ethnic groups were allowed to pursue education and commerce in earnest. The resulting socio- economic inequality contributed to ethno-nationalist grievances in later years. Trans-ethnic social and political intercourse was discouraged and instead, under the so-called native policy, indigenous Fijians were kept under the direct patronage of the British and provided a convenient buffer against the Indo-Fijians who were seen as a threat to British interest because of their demands for equal rights and independence.
By the time of independence
in 1970 ethnicity had become an important factor in parliamentary representation, political party formation, electoral mobilization and political out-bidding by communal leaders. The state itself became a site
for ethnic contestation rather than negotiation while control of state power became the target of zero-sum gamesmanship. Ironically, this was encouraged by the 1970 constitution which was originally intended to provide ethnic balance and stability
through reserved parliamentary seats. Out of the total of 52 seats, 18 were reserved for indigenous Fijians, 18 for Indo-Fijians and 8 for other minorities. About half of the individual ethnic groups’ seat allocation was elected by the group itself and the other half was elected through universal suffrage. The two major ethnic-based
political parties, the multiracial but indigenous-Fijian-dominated Alliance Party and the Indo-Fijian dominated National Federation Party (NFP), were the vehicles through which communal politics was expressed.