Sydney Democracy Forum: Democracy and in the Pacific and Divided Societies

Friday, 4 September 2009
3pm to 5pm, Room 104, New Law Building,
University of Sydney

RSVP: Zoe Morrison – sdf at usyd dot edu dot au
The Sydney Democracy Forum lectures and seminars are free
but registration is essential.

Stewart Firth
College of Asia and the Pacific Australian National University
“The Fiji Military Forces and Democracy in Fiji”

The 2006 coup and the ‘New Legal Order’ introduced in April 2009 have brought more radical change to Fiji than earlier coups. The military commander and prime minister Frank Bainimarama has militarized government, giving the military direct control of the prime minister’s department, the police, prisons, immigration, justice, the postal service, fisheries and other government services. Senior officers now have a direct personal stake in the new order, a military council under the complete domination of the Bainimarama governs the country, and opposition to the regime is suppressed. The regime promises elections by September 2014, but, even if they were to be held, the military forces would remain the final holders of political power. This paper examines the rise to dominance of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, the reasons for the 2006 coup and the 2009 seizure of power, and the prospects for democracy in Fiji.

Stephanie Lawson
Politics and International Relations Macquarie University
“Indigenous Nationalism and the Politics of Ethnicity in Fiji”

The Republic of the Fiji Islands has experienced more changes of government via coups than by constitutional processes. On the first three occasions, the rhetoric of justification centered on indigenous rights vis-à-vis perceived encroachment by Indo-Fijians. Images of politics in Fiji have therefore been dominated by ethnically based struggles for dominance with indigenous Fijians generally winning out by virtue of their control of the military. The coup of December 2006, however, has confounded explanations of Fiji’s politics based on a simple dichotomy of interests between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians. In this instance, Fiji’s military commander toppled a government dominated by Fijian nationalists claiming, among other things, that it operated on racist lines and that Fiji needed a new way forward. This paper considers a range of factors surrounding Fiji’s coups and assesses prospects for the future of constitutional rule.

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