Micronesia: Violence For, And Against, Democracy


: The Pacific Islands

November 30, 2006: Fiji's Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase faces another coup by the army. This would be the fourth coup since 1987. The problem is not democracy, but ethnicity. Only 51 percent of the population are Melanesians (native Fijians). Another 44 percent are descended from Indians imported over a century ago to work the sugar plantations. The native Fijians were not willing to do the work. The Indians now dominate the economy, and the Fijians don't like it. Most of the soldiers in the army are Melanesians, but a majority of Fijians are willing to elect politicians of Indian ancestry, to run the country. A minority of Melanesians, including many officers in the army, have tried to block this "takeover" of the country by "foreigners" (the elected Indian politicians) by forcibly removing the "foreign" politicians. But the other "foreign politicians" keep getting elected. Fijians have not been able to come up with a solution for this problem. Currently, the head of armed forces, a Melanesian named Bainimarama, is making several demands on the Indian politicians (and the Australian official acting as Police Commissioner). Failure to comply will result in a coup. But Commodore Bainimarama has been threatening for nearly a year, and not acting. Apparently, Bainimarama is fearful that, this time around, there might be a civil war, and not just a coup. That would be messy, but if would be progress of a sort. The stalemate continues, but Bainimarama is losing a little more popular support for each day the crises continues. Coup threats are not good for the economy, and that has an impact on popular opinion that does not favot Bainimarama.

November 18, 2006: Some 150 Australian and New Zealand troops arrived in Tonga, to pacify the capital, where mobs had burned down most of the business district. The riots stopped, the government promised to implement full democracy by 2008, and the foreign troops are planning to leave soon.

November 16, 2006: In Tonga, popular discontent over the speed at which democratic reforms will be introduced, led to mobs to form in the capital. Police were unable to control the violence, which degenerated into looting and attacks on foreigners. Tonga is a monarchy, and for decades the kings have been promising full democracy, but putting off implementing it.


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