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The Fijian coups of 1987 resulted in the overthrow of the elected government of Fijian Prime Minister Timoci Bavadra, the deposition of Elizabeth II as Queen of Fiji, and in the declaration of a republic. The first coup, in which Bavadra was deposed, took place on 14 May 1987; a second coup on 28 September ended the monarchy, and was shortly followed by the proclamation of a republic on 7 October. Both military actions were led by Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka, then third in command of the Royal Fiji Military Forces. Depending on perspective, one may view the event either as two successive coups d'état separated by a four-month intermission, or as a single coup begun on 14 May and completed with the declaration of the republic.
Timoci Uluivuda Bavadra was a Fijian medical doctor who founded the Fiji Labour Party and served as the Prime Minister of Fiji for one month in 1987.
Elizabeth II is Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms.
The monarchy of Fiji arose in the mid-nineteenth century when native ruler Seru Epenisa Cakobau consolidated control of the Fijian Islands and declared himself King or paramount chief of Fiji. In 1874, he voluntarily ceded sovereignty of the islands to Britain, which made Fiji a Crown colony within the British Empire. After nearly a century of British rule, Fiji became a Dominion, an independent sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations with Elizabeth II as head of state. After a second military coup in 1987, Fiji became a republic, and the monarchy was ended. Nevertheless, the Great Council of Chiefs recognised Elizabeth II as Tui Viti or the traditional Queen of Fiji, but the position is not one of a constitutional, or otherwise legal nature. The Great Council of Chiefs was disestablished in 2012 by decree. Elizabeth II does not use the title, and the Fijian government does not recognise it.
Both before and after Fiji gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1970, tensions between the indigenous Fijian and Indo-Fijian ethnic groups (comprising an estimated 46% and 49% of the 1987 population, respectively) continually manifested themselves in social and political unrest.The Fijian general election of April 1987 resulted in the replacement of the indigenous-led conservative government of Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara with a multi-ethnic Labour-led coalition supported mostly by the Indo-Fijian plurality and Rabuka claimed ethnic Fijian concerns of racial discrimination as his excuse for seizing power. Many authorities doubt the veracity of this, however, given existing constitutional guarantees.
Fijians are a nation and ethnic group native to Fiji, who speak Fijian and share a common history and culture.
Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, CF, GCMG, KBE is considered the founding father of the modern nation of Fiji. He was Chief Minister from 1967 to 1970, when Fiji gained its independence from the United Kingdom, and, apart from one brief interruption in 1987, the first Prime Minister from 1970 to 1992. He subsequently served as president from 1993 to 2000.
The Fiji Labour Party (FLP) is a political party in Fiji. Most of its support is from the Indo-Fijian community, although it is officially multiracial and its first leader was an indigenous Fijian, Dr. Timoci Bavadra. The party has been elected to power twice, with Timoci Bavadra and Mahendra Chaudhry becoming prime minister in 1987 and 1999 respectively. On both occasions, the resulting government was rapidly overthrown by a coup.
On the morning of 14 May, around 10 am, a section of ten masked, armed soldiers entered the Fijian House of Representatives and subdued the national legislature, which had gathered there for its morning session. Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka, dressed in civilian clothes, approached Prime Minister Timoci Bavadra from his position in the public gallery and ordered the members of parliament to leave the building. They did so without resisting. The coup was an apparent success, and had been accomplished without loss of life.
The House of Representatives was the lower chamber of Fiji's Parliament from 1970 to 2006. It was the more powerful of the two chambers; it alone had the power to initiate legislation. The House of Representatives also had much greater jurisdiction over financial bills; the Senate could not amend them, although it might veto them. Except in the case of amendments to the Constitution, over which a veto of the Senate was absolute, the House of Representatives might override a Senatorial veto by passing the same bill a second time, in the parliamentary session immediately following the one in which it was rejected by the Senate, after a minimum period of six months.
Sitiveni Ligamamada Rabuka, OBE, MSD, OStJ, is best known as the instigator of two military coups that shook Fiji in 1987. He was later democratically elected as Prime Minister of Fiji, serving from 1992 to 1999. He went on to serve as Chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, and later served as Chairman of the Cakaudrove Provincial Council from 2001 to 2008. He was elected to this position on 24 May 2001 and re-elected for another three-year term on 13 April 2005. On 24 June 2016, Rabuka was elected as leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party, succeeding Leader of the Opposition Ro Teimumu Kepa, who publicly disapproved of Rabuka's nomination to replace her. On 26 November 2018, Rabuka was appointed as the leader of the Opposition to Parliament, following the 2018 election defeat. Rabuka was the only nomination for the position and his nomination was moved by Ro Teimumu Kepa and seconded by Biman Prasad.
