Potential Hot Spots: June 8, 2000

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The Fiji islands in the South Pacific have a population of nearly 900,000 people. Half a native Fijians, ethnically similar to the peoples of the Solomon Islands and New Guinea. Nearly half the population is of Indian descent, the result of Britain importing Indian plantation workers in the 19th century. The native Fijians have always been more laid back, while the Indians hustle and are entrepreneurial. As a result, Indians own most of the businesses on the islands. This has caused resentment among the native Fijians, but they eventually came to accept Indian politicians and officials running many parts of the government. On May 19, the long simmering political struggle between native Fijians and descendents of 19th Indian migrants turned violent. A group of native Fijians seized the government compound, and many senior members of the government, and demanded that the elected Prime Minister (of Indian ancestry) resign. Prime Minister Chaudhry refused. He was beaten, but still refused. The Great Council of (native Fijian) Chiefs met on the 23rd and demanded that the hostages be freed. The rebels refused. On the 25th the Great Council of Chiefs demanded that the current Prime Minister be replaced by a native Fijian and the hostages released. The rebels still would not release their hostages, demanding that the rebel leader, George Speight, be made Prime Minister. On May 27, President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara dismissed the Chaudhry government, leaving the president as sole authority in the country. The rebels still held out for gaining control of the government. Rebel supporters looted large portions of the capital. On May 29th, the head of the Army, Commodore Frank Bainimarama declares martial law and takes control of the government. He issues "shoot to kill" orders against looters and imposes a curfew in the capital. On May 30th, Bainimarama tries to appoint a new Prime Minister, but a new government cannot be formed. On June 3rd peace talks with the rebels collapse when the rebels demand that power be turned over to the Great Council of Chiefs. Discussions go on to June 6th, when the army demands that the rebels lay down their arms and surrender. The rebels insist they will kill all 31 of their hostages of the army tries to storm the government compound. On the 8th there is some gunfire around the compound, but no indication that the army will attack. Civil war is not likely, as the Indian community has never shown any enthusiasm for violence. But many Indians are talking about leaving Fiji and all the ill will with the native Fijians. 

 

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