Saturday, June 21, 2008

The subversion of Fiji's search for political equilibrium

Amid the fog of political polarisation and ethnic characterisation in Fiji, it is refreshing to have some intelligent and thoughtful debate examining beyond the "race" perspective on Fiji, so often favoured by journalists. Ethnic and political identities are not identical, as University of the South Pacific's Professor. Despite this, the two have been molded into inseparable components of communal politics, says sociologist Dr Steven Ratuva, of the University of the South Pacific. Speaking at a public forum on identity and belongingness in Fiji, he was reported by the Fiji Times as saying the contest for state power continued to be based on ethnic and political identification and consciousness.
“While there is a clamor for a political identity at the national level there is also demand for distinctive ethnic diversity. The search for political equilibrium in Fiji’s communal democracy has been constantly subverted by indigenous ethno-nationalism, justified by the ideology of paramountcy of Fijian interests.”
The 2000 coup brought to surface a lot of contradictions of communal democracy. “But the State system has not in itself changed despite the change in ideological and professional focus of the military from being an institution of indigenous rights to one which serves national interest."
The 2006 coup was an attempt to transform the identity of the state in a fundamental way through institutional reform and a proposed charter, he said. And now the debate is on about the legitimacy of this approach.

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