“Politics not race behind 1987 coup”. So what’s new?

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A friend sent this press cutting of a protest meeting held at the Sydney Town Hall on 26 May 1987, against Rabuka’s 1987 coup.

A younger Wadan Narsey speaking at the Sydney Town Hall.

So what’s new?

Exchange the ethnic labels, perhaps?

Notice the role of the businessmen in supporting the coup, the anti-worker stance of the previous government, the shift in the burdens of taxation from the rich to the poor,…..

Politics not race - 1987 coup explanation-   meeting11202014_0000

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UK reception for Fiji PM, Hon. Voreque Bainimarama


Allusions to a post-ethnic Fiji nation-state were anchored by the mana-ising power of the traditional Fijian welcome ceremony and by a Catholic-led prayer, at the Fiji High Commission-hosted reception in London on Friday 28th November 2014.

It appears that Prime Minister Bainimarama has succeeded in separating ethnicity from culture in Fiji in a manner that augurs well for the indigenous Fijians, I think. The protocols and performances of the welcome ceremony remained distinctly Fijian in every aspect, but PM Bainimarama spoke of this not as an aspect of Fijian identity but of Fijian spirituality.

To speak of culture in terms not of identity but spirituality augurs well for the indigenous people. It retains their pre-eminent status in Fiji while shifting discourse from what has become a deeply political term. To speak of Fijian identity is to speak of rights and paramountcy vis-a-vis other communities; to speak of Fijian spirituality, on the other hand, carries within it a sense of the ineffable and unchallengeable.

Through its very inclusion in the event, the Fijian welcome ceremony accorded to the Hon. Voreque Bainimarama established in the minds and judgements of the invited guests a specific meaning and place for the Fijian cultural self in the matrix of the country’s identity and future. This extended to the closing prayer offered by Canon Davis, a subtle indication of the relative fortunes of the Catholic and Methodist churches in the ‘new Fiji’, which despite this confirmed the centrality of the church to Fijian identity (or spirituality?).

The PM went on to speak of a ‘Fiji for all Fijians’ and proclaimed through this the country’s post-ethnicity, whose significance lies not in what it may seem to take away: Fijian rights and security; but in what it adds: a viable foundation for the creation of a nation-state. President Kagame of Rwanda is proceeding along similar lines, in a bid to overcome the terror of the genocide against the Tutsi and moderate Hutu and the ethnic divisionism through which that was achieved.

The will to become is strong in Fiji as it is in Rwanda. This becoming is clearly founded on the geopolitical interests and gains that accrue from being accepted into the pantheon of nation-states, and thence to wield regional influence and secure the kind of investment and aid that can make these countries feel they are part of the twenty-first century in argentine ways.

However, given the way in which last night’s reception (was planned) and unfolded, Fiji’s transformation into a nation-state and the post-ethnicity that seems necessary to the fulfilment of this ideation are anchored by the mana-ising effect and power of indigenous Fijian practices and performances.

The future of Fiji, then, is one in which every citizen has the right to bear the name ‘Fijian’ and in which the special place of the indigenous Fijians is tantamount.

Re-imagining “ethnic” coups in Fiji: problematising narratives of rupture

Is it possible that against the supposed ontological quality of ethnic conflict in Fiji, crisis can create conditions for positive and not simply disruptive social relations?

In 1987 and 2000, Fiji experienced so-called “ethnic” coups. This led to talk of Fiji’s culture of coups. Before leaving for fieldwork some years later, I imagined myself researching in the shadow of a presumed ontological ethnic conflict between the country’s Fijians and Indo-Fijians.

I was conducting ethnographic fieldwork and speaking to people about the coups from a time of relative stability some years later. Entangled in life in Suva, the capital city of Fiji, my research opened up two competing realities: the present I was experiencing and the past of my interlocutors’ memories.

My own experience was animated by being treated like an Indo-Fijian, and seemed to jar sometimes with the past that my informants and interlocutors were creating for me through their memories and stories.

Indo-Fijians I spoke to recalled being protected by Fijian neighbours and friends for whom these coups were ostensibly undertaken; and their Fijian protectors spoke to me about worrying and caring for the safety of those targeted by the coups.

On one hand, my presence and embodiment as a presumed Indo-Fijian seemed indexical of the subtleties of ethnic conflict. On the other hand, listening to my informants talk of the 1987 and 2000 coups, I became aware of how crisis dynamises social relations in ways that aren’t necessary during stable times.

