Analysis: Highs And Lows Of Our Turbulent Political Past

It’s suffice to say that the coups wound the development clock back many years. Today we are still paying for what happened back then.
06 Nov 2019 13:15
Analysis: Highs And Lows Of Our Turbulent Political Past
Laisenia Qarase (left), Mahendra Chaudhry (top), Sakeasi Butadroka (bottom) and George Speight (right).

What did the 1987 and 2000 coups achieve?

ANSWER: Enormous damage to the economy and the national confidence which is difficult to quantify.

It’s suffice to say that the coups wound the development clock back many years. Today we are still paying for what happened back then.

The 2006 takeover by Voreqe Bainimarama put the national ship on an even keel and laid the foundation for the modern Fiji we enjoy today.

Difference between 1987 and 2000?

What was bad and ugly about the 1987 and 2000 coups was the emergence of naked racism camouflaged as nationalism.

It pitched the iTaukei against the Indo-Fijians and other races in the name of indigenous rights and interests.

It was a dangerous development that led to the polarisation of the two major races, the iTaukei and the Indo-Fijians.

The Indo-Fijians were victims of the 1987 and 2000 coups because they were targeted. They suffered pain and emotional trauma.

The iTaukei did not fare well either. They did not benefit. Only a minority did by exploiting the situation for their own selfish gains.

The caustic race relations manifested itself in street demonstrations in 1987 and the riots and looting during the 2000 coup by George Speight.

Most of his iTaukei supporters, disillusioned by Sitiveni Rabuka’s failure to fulfill his promise to give iTaukei political supremacy, believed that Speight would finish off what Mr Rabuka started.

Sitiveni Rabuka.

Sitiveni Rabuka.

Civilian vs Military rule

Earlier on in his military regime, Mr Rabuka learned the reality of a civilian government was different to military rule through his chiefly advisers and supporters who were politicians and Christian religious leaders.

The racist agenda did not gel with the civilian administration. If he wanted to restore public confidence, and business faith, he needed to adopt a multiracial approach.

It was one reason why Fijian Nationalist Party leader, the late Sakeasi Butadroka, was relieved as Minister for Lands for his extreme views and policies.

Sakeasi Butadroka.

Sakeasi Butadroka.

The push for indigenous interests and control paid a heavy toll when bad management led to the collapse of the National Bank of Fiji. The bank could not sustain its generous lending policies to help iTaukei.

Economically, many Fijians did not benefit from the Rabuka coups and his civilian SVT Government. In fact the poor got poorer.

That was a major reason why many did not vote for him in the 1999 General Election. They helped the multiracial Fiji Labour Party win the election that got party leader Mahendra Chaudhry elected as the country’s first Indo-Fijian Prime Minister.

Mahendra Chaudhry.

Mahendra Chaudhry.

They also supported Speight in his coup because they believed it gave them the opportunity to complete what Mr Rabuka had started.

George Speight.

George Speight.

When it failed, it was a major disappointment and a big blow to their confidence.

Next stop

Their next stop was SDL Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase who won the 2001 and 2006 general elections. He was receptive to their plight about indigenous issues.

Laisenia Qarase.

Laisenia Qarase.

Mr Bainimarama’s takeover in 2006 set a new course for Fiji. With it came a serious commitment to develop a new Constitution which was adopted in 2013, followed by a truly democratic election in 2014.

It removed racial discrimination, called everyone a Fijian and laid the foundation for equality for all, irrespective of our differences and backgrounds.

It was on this platform that Mr Bainimarama’s FijiFirst party rode to victory in the first election under the new Constitution.

It lost some ground in the 2018 General Election but it is likely to bounce back in 2022 if it fixes those things that it did not do well in.

TOMORROW: Concluding Part: Why another coup is highly unlikely


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