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Sunday, 20 May, 2001, 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK
One year on: Fiji's fragile democracy
Fiji coup leader George Speight
Coup leader Speight has been charged with treason
On the first anniversary of the coup that removed Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister from power, the political situation in the Pacific nation remains fragile, with racial fears entrenched and tribal power struggles unresolved.

In an editorial marking the seizure of parliament by businessman George Speight and a group of armed supporters, the Fiji Times said that key questions about the events of a year ago remained unanswered.


The identities of those faceless cowards who instigated the hostage-taking and supported Speight throughout are still a mystery

Fiji Times
"Everyone, it seems, is still in the dark and deliberately kept there either by the bureaucracy or the very people who, in a moment of madness, set this nation back by decades economically and socially," the paper said.

"The identities of those faceless cowards who instigated the hostage-taking and supported Speight throughout are still a mystery."

Government MPs were held captive for 56 days following the seizure of parliament.

During that time the military declared martial law and the constitution was suspended.

A military-backed caretaker government currently holds power, until the conclusion of general elections.

Speight, who continues to claim that his actions were in the interests of Fijian indigenous rights, is being held in custody awaiting trial on treason charges.

Cheated and outraged

Ousted Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, speaking on the coup anniversary, told the French news agency AFP that he continued to feel cheated and outraged by what had happened.


It's what they did to the ordinary people of Fiji that matters. They are the main victims of the coup

Mahendra Chaudhry
Mr Chaudhry, the country's first leader from the large minority Indian population, condemned the "forces of racism at work backed by unscrupulous businessmen and some chiefs".

"Of course, I feel cheated... the promise that Fiji had is now shattered. It's what they did to the ordinary people of Fiji that matters. They are the main victims of the coup," he said.

He also expressed concern that one year on no-one had yet been convicted for the crime.

'Not ready for democracy'

Underlining the continuing fragility of the political situation, caretaker Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase said that Fiji was still not ready for Western-style democracy.

"Western democracy believes in individual freedom, individual rights, one man one vote. So it's quite different from our community way of life. So all the time you will have a conflict between the two," he said.

Mr Qarase said he believed that only an indigenous Fijian should be prime minister at this stage of Fiji's history. He is hoping to become the legitimate holder of the job after the elections.

But his party will be one of 20 competing for the indigenous Fijian vote.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

10 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Indians 'will not lead Fiji again'
12 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji's vice-president 'faces arrest'
02 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
No amnesty for Fiji rebels
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