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Sunday, 23 July, 2000, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Fiji: Did Speight get too many concessions?
The coup in Fiji has come to an end, with wide-ranging concessions being made to the coup leader, George Speight, and his followers. They demanded, and got:
  • The scrapping of the country's multi-ethnic constitution
  • The formation of a new government made up entirely of ethnic Fijian politicians
  • An amnesty for all those involved in the coup
But is this the triumph of the politics of race? Was it wrong to make so many concessions? Will it encourage others to take similar drastic action?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

What no one seems to say, given the "approvals," then disapprovals of the various "interim" governances is that Speight, Amin of the Pacific, will not be happy until he is named prime minister.
John, USA

Well done Mr George Speight. It is good to see men like you stand their ground and claim what is rightfully theirs. Look at what happened in New Zealand and Australia the natives there are seen as second class citizens all in the name of democracy by the Europeans.
K Kahuni, South Africa

Imagine the howls of dismay if Britain decided that people whose British ancestry didn't go back further than the mid-19th century wasn't a full citizen. Nobody elected the Fijian rebels, soldiers or Ratus -- they have no mandate to sell out their country.
Dion Giles, Australia

Speight has most certainly got away with too much. If only Fiji would think of the Indo Fijians as a gift of her colonial era to the good of the economy of the present.
Mary, Malaysia


What George did was a mockery of the rule of law, democracy, human rights, international community, Christianity and morality

Naren, Thailand
Who could tolerate a democratically elected government by the people, being hijacked by thugs and racists and the whole nation being capitulated? What George did was a mockery of the rule of law, democracy, human rights, international community, Christianity and morality, etc. Based on George's argument, in the name of indigenous rights and sovereignty, one can abuse others rights, practice violence and reject tolerance and peace and tore a nation apart. Isn't this a total failure towards nation building? What George and his thugs have done is unpardonable to Fiji. You can't justify this, no matter how "indigenous" you are.
Naren, Thailand

Bravo Mr Speight. Many indigenous people who have been overwhelmed by tight-knit immigrants wish they could also take back their land and culture.
Steve B, USA

Speight is a criminal, guilty of treason and as such should be imprisoned and tried. He has mocked democracy and the principles of civilisation. That he is free and throwing his weight around is ridiculous.
Haru, USA

Speight has been given so much that the question of how much doesn't matter any more. He has got all he wanted but at the expense of his own people.
Aradhna Pillai, Fiji


It saddens me that the politics of race has taken over Fiji

Aradhna Pillai, Fiji
It saddens me that the politics of race has taken over Fiji. There have been no winners, only losers. Everyone, regardless of race, colour and creed, has been a victim of this madness.
Aradhna Pillai, Fiji

Speight is a racist, nothing more nothing less. He says that Westerners cannot understand his country but this is a very transparent attempt at pushing aside our views. If he really doesn't want us involved, then so be it, leave him, but ensure no aid, no investment, no help of any form is delivered.
Stuart, Singapore

I don't understand why people who migrated to Fiji 100 years ago are still being called Indians. They are not Indian citizens nor are they contributing towards the growth of India. They are Fijians.
Amar, India

This is an act full of shame and absolute misery. Fiji will remember this as the dawn of darkness and a brutal murder of democracy. Whatever happened in Fiji should not happen to other underdeveloped countries. It is the defeat of democracy.
Manish Gehlot, India/ USA

I'm amazed at the arrogance of my fellow Westerners in assuming that every country of the world must be the image of a Benetton advertisement. Wake up. The Bosnians, Kosovans, Sri Lankans, Zimbabweans, and, yes, Fijians of the world are the rule, not the exception. Get used to it. It's not right, but it's the way it is.
Patrick, USA


I wonder if the Indian government has now changed its mind about the rights of non-indigenous peoples in representative politics

Mark Green, British, but in Japan
I agree that his means were appalling and Speight seems little more than a talentless thug, but not so long ago the Indian government was campaigning for Sonia Gandhi not to be allowed to contest the election for Congress, simply because she was not born in India. I wonder if the Indian government has now changed its mind about the rights of non-indigenous peoples in representative politics.
Mark Green, British, but in Japan

