Fiji - Leadership



The coup of 2000 and the ensuing political crisis of the months following had a devastating effect on the Fiji economy. International trade bans halted sugar production, resort closings strangled tourism, and thousands lost their jobs. As a banker, Qarase understood better than most what was happening—and what needed to be done economically. But his priority, and the route he felt would most quickly lead to recovery, was to promote the political standing of native Fijians. His campaign capitalized on the fears and frustrations indigenous Fijians felt regarding the perceived political domination of the minority Indo-Fijian population. Most ethnic Fijians believed that Indo-Fijians held control of too much of Fiji's economy. Qarase outlined a plan of affirmative action for native Fijians to advance their economic development quickly. However, he was quick to insist that a new Constitution not disenfranchise persons of any ethnicity, specifically not Indo-Fijians, who made up 44% of the population.

Some analysts have argued that Qarase's installation in effect gave the hard-line nationalist coup plotters their chief demand—a return of political power to indigenous Fijians. On the other hand, with his economic expertise and soft-spoken manner, Qarase was likely the country's best hope for stability in an era when three armed coups had disrupted Fiji's government since 1987.

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