At around 11 am, Radio Fiji announced the news of the military takeover. Rabuka was reported to have gone to Government House to see the Governor-General. He was seeking recognition of the military action and the overthrow of the Bavadra government. A caretaker government was to be named shortly, and the public was urged to "remain calm and continue with their daily work." At the meeting, the Governor-General (who was Rabuka's paramount chief) gave a mild rebuke to Rabuka. He asked him "What have you done?" and "You mean I have no job?" He added that Rabuka should have given the deposed government more time. The meeting ended with the Governor-General stating "Good luck, I hope you know what you are doing."
Following the coup, the Governor-General commissioned a Constitution Review Committee, led by Sir John Falvey to look at the "deficiencies" of Fiji's 1970 constitution. The review of the constitution was stacked with individuals who supported the coup.[ citation needed ]
Sir John Neil Falvey, K.B.E., Q.C. was a New Zealand-born lawyer, who served as Attorney General of Fiji from 1970 to 1977. Previously, he had served as legal adviser to the Fijian Affairs Board.
The commission was to begin hearings on 6 July, and deliver its recommendations to the Governor General by 31 July. Its terms of reference were to "strengthen the representation of indigenous Fijians, and in so doing bear in mind the best interests of other peoples in Fiji."The Commission received 860 written and 120 oral submissions, and produced a report recommending a new unicameral legislature comprising 36 Fijians (28 elected and 8 appointed by the Great Council of Chiefs), 22 Indo-Fijians, 8 General electors, 1 Rotuman, and up to four nominees of the Prime Minister. National constituencies, ethnically allocated and elected by universal suffrage, were to be abolished, and all voting was to be communal. The Prime Minister's post was to be reserved for an indigenous Fijian.
The Great Council of Chiefs(Bose Levu Vakaturaga in Fijian, ग्रेट काउंसिल ऑफ चीफ्स in Fiji Hindi) was a constitutional body in the Republic of the Fiji Islands from 1876 to March 2012. In April 2007 the council was suspended, due to an unworkable relationship with Frank Bainimarama, leader of an "interim government" which came to power through military coup in December 2006. It was formally disestablished by decree in March 2012.
"General Electors" is the term formerly used in Fiji to identify citizens of voting age who belonged, in most cases, to ethnic minorities. The 1997 Constitution defined General Electors as all Fiji citizens who were not registered as being of Fijian, Indian, or Rotuman descent. Also included were citizens who did qualify to be registered in the above categories, but who chose not to be. Persons of biracial or multiracial ancestry could opt to enroll either as General Electors, or as descendants of any of the other three groups to which they had an ancestral claim. General Electors were thus a diverse electorate, whose members included Europeans, Chinese, Banaban Islanders, and many smaller groups. They were allocated 3 seats in the House of Representatives, the lower and more influential house of the Fijian Parliament.
The Rotumans are the indigenous inhabitants of Rotuma, a small island group forming part of the Republic of Fiji. The island itself is a cultural melting pot at the crossroads of the Micronesian, Melanesian and Polynesian divisions of the Pacific Ocean, and due to the seafaring nature of traditional Pacific cultures, the indigenous Rotuman have adopted or share many aspects of its multifaceted culture with its Melanesian, Micronesian and Polynesian neighbours.
The Governor-General dissolved parliament and granted amnesty to Rabuka, while promoting him to the position of commander of the Royal Fiji Military Forces. The actions of the Governor-General were viewed with suspicion by the deposed government and Bavadra challenged Ratu Sir Penaia's decision in the Supreme Court of Fiji.
From independence in 1970, Fiji's head of state was the Queen of Fiji, Elizabeth II. The Fijian Supreme Court ruled the coup unconstitutional, and the Governor-General attempted to assert executive power. He opened negotiations known as the Deuba Talks with both the deposed government and the Alliance Party, which most indigenous Fijians supported. These negotiations culminated in the Deuba Accord of 23 September 1987, which provided for a government of national unity, in which both parties would be represented under the leadership of the Governor-General. Fearing that the gains of the first coup were about to be lost, Rabuka staged a second coup on 25 September.Rabuka then declared Fiji a republic on 7 October 1987, abrogating the Constitution of Fiji and stating that he had removed the Governor-General from office, and declaring himself Head of the Interim Military Government. Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau resigned as Governor-General on 15 October, although he was made the first President of Fiji on 6 December 1987.
Australia and New Zealand, the two nations with foremost political influence in the region, were somewhat disquieted by the event, but ultimately took no action to intervene. They did, however, establish a policy of non-recognition regarding the new government, suspending foreign aid in concert with the United States and the United Kingdom.
The Australian labour movement, taking the ousting of a Labor Party-led government as an affront to the worldwide labour movement, instituted an embargo against shipments to Fiji. As Australia was Fiji's largest foreign trading partner, this resulted in a large diminution in Fiji's international trade.