The collusion and collision of different ethnographic presents in my research, bringing together informant memories alongside my own (partly auto-) ethnography some years later, has forced me to re-imagine the epistemologies of conflict that animate what we think we know about coups in Fiji.

It has become fashionable to speak of crisis and violence solely in terms of rupture, fear, loss and phenomenological reorientation of the worst kind. Without refuting the reality of such claims, my ethnography seems to indicate that socio-political conflicts and crises – including those that manifest as (ethnic) coups – can create or amplify intimacies that resist overly simplified conflict narratives and rhetorics.

Is it possible, then, that when conflict transitions from verbal discourse to performance, positive social relations emerge or are realised more fully than in times of relative stability?

I would say yes.

The implication of this is that we cannot entirely dichotomise conflict and peace. To do so does violence to our understanding and appreciation of the intimacies that crisis potentially creates: when Fijians protect Indo-Fijians….

(Or to take the more internationally known case of the Rwandan genocide, when Hutus protected their Tutsi friends and neighbours.)

India in Fiji: When Modi meets Bainimarama

Recently elected India PM, Modi, is visiting recently elected Fiji PM, Bainimarama.

Both PMs are used to flexing their muscles and getting what they want; neither is above accusations of human rights abuses; and both attract considerable criticism both nationally an internationally.

Modi is a Hindu nationalist. Bainimarama is supposedly a multi-ethnicist, going by his rhetoric and the various institutional and constitutional changes wrought by his Attorney General, an old acquaintance of mine from my fieldwork days.

I cannot imagine that politics and ideology will be high on the agenda during discussions; if it were, I’d be hard pushed to anticipate who would flex the greater amount of muscle and force the other into submission.

Modi will likely have and find more empathy with Fiji’s Opposition bench, notably the Ro Kepa led SODELPA party which harkens back to the good old days of indigenous Fijian rule and controversial pardons for ethnic coup supporters.

This empathy is nothing new. Indo-Fijians have long wanted the indigenes to feel secure in their motherland, and during my fieldwork they were vociferous about safeguarding Fijian land rights, drawing on the notion of the bhumiputra (sons of the soil) to explain this.

I would like Modi’s visit to Fiji to be emblematic of the Indo-Fijians’ support for Fijian security; I would like it to function and be meaningful in ways that will bring greater empathy between Fiji’s two main groupings.

And yet….

I know that that empathy lies deep within Fiji society. My own research illustrates that during times of national crisis the empathy between Fijians and Indo-Fijians is animated to a degree that perhaps isn’t always necessary or visible during times of stability.

Coups, violence, rupture can help concentrate the mind on what matters. And invariably, what mattered to my Fijian interlocutors in Fiji during the 1987 and 2000 coups was safeguarding their Indo-Fijian friends and neighbours.

Now that a modicum of stability has been achieved in Fiji, it is up to the Indian and Fiji PMs to continue to embed narratives and practices of mutual engagement and understanding. What I think will happen is that politics is sidelined, and talk will be dominated by important issues relating to economics, investment and trade.

I hope, however, that India and Fiji find ways and create space for dialogue that sends a positive and enduring message to the people of Fiji that gives them hope for the future.

Fiji elections: Bainimarama goes from coup-maker to democratically elected leader

Here is a link to my op-ed for The Conversation. I suggest that the complexities of Fiji’s situation can be approached by understanding the complexities of Bainimarama himself. This is not intended as an exhaustive analytical piece, but a taster for a generalist audience wanting to access some basic political knowledge about the Pacific archipelago of Fiji.


‎Fiji election‬ potential outcomes:

1. Fiji First win
a. SODELPA may be able to call on military chiefs including Tikoitoga to overthrow Bainimarama and suppress his supporters within the military (it will be a replay of 2000 but Bainimarama on the mutinying side, as it were); this is possible, given the complex and often shifting web of Fijian allegiances
b. Bainimarama wins democratic mandate, as Rabuka did in his first elections after implementing the 1987 coup

2. SODELPA win
a. Bainimarama’s allies in the military may be able to whip up rank-and-file support using the concept of the vanua, and overthrow the elected government
b. Fiji returns to pre-2006 coup political landscape, in terms of replicating Rabuka’s affirmative action programmes of the 1990s and Qarase’s blueprint – the issue with this is not that it is pro-indigenous, but whether it delivers the outcomes it purports (this didn’t happen in the 1990s)

Bearing in mind, that either (1) or (2) will perhaps likely involve coalition with some minor parties, which historically is not pre-disposed to creating political stability in Fiji.

