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Fiji: An island in turmoil


The South Pacific island idyll of Fiji has been in political turmoil since separating from Britain in 1970.

Democratic rule was interrupted by two military coups in 1987 when the incumbent government was seen as being dominated by Indo-Fijians with colonial roots. In 2000, there was another coup, this time toppling Mahendra Chaudhry, the country’s first Indo-Fijian prime minister.

Citing corruption, Commodore Josaia Bainimarama staged a military coup in December 2006, dissolving parliament and becoming prime minister. Bainimarama’s chosen president, Ratu Iloilo, suspended the constitution and appointed himself head of state in 2009.

That year it became the first nation to be suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum and was later suspended from the Commonwealth of Nations. According to the campaign group Human Rights Watch, Fijian authorities have in recent years denied islanders’ rights to free speech, free press and peaceful assembly. The military and police have “arbitrarily arrested and detained” labour leaders, journalists and anyone “perceived to be critical of the Government”. while benefiting from the island’s isolation from outside criticism, the campaign group said.