Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Howard’s End: Behind The Fiji Coup

An select group of right-leaning elites were behind, not one, but three coups against elected governments in Fiji. Scoop's John Howard looks at the evidence.

The Fijian Army effectively seized control of Fiji on May 29, following a coup attempt on May 19 by George Speight.

Speight and 15 gunmen had seized 31 hostages, including Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, and most of his cabinet who, apart from four recent releases, they still hold.

Speight then declared himself Prime Minister on behalf of the indigenous population of Fiji whose rights he charged were being usurped by the ethnic Indian minority.

The international media have endorsed Speight's claim that the crisis is an ethnic conflict between indigenous people and the Indian minority, who the British colonial masters brought to Fiji in the 19th century.

"Ethnic tensions" were also blamed for two coups in 1987 by Chaudhry's predecessor - military strongman Sitevini Rabuka, - who seized power against "Indian domination" of the Government.

In Rabuka’s coup Indians were excluded from Government participation for the next decade, but Fiji was also shunned by the international community.

In 1997, a new multi-racial Constitution was adopted ending Fiji's isolation. And in May 1999, Prime Minister Rabuka was defeated in a landslide by Chaudhry and his Fiji Labour Party.

Far from being oppressive and "Indian dominated" Chaudhry's government had more native Fijian than Indian Minister's, as well as overwhelming support from poor and working class Fijians, indigenous and Indian alike.

Chaudhry is no new comer to the political scene - he co-founded the the Fiji Labour Party in 1985, and had been Finance Minister in 1987 before the Rabuka coups.

Despite being badly beaten by Rabuka's forces, he is widely admired for not fleeing Fiji after the initial coups, as did many other Government Ministers.

Like Chaudhry himself, a former head of the Trade Union Congress, both one-third of his current cabinet and many backbenchers, were senior union officials before they entered Government.

According to a Fijian born academic the local multi-racial oligarchy apparently despised Chaudhry's policies which promoted the general welfare of working Fijians.

Australian National University history professor Brij V. Lal, a native Fijian and an author of Fiji's Constitution, believes most Fijian's approved of Chaudhry's policies.

"He was espousing old, conventional Labour-type policies,” Lal says.

"Protecting trade unions, rolling back structural reform (austerity) programs, talking at least about introducing a minimum wage, trying to make sure that foreign investment in Fiji came, but that it wasn't a kind of rampant capitalism - he was attempting those kinds of things.

“[Chaudhry] was beginning to consolidate his position across a broad spectrum of people. And once that happened, of course, the power base of those other ethnically based parties would be threatened," he said.

Before the latest coup, Chaudhry had scrapped the regressive 10% value added tax on cooking oil, flour, powdered milk, rice, fish and other food essentials; had established price controls over other basic commodities; had intervened against "downsizing" by major industries; and had started to bring clean water and electricity to rural areas.

This, his free market opponents could not tolerate.

As the May 28 issue of the Melbourne paper, Sunday Age admitted, the mastermind behind Speight's coup was British SAS Colonel, Ilisoni Ligairi, the founder of Fiji's 30-man elite Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit (CRWU), who provided Speight with his soldiers.

Liagairi had been appointed to head the British, Australian, and US-trained CRWU in 1987 by then coup leader Rabuka.

According to the Sunday Age, planning for Speight's coup took place at Rabuka's house.

A senior Australian counter-terrorism operative believes that the Australian intelligence services would also have been connected to the coup.

"They would have some links to them, they know everything that goes on in the South Pacific," he said.

Therefore, it was no shocker that on May 23 Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, after a protest that the coup "has taken us completely by surprise," gave it Australia's tacit approval by declaring that Chaudhry need not be reinstated as long as "democracy was restored."

On May 29, the Fijian military under Commodore Frank Bainimarama, seized control of the country to "restore order."

However, the Australian and New Zealand-trained Bainimarama, like Speight, dismissed the Chaudhry Government; annulled the 1997 multi-racial Constitution; announced that he would give an amnesty against prosecution to Speight.

The Fijian military has suggested it could end up holding power for the next two years a move which, in anyone's language, means another military coup has occurred in Fiji.

The lack reaction from Fiji's elites suggests the support of the wealthy oligarchs whose power-base, authority and ability to manage a country to its own advantage, was being undermined by the reformer, Mahendra Chaudhry.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news