Wansolwara News

Vol. 5 No. 2
June 2000

Front Page

ACADEMICS WARN OF FIJI 'DISASTER'
June 2000
By SALESH KUMAR and ALSON OFOTALAU

SOME academics and non-government organisations say Fiji is heading towards “disaster” if the government remains Fijian-dominated following the abrogation of the 1997 constitution.

This followed martial law last week in the wake of the hostage crisis when coup leader George Speight and gunmen seized Parliament and kidnapped then Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry’s government.

Professor Stewart Firth, head of history/politics at the University of the South Pacific,told Wansolwara that Fiji could “expect something bad” if Indo-Fijians were not given their rights as citizens.

“Speight and his group have to admit that the Indians have contributed a lot in building this nation and the current tragedy puts them in a second class situation,” said Prof Firth.

USP economist Dr Biman Prasad said: “We cannot run any government without the support of all the ethnic communities. The government must be inclusive of every community.

“The 1997 constitution which was overwhelmingly supported by all the political parties was based on a power-sharing mechanism and it represented all the ethnic communities,” said Dr Prasad.

He added that last week’s decree to allow amendments to the 1997 constitution effectively means the abrogration of the constitution.

However, USP sociologist Sitiveni Ratuva said that while the 1997 constitution addressed issues of national integration, it failed to fully address “Fijian nationalistic interests”.

“This includes ethnic symbolism and governance. There was fear among the nationalists about the Indian dominance in government which would deprive them of their interests,” said Mr Ratuva.

Director of the Fiji Council of Social Services, Hassan Khan, blamed the crisis on a lack of educational awareness of the 1997 constitution.

Teresia Teaiwa, lecturer in Pacific studies at Victoria University, Wellington, said: “Until indigenous Fijians take education and the care of their children seriously, there will never be enough leaders of good calibre to choose from.”

While Australia, New Zealand, India and the United States strongly condemned the insurrection, Pacific countries responded slowly.

The 16-member South Pacific Forum backed constitutional government eight days after the seizure of Parliament.
Both Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia condemned the kidnapping. New Caledonia’s Vice-President Leopold Joredie said the crisis would affect the whole region.

“New Caledonia will not support a coup. To us, it is obvious that any government must come out of the will of the people — only Mahendra Chaudhry exists in our view,” said Mr Joredie.


File created: 3 June 2000
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