Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Fiji Coup 2006 and the Indians in Fiji

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Briefly the conclusion.....

Out of the tragedy that was 5 December 2006, a ray of hope has shone brightly. Indian groups are, for the first time, publicly commenting on the coup and debating the future trajectory of Fiji – this was unthinkable after the coups of 1987 and 2000, and reflects an increased sense of confidence that they are true stakeholders, with legitimate voices that will be taken seriously. These voices reflect a variety of positions and highlight the differences between groups, but they have had the effect of capturing public imagination in such a way that the wider Indian community feel reconnected to the political process, with people regularly debating the issues in homes and workplaces across the nation. At the same time, the continued growth of internet technology has extended the debate beyond the shores of Fiji, with, in what must be another first, the debate becoming a global one – extending to Indo-Fijians living in America, Australia and elsewhere, to those serving in the British army in Europe and elsewhere, and to nurses trained in Fiji, but working in other parts of the Pacific. It has become a truly global dialogue.

The coup itself divided opinion in Fiji. For the most part, the Indian community was saddened and stunned rather than supportive of yet another political upheaval. Despite being the silent victims of anti-Indian aggression for many years, they did not rejoice. Many mourned the loss of the fragile multiparty cabinet, which some believed would have presented the best hope for Fiji since independence. At the same time, many are pragmatic in looking to the future, recognizing that the current political reality is a military one and awaiting the transition that the interim government will effect. Initially, they were heartened by the added sense of security they felt – a result of the military checkpoints stationed around Fiji. However, now that the dust has settled, many are still waiting for the promised proof of large-scale corruption implicating the Qarase government; all they have witnessed so far has been Mahendra Chaudhry’s tax irregularities. At the same time, global increases in the cost of food items such as rice, flour and fuel, as well as freak weather conditions that have led to cyclones and flooding have been characterized by some as examples of what happens when one challenges the dharmic order of the universe.

While many within the Indian community welcome the idea of a ‘People’s Charter’, few truly understand its purpose or the legal status it will occupy. One of the coups stated aims – to restore rights previously lost to the Indian community over the past 20 years – has not been enough to convince them that Fiji is a country worth committing to; it looks likely that they will continue to migrate in large numbers as they no longer feel that Fiji is a viable place in which to raise their families or invest. For many, the prognosis looks bleak, with a future filled with temple desecrations, home invasions and assaults on individuals. Some question what would happen if a future government takes a position opposed to that of the military – would it lead to another coup, would Fiji then be firmly entrenched in a coup cycle? Many of those planning to relocate overseas state that that they do not want to leave the land of their birth, believing it to be the best country in the world, with friendly people, a strong sense of community and a good climate. But they recognize little alternative.

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