Also, let’s remember that return and transition to democracy is really not the issue here. That the elections have taken place using a single national constituency, open list proportional representation voting, one-person/one-vote is the democratic win, quite frankly.

What remains after these feverish 24 hours is the same basic issue that has always tormented Fiji politics: land. Fiji is relatively young as an independent state, in its fifth decade. It’s not new to multi-culturalism, but has a heritage created by the British in which ethnic strife was fundamental to divide-and-rule; and in addition it cannot isolate itself from larger international discourses, such as those of indigenous right on one hand and human rights and social justice and democracy on the other.

Fiji’s future is far from certain. Those who have called her home – whether the cherished iTaukei or descendants of settler communities or researchers like myself and other colleagues who have spent only a few years at most among the people of Fiji – wish only that Fiji and her people find peace.

My radio interview about Fiji elections and politics


It was a pleasure to be invited to speak on the radio about Fiji’s elections. This really is a momentous occasion and an empowering one for the people of Fiji.

A tumultuous political past has come full circle. Will the youth and first-time voters embrace the country’s ethno-political past or guide it towards a future for all?

We will soon know the answer to this, and to the question of whether the results of the unprecedented one-person, one-vote electoral system are upheld.

From approximately 16m15s to 25min I offer my insights, understanding and analysis of Fiji’s electoral and political landscape.

Fiji election 2014: “Whose nation is it, anyway?”

This month, the people of Fiji go to the polls for the first time in eight years. The conditions and context in which the Fiji Islanders will elect their government are unlike any in the country’s modern history: the military is at the helm of power, the voting is based on a principle of one-person one-vote, and the constitution stipulates “Fijian” as a shared national name for all citizens irrespective of ethnicity. There is no clear mandate for any of the political parties contesting the upcoming election. This in turn means that we cannot easily predict the outcome of the election – for which polling begins in some parts of the country on 3rd September – nor of the ensuing days, weeks, months and years.
Will the country descend into yet another crisis of coups and violence? Will democracy have its day? Will government continue to be synonymous with military rule? Will all the people presently designated as Fijian remain so after the votes are counted and policies are shaped? The implicit question underlying all of these is perhaps most appropriately summed up as: “Whose nation is it, anyway?” The answer remains as elusive now as in the past. This, I argue, is because political discourse in the beautiful yet conflicted South Pacific archipelago remains oriented towards the ethnic conflict paradigm.
Ethnicity has been a framing device of social, economic, historical and political discourse in Fiji since the settlement of Indo-Fijian labourers in the early 1900s. Brought in to develop the country’s economy through sugar-cane farming, while the British sought to maintain the cultural integrity and practices of the indigenous Fijians, the Indo-Fijians have long clamoured for equal status and combined with their Fijian colleagues in workers’ struggles against the state. It is the democratic and socialist underpinnings of the Indo-Fijian community that has led to their being identified as enemies of the Fijians, as aspirational colonisers.
What has ensued is a blanket acceptance that ethnic conflict between Fijians and their Indo-Fijian brethren is a fact of life in Fiji, despite growing visibility of intra-Fijian struggles for power. When election results have reflected the fracturing of the Fijian ethnic bloc – through the formation of Fiji Labour Party-led government coalitions – coups have sufficed to swing the pendulum of political power back to indigenous rule. As in 1987 and 2000, in 2006 the country faced the dilemma of yet another coup, but this latest event shifted the parameters of what coups do in Fiji.
In 2006, the military assumed political power that was already in indigenous hands. On a personal level, there was an element of RFMF Commander Bainimarama’s appetite for power, whetted during the 2000 crisis; and his refusal to countenance legislation that might free people involved in personally attacking him during the 2000 crisis. With respect to the ethnic principle underlying the previous two coups, 2006 displaced it rather than embracing it; and in terms of the ever-growing visibility of intra-Fijian power plays, it announced– albeit perhaps temporarily – the arrival of a new force in Fijian cultural-political terms: that of the military as opposed to the chiefs.
The 2006 coup initially brokered an image of itself as reorienting the country towards a future of multi-ethnic peace – a coup-less future. Constitutionally, every citizen of Fiji is now a Fijian; the voting system has discarded ethnic voting seats which is unprecedented in Fiji’s electoral history, which means there is now one constituency and one person, one vote. The Great Council of Chiefs, the base of Fijian power institutionalised during colonialism but no less dynamic in its internal dynamic power plays, was disbanded, and effort was made to shift indigenous Fijians’ conception of the vanua towards a horizontal democracy depending on individual consciousness.
But, withdrawing ethnicity as a frame of political discourse and reference of identity has backfired. After eight years of military-enshrined rule, of paradoxes and uncertainties, of fragile narratives and clear abuses, of decrees and dictatorship, of equality irrespective of ethnicity, of equal voting rights, Fiji’s present political discourse is closely wedded to the discourse of its past. So, as 17th September – the main election day – approaches, we are led to ponder what hope is there for real sustainable change in Fiji?
I was asked by one leading think tank to write on the power of the youth, on the basis that between 30-40% of Fiji’s electorate are first-time voters. My response: albeit that the global landscape is dominated by a clamour for democracy whose figurehead remains (wrong-headedly, in my view) the Arab Spring, people can only vote within the scope of the politics parlayed before them. Fiji is not a country whose people will risk getting fired upon by those who wield power from the barrel of a gun, and especially not when erstwhile leaders and agitators for such protest have been prominent by their absence these past eight years.
The youth of Fiji today is much like the youth of Fiji’s yesteryear. Each generation must choose how it wishes to navigate the tensions between culture and tradition on one hand, and democracy and equality on the other: for many, the navigation is that between dialectical realities, not between stark dichotomies. Within hierarchy, there exists competitive equality, a possibility for new hierarchies to be made and possibly re-made. Indeed, if there is one lesson to learn from Fiji, it is that things are always transforming, always in a process of becoming, without ever quite arriving.
Daniel Urai, a former Fiji Trades Union Congress leader, once told me that his dream was for every child in Fiji to go to sleep at night knowing he or she might one day lead their country. This may not be written into Fiji’s future, but for now, for this month, on 17th September, the youth of the country have the power to decide however temporarily whose nation it is, anyway.