Fiji's main problem is that its economy is dominated by people of Indian origin, while its armed forces and police are predominantly Native Fijian. This is always a recipe for turmoil. It will take a generation or two for homogeneity to prevail. For instance the Guyanas (English, French and Dutch) have arrived at a stable political system after a generation of instability. As for any armed intervention, it was India's business with possibly some help from Australia to quell Speight and his thugs.
Suresh, India/USA


Speight re-introduced the Law of Jungle to the Parliament to replace Rule of Law

Tilak Abeysinghe, Sri Lanka
It was a day of mourning for the democratic world. Speight re-introduced the Law of Jungle to the Parliament to replace Rule of Law. What can Fiji expect from a bankrupt businessman whose sole objective is easy money at the cost of human lives and the whole country. The International community should be united against such barbarism not to allow that to be a precedence.
Tilak Abeysinghe, Sri Lanka

If this is the way Spieght wants it then the Indians should look after themselves. They control the business and money. Don't pay any taxes to a government that exists only for the Fijians. Let the Fijians govern themselves - As Spieght puts it when discussing the Fijian Army -"to be in command, but have nothing to command."
David, Singapore


Welcome to the year of the gun...

Alec, UK
Welcome to the year of the gun... when hostages are being taken to further causes in many parts, it must be time for an ethical foreign policy. Problem is that it is ethnics and not ethics that are being pursued here. These racist policies and misguided ideologies must be buried whether it is in Bosnia, Fiji or draped in a one-nation flag in Australia, or under a nationalist agenda in India. There are too many people disenfranchised merely because of their ethnic origins... Oh for the days of the colour blind.
Alec, UK

Several countries, like Fiji were left with intractable problems at independence time. Using the gun in 1987 and again this year in Fiji only exacerbates the situation. I taught in a Fijian school for 6 years, both major communities have great attributes. Appreciating one another is much harder than hating one another. Speight was given far too much publicity by the media, and the present outcome only encourages more violence.
Rob P, Australia

George Speight is a malevolent Walter Mitty with delusions of grandeur. However, I don't understand why the Commonwealth and International community are not popping his bubble by imposing immediate sanctions thus dropping him in his own filth. By the way, are all indigenous Fijians racist because I haven't heard of any protesting against this vileness.
Ferzana, UK


What I would really want to know is since when is it okay for people to hijack a whole country and then be rewarded for it.

Sonali, India
What I would really want to know is since when is it okay for people to hijack a whole country and then be rewarded for it. The international community has just stood by and let whatever happens happen. This is in reference to Joel from USA. I just hope you are a native American. If not I really don't think you have any right at all to talk about the rights of the indigenous people.
Sonali, India

One can only feel for the history of Fiji and her Indian population. However the Indians are a part of Fiji, and if Fiji is to have her independence, the country must abide by the rules of democracy and the ever-popular vote. The man was voted in to office, let him do his job, and next election, elect again who you as a country want in office.
Coco Reynolds, Mexico

Caving into Speight's demands signifies the current trend in world politics - THE GUN RULES! A loss for democracy and freedom the world over and which will encourage other megalomaniacs in third world countries!
Dinesh, UAE

You can tell a tree by the fruits it bears - you tell a man by his works Mr Speight stood what he believed and fought on the principle of truth and justice.
Abdinasir Mohamed, Somalia

A fitting and appropriate reply should be delivered by India to the perpetrators of the recent dastardly events.
Gopal Dar, Sweden

This Fiji drama is nothing new in light of that one ethnic group denies others of political and cultural rights, or in the worst case, the rights to survive. Still, Fiji Indians are fortunate since the whole crisis did not end up as genocide like in Rowanda, Bosnia or Kosovo.
Jun J. Wu, Norway, but Chinese


Let us all hope that Fiji will see true democracy again

Ribu Jacob, India/Kuwait
Fiji Indians are being discriminated in a land that they helped to prosper. I can call it nothing but the height of thanklessness. If George Speight is allowed to get away with what he has done, one can be assured that Fiji will be held at ransom again and again by many more 'George Speights' in future. Let us all hope that Fiji will see true democracy again
Ribu Jacob, India/Kuwait

