Debating Fiji’s Democratic Future

September 2002

Brij V. Lal

The Prime Minister (Qarase)  argues in favour of a racial system of voting because, he says, Fijians and Indo-Fijians overwhelmingly vote for their respective ethnic communities.

That is, indeed, true, but why has this been so?

There are other multi-ethnic states in developed as well as developing world where people are able to vote easily
across ethnic and other boundaries.

In Australia, one of the most multi-ethnic societies in the world, no one, including nationalist Fijians
who choose to live there, asks for separate racial representation. Why is it that in Fiji, Fijians and Indo-Fijians are apparently so deeply attached to their primordial roots? The answer is simple:

We have – always have had – a racially-based electoral system
which forces people to vote along racial lines.

This reinforces and rewards ethnic attachment. We erect a racial electoral system and
then blame people for voting along racial lines. At each step of the way, public memory in Fiji is racially archived. One is asked to state ones ‘race’ on the immigration card upon entering the country. One is required to declare ones racial identity when s/he takes out a driver’s license or opens a bank account. And then we blame people for thinking racially!

Thank you Joe for the following article. You can find the original article at


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