Fiji: September 29, 2008 – While debate hangs on the Fiji’s scheduled general election due on March 2009, ground situation in the tiny Pacific island still remains unchanged with more Indians leaving for greener pastures creating a brain-drain.
The Indian population has decreased from 52% in 1986 to 34% in 2008 due four coups which punctuated two in 1986, one in 2000 and one in late 2006.
Fiji made more news when Mahendra Chaudary an ethnic Indian became the Prime Minister in May 19, 1999 but after a year exactly on the same date he was overthrown by George Speight in a military coup.
However, there has been an increased population of the ethnic Fijian leading up to 66%.
Indians were brought to work in the sugar cane plantation fields in Fiji in the later part of the 19th century and the early 20th century.
Presently, the Fiji government is headed by Commodore Frank Bainimarama, the coup leader and the interim Prime Minister who has refused to commit on the elections in March 2009.
Frank Bainimarama staged a military takeover on December 5, 2006 against the elected Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase.
Recently, on his speech in the United Nations on September 28, 2008 Commodore Frank Bainimarama said he had expected the world to rally behind his plans for Fiji, but “regrettably this has not happened.”
One of Fiji’s main concerns is its prolonged isolation from countries like Australia and New Zealand which has refused to co-operate with the military government in Fiji.
Both the countries have issued imposed travel bans and other sanctions on the government and have called for Commonwealth Association to ban Fiji as its member.
The feud increased after Fiji was declined to attend this year’s Pacific Forum meeting in Niue after New Zealand placed transit visa restrictions on the interim government’s delegation.
On the other hand, the situation on ground in Fiji unchanged with peace engulfing the streets and politics surrounding the corridors of power. Ashok Kumar, head of the Indian Cultural Association in Fiji says that though more Indians are leaving Fiji, people on street are safe and downplayed much hype in the media.
” The politicians who had ruled after Fiji Independence in 1969 have not taken concrete steps to have a proper constitution and electoral system, this has resulted in a chaotic situation with the military coup taking position now.” But the important issue remains on the action taken by the Fiji government to evacuate the lands and properties owned by the Indian, Ashok Kumar however refuses to accept.
“We were given a lease of land for 50 years and now the government has taken the land but many Fijians including the Indians have made their lives out of farms for generations.”
(The writer is presently studying journalism in New Zealand. He went on a trip to Fiji to cover the political situation as the correspondent for www.internationalreporter.com He can be contacted in firstname.lastname@example.org )