George Speight is a member of the same political club as Mugabe, Milosovic, Idi Amin and Hitler. He justifies racism as a political end and violence as a political means. Fiji is nothing more than a banana republic and Speight a tin-pot dictator. As for those who support such actions as necessary, they are little better than racists themselves. Democracy is about compromise and brotherhood. The Fijian version obviously allows for armed uprising if you don't happen to agree with the will of the people.
Matt Garvey, UK

What a weird question - did Speight get too much? For a person with a criminal background, who was due for trial on extortion charges, who so arrogantly brings down his nation for self serving interests, and now trots around like an Idi Amin - The man should have been arrested long back. And, you still ask? Did Speight get too many concessions? This is a shame, democracies of the world expressing lip sympathy and wondering whether Speight got too many concessions.
Broy, USA

Speight is a racist and terrorist who has achieved just about everything he wanted to achieve thanks to an impotent military, which, to all intents and purposes, has given the gunmen tacit support. Without guns, he would be a nobody. He's a disgrace to civilisation.
Ray Marsh, Australia


George Speight is a hero who fought for the rights of his own people and for the justice.

Krishan W, Sri Lanka
George Speight is a hero who fought for the rights of his own people and for the justice. Who would like to be the minority in their own land?
Krishan W, Sri Lanka

I agree with Michael, that it would be best if the Asians left Fiji to return to India. At least they have that option. The Fijians just want to retain control of that small part of this earth that is their homeland. I think the UK government should offer financial help to assist this, as they are doing in Zimbabwe.
Andrew, UK

This maybe an unpopular opinion in these days of Political Correctness when the fashion is to pander to all sorts of minorities but majorities have rights too. I back George Speight and applaud his being able to re-gain control of his country and put it back into the hands of the majority ethnic Fijians. In too many countries in the world the indigenous people who have lived there centuries have been supplanted by interlopers in the name of so called Democracy. Its good to see the rightful rulers have their birthright restored.
Steve Foley, England


Something has to be done for all citizens of a country, if you don't want a permanent state of civil war or mass emigration.

Eric Dickens, Netherlands
If we disregard, for a moment, the fact that hostage-taking is a rather unusual way of making your democratic-demographic point, I wonder how other countries with a rough 60%-40% ethnic mix would react to their affairs being decided in this fashion. Immigrant or indigenous, something has to be done for all citizens of a country, if you don't want a permanent state of civil war or mass emigration.
Eric Dickens, Netherlands

Speight did not get too many concessions. He simply got for the Fijians their independence from Indian subjugation. Speight is a hero of self-determination. After all India is ruled by Indians and so Fiji should be ruled by ethnic Fijians!
Charles, Kuwait

Rabuka, Speight and other indigenous Fijian cronies are LOSERS. Indians are a very hardworking immigrant group everywhere including the United States. This form of reverse discrimination should invite severe sanctions from U.S., Australia, New Zealand and the European Community against Fijian thugs!
Chas, United States


So is this the death of democracy? Where are all those countries, who claim to be the "Guardian of Mankind"

Jayant Chaudhary, India / USA
So is this the death of democracy? Where are all those countries, who claim to be the "Guardian of Mankind". It is sad to see that a group of gun trotting frustrated (due to their own failures) and dangerous people can force a country on it's knees, while whole world watches this shameful act. It really hurts me to see inaction on part of world leaders. The act of so called representatives of ethnic peoples who are actually rebels is as reproachable as the acceptance of their demands by the military in Fiji. By barring Indians from participation in Government in Fiji democracy has been fatally wounded. It should be prime duty of world leaders to take immediate measures to give a new life to democracy in Fiji. Otherwise so called rebels all over the world (especially in underdeveloped countries) will choose to take this short path to the corridors of power.
Jayant Chaudhary, India / USA

Indigenous peoples are victims, not practitioners of racism, but they can ill afford to surrender their land. Fiji has been alone among the nations of the world in supporting the Draft UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous peoples, according surviving indigenous peoples the same rights as the settler state citizens who often supplanted and attempted to exterminate them. I congratulate the Fijian people on their great victory over colonial globalisation and cultural genocide in restoring their traditional form of democratic government.
Jeff Armstrong, USA

