Today marks the 10th anniversary of the 19 May 2000 coup that deposed the Labour-led People’s Coalition Government of Mahendra Chaudhry resulting in the 56-day hostage crisis in Parliament.
Staged by failed businessman George Speight and the CRW soldiers, the coup reflects how vested interest groups driven by greed and race have wreaked havoc with the aspirations of the people of Fiji, and severely undermined national development.
In its one year in office, the People’s Coalition Government (PCG) provided competent and compassionate leadership initiating several social reforms, and guiding the economy and State finances to record levels of achievement.
Economic data for the year showed that the nation had surged forward in all spheres of social and economic activity:
exceptionally high economic growth at 9.6% of the GDP
exports reached $1.2b levels with earnings from sugar at a
high of $282m, garments $322m and tourism bringing in $559m
State finances were healthy with government revenue the
highest ever at $1.2b and expenditure down to $982m
inflation rate lowest ever at 0.2%
Fiji dollar was at its strongest
Through prudent management of State finances, government was able to provide a number of personal tax concessions and duty relief to the poor on staple food and essential household items without busting its Budget. Among other people-oriented reforms Third Party Premiums were slashed by almost half and Housing Authority Interest rates reduced to 6% from a high of 11%
In the 10 years after the 2000 coup, Fiji has not been able to emulate either the success or the good and caring governance provided by the PCG.
Instead, we have regressed to a point where today our nation stands at the threshold of financial, economic and social collapse following almost 10 years of bad leadership, mismanagement, corruption and national decline.
Three years after another coup (December 2006) that promised to set things right, our Foreign Reserves and State finances continue to be critical. infrastructure remains in a state of appalling decline due to lack of funds, economic activity is stagnant with key exports such as sugar and garments declining markedly and social hardship has accentuated with escalating prices and lack of job opportunities. Poverty levels have risen to a shocking 45% of the population.
Our rights and freedoms have been severely curtailed under the Public Emergency Regulations imposed a year ago and there is no political dialogue to set Fiji back on the path to democracy and constitutional rule. General elections have been put back another five years to 2014.
Such is the tragic state of our nation 10 years after the 2000 coup. It drives home the lesson that coups are not the answer to Fiji’s ills, perceived or real. A competent, dedicated and people-oriented government was removed from office in 2000 by vested interests that resorted to extreme levels of disinformation and racial hysteria to achieve its treasonous objectives, aided and abetted by certain hostile elements in the media.
The FLP strongly believes that the only way forward for Fiji is through a return to democracy and constitutional rule.
On this tragic 10th anniversary of the coup that removed it from office, the Labour Party calls on the interim government to abandon its stubborn stance, in the national interest, and commence political dialogue that is inclusive, time bound and without prejudice, so as to enable general elections to be held as soon as possible.