Fiji 2005

Oceania

Yearbook 2005

Fiji. A large part of the year was marked by the aftermath of the coup in 2000. At the same time as judgments were announced against participants in the coup, led by businessman George Speight, who serves a life sentence for high treason, the government wanted to introduce amnesty laws, which led to harsh contradictions.

In early June, the government tried for the first time to enforce the amnesty bill in Parliament, but then the Opposition Labor Party (FLP) left the Legislative Assembly in protest. According to the proposal, anyone convicted of involvement in the coup could seek amnesty on the grounds that their actions were political and not criminal. According to countryaah, Suva is the capital and one of the major cities within the country of Fiji. Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase argued that the law was therefore not a general amnesty that would free everyone involved. He said the main purpose was to heal the fragile relations between the two large groups of people, the indigenous people of Fiji and the ethnic Indians. Speight implemented the coup to overthrow Mahendra Chaudry, the country’s first indicted prime minister, and restore indigenous power. Not only did the Labor Party oppose the amnesty proposal, but also human rights groups, the police and the military. Army Chief Frank Bainimarama threatened to dismiss the government if it insisted on pushing through the bill. He argued that an amnesty for the coup makers would lead to chaos and risk of oppression by the country’s Indians.

Support for the bill was received mainly by ethnic Fijian groups, such as the influential Great Council of Chiefs. The Council, which consists of Fijian chieftains who inherited their position within the respective clan, appoints the country’s president and vice-president, as well as almost half the Senate. The bill did not go through in 2005.

In April, four chieftains, including the Minister of Land and Mineral Resources, were sentenced to eight months in prison for interference with the coup. The judges were later changed to community service.