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'The facade of democracy'

Commentary: 'The facade of democracy'

By Pat Craddock © USP Journalism Programme

SUVA: There will soon be an appointed new interim government to replace the elected one of Mahendra Chaudhry. Terrorist leader George Speight has suggested names for the new administration. The army has put out another list. Undoubtedly there will be a compromise.

A well-known name on George Speight's list is Professor Asesela Ravuvu, director of Pacific studies at the University of the South Pacific in Suva

Professor Ravuvu, is the author of "The Facade of Democracy - Fijian struggles for political control 1830-1987" with chapters on the influence of Europeans and Indians; the 1987 army coup; issues of equality and democracy and comments on overseas viewpoints.

The following quotes from the book give a flavour of its content:

* " Fijians are peace loving and this quality has made it possible for other races to live with them....'

* "The lack of true commitment of the Indian community to Fiji is evident and well known to Fijians."

* " The Fijians also felt culturally threatened when the authority and role of the chiefs was challenged. The chiefs and the people were one."

Talking about the lead up to the 1987 coup by Sitiveni Rabuka, the author writes:

* "These calls for multiracialism fell largely on deaf ears. Greed and hunger for power blinded the vision of Indian political leaders and the direction was set to topple the predominantly Fijian backed Alliance government of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. "

Prof Ravuvu's vision of the 1997 elections could be seen as a Cassandra prophecy for what has happened in the last few weeks. He writes:

* "To the Fijians, the Coalition victory in the 1987 elections seemed like a clever stunt performed with strings, mirrors and "democracy".

Professor Ravuvu has obviously been thinking about the future of his country and he too has doubts on the part played by the chiefs.

In an interview with USP journalism student Susana Bulewa (May 28) on Pacific Journalism Online, the professor said the majority of the Fijian chiefs no longer had the power to influence their people:

"It is high time that the people are given back the flexibility and power to select and install their leaders who will be accountable to them...."

If Prof Ravuvu is correct, a question that must arise for the future of Fiji is why anyone should even bother writing another constitution. That last one was overthrown through terrorist action, the previous one was overthrown by the army.

Who in this country will respect yet another constitution when they seem to be built to be destroyed?

It took the whole Fiji army to do what it did in 1987. Thirteen years later it only took a mere civilian and six other men.

Prof Ravuvu sees the chiefly system in trouble, so who will be in control when the army goes back to barracks.

When and if the former Prime Minister and the other 30 hostages emerge pale-faced but safe from the cells of Parliament, it will only be a short time before they talk loud and often to a waiting world media.

I am not sure that guns and threats can silence these and other voices. It looks like being a long, dark and also a noisy night for Fiji.

* Patrick Craddock is senior audio producer of the Media Centre and associate lecturer in journalism. The views in this commentary are those of the author, not the institution.

+++niuswire

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