The commonwealth must send a clear message by applying the same sanctions as were applied to South Africa. Let's see which countries will be hypocrites!
Haile, UK


The United States might not be perfect, but at least the risk of racist thugs storming our capital is remote

Matt K, US
The United States might not be perfect, but at least the risk of racist thugs storming our capital is remote. Note to Jamie, UK: the US constitution does not limit the rights of Native Americans. Often, in fact, treaties that give them special rights govern them. For example, many do not pay federal taxes and are not subject to many federal laws.
Matt K, US

Its time for the majority to stand up against the exploitation of the minority as was found in South Africa, Zimbabwe and elsewhere. I do not agree with the method but I can understand the objective.
Andrew, Canada


I would like to see all Asians leave Fiji, and transfer their hard work and success to countries more appreciative of these traits.

Michael, UK
What really disgusts me, is the fact that my ancestors were brought over from India, to work in Fiji because the natives did not have the intelligence, or compulsion to do it themselves and created the wealth that Fiji enjoys today. From this to be punished for your success, on the weak excuse of your origin is beyond pathetic and I would like to see all Asians leave Fiji, and transfer their hard work and success to countries more appreciative of these traits.
Michael, UK

Person like Speight should have been put into prison forever and never let him out. This kind of barbaric act shouldn't be accepted in the 21 century and if we accept this then we should accept Hitler also!
Anton Suresh, Sri Lanka

The release of the hostages in Fiji, after being in captivity for 55 days, is most welcome. However, this has been achieved only after granting what seemed to be a never-ending stream of concessions to the coup leader, Mr. George Speight. Freedom for the hostages would become meaningless, unless a democratic and Constitutional Government within the framework of the nation's 1997 Constitution is restored early.
Mr. Speight was definitely given too many concessions and such generosity will certainly tempt other "terrorists" like Mr. Speight in smaller countries to adopt him as a model to follow. The threat of sanctions by New Zealand, Australia, the U.S. and the European Union still holds good unless democracy is restored in troubled Fiji.
Albert Devakaram, India

This event is vindictive and the fact that the ethnic Indians are still treated as "outsiders" is rather amazing. The fact that the big powers are silent on the whole issue is that Fiji has no natural resources to offer and no strategic location. The result will most likely be a large out flux of people with talent and abilities as they are totally alienated. This may well be a repeat of Uganda under Idi Amin and what happened to that country when the ethnic minority left for greener pastures?
Srinivas Rangaraj, Canada


Speight has hurt his own country on the economic front in the global arena.

Guru Shenoy, United States
Speight's statements might have aroused nationalist feelings in his fellow sympathisers, but its impact will only be leading Fiji into an economic crisis. What Speight fails to realise is that information warfare is the only thing that prevails. Speight has hurt his own country on the economic front in the global arena. And whether or not most people want to acknowledge the fact or not; his feelings are that of a disgruntled jealous fool.
Guru Shenoy, United States

Fiji belongs to the Fijians, not to the Indians of subcontinent. No matter how enterprising the latter are. As long as we have an international system with its key component as state, the rights of the sons of the soil within a particular state have to be protected. Otherwise, the forces of Social Darwinism, and outright capitalism, will swallow less advanced nations. Speight was right in his cause, and whatever concessions he got in the latest deal with the army are justified.
Ishtiaq Ahmad, Cyprus

Violence 1 Democracy 0
Paul Atkins, UK

One can argue that if George Speight didn't get involved then someone else would have. The real issue is how indigenous communities cope when they become the minority race. Resorting to hostage taking shouldn't be the solution to this. Neither is reducing the rights of the immigrant population. But over the next few decades this situation is going to be replayed in many parts of the world and a peaceful way forward needs to be found to settle these issues before they become uncontrollable.
Paul R, UK

George Speight is Fiji's Mugabe, but more dangerous - racist power without responsibility.
Tim, UK


It seems that common human decency and respect towards others in Fiji has for the moment been hijacked by guns and racist slogans

