Saturday 19 January 2013

Fiji: trouble in Paradise

Fiji's blogwires are humming with discontent at Prime Minister Bainamimara's decision to scrap a draft Constitution that would have required respect for democratic principles. The island has been under military rule since 2009, but has suffered civil unrest since the late 1980s.

As in Ulster, the establishment of peaceful, settled democracy in Fiji is permanently problematic, and for the same reason: the historic importation of outsiders. In 1879, five years after becoming a British colony, indentured labourers began to arrive from India, mostly to work in the sugar industry; some 60,000 were brought in until the scheme ended in 1916.

The workers' contract allowed them to return home after five years, but at their own expense (likely unaffordable); otherwise, free passage would be provided at the end of the tenth year. The subtlety of this plan was that naturally, by that time many of the workforce would be married, have young families and generally have put down roots.

It looks like another legacy of colonialism in the service of business interests. You can follow developments on some of Fiji's blogs on our World Voices page - see the sidebars there.

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