Fiji. In April, the slumbering Melanesian nationalist
movement Taukei was revived. According to
COUNTRYAAH, the leader of the movement
accused Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, an ethnic Indian,
of pursuing an anti-Fijian policy. in land issues.
After a time of coup dire, Chaudhry's government was
ousted on its anniversary on May 19. George Speight,
dismissed as chairman of a state corporate board, led a
group of armed men who occupied Parliament and took Chaudhry
and 30 other hostages, among them several ministers.
President Kamisese Mara condemned the coup and declared a
state of emergency when Speight supporters ran wild and
abused Indians and looted and burned Indian-owned stores in
the capital Suva.
Speight explained that he had repatriated Fiji on behalf
of the indigenous Melanesian population, and said he had
repealed the 1997 constitution, which gave political rights
to the country's ethnic Indians. The Melanesians make up
about 51% of the country's residents, compared to about 44%
for the Indians, which however dominate the business
community. Just before the coup, there had been conflict
over the renewal of Indian landowners' leases.
The president, the influential chief council and the
military tried in vain to negotiate a swift resolution of
the crisis. Speight threatened to kill hostages if the
military intervened. President Mara resigned and military
commander Frank Bainimarama introduced a law of war with
curfews. However, from the countryside, rapes, arson and
looting were reported against indigenous peasant families.
In July, Bainimarama appointed a civil interim government
led by banker Laisenia Qarase. The ministerial list was
rejected by Speight, who, however, agreed to release the
hostage in exchange for complete amnesty for himself and his
supporters and the abolition of the 1997 constitution, which
allowed Chaudhry to be elected. The drama dissolved after
eight weeks. Everyone in the hostage was unharmed, but
several casualties had been required in the shooting between
security forces and Speight supporters.
The Chief Council responded to the release by appointing
Speight's candidate Ratu Josefa Iloilo as president. He
appointed a government led by Qarase, which had the support
of the military. The list of ministers was almost identical
to the one Speight had rejected. However, no one in that
government was Indian.
While the hostage crisis was going on in the capital,
Speight's supporters took control of some police stations
and a military base in the country. The continued
lawlessness and the threat of sanctions from the outside
world caused the military to cancel the amnesty agreement
with Speight. He was arrested, and several hundred of his
followers were eventually arrested. Prosecution was brought
against the coup leader and his closest associates for
treason or treason-like crimes.
In September, Prime Minister Qarase said at the UN that
he intended to restore democracy within two years by
drafting a new constitution and preparing for a new
In November, a group of militants mutated and took
control of the Suva military headquarters. However,
government-loyal troops could quickly defeat the uprising.
The same month, the Supreme Court declared that the deposed
Chaudhry's ministry was still the country's legal
government. According to the court, Qarase's interim
government was in violation of the Constitution, but it
remained at the same time as the verdict was appealed.