The state Fiji’s in:
A chronology of economic / politically significant events since independence

October 10, 1970

Fiji becomes an independent nation within the British Commonwealth after 96 years as a colony.

April 12, 1987

Coalition led by Dr. Timoci Bavadra defeats Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara’s Alliance Party. Antipathy between descendants of Indian migrant sugar workers and indigenous Fijian islanders is a prominent feature.

April 14

Dr. Bavadra announces a cabinet comprising mainly Indian Fijians.

April 23

Protest marches are held petitioning the Governor-General for constitutional changes to ensure Fijian leadership.

April 26

Mr. Apisai Tora, formerly Communications Minister under Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, announces a civil disobedience campaign.

April 27

Alliance Party’s leading Indian member quits, believing Fijian party supporters are destroying the multi-racial character of the party.

May 4

Five buildings, including the Attorney General’s offices, are petrol-bombed in Lautoka.

May 6

Permission is denied for a rally of government opponents when Parliament reopens on May 8.

May 10

Fijians of all parties are invited to join a Fiji United Front to give outnumbered indigenous Fijians a united voice.

May 14

Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka and 10 armed men march into the House of Representatives, overthrowing the elected, Indian-dominated government of Prime Minister Bavadra.

September 22

Governor-General brings Bavadra and Mara together to form an interim bipartisan government.

September 25

Rabuka’s troops stage a second coup and he annuls the 1970 Constitution.

October 7

Rabuka declares Fiji a republic.

October 16

Fiji is thrown out of the Commonwealth.

July 25, 1990

President Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau decrees a new constitution establishing a bicameral legislature. Great Council of Chiefs appoints senators and president for a five-year term.

June 2, 1992

Rabuka is sworn in as Prime Minister.

February 28, 1994

Rabuka retains prime ministership in a snap election.

September 1996

A Constitutional Review Commission headed by former NZ Governor-General Sir Paul Reeves recommends Fiji adopt a non-racially biased constitution, calling for a return to cross-communal voting. Brij Lal is one member of a 3 person Commission that produces a report of over 800 pages, written on the basis of 694 recommendations. The Great Council of Chiefs wholly endorses the report.

September 30, 1997

Fiji is readmitted to the Commonwealth.

July 27, 1998

New constitution includes cross-communal voting and establishes the first human rights commission in the South Pacific.

December 1998

Rabuka announces that his ruling Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei Party has formed a coalition with the Indian dominated National Federation Party and the mixed-race United General Party.

May 18, 1999

Fiji’s defeated Prime Minister formally resigns, ending 12 years in office and making way for an Indian-dominated Government.

Former trade unionist Mahendra Chaudhry is sworn in as Fiji’s Indo-Fijian Prime Minister after the Labour Party wins the first general election under the 1997 constitution.

May 2000

The Taukei Movement, an underground political organisation instrumental in the 1987 coups, stages two anti-government rallies in two weeks.

May 19, 2000

George Speight, the son of a Fijian opposition MP, tries to overthrow the Government and is committed to revoking the 1997 constitution. The President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, declares a state of emergency in the hope of restoring law and order. Speight declares this ‘illegal’.

July 13, 2000

Hostages are finally released; no one has been killed.

  • Speight is jailed, and moved to an island off the coast of Suva. Treason charges (still pending) are laid.
  • Mahendra Chaudhry embarks on a world tour.
  • Laisenia Qarase is appointed as the head of an interim Government with no specific constitutional commitments.

August 8 and October 2000

End, respectively, of the derogation deal agreed in 1999 and the import credit scheme. [*]

September 14, 2000

Story in the New York Times gives details of George Speight’s ambitious plans for a Fijian mahogany industry worth approximately $100 million. The Chaudhry government had threatened these plans, favouring a British company rather than the Americans with whom Speight was associated, and was accused of “selling out landowner interests to curry favour with the British and protecting sugar cane farmers.” (Britain could help with important sugar subsidies, but they wanted Commonwealth Development, the British Company, to get the timber concession). Speight had meanwhile been trying to bring together landowners and had positioned himself as executive of a new land trust. There were major landowner protest marches against the Chaudhry government in late March and on 19 May, the day Speight captured the parliament.

November 15, 2000

High court Justice Anthony Gates upholds the 1997 Constitution, calling for the appointment of a multi-party Government by the ousted President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

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* Central to many concessionary trade agreements such as SPARTECA are the so-called ‘Rules of Origin’ criteria. These allow various items to be taken into account in estimating what constitutes ‘local content’. It is necessary to show that 50% of the cost price of goods is ‘local content’; where this 50% rule is relaxed it is called a ‘derogation’. New Zealand relented to pressure from Fiji and relaxed to 45%. Australia also granted a 6% derogation for one year in 1998. [Back]

Sources: The Sydney Morning Herald, The Fiji Times,