The 1987 military coups
Thousands fled Fiji after two coups in 1987. These coups, in which the military overthrew the government, caused profound economic, personal and political insecurity, particularly for Indo-Fijians, and prompted massive emigration to Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. The initial exodus was sudden, and migrants were forced to leave behind family, friends, homes, possessions and jobs. During subsequent military rule in Fiji, many more emigrated as institutional discrimination against Indo-Fijians intensified. Emigration also increased in the late 1990s as land leases came up for renewal and Indian farmers faced the likelihood of becoming landless. Indigenous Fijians also experienced severe economic insecurity and widespread redundancies, which led to some emigration to New Zealand.
The pro-democracy movement
After the 1987 coups some politicians and activists fled to New Zealand. They formed local branches of the Coalition for Democracy in Fiji (CDF). The CDF lobbied for the restoration of the deposed government and democracy in Fiji, and also publicised human rights abuses there. The Operation Sunrise network fundraised for the pro-democracy movement in Fiji. The CDF condemned Fiji’s 1990 state constitution and vigorously campaigned for a constitution that was more inclusive and democratic.
The 2000 civilian coup
Fiji’s democratic future appeared positive after the adoption of a new constitution in 1997. But in 2000 a civilian coup took members of the government hostage for 56 days. This unleashed months of violence targeted at Indo-Fijians, but as the crisis intensified indigenous Fijians also became casualties of violence and economic collapse. An attempted mutiny in the military confirmed Fiji’s instability. The violence of 2000 prompted thousands of Indo-Fijians who had remained in Fiji or returned after 1987 to leave permanently. It also caused other ethnic groups to emigrate. The political situation has continued to be unstable, and there was another coup in December 2006. Between 1996 and 2013, the number of Fijian-born residents in New Zealand increased by 34,000.
The Blue Ribbon campaign
In 2000 the CDF was reactivated to condemn the violent overthrow of the People’s Coalition government. When pro-democracy supporters in Fiji launched the Blue Ribbon campaign, their counterparts in New Zealand also wore blue ribbons, as a symbol for the release of the hostages in Fiji. Subsequently the Fiji Movement for Justice and Freedom’s branches in New Zealand have raised funds and urged international compensation for displaced cane farmers in Fiji.