The situation in Fiji is one where local knowledge of the nuances and impacts is essential. This piece I wrote in January on mutterings of a possible coup is a reminder of just how long the issue has been bubbling away. For the last month or so, it’s felt a bit like watching a slow motion movie, moving inexorably towards what seems like an inevitable outcome, but always suspecting there are other things going on that we’re not fully aware of.
Locally based media coverage is probably the best way to keep across events and commentary as things continue to develop. Things are complicated by the fact that the Fijian President is seriously ill with Parkinson’s disease. Here are a couple of local sites which will no doubt be updated with regular developments.
There are also some pieces on Webdairy by frequently Fiji based journo Dr Mark Hayes which give some more detailed insights into local perspectives. This piece on Open Democracy looks at Fiij, Tonga and the Solomons and examines how helpful foreign intervention is in the long-term.
Fiji’s situation is a reminder (to me at least) that democracy took hundreds of years to evolve in Europe, with some often violent interludes along the way. In countries with different traditions and which are less wealthy, democracy is not always going to be smooth. I’m not an expert on the Pacific Island nations and don’t profess to have all the answers about how best to assist them, although I think we could start by having more meaningful engagement and doing some more listening and learning.
One aspect of Labor’s shadow ministry which I thought was a good idea was to have a portfolio specifically for the Pacific Islands, even though it’s possible it was originally created as a bit of an afterthought. The shadow Minister for this portfolio, Bob Sercombe, lost his preselection and won’t stay on Labor’s front bench after this week’s reshuffle. However, I hope they maintain the portfolio, as I think we could really benefit from more focussed attention being given to these countries in our region.