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1987 Coup - 14 May

By July 1987 a committee of the Council of Chiefs had drawn up a plan for a new government and presented it to the constitutional review committee. According to the plan, a House of 70 members would have 40 Fijian members, and 50 percent of all top civil service posts and leading cabinet posts would go to Fijians. Rabuka, the Taukei Movement, and even the Muslim League leadership supported the plan, while the NFL-Labour Coalition and radical groups within the Taukei objected. The latter believed that the plan had not gone far enough, insisting that all political power in the country go to the Fijian population.

In early August, Rabuka, while endorsing the Chiefs' plan, warned that Fijian rights had to be guarded and written into the new constitution to make the Fijians secure. If not, he said, "The violence, the demonstrations could start all over again."

By early September, Rabuka's predictions were materializing. On September 3, Richard Naidu, Bavadra's press secretary and a former Fiji Times newsman, was beaten by Taukei members in the Travelodge Hotel in Suva. The following week, fire bombs hit Suva buildings. The rioting was attributed to a radical, breakaway group of Taukeis calling themselves the Taukei Liberation Movement. Youth gangs looted and set fire to Indian shops. Troops had to be called in to seal off the area, and businesses closed down. Threats continued to keep Indian shops closed unless security forces were in evidence.

After a period of deadlocked negotiations, Lt. Col. Sitiveni Rabuka staged a second coup on September 25, 1987. Political leaders, journalists, judges, and other prominent citizens were arrested-and most released in a few days. Newspapers were shut down, radio broadcasts controlled, and an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew strictly enforced. The agreement for an interim government, Rabuka said, threatened the purpose of the May coup, which was to put political power in the hands of the Fijians.

The military government revoked the 1970 constitution and declared Fiji a republic on October 10. This action, coupled with protests by the Government of India, led to Fiji's expulsion from the Commonwealth of Nations and official non-recognition of the Rabuka regime from foreign governments, including Australia and New Zealand. On December 6, 1987, Rabuka resigned as head of state and Governor General Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau was appointed the first President of the Fijian Republic.

The interim government that governed Fjii from December 1987-1992 was led by former Prime Minister Mara who was reappointed interim Prime Minister, and Rabuka became Minister of Home Affairs. The new government drafted a new constitution, effective July 1990. Under its terms, majorities were reserved for ethnic Fijians in both houses of the legislature. Previously, in 1989, the government had released statistical information showing that for the first time since 1946, ethnic Fijians were a majority of the population. More than 12,000 Indo-Fijians and other minorities had left the country in the 2 years following the 1987 coups.

In 1991 Major General Sitiveni Rabuka, the officer who led the 1987 coups, resigned as commander of the Fiji Military Forces (FMF) and entered the free and fair May 1992 elections (in which nearly 80 percent of Fiji's registered voters--both ethnic Fijians and Indo-Fijians--participated). He was overwhelmingly elected to Parliament by his local constituency. The President selected him to be Prime Minister after Rabuka demonstrated that he commanded majority support in the House of Representatives. When his 1994 budget was rejected by Parliament in November 1993, Rabuka asked the Acting President to dissolve that body in accordance with the Constitution. Another general election is slated for February 1994. The 1993 municipal elections were also free and fair. Two of Fiji's major parties are predominantly Indo-Fijian. These parties, the National Federation Party (NFP) and the Fiji Labour Party (FLP), have pledged to continue their opposition of the 1990 Constitution in the Parliament.





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