|dc.description.abstract||The common perception of Fiji, which is unique in the South Pacific, is that of an ethnically divided society with the indigenous and immigrant communities often at loggerheads. This perception was heightened by the military coups of 1987, which overthrew the democratically elected government of Dr. Timoci Bavadra because it was perceived as Indian-dominated. Again in 2000, the People's Coalition Government headed by an Indian, Mahendra Chaudhry, was ousted in a civilian coup.
Yet Fiji had been genuinely multiethnic for several decades (even centuries) before it became a colony in 1874. From then onwards, however, because of the policies of the colonial government, the society slowly became plural (in Furnivall's classic sense) as the different races were separated in almost every walk of life. Until the 1920s there were hardly any conflicts between Fijians and Indians. From the 1920s, however, the Fijians were taught to be wary of the Indians.
After independence in 1970, the Alliance government under Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara followed a policy of multiracialism with the stated aim of bringing the different ethnic groups together in a society where people achieved some degree of integration in terms of a common national identity, while retaining their own separate traditions. But, more than thirty years later, Fiji still remains an ethnically divided society with hardly any integration. My research explores the reason for this failure.
My thesis is that the failure arose from the kind of democratic system that the country adopted at independence. That is, the Westminster concept of government and opposition can be problematic in a multiethnic society if political parties are divided on ethnic lines rather than based on political ideologies. Ratu Mara was one Fiji leader who recognized this problem and had said that the confrontational Westminster system is not appropriate in a South Pacific island with a multiracial population.
While Stephanie Lawson, Peter Larmour, Futa Helu and others have made some important contribution to this debate, my thesis will focus on an argument put forward by Michael Goldsmith on the role of the opposition, making a distinction between two kinds of pposition, confrontational and thoughtful . This thesis contends that the Westminster system that Fiji adopted at independence failed to bring integration in part because the National Federation Party (NFP) degenerated over the years from a 'thoughtful' and effective opposition to a 'confrontational', ethnic opposition.||en_NZ