ACADEMICS WARN OF FIJI 'DISASTER'
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 Chaudhrys 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 weeks 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
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
Caledonias 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.