Lynn, USA
I'm very saddened for the Fijian Indians, and for all of Fiji. Everybody loses when this kind of racist hatred wins the day. Speight is yet another megalomaniac thriving on his own demented sense of power, fuelled by hatred of others. Not only is he unapologetic, he's extremely proud of his racism and hatred. It seems that common human decency and respect towards others in Fiji has for the moment been hijacked by guns and racist slogans.
Lynn, USA

It is as others have said - a tragedy to have succumbed to the rebels. Now that the rebels have released their hostages the military, or whoever was in charge, should now go back on the agreement - round all of the rebels and their supporters up and try them for treason - it's like a confession - a coerced confession is no confession, likewise a coerced agreement should be no agreement.
John Ellis, UK

Democracy begins with "one man, one vote", and continues with equal rights, and protection of minorities. Fiji right now is in the same position as South Africa under apartheid, and the world should show the same condemnation towards it.
Anthony Faulkner, Switzerland (UK Citizen)

I thought the whole approach to hostage taking was using them as a leverage to ensure your demands are met. While incidents like this show would be hostage takers that the practice can work it can only increase the risk of terrorism and kidnapping. It's the possibility of success, however remote, that makes the taking of hostages a worthwhile plan.
Tristan Abbott-Coates, UK/USA

Unfortunately, any legitimate argument that Speight may have, has been made completely irrelevant by his actions.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK


Speight is a fantastic hero. What he received in concessions was long over due.

Tahir Nawab, USA
Speight is a fantastic hero. What he received in concessions was long over due. Why should the Indians receive preferential treatment over the Fijians? Sometimes desperate remedies require desperate measures and an equitable system would never have been possible without Mr. Speight acting on that belief.
Tahir Nawab, USA

Presumably Speight will never be able to travel outside Fiji, otherwise he will be arrested for the very serious crimes committed. What a pity - Fiji is now destined to become the basket case of the Pacific, just like Zimbabwe is in Africa.
Roger Monk, UK

The week Indian BJP government failed to protect the cause of the Fijian Indians. Australian government failed to exercise its regional power to reinstall the ousted democratic government. George Speight should be brought to justice. He could not face the Fijian Indians politically and opted for bullet instead of ballot. The Fijian army lost its image for its suspicious role in handling the situation.
Anas Khwaja, USA


Where are advocates of democracy? Why are they sleeping on this issue?

M. I. Shafi, Ph.D., USA
Yes he did get too many concessions. He should have been put in jail to overthrow a duly elected government. Where are advocates of democracy? Why are they sleeping on this issue? I did not hear any response from the advocates of democracy, such as UK, USA, France, Japan, and so many!
M. I. Shafi, Ph.D., USA

I believe this is a triumph for the rights of indigenous peoples everywhere. I think the reason that other nations are concerned is fear that their own oppressed minorities will see what Speight has done, and will follow suit. Perhaps the incident in Fiji will force other nations to deal more equitably with their own aboriginal groups.
Joel, USA

I was shocked when I read the news about what the military in Fiji agreed to give these rebels. It clearly illustrates that in Fiji and perhaps other democracies, they are nations of men and not of law. To shred their constitutions on the basis of not liking another's skin colour? If it can happen in Fiji, it can happen anywhere.
Robin Johnson, USA

I cannot understand how and why any concession extracted under duress can be accepted by anybody concerned. The military in Fiji can easily throw out all concessions granted to the rebels and don't have to explain any of their actions. The same approach can be followed in all situations involving forceful confinement and terrorism everywhere.
Skaria, Canada

There are many countries in the South Pacific with significant non-indigenous populations, including my own, New Zealand. The International Community must decide if Fiji is an isolated case or a call to address the colonial legacy in this area?
Sally, NZ

Look what happened to Uganda in the 70's and 80's, after it expelled its Asian population (again the main business owners). Fiji is sure to suffer a similar economic fate.
Dio, UK


I find it unbelievable how blasť the International Community has been over this!

