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David Miller: Coup No.2 Strikes Tourism Again

The outbreak of violence in Fiji last week is a reminder that the tensions and divisions within the country still linger. Last Thursday’s mutiny by soldiers of the Counter- Revolutionary Warfare unit, shows that beneath the Fijian- Indian partition, division and hostility exists amongst the Fijian community itself.

The CRW mutiny is part of the ongoing ramifications Fiji is experiencing in the wake of the George Speight led coup of May 19 this year. The CRW soldiers were key members of the rebel force that supported Speight in the coup, which toppled the government of Mahendra Chaudhry, and which was aimed at restricting the influence of the Fijian Indian community over the country’s economy.

On the international stage, the ramifications of the coup include suspension from the Commonwealth, political and diplomatic isolation and a range of economic measures that countries such as Australia and New Zealand imposed following the takeover of the Fijian parliament. Within Fiji itself, a military appointed interim government is in power and although it has pledged to hold elections within two years, the Fijian Indian community does not have suffrage and has been subject to economic and commercial marginalisation.

The New Zealand government has maintained a tough stance throughout this process.

Along with the sanctions and freezing of ties with Fiji, the government has also issued repeated warnings against travelling there, claiming that although the violence is limited to Suva, it is unclear whether it could spread to other parts of the country and that the outcome of this latest outbreak of violence was unclear.

However this warning has not deterred holiday- makers returning to Fiji, taking advantage of reduced airfares and special all- inclusive packages. The lengths the travel industry have taken to assure people that Fiji remains a safe destination have been considerable.

The argument the travel industry is putting forward is based on the premise that the troubles are limited to the capital, Suva, and that there has been no outbreak of trouble on the Western, Nadi, section of the main island in the Fijian group, Viti Levu. The high occupancy rates in holiday resorts on islands, such as Treasure and Castaway, are shown as evidence of this.

The fear in the travel industry following the incidents of last Thursday are that the negative image of Fiji will once again be heightened and this will in turn have a negative impact on people intending to travel to Fiji and bookings there as it did following the Speight rebellion. Already this has led to job losses within the industry and there are fears that should the violence in Fiji worsen or spread to other areas, or simply the negative image the government is portraying increase, then job losses will increase also. Another argument is that if the tourist dollar continues to overlook Fiji, then the impact on the people there will be even more severe. So many Fijian communities are dependent upon the employment within the holiday resorts, hence the downturns in tourist numbers there have impacted on their livelihoods.

There is a long process Fiji must go through if it is to return to being a democratic state and the incidents and outcome of the George Speight coup should not condoned.

There have already been a wide range of measures designed to punish Fiji for the actions taken there and the government continues with its tough stance to see democracy restored there. However, it must also be recognised that there are those who rely on the tourist dollar both in Fiji and New Zealand.


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