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Publisher Description

On 19 May 2000 the elected government of Fiji was overthrown. A group of armed men, the George Speight Team, (1) took the Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and members of parliament hostage, declaring a civilian takeover of government in the name of the indigenous people of Fiji. This ignited Fiji's biggest crisis as an independent nation-state since the 1987 military coups. Mahendra Chaudhry was the first Indo-Fijian Prime Minister of the multi-ethnic state. (2) George Speight and the members of his group belong to an urban middle class that expanded after the military coups in 1987 and formed close ties with the former government of Sitiveni Rabuka. (3) The 1999 electoral victory by the People's Coalition led by the Fiji Labour Party (FLP) signified a major loss of political and economic power for many in this new urban class. The George Speight Team did not act primarily out of ethnic but political and financial motives. Their aim was the preservation of privileges they had under the old regime (cf. Mishra 2001, Teaiwa 2000). While class and ethnicity are equally important in post-colonial power relations and politics, ethnicity is foregrounded in people's consciousness (cf. Leckie 2002a, 2002b, Norton 1984). But most people in Fiji do not apply the term ethnicity when referring to different groups residing in Fiji. Instead they talk about race. Local notions of race and racial difference inform daily life and interactions (see among others Kaplan 2004, Norton 1990, Premdas 1995). The state still emphasises categories of race: the Fiji Census uses race as a category; residents or citizens entering or leaving the country have to state their race on arrival and departure cards.

September 1
University of Sydney
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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