Constitution-making in ‘divided’ societies (Part 1)

If we argue that “[c]onstitutionalism is the idea… that government can and should be legally limited in its powers, and that its authority or legitimacy depends on its observing these limitations”[1], a central contradiction arises in the tension between limiting government’s powers and making this practicable given that government creates the laws of a country. This carries within it the implication that for constitutionalism to be effective, for its scope and limitations to be meaningful, its tenets must become entrenched – obdurate, fixed, impermeable to change, and by logical extension written down in black and white.

But how do the fixed entity and principles of constitutionalism interact with dynamic societal change? Is the constitution superior to, and more fundamental than, the society to which it applies? Or ought we to refine constitutionalism to mean a living entity, developing in tandem with changing political values and principles? And, more crucially, what relevance does constitutionalism have for the inhabitants and citizens of a multiethnic country – like Fiji, say?

Let’s start by saying that “all states have constitutions and all states are constitutional states[2]. Meaning that all states, however and by whomsoever they are ruled, run on the basis of a set of norms. But what happens to these norms in the event of cultural diversity, when what is normative is no longer uncontested but becomes a value to be defined, to be struggled over by people demanding recognition of their diverse cultures within the state? Legal pluralism extrapolates the variety of ways in which contemporary constitutionalism engages with the demand for cultural recognition, and uncovers “hidden constitutions” and practices that accommodate cultural diversity even while the state’s constitutional model remains intact[3].  

To understand how cultural diversity was accommodated in Fiji before she began upon her path of independence we have to look to colonialism, and to the differential relationships that the British held and nurtured with indigenous Fijians and IndoFijians, and thence between them. Indigenous Fijians were entombed in a paternalism that sought to safeguard cultural practices and ways of life at the cost of participation in the modern economy, an aspect of which led to the enshrining of the Great Council of Chiefs, whose members helped apply the paternalistic creed and became a consolidated hub of indigenous Fijian cultural-political leadership.

IndoFijians, meanwhile, were left to haphazard patterns of post-indenture settlement governed by a colonial edict of segregation, and formed an ethnie linked to their land of origin in respect to cultural diacritica and the politics of equality that was spreading via the Indian independence movement, while seeking to simultaneously apply this political consciousness to their land of settlement – Fiji.

Neither ethnie has been involved in the struggle for cultural recognition merely for the sake of participating in the state with their cultural heads held high, nor have either of them sought to stake out a territory for their own cultural nation carved out of the state; the ‘hidden constitutions’ path has never been on either ethnie’s agenda. What both indigenous Fijians and IndoFijians struggle to achieve is authorship of the political foundations of the country they both call home.