Al, England
I find it unbelievable how blasť the International Community has been over this! A thug and his goons have imposed apartheid and installed a dictatorship yet leaders the world over have turned a blind eye. I'm not a political animal, but where is our ethical foreign policy now? What if this had happened at Stormont rather than Fiji?
Al, England

Is it not his turn to be the "hostage" this time?
Ernest Stephenson, England

This an opportunity for the International Community to see that justice is served in Fiji and also that we are able to send a strong message to people/ groups who may try to follow Fiji's example.
Navinder Singh Chauhan, India

Looks like hostage taking works. I thought it was a general policy not to give in to demands of gunmen.
Duncan Cooper, UK


Yet again the extremists get their way in a small and weak country

Charles, UK
Yet again the extremists get their way in a small and weak country. Yet again sanctions are not applied because they will hurt the wrong people and would only stoke up support for the sort of racism pedalled by Mr Speight and his fellow bigots. I guess the question is why are we so powerless to stop this sort of thing happening?
Charles, UK

It is a tragedy for Fiji, loved as a holiday designation by many people around the world - the country is now ruined. I was there during the act of terrorism by Mr Speight. He is nothing more than a terrorist. The Commonwealth needs to take action, countries need to rapidly accept the Fiji Indians who will be the most disadvantaged as a result of all this.
Stephanie Duvall, Australia

The idea that racism is allowed to triumph over democracy is sickening. George Speight has achieved a dangerous precedent that should be halted by the international community immediately.
Kevin Kanji, UK

On the news last night when the spokesman was asked about Indian rights, he commented "that he couldn't care less about their rights." That they are so openly racist to what numbers 50% of their population is going to cause real suffering.
David, UK


It's a bit hypocritical of the UK (no constitution), the USA (constitution limiting the rights of American Indians) or Australia (constitution limiting the rights of Aborigines) to criticise what Speight has done.

Jamie, UK
I would imagine that the indigenous peoples of the UK, USA, or any other country wouldn't be best pleased if immigrants from another country came in and started running the show. It's a bit hypocritical of the UK (no constitution), the USA (constitution limiting the rights of American Indians) or Australia (constitution limiting the rights of Aborigines) to criticise what Speight has done.
Jamie, UK

What does this say about how terrorism is handled by members of the Commonwealth? This sends out a clear message to other would-be opposition groups across the world that terrorism works.
Timothy Gevaux, UK

As someone who has relatives who are Fijian Indian I am concerned about this capitulation. George Speight is no better than those who have denied rights to the minorities in their countries are. The major governments of the world should ban all flights and trade with Fiji until real democracy is brought back for all the peoples of those islands.
Jim, UK


What baffles me is that he refused to accept a political position and threatened to strike again

Paul Ohia, Nigeria
This man has got an awful lot of concessions. What baffles me is that he refused to accept a political position and threatened to strike again. My suggestion is that from now on his movement should be watched while the concessions made so far should be revisited. But his amnesty should be guaranteed.
Paul Ohia, Nigeria

Can there really be any doubt in anyone's mind that this a terrible, shameful miscarriage of justice? Fiji had made great steps forward, and with its multi-ethnic constitution, it was truly democratic and fair state. The worst is yet to come. International sanctions may well be applied, understandably, since Mr. Speight has managed to dismantle a democracy and get away with it.
Nick Carey, Czech Republic

The Speight charade gives a bad example for other criminals in other countries to follow. It shows that they can get away with anything. Speight should spend the rest of his life in prison, but he'll end up getting power and money from the deal.
James, USA

It is now up to the democratically based international community to ensure that justice is served against Speight. Fiji provides an ideal platform for strategic co-operation between India and Australia.
Rahul Mahajan, UK


This outcome is beyond all acceptable international standards.

John, UK
This outcome is beyond all acceptable international standards. It simply shows just how weak the regional powers are, notably Australia. But then they have never said sorry to their Aboriginal natives and the "lost generations" so I guess its nothing new.
John, UK

It's a pretty disgusting result by a pretty disgusting group of political and military leaders. Fiji deserves to be excluded from the world community while this racist nonsense is given so much as a veil of legitimacy.
Andy Mayer, UK

I fear that if a small country like Fiji can pull that off, then other small countries may try and successfully win, and then those groups will group together to form one big alliance against a bigger nation.
Scott, USA

Clearly lives had to be saved, and the hostages released. But no one should get away with murdering democracy. Whatever happens, it's a tragedy for Fiji.
Nicholas Dunbar, UK

See also:

14 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji returns to civilian rule


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