Over the next 30 years a lot happens from Australia and New Zealand bases to focus on Fiji. As usual, traders or settlers (British companies) try to do business in the new found South Pacific zone.
In New Zealand we know the traders begin entering the country (after Captain Cook allegedly found the country) in 1830s. They have no legal rights. There are no laws immigration or otherwise. The Native Maoris live their own free style tribal living and possess lands they settled settled on for ages. They have their own traditions, norms and culture that have their force and effects. A chief makes his own decisions and impose on his people. But nothing is written down as there is no educational system.
The settlers or traders, having landed illegally, purchase some land from some of the chiefs as later record suggest. There are no real estate documentation or Bill of Sale, terms and conditions, prize and the authority of parties entering in the deal. Remember the British are ahead of the game in terms of law and education as they sprawl, explore and intrude in others lands . You would expect that the traders being the agents of the British Government to be very well versed, but they do not use a legal tool for their shady deals.
Fights break out between settlers and the local Maoris. Assistance is sought from New South Wales, Australia-based British Governor. Christian missionaries arrive to preach Bible. In the process of translating the English Bible into Maori Language, an education process naturally begins that later paves the way for socialization and progress. Maoris being of lighter skin as compared to Australian Aborigines, give the White Colonial British better ground for social interaction.
What begins as illegal trading in New Zealand between private sellers (not being British officials) are deemed to be legal and soon governmental.
in 1941, British Government prevails and first New Zealand Constitution is written with Maoris given some rights of representation in the Parliament (some nominated and some elected).
This Maori experience certainly gives British a better sense and a blue print on how to impinge on Fiji’s independent domain and other smaller surrounding islands.
What’s the blue print for Fiji?
Same basic approach. This time, however, the settlers (not the British Officials) set foot on Fiji and allegedly builds a warehouse. Where? Why? By whose permission? Where did the building material come from? How expensive? No details are available.
But in elementary school that is what we are taught without any textbook. It is just hearsay. No pictures, drawings or artwork is available to give us any impression of this building and make an intelligent conclusion. But it is significant. The alleged warehouse is said to have been burned down by the local Fijians who I believe had full legal rights to tare down anything built by any illegal immigrant who had not right to be there.
In the absence of real evidence, it is safe to conclude that that illegal settlers cut down some trees from the Fijian land and built a makeshift shelter and called a warehouse ,which also seems to be after thought. But wait, did they hide some arms and ammunition in a primitive Fiji land?
There are unanswered questions?
Who are the people involved?
Their names and origin?
How is the fire lit and with what?
Do the Fijians know or have the match sticks to set fire?
Is any one arrested and questioned?
The next we know that a huge claim for damage of the warehouse is made and put to a Fijian Chief.
He is unable to compensate. The matter reaches the British Government.
A deal is made is said to have been made. There is no historical and documentary evidence as to what expired and how fast during those days the message traveled back and forth. Above all, what tight did the settlers have to concoct or conjure such a deal?
Fiji is eventually ceded to British Government on 10th October 1887.
Full scale colonization begins. First, the Christian Missionaries arrive to teach Bible. The Natives are hostile. They fight and kill some of them. And according to one account hostile grab a White missionary boil him with hose shoes and eat him. This gruesome and inhuman incident is mentioned with any remorse or disdain.
The missionaries play a significant role in paving a path for a regular establishment of British Fiji Government. Just like for the Maoris, the missionaries work hard and educating the locals in Bible for which they had learn the basic English. With a Fiji translation of the Bible, the locals got first hand knowledge of their own language in the written form. One things at rime, things changes. The naked natives now became clothes, empowered with new language skills. Churches are built. And Fijians now congregate and get to socialize and break down the tribal barriers.
On assuming power the British gives, what previously seems to have been a faint tribal demarcations and disjointed native Fijian society, a pronounced community. They build into it a hierarchy of Chiefs with supremacy of not only one chief over the over but a clear divine between the chiefs and non chiefs.
During the Colonial Rule from 1887 to 1970, the Chiefs dominated the native Fijians a system that was resisted and the commoners which remained suppressed for the most part both for fear of the Chief and the British rule. The commoners made no secrets about their denunciation in the private circles and communications.
Those not familiar with the Fijian culture and traditions it was hard to perceive and follow the differences and the bickering among the commoners.
The British gives the Chiefs an honored position and boosted image. They now start grooming certain chiefs for future Governmental position by posting them in key positions in the Fiji Armed Forces, sending them to lead the Fiji Army on overseas assignments and giving them further education abroad. This privilege is not extended to the Fijian commanders a clear disparity and discrimination of class.
The District and administrative powers are vested in the White British Officials in the new Fiji Government. The Chiefs are mere decorations and ceremonial posts with no executive powers. They are not elected but the chiefly status is inherited by next of kin in a given tribe.
Great Council of Chiefs, an artificial makeshift
The British Rulers created the Great Council of Chiefs to give the chiefs some kind of national recognition without political power which they knew would be too detrimental.
The Mara Government and the Great Council of Chief (GCC as it later came to be known).
in 1971, Fiji obtained its independence from Britain. The new Fiji Constitution simply transits the exiting Chief Minister held by Ratu Sir K K T Mara – paramount chief of Fiji, as the new Prime Minister.
Ratu K K T Mara uses the GCC as his power base and neglects the Commoners. He accommodates the GCC in annual conventions, spends a lavish amount of money for their travel, lodging and food for a week long convention that usually preceded annual Parliamentary sitting. Many believe and Commoners complain that GCC is where he mooted most of his politic ideas and GCC served as oxygen fro him.
Most serious critics look the GCC as a parallel Government wielding power from behind the scene. This parallel governance is seen as detrimental to democracy but not is able to suggest a change. Ratu Mara is benevolent autocrat feared by many many politicians.
But something happens in 1984 that would change not only Ratu Mara’s political career but the entire political history of country. Trade Unions in Fiji take great offense to Mara’s arrogant refusal to lift a wage freeze for the benefit of all. The Unions form a Labor Party breaking away traditional ties with both major leaders the National Federation and the Mara-led Alliance Party.
For the first time in more than 20 years political career, Mara feels the threat of to his power.
Labor Party wins General Elections in the coming years and Mara is defeated. Critics say this was a bitter pill for Mara. He is alleged to have prompted a military coup in 1987 in which he was removed from the Prime Minister’s position. However, coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka. just a staff Sgt in the Fiji Army appointed Mara as the President which is a paid but a ceremonial post anyway. All Decisions are made by the Military dictator. The GCC still has a secured place and as usual meets annually.
The 1987 coup rebounds. Country is returned to Civil Government with Rabuka as the new Prime Minister to the amazement of Ratu Mara.
The Coup culture in Fiji has not ended yet. There a couple of more coups as the Labor Party reemerges victorious. A Civilian leader George Speight with the help of a break away unite in the Fiji Army stages annotator coup and holds the entire Parliament hostage inside Government Buildings in Fiji’s capital Suva for 50 days. Fiji Army led by Frank Bainimarama breaks the coup, takes down Spieght and his cronies in customary and throws them behind bars.
End of GCC
The Bainimarama Government see no usefulness of GCC and House of Senate, He disbands both and Fiji a plain and democratic filed.
It would be hard for other leader and an Indian leader to do what present Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has done.