In 1987 two military coups in Fiji undermined institutions previously thought to be democratic in character. The coup leader, Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka, claimed that the coups were necessary in order to protect the rights of indigenous Fijians against the demands of the large Indian community. Combining the techniques of the historian, the anthropologist, and the political theorist, Stephanie Lawson discusses the contemporary political
situation in Fiji from both a historical and a theoretical viewpoint, and tracing the sources of the current divisions in Fiji to the well-intentioned, but in the end misguided, ambitions of colonial
administrators to protect the way of life of indigenous Fijians. Dr Lawson's analysis reveals many ironies. The very presence in Fiji of a large Indian community, now made a scapegoat by the coup leaders, is a result of the desire of colonial administrators to avoid forcing the indigenous population to become landless labourers, while at the same time securing a source of labour for a plantation-based agricultural system. She argues that post-colonial political
institutions, themselves shaped by generations of colonial administrators, exacerbated and possibly created the very tensions between the indigenous population and Indians that they were designed to
temper. Dr Lawson demonstrates why race was never really an issue in recent events but why Rabuka could plausibly claim that it was. She comes to the provocative but convincing conclusion that Fiji has never really been a democracy in the Western sense of the word.
`This book begins with a penetrating analysis of politics in Fiji from 1847 until the general election of 1982.
`This book is a close examination of the failure of democratic politics in Fiji through a detailed examination of the forces that led to the two military coups in 1987 ... the book is noteworthy both for its new theoretical contribution and for its empirical findings.
Dov Ronen, Harvard University, The Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, Vol. 30, No. 3, Nov. 1992
`The importance of her account lies not in the material she presents ... but in the questions she asks.
The Contemporary Pacific, Spring 1993
`a thoughtful classical study of the nature and shortcomings of democratic politics in Fiji, ... Lawson's book succeeds best in providing an excellent ... case study for students of politics. It has a carefully argued theoretical framework for the democratic process, and a clear account of the actual working of the system in Fiji.
John Piper, Australian Journal of International Affairs, 11/92
Introduction; Constitutional opposition and democratic politics; The early colonial basis of politics in Fiji; Europeans, Fijians, and the neo-traditional order; Indians and the franchise; Towards independence: institutional change and the emergence of the party system; Political parties and the party system in independent Fiji; The test for democratic politics in Fiji; Conclusion