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Prosecuting in Paradise: Race, Politics, and the Rule of Law in Fiji

NCJ Number
Crime, Law and Social Change Volume: 44 Issue: 1 Dated: 2005 Pages: 79-109
Mark Tedeschi
Date Published
31 pages
This article reviews and appraises the main events of the violent coup in Fiji in 2000 led by George Speight, which collapsed after a brief overthrow of the multiracial Government of Mahendra Chaudhary.
The coup had some degree of success in its forcible takeover of Parliament and a relatively unchallenged move to establish a civilian government. When invited, some of the officials of the former governing group accepted positions in the new rebel government; however, because neither the Fijian Army nor the police force or any other major institution in the country publicly supported the attempted takeover, the coup eventually failed. George Speight and a number of his leading coup followers were charged with treason. The trials produced convictions and a sentence of life in prison for George Speight and significantly lesser sentences for those who chose to take positions in his short-lived rebel government. The author believes that the trials firmly established the rule of law in Fiji and the professionalism of its criminal justice system, such that a deterrent effect against future coups was achieved; however, this coup, along with the legacy of the 3 coups in Fiji between 1987 and 2000 has been the permanent departure of over 100,000 Indo-Fijians out of a total population of only 800,000. Those who left were largely the professional, educated, and affluent Fijians. Indigenous Fijians once again constitute a majority of the population. The price of this racial shift has been the commercial and economic deterioration of the country, which is likely to last for decades. 57 notes


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