History of Fiji Essay

20649 Words83 Pages
10 Between Coups Constitution Making in Fiji Jill Cottrell and Yash Ghai I n 1874, the principal chiefs of Fiji signed a deed of cession of their islands to the British crown in the hope of securing, as they put it, “civilization and Christianity.” In 1970, the country became independent under a newly prepared constitution. In 1997, Fiji adopted a new constitution by a process that is the focus of this paper. In 1999, the constitution came into force and there was a general election in which the two parties that had been the protagonists of constitutional change were decisively rejected. A year later, there was a curious civil coup, during which the government was held captive in the parliament building by a group of indigenous Fijians led by a failed and dishonest businessman;1 this movement was superseded by a military takeover, which resulted first in its suspension and then in its abrogation, with the military ruling by decree.2 The seesaw history of the constitution continued with its restoration following a court ruling;3 its suspension following, oddly, a proconsti- tution coup in 2006; and its abrogation after a similar court ruling in 2009.4 Had this paper been written in April 1999 or even 2000, we would undoubtedly have said that the constitution-making process was a great success, and that the 1997 constitution, though not flawless, was a considerable achievement. Inevitably, we are compelled to address the question of whether the events of 1999, 2000, and after indicate that the constitution or the process that made it was gravely flawed, even a failure. To understand the process, however, it is necessary to have some understanding of the social and economic structures of Fiji society and of the constitution-making enterprises that had preceded that of the early to mid-1990s. Since Fiji’s inception as a

More about History of Fiji Essay

Open Document