Fiji: Burying Ghosts

A few hundred thousand voters are about to choose parliamentary representatives in Fiji. An event that might be routine takes on special significance because it should restore democracy after the island’s latest coup attempt. What’s more, it will indicate whether the different ethnic groups can continue to coexist and whether there are lessons for other troubled parts of Melanesia.

The World Today
4 minute READ

Jon Fraenkel

Lecturer in Economic History, School of Social & Economic Development, The University of the South Pacific Suva, Fiji

In a lush tropical suburb of the capital, Fiji’s parliamentary complex stands empty awaiting the result of this month’s polls. A year ago, masked gunmen patrolled these padlocked gates. Inside, Fijian rebels pitched their tents and, amidst a blaze of international publicity, George Speight held hostage Fiji’s first ever Prime Minister of Indian descent.

The government offices consequently still stand vacant, with birds busily nesting beneath their roofs. All that bears witness to those tragic events is the unkempt grave of a dead rebel defiantly buried by the insurgents on the lawns in front of the debating chamber – a chilling reminder of the fragility of constitutional democracy in Fiji.

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