How they differ is in their interpretation of what ought to anchor those foundations – the indigenes calling forth an ethnic nation in which are inscribed the fundamentals of the modern Fijian ethnie, notwithstanding academic attempts to persuade them that their ethnic identity is composed of colonially created neo-traditions; the post-indentured migrants pursuing a form of secular statehood in which secularity stands in opposition not merely to religion but to culture and ethnicity.

The conflict in Fiji, then, is not of an ethnic quality or type. While the indigenous Fijians are pivotally ethnic in their self-identification; the IndoFijians are not so much because theirs is a race-class identity much like that of the African-Americans. The conflict is one of political philosophy. And it’s natural therefore that the politics of Fiji should be so closely tied to constitutions[4], to a struggle for control of the foundations on which the state of Fiji is built.

The question of those foundations is of course the subject of much debate and discourse in Fiji today – social media providing the public space for articulation among Fiji’s citizens; civil society and non-governmental organisations engaging in research and forums to discuss the constitutional ‘crisis’; and those of us who will forever be outsiders (but who love Fiji) diving into the paradoxes of a liberalist paradigm that demands the triad of democracy, multiculturalism and indigeneity.

The military-installed government of Fiji has abrogated the 1997 Constitution, set up a constitution commission to construct a new one, thrown six months of assiduous work and the culturally-sensitive but forward-looking draft out on its ear, discarded frankly problematic plans for public participation in the form of a (public figure-led) constituent assembly, composed a starkly civic, unforgiving and forthright constitution draft in its turn, and following a month of briefings and submissions has now retired until 1 June –on which date, or later, it will announce a probably unchanged version of its document as Fiji’s new constitution.

We cannot be surprised that government’s draft constitution will remain unchanged, because its author – the Attorney-General – has clarified abundantly his position on constitution-making in ‘divided’ societies, via a Masters thesis on the question[5]. Following a handwritten inscription that expresses hope for a better and fairer Fiji – which makes me wonder whether the now Attorney-General knew of his future role and responsibilities back when we debated the issue during my time in Fiji (2002-4) – he states that all Fiji’s citizens be called Fijian, with ethnic emphasis resigned to illuminating specific ideas or interpreting events.[6]

The effect of the Attorney-General’s constitution is to likewise separate the state from ethnicity, without demanding the impossible feat of doing away with ethnicity as a prime anchor of self-identification and interpretation. It is a reform of the foundations of the state in the manner of Descartes – “thorough and systematic reform in accord with a central plan appears more reasonable than adjustment and accommodation to the assemblage of customs and laws that already exist”[7] – based on a central plan of making Fiji worthy of a place in the international matrix of states, as a player on the international scene, by presenting to the world a Fiji that stands in stark differentiation to the rest of the postcolonial, ethnic-conflict mired, world.

Then again, Descartes also implied, on one scholar’s reading, that it would be “unreasonable for an individual to plan to reform a state by changing it from the foundations up and overturning it in order to set it up again”[8].

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy “Constitutionalism” September 11, 2012 http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/constitutionalism/

[2] ibid

[3] James Tully. Strange multiplicity: constitutionalism in an age of diversity. Cambridge University Press. 1995:99

[4] Cottrell & Ghai “Constitutional engineering and impact: the case of Fiji” (pp159-192) in Arjomand (ed) Constitutionalism and political reconstruction. Brill. 2007

[5] Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. “Constitution-making in ‘divided’ societies”. Unpublished MA thesis. Sydney. 1997

[6] ibid:6

[7] Tully. 1995:101

[8] ibid:102

Between principle and process: debating constitution-making in Fiji

On Wednesday 24th April, Minority Rights Group International and the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum launched a report on the challenges and opportunities of diversity in Fiji (http://www.minorityrights.org/11850/reports/fiji-the-challenges-and-opportunities-of-diversity.html). I wish there were something new in this report to, well, report that we don’t already know regarding these issues, as well as the attitudes attached to them and the structures undergirding them.

In view of the report’s predictability, what emerged during Wednesday’s discussion at the London School of Economics was that it is the support act to a more fundamental ambition: that of calling the present military-installed and -led government of Fiji to task for abrogating due process… or at least the process it self-identified as part of the roadmap for Fiji’s return to democratic electoral politics.