The United Nations immediately denounced the coup, demanding that the former government be restored. On 7 October the new regime declared Fiji a republic, revoking the 1970 constitution; the Commonwealth responded with Fiji's immediate expulsion from the association.
A new constitution was ratified in 1990, in which the offices of President and Prime Minister, along with two-thirds of the Senate, a substantial majority of the House of Representatives were reserved for indigenous Fijians. These discriminatory provisions were eventually overturned by a constitutional revision in 1997.
The coups triggered much emigration by Indo-Fijians (particularly skilled workers),making them a minority by 1994. Today, however, though Fiji struggles economically, the country has been able to slowly recover from this loss of necessary skills.
The President of the Republic of Fiji is the Head of State of Fiji. The President is appointed by the Parliament of Fiji for a three-year term under the terms of the 2013 Constitution of Fiji. Although not entirely a figurehead, the President's role in government is mostly ceremonial, but there are important reserve powers that may be exercised in the event of a crisis. In addition, the President is Commander-in-Chief of the Military Forces.
Jai Ram Reddy, CF is an Indo-Fijian politician, who has had a distinguished career in both the legislative and judicial branches of the Fijian government. In 1998, he received Fiji's highest honour, the Companion of the Order of Fiji, in recognition of his services to his country.
Ratu Sir Penaia Kanatabatu Ganilau was the first President of Fiji, serving from 8 December 1987 until his death in 1993. He had previously served as Governor-General of Fiji, representing Elizabeth II, Queen of Fiji, from 12 February 1983 to 15 October 1987.
Tupeni Lebaivalu Baba is a Fijian academic and politician, who founded the now-defunct New Labour Unity Party. Most members of this party later merged with several other centrist parties to form the Fiji Democratic Party. A former Professor of Education at the University of the South Pacific (USP), he later served as a senior research fellow at the Centre for Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, from 2001 to the end of 2005. In the general election scheduled for 6–13 May 2006, Baba attempted a political comeback, this time on the ticket of the ruling Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL), a political switch that generated a considerable degree of public discussion. Although his bid was unsuccessful, he was subsequently appointed to the Senate as one of nine nominees of the Fijian government.
General elections were held in Fiji between 4 and 11 April 1987. It was historic in that it marked the first electoral transition of power in Fijian history. The Alliance Party (Fiji) of the longtime Prime Minister, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, was defeated by a multiracial coalition, consisting of the Fiji Labour Party, the Indo-Fijian-dominated National Federation Party, and two smaller parties, the Western United Front and the Fiji Nationalist Party. In the House of Representatives, the coalition won a total of 28 seats to the Alliance's 24, and Dr Timoci Bavadra, the leader of the coalition, became Prime Minister.
General elections were held in Fiji between 8 and 15 May 1999. They were the first election held under the revised Constitution of 1997, which instituted a new electoral system and resulted in Mahendra Chaudhry taking office as Fiji's first Indo-Fijian Prime Minister.
The Fijian Association Party (FAP) is a former political party in Fiji. It played a significant role in Fijian politics throughout the 1990s, but lost all of its seats in the House of Representatives in the parliamentary election of 2001.
The Fiji coup of 2000 was a complicated affair involving a civilian coup d'état by hardline i-Taukei nationalists against the elected government of a Fijian of Indian Descent Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, on 19 May 2000, the attempt by President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara to assert executive authority on 27 May, and his own resignation, possibly forced, on 29 May. An interim government headed by Commodore Frank Bainimarama was set up, and handed power over to an interim administration headed by Ratu Josefa Iloilo, as President, on 13 July.
Since attaining independence from the United Kingdom on 10 October 1970, Fijian history has been marked by exponential economic growth up to 1987, followed by relative stagnation, caused to a large extent by political instability following two military coups in 1987 and a civilian putsch in 2000. This was followed by another military coup in 2006. Rivalry between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians, rather than ideological differences, have been the most visible cleavage of Fijian politics.
The Dominion of Fiji was the official name of Fiji between October 1970 and 6 October 1987. When British rule ended in 1970, the Fijian Islands were given independence as a Dominion, in which the British monarch, Elizabeth II, remained head of state as Queen of Fiji, represented by the Governor-General. The Republic of Fiji, removing Elizabeth II as head of state, was proclaimed on 6 October 1987 after two military coups.
Queen Victoria School (QVS) is a school in Fiji. It was established in 1906 in Nasinu to provide education to the sons of Fijian Chiefs. It later moved to Nanukuloa in Ra when World War II broke out; then the school was moved to Lodoni where the two schools QVS and RKS operated side by side before eventually moving to its current site at Matavatucou, Tailevu. It then accepted students from Fijian villages based on their results in a secondary entrance examination.