South Pacific: Not so pacific

The South Pacific enjoys an international image of tranquillity and sunshine, but that’s only part of the story. There is also a sub-culture of racism, impatience for change and subdued violence – problems with deep roots.

The World Today
Published 1 July 2000 Updated 28 October 2020 4 minute READ

Keith Suter

Director of Studies, International Law Association (Australian Branch)

The immediate south pacific flashpoints are Fiji and the Solomons Islands. On May 19, George Speight, a Fijian businessperson with a colourful past, staged a coup which resulted in the internment in the Parliament building of the Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudry – the first Fijian-Indian to hold that office. He was detained along with his government colleagues. Over the ensuing weeks, the coup evolved.

Originally, Mr Speight said that he wanted the Fijian- Indian Prime Minister to go and to be replaced by a Fijian. When the Great Council of Chiefs – the meeting place of the country’s traditional rulers – agreed, Speight then said he wanted the Great Council to have less power as well.

His views were now closer to those of the indigenous Taukei movement, which sees itself as the Fijian underclass. Commodore Frank Bainimarama, of the defence force, then moved against Mr Speight and claimed to run the country.

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