Tradition versus Democracy in the South Pacific: Fiji, Tonga by Stephanie Lawson

By Stephanie Lawson

This learn analyzes the ways that political elites use the assumption of "tradition" to legitimize convinced practices and associations. inside of this framework, case experiences specialize in constitutional improvement and the mainly energy in Fiji, the monarchy and the Pro-Democracy circulation in Tonga, and the political concerns surrounding the flow to common suffrage in Western Samoa. The ebook presents a serious method of the political implications of romanticizing non-Western cultural traditions, specially when it comes to democratic improvement.

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Following the death of Ganilau, Mara was appointed president. The leader of the coup, and the present prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, is a commoner but nonetheless a member of a high-ranking eastern descent group3 of which Ganilau was paramount chief. Not only have these easterners (and many others serving in less conspicuous posts) dominated political institutions, but the structures and values surrounding chiefly power and privilege in the east have been promoted as the model of tradition for the whole of Fiji, despite the diversity of pre-colonial structures throughout the islands.

An appeal to tradition against impinging authority, of course, is effective only if those in authority are prepared to recognize the validity of other ways of life. It was a highly effective device in British colonies which were administered by officials who came from a country with a long tradition of common law, a respect for inherited position, and dominated by a Burkean belief in gradualism. It had less force in the French colonies. It had almost none in the United States with its policy of cultural assimilation where effective power was in the hands of the upholders of a particular tradition to which others were expected to conform.

Tonga was never formally colonized, but European domination of the Pacific region generally has been instrumental in the adoption of some anti-Western attitudes. One of the ironies of Western colonialism, of course, is that although colonial powers often left a democratic legacy in the form of constitutional government under a written constitution at independence, colonial rule itself was far from democratic. Crown colony governments, although relatively benign in places like Fiji, were nonetheless authoritarian.

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