In May 2000, failed businessman George Speight and a gang of armed terrorists stormed the parliament of Fiji and took the government hostage, including the democratically elected Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry. The reason given by Speight for this coup was that it was unacceptable that Fiji had a government led by an ethnic Indian Fijian. For ease of reading, I will refer to indigenous Fijians as "Fijians" and ethnic Indian Fijians as "Indians."
The hostage drama went on for nearly two months but the amazing thing was that virtually all of Speight's demands at gunpoint were fully met. Speight's gang was guaranteed a full amnesty, Fiji's multi-racial constitution was scrapped, the President was forced to resign and an unelected government composed of virtually all Fijians was installed. It was quite obvious that most Fijians, including many elements of the military and the Great Council of Chiefs were either very sympathetic to Speight or were literally in league with him.
Speight's aim of ensuring political superiority for Fijians was achieved in the short term, with Indians politically disenfranchised, totally terrorised, their houses and businesses destroyed, with many attempting to flee the country. As happened after the previous coup led by Sitiveni Rabuka, the greatest losses were suffered by the Fijians. However it is important to understand what has been going on in Fiji to fathom the motivation that led to both coups and the subsequent coup by Fijian Naval Commodore Frank Bainimarama in 2007.
The major cause of resentment and friction is the huge difference in the very nature and culture of Fijians and Indians. This difference was actually the reason why Indians were imported to Fiji in the first place. I speak from experience in this matter, having been to Fiji probably more than one hundred times in the course of my profession and having observed on each occasion the almost insurmountable differences between Fijians and Indians. On top of this, the Fijians are divided into tribes and factions that are constantly in a state of friction and have never really been united. This division among them resulted in the election of an Indian dominated government, which precipitated the action by George Speight and his gang.
Apart from their own internal lack of cohesiveness, the main problem for Fijians lies in the fact that they do not seem capable of running a business, but mostly prefer to sit around drinking the local narcotic drink Kava and playing guitars and singing. When Fiji was under British colonial rule, the administrators could not get the Fijians to work or run the prime industry of sugar growing, thus they imported many willing workers from their other colonial source of cheap labour - India.
Over the decades the Indians did what they do best, that is, breed, and far in excess of the Fijians. In fact the Indians bred so rapidly, that at the time of the previous Rabuka-led coup there were actually more Indians than Fijians. However many fled during that time and now the Indians comprise around 45% of the population, still almost on a par with the Fijians.
The Indians also not only managed to work their way out of labouring in the fields, but did what Indians do second best, that is, establish successful businesses and shops. The Fijians saw this and of course wanted a piece of the action, but even when Fijians were assisted in establishing their own businesses or shops, they proved incapable of running them, as unfortunately most of them do not seem to have any business or financial acumen whatsoever.
Currently there are virtually no successful businesses run by Fijians. They exist by either working for Indians or collecting rent for their native land from Indians. This has always bred resentment against the Indians, who very obviously earned far more money than Fijians because they literally ran the country economically. Of course the Fijians benefited greatly from this because taxes on Indian businesses and incomes funded the entire infrastructure of the country, including the military and the Great Council of Chiefs who have supported the coups. The worst part is that the Fijians just do not seem to fathom that they are literally biting the hand that feeds them.
The reality is that Fijians cannot achieve their aim of Fijian political superiority in the long term unless virtually all Indians are somehow persuaded or forced to leave Fiji. If the Indians remain and stay true to form, they will continue to procreate at their usual rate and eventually they will again outpopulate the Fijians. Assuming that the Indians will eventually comprise 50%, then 60% and ultimately 70% or more of the Fijian population, how will Fijians be able to assert political dominance when Indians will have such a huge majority?
The Fijians can only achieve this at the point of a gun, just as occurred in South Africa under the Apartheid policy, but the world will not accept this and Fiji will become a pariah state with almost total economic isolation. In fact if the Indians become so dominant, there is a very good chance of them staging their own coup, having the weight of population behind them.
How can Fijians stop the Indians from outpopulating them? There seems to be no acceptable way. Ethnic Indians who are born in Fiji and who may have been descendants of a number of generations cannot be deported, as they are Fijian citizens. Laws forbidding the Indians to breed will obviously not work. If Indians are denied the ability or the right to run businesses, the entire Fijian economy will collapse almost immediately. During the coups, the largest income earner, sugar production, literally ground to a halt, as the Fijians were unable to force the Indians to harvest the cane. The second largest source of income, the tourist industry has virtually collapsed, with most foreigners leaving the resorts and potential tourists keeping right away from Fiji.
The shops and supermarkets are almost invariably run by Indians and their influence on the Fijian economy is huge. This was demonstrated during the two Rabuka-led coups, when most of the Indian-run shops closed for substantial periods. The loss of revenue from business and income taxes crippled the Fijian economy to the point of catastrophe. This inflicted much hardship mainly on so many Fijians who thus had no jobs working for Indians. The Fijian economy only recovered when Indians were able to resume normal business operations, however the Fijian currency has never recovered its value even to this day and a lot of wealth has disappeared from Fiji, never to return.
Although Fiji was restored to a supposed democracy after the second Rabuka-led coup, albeit with a number of parliamentary seats reserved for ethnic Fijians, a form of blatant racist Apartheid that was condemned by the rest of the world, the peace did not last very long. In 2007, the legally elected government of Laisenia Qarase was overthrown by a military coup led by Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who installed himself as a virtual dictator. Again, Indians were on the receiving end of racially based inequality and the nation's economy and tourism tumbled into disaster. The cultural and political divide between Fijians and Indians has never been wider.
Unless the Indians are somehow forced to leave or induced to emigrate from Fiji, there is no long-term solution to their eventual dominance. If they go, their business expertise will go with them and Fiji will revert to being a destitute third-world country, as Fijians have proven to be incapable of operating businesses or shops and unwilling or unable to even operate the sugar cane farms. So for Fiji, the only real solution to the problem, short of committing genocide on the Indians, is to recognise that they are indeed Fijian citizens and have their place in Fijian society, complete with all democratic rights including an equal vote for their parliamentary representatives. The Great Council of Chiefs, the Fijian military and all indigenous Fijians have to come to the grim realisation, no matter how unpalatable it may be to them, that the Indians are there to stay.
There is also much work to be done by the Indians, who are not entirely blameless for their situation. Since they arrived in Fiji, the Indians have instituted their own voluntary Apartheid, with intermarriage with Fijians completely discouraged, their own schools teaching nothing but Indian culture and language at the expense of assimilation and integration. The Indians have literally formed a nation within a nation and of course this has fostered resentment and divided the country most drastically. Unless Indians realise this and change their entire outlook by assimilating with Fijians to fashion a homogenous and united nation, there will always be racial tension and persecution. This should be a lesson for any nation that currently promotes multiculturalism over assimilation, especially Australia.
The decades of racially based division have finally brought this beautiful country to disaster. There is only one way out of this mess and that is for both races to realise that people in Fiji are not just Fijians or Indians, but human beings with the same rights and aspirations who must stand united and live as one nation. Only when this is achieved, will Fiji move back from the edge of the precipice.