Writer Mahendra Sukhdeo analyses Fiji coup culture in new book


Former Fiji academic, politician and trade unionist Mahendra Sukhdeo’s new book ‘Aryan Avatars — From Prehistoric Nomads to Settlers in the Pacific’, published by Zorba Publishing House (New Delhi), is scheduled for release in this month.

In the backdrop of an autobiographical canvas, the author probes the ethereal sphere of pre-historic darkness and the antecedents of the Aryan roots over the convoluted passage of three millennia, the significant impact on the Indian psyche of the Indus Valley Civilisation, hegemonic Hindu kingdoms, and Islamist/Mughal and Western colonialism.

While previewing the pockmarked sphere of Fiji’s divisive colonial cesspit, Sukhdeo ponders on the corrosive culpability of racism, the rise and fall of a displaced communal entity in the corridors of Fiji’s polity, and the painful dispersal of an enterprising ethnic group in the aftermath of Fiji’s first coups of 1987.

He writes with some passion on his involvement in the birth of Fiji Labour Party, disenchantment with the party’s pre-1987 electoral polemics and his absorption by the ruling Alliance Party. While sitting as the Acting Lord Mayor of the capital city in early 1987, he describes the unfolding drama of the first two coups in Suva and the evolving rubric of coup culture. In the background of these political distortions, he ventures to predict what future might hold for Fiji.

Also, in a prelude to the watershed elections of 17 September, 2014, the author analyses the evolving coup culture and the leadership crisis following the coups of 1987.

The altered dynamics of Fiji’s politics was disregarded soon after the first coup when mediation leading to the Deuba Accord was allowed to proceed without the involvement of the military.

Inability of both the Fijian and Indian leaders to interact with each other on the platform of national unity opened the doors for ethno nationalism to sprout and military coups to eventuate.

As Fiji transitions from a military dictatorship to a more democratic trajectory, from the pitfalls of race-based constitutions to the sanguinity of a ‘one man-one vote’ electoral system, and from a denominationally focussed society to a secular framework, the author predicts the shape of political construction that may emerge under dramatically altered socio-political conditions.

He writes, for the Indians, common roll electoral system and recognition as Fijians, have come too late when they are demographically a minority and have lost the political gains that they had achieved in the last race-based Constitution.

“The Indians will continue to command a sizeable minority and in the event of splinter Fijian parties vying for governance, they could act as power brokers. They also have the option of being in coalition with … Fijian parties and participate in forming the government in spite of its reduced numbers. However, it is more than certain that the Indians will be propping the Fijian parties rather than taking the centre stage,” says Sukhdeo.

Mahendra Sukhdeo was born in Nadi, Fiji, a third generation Fiji Indian whose grandparents migrated as contracted labourers from a remote village near the India-Nepal border in early 1900. In 1999, he migrated to New Zealand where he was the Manager of the Adult Education Centre and later as an Administrator for the Skycity Group in Auckland. He is married and has four children. He now lives in Australia.

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