Fijian Rebels Attempt Coup (Great Events: 1900-2001)
Article abstract: On Friday, May 19, 2000, a group of armed gunmen stormed Fiji’s parliament, seized the prime minister and several cabinet ministers, and declared a coup. The coup failed, but it demonstrated the seriousness of ethnic divisiveness in Fiji’s national politics.
On May 19, 2000, gunmen armed with M-16 rifles entered Fiji’s parliament building and took thirty-one hostages, including Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and seven other ministers, parliamentarians, and staff. Chaudhry was Fiji’s first ethnic Indian prime minister. The attempted coup took place on the first anniversary of the election of his government. There were no casualties; the rebels fired only warning shots as they entered the building. There were seven rebels, six members of an army special forces unit and George Speight, a failed businessperson and the coup leader. Speight claimed that he and his gunmen were standing up for the economic and political interests of indigenous Fijians because Chaudhry’s policies favored Fiji’s immigrant Indian population. He demanded Chaudhry’s resignation and an end to Indian participation in Fijian politics.
The May 19 coup shows how ethnic differences between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians divide politics in this island country. Indigenous Fijians, who are mainly Christians, are a mixture of Melanesian and Polynesian peoples,...
(The entire section is 1009 words.)
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