Central Data Catalog

Citation Information

Type Journal Article - Am. U. Int'l L. Rev.
Title Defining Group Rights and Delineating Sovereignty: A Case from the Republic of Fiji
Volume 14
Issue 3
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 1999
Page numbers 735-759
URL http://digitalcommons.wcl.american.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1323&context=auilr
Tensions among Fiji's distinct ethnic communities' have shaped
political dynamics in Fiji since colonial times. In recent years, how-ever, conflicting currents in Fiji's bicultural and biracial society2
have presented particular problems for the nation's constitutional
governance, and have prompted a formal review of Fiji's Constitution
over the last three years.
Of fundamental importance in the recent review of Fiji's Constitution
are: (1) the recognized rights of the indigenous people to their
traditional lands; (2) the right of the indigenous people to selfdetermination
within this bicultural society; and (3) the resulting implications
for national sovereignty. In particular, this essay explains
the strong popular tendency to interpret the right to selfdetermination
in terms of the paramountcy of indigenous Fijians over
other ethnic groups in political life3 and how this link is partially justified
by appeal to the collective right of indigenous Fijians to ownership
of eighty-three percent of Fiji's land.4
The popular debate about indigenous Fijian self-determination
presents the problem as a competition among different ethnic groups
for sovereign rights in Fiji. A constitutional review, however, reveals
a more fundamental tension between the individual and collective
rights of indigenous Fijians themselves, with regard to both selfdetermination
and land ownership. As these rights are more clearly
defined through the constitutional review process, tensions become
salient, rights become more limited in scope, and the need for compromise
becomes apparent. Nevertheless, these apparent limitationsand compromises are perhaps necessary if the concept of group
fights is to be effective in shaping the governing structures of Fijian
society and if these same governing structures are to protect and enforce
such rights.

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