental conditions (South Pacific...

  16. chapter nine Women and politics in Fiji
    (pp. 149-160)
    Chandra Reddy

    Women had a low status in Fiji in the pre-independence era. They suffered from many customs and conventions which discriminated against them. Not many women were in paid employment, although most worked on cane farms, rice farms and copra plantations, making a valuable contribution to the economy as unrenumerated workers. The existing laws disadvantaged women, most seriously in the field of employment. Banks and other employers paid unequal wages for the same work to male and female employees. The civil service also had many discriminatory laws against women which deprived them of the rights and privileges enjoyed by their male...

  17. chapter ten Economic challenges facing Fiji before the storm
    (pp. 161-174)
    Biman c. Prasad

    Fiji entered into a new era with the May 1999 general election under a Constitution which guaranteed equality to all its citizens. The real challenge for Fiji and its new government was to deliver the promised economic goods and services to its people. Economic prosperity and equality are the keys to creating a truly multiracial Fiji.

    Fiji seemed to be on its way out of the economic gloom of the last two years. The drought of 1998 leading to a 40 per cent reduction in sugar production and the 20 per cent devaluation of the Fiji dollar to enhance competitiveness...

  18. chapter eleven Madness in May: George Speight and the unmaking of modern Fiji
    (pp. 175-194)
    Brij V. Lal

    I would like to begin, if I may, with the month of May. It is an ill-fated month of some moment in the modern history of Fiji. It was on the 14th of May 1879 that the first group of 60,000 Indian indentured labourers arrived in Fiji, where their descendants now comprise about 43 per cent of the population. It was the election of a government headed by one of them that ostensibly precipitated the present crisis. Exactly 108 years later, on 14 May 1987, the Fijian military, acting on behalf of other social interests and institutions, attempted to close...

  19. References
    (pp. 195-202)
  20. Index
    (pp. 203-205)