So, while Minority Rights Group International and the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum purport to engage with the issues it regards as the beating heart of the Fiji Government’s (hereafter “FG”) draft constitution – moving beyond the ethnic paradigm in governance, representation and community relations (p2) – the real message conveyed at the event was that process must trump principle in the shaping of Fiji’s future.

In the report, MRG’s Head of Conflict Prevention, Chris Chapman, applauds the “revolutionary” intent of the Ghai draft constitution provisions relating to improving ethnic relations, tackling ethnically-biased policies and increasing government accountability (p2) – all of them, broadly speaking, emerging from the FG’s own non-negotiable principles (see p17), for which it ought to be credited, no?

Notwithstanding the numerous decrees and restrictions synonymous with miltary rule – and not for one monent defending these as conscionably correct – it remains the case that the FG draft constitution equals the Ghai version in calling for a shared citizenhip label, in enunciating government’s reponsibility to assist all who are in need of assistance, and in stating unequivocally that government is accountable to the people when it fails to deliver access to basic resources like education, a living wage and local infrastructure. These were part of the non-negotiables laid out by the FG in its brief to the Ghai-led Constitution Commission, and as such the FG is the progenitor of those aspects for which the Ghai draft is being lauded.

What is revolutionary about the Ghai draft isn’t the provisions singled out by Chapman, since these were part of its remit, but the language and symbolism in which these provisions were couched. I’ve referred in another post (Fiji rides the constitutional carousel… again [Part 1]) to the fantastic feat of cultural sensitivity that Ghai pulled off, and there’s a maturity and knack in being able to simultaneously enshrine ethnic diversity and retreat from the logic of ethnic identity politics as a practicable foundation for future national development – Chapman calls it an “impassioned, poetic plea” while I call it a wonderfully self-conscious act of kerekere.

The issue, though, is about much more than misplaced credit accruing from the fact that Ghai knows how to soften the blow of a constitution intended to be the foundation for a post-ethnic Fiji society while the FG clearly can’t be bothered with such niceties. No, the issue is about conforming to the de-legitimisation of military rule as a necessarily bad thing because – gasp! – the miltary overlords have diverted from the procedures and processes they themselves put in place. But as a rule, if you’re on the right side of the barrel of a gun, power and the power to decide what happens next is your prerogative.

And this, above all, is what CSOs – and the Commonwealth – seem to find most disagreeable about the FG, the waterfall of decrees and human rights abuses notwithstanding. Hence, the report’s recommendation that the FG reinstate the Ghai draft constitution and submit it to the participatory process entailed by a Constituent Assembly.

But will a participatory process light the path to an uncontested constitutional future given the strength of division evidenced in the Naidu-led survey research, between those who welcome equal citizenship and those who construe this and other provisions as anti-indigenous, forgetting for one moment those who may favour recognition of belonging to Fiji but fear the retribution that will likely be directed at them if this becomes law?

Participatory politics is predicated on the principle of being able to articulate indignation, as was the case of the Occupy movement (aldaily.com), not necesarily in articulating a shared and common Idea, which is what we putatively attribute as a function of the Constituent Assembly that never was. What does Fiji have to gain by raising the spectre of this body – whose composition was to have been decided by the FG anyway, and applicants to which form part of the elite layer of Fiji society involved in directing the country’s ethnopolitical landscape these past decades?

And suppose a Constituent Asembly were to find in favour of the Ghai draft constitution – where would this leave the indigenous Fijian and their ‘disquiet’? The MRG/CCF report recommendations are peculiarly silent on this issue, leaving one to suspect – as if you hadn’t already guessed it – that CSO critiques of the FG are embedded not in disagreement about fundamental principles of equality and government accountability but about the breakdown in process on the way to achieving these principles.

What is missing from the debate is whether multicultural democracy, itself far from perfectly practised in Western Europe, is an Idea too far for complex postcolonial societies like Fiji? In a way, Chapman answers this question when he says that constitution-making is like an act of conflict-resolution. Perhaps the guiding principle of constitutionalism is not to act as a paean to all discontent, but to negotiate a path through that discontent while symbolically reassuring the people that their articulations have been heard and have been considered, though not perhaps acted upon.

The promised post exploring the relevance of consitutionalism – and what that should look like – outside Europe will appear in a few weeks’ time. The next post will likely analyse the MRG/CCF report “Fiji: the challenges and opportunities of diversity”, which can be accessed from the Minority Rights Group International website http://www.minorityrights.org/11850/reports/fiji-the-challenges-and-opportunities-of-diversity.html.