appointment of military officers as regional commissioners, chair of boards, heads of various government ministries and state companies and as ambassadors. They were directly accountable to Commodore Bainimarama as their “civilian” head as Prime Minister and as their military commander. The militarization of the public service also led to the weakening of the indigenous Fijian middle class as many highly educated professionals were removed and replaced with those considered more loyal to the regime. After the Fiji Supreme Court
coup by taking over state authority and arresting the nationalist coup leaders who held Mr Chaudhry and his parliamentary Members hostage for 51 days after baiting them into signing a non-binding agreement. The military later set up an interim government headed by Mr Laisenia Qarase, a prominent indigenous Fijian public servant. Mr Qarase’s Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party (SDL) won the 2001 election and immediately put in place the 20-Year Plan, an affirmative action programme for indigenous Fijians which was initially endorsed by the military because it was a way of appeasing the indigenous nationalists.
The military moves in However, relations between the SDL and the military started to deteriorate as a result, mainly, of a dispute over the contract extension for military commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama and a controversy regarding Bills to facilitate national
Relationships amongst the indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians has always been reasonably harmonious, partly as a result of the multiracial experiment of the Alliance Party after independence.
reconciliation and release from jail of the 2000 coup perpetrators and to transfer ownership of the foreshore from the state to indigenous Fijian tribes. The military saw these Bills as undermining the interests of other ethnic groups as well as posing a major national security threat and it removed the government in December 2006. The military justified the coup
as a “clean-up” campaign to rid Fiji of corruption and racism and put in place a social engineering framework called the People’s Charter as a guide for political, social and economic reform. Civil state institutions were effectively militarized through the
190 | The Parliamentarian | 2012: Issue Three
declared the coup “illegal,” in on 9 April 2009, the military through the ailing President repossessed power the next day and removed the constitution in the process. The judiciary and other constitutionally established institutions and bodies had to be reinvented to ensure the sustenance of the state as a functioning entity. A series of decrees were enacted, including the draconian Public Emergency Decree 2009 which was eventually repealed and replaced by the Public Order Act 2012. The act was later amended in July 2012 to allow for a freer and more open political environment for civil education and public consultation on the constitutional process in the build-up towards the 2014 election. On 3 July 2012 the electronic
registration of 660,000 eligible voters for the 2014 general election started. Three weeks later on 25 July the five members of the Fiji Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) were sworn in by the Chief Justice, setting in train the constitutional review process starting with the public consultations on 3 August. These events marked the beginning of a new process towards re-democratization since the military usurped power in December 2006.
What went wrong? The crisis which has beset Fiji’s parliamentary democracy goes beyond the simple ethnic discourse often portrayed in literature on Fiji politics. While ethnicity played a very powerful role in terms of political mobilization, elites on both sides of
the ethnic divide tried to generate maximum political capital by acting as ethnic entrepreneurs through nurturing and perpetuation of ethnic consciousness. Ethnic-based parliamentary representation made ethnic contestation seem natural. Because of this, political competition over state power assumed blatantly ethnic forms. The state thus became the site for ethnic contestation and political parties in power were always associated with a particular ethnic group. The mix of power struggle and ethnic consciousness became a volatile cocktail. Another important factor was
the representation of perceived and real socio-economic differences in the form of ethnic grievances, scapegoating and violence. The success and preponderance of Indo- Fijians in commerce and education and perception of a conspiracy to keep indigenous Fijians marginal fuelled ethnic tension in an explosive way.
Perhaps one of the most misunderstood forces was the doctrine of the paramountcy of Fijian interest, the claim that indigenous Fijians had the natural right to rule and to educational and development privileges because of their indigenous status. This was no longer seen as an equity creation affirmative action project but an inalienable primordial and divine right which was reinforced by the conservative Methodist church and used by chiefs as a way of bolstering their hegemony. The Great Council of Chiefs,
set up by the British as an advisory body in 1876, played a crucial role in preserving chiefly authority and encouraging ethno-nationalism. The perceived fear and distrust of Indo-Fijian domination as well as a reaction against perceived Indo-Fijian racial prejudice against indigenous Fijians further strengthened the paramountcy mind-set. The role of the military has been
central in the political upheavals. The line of demarcation which separated the civilian state and the government has not been very clear because a large number of indigenous leaders