Stewart Firth

Stewart Firth is a Research Fellow at Department of Pacific Affairs, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University. He was Professor of Politics at the University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji, 1998–2004. He is chair of the Pacific Editorial Board for ANU Press, and he co-teaches an ANU undergraduate course on Pacific politics. His research focuses on the international relations of the Pacific Islands.

orcid https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8559-9347

Understanding Oceania »

Celebrating the University of the South Pacific and its collaboration with The Australian National University

This book is inspired by the University of the South Pacific, the leading institution of higher education in the Pacific Islands region. Founded in 1968, USP has expanded the intellectual horizons of generations of students from its 12 member countries—Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu—and been responsible for the formation of a regional elite of educated Pacific Islanders who can be found in key positions in government and commerce across the region. At the same time, this book celebrates the collaboration of USP with The Australian National University in research, doctoral training, teaching and joint activities. Twelve of our 19 contributors gained their doctorates at ANU, most of them before or after being students and/or teaching staff at USP, and the remaining five embody the cross-fertilisation in teaching, research and consultancy of the two institutions. The contributions to this collection, with a few exceptions, are republications of key articles on the Pacific Islands by scholars with extensive experience and knowledge of the region.

The 2006 Military Takeover in Fiji »

A Coup to End All Coups?

This book explores the factors behind – and the implications of – the 2006 coup. It brings together contributions from leading scholars, local personalities, civil society activists, union leaders, journalists, lawyers, soldiers and politicians – including deposed Prime Ministers Laisenia Qarase and Mahendra Chaudhry. The 2006 Military Takeover in Fiji: A Coup to End All Coups? is essential reading for those with an interest in the contemporary history of Fiji, politics in deeply divided societies, or in military intervention in civilian politics.

Politics and State Building in Solomon Islands »

Politics and State Building in Solomon Islands examines a crisis moment in recent Solomon Islands history. Contributors examine what happened when unrest engulfed the capital of the small Melanesian country in the aftermath of the 2006 national elections, and consider what these events show about the Solomon Islands political system, the influence of Asian interests in business and politics, and why the crisis is best understood in the context of the country’s volatile blend of traditional and modern politics. Until the disturbances of April 2006 and subsequent deterioration in bilateral relations between Australia and Solomon Islands under the Sogavare government, experts had hailed the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) as an unqualified success. Some saw it as a model for ‘cooperative intervention’ in ‘failing states’ worldwide. Following these developments success seems less certain and aspects of the RAMSI model appear flawed. Using the case of Solomon Islands, this book raises fundamental questions about the nature of ‘cooperative intervention’ as a vehicle for state building, asking whether it should be construed as a mainly technical endeavour or whether it is unavoidably a political undertaking with political consequences. Providing a critical but balanced analysis, Politics and State Building in Solomon Islands has important implications for the wider debate about international state-building interventions in ‘failed’ and ‘failing’ states.  

From Election to Coup in Fiji »

The 2006 campaign and its aftermath

In May 2006 Fiji held its tenth general election since independence in 1970. In a country with an unenviable history of electoral trauma, the mood was apprehensive if not tense – not least because of controversial public statements against the incumbent Qarase government being made by the commander of Fiji’s military forces. Despite a record number of parties and candidates, the winners were the two big parties – the heavily church-backed SDL, the party of choice of the majority of indigenous Fijians; and the Fiji Labour Party, the party preferred by most Indo-Fijians. Although the result was ethnically polarised, for the first time in Fijian history the successful candidates came together to share power in a constitutionally ordained multiparty cabinet, with Laisenia Qarase retaining the prime ministership. But the fragile collaboration was short-lived. On 5 December 2006, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama ordered a military takeover, declaring himself ‘President’, ousting the elected government and replacing it with an ‘interim’ government of his choice, and once again throwing Fiji into political turmoil. With contributions from ex-Vice President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, ousted Prime Minister Laesenia Qarase, leader of the Fiji Labour Party and now interim Minister for Finance Mahendra Chaudhry, and an impressive array of leading commentators on Fijian affairs, this book provides a comprehensive and penetrating analysis of the lead-up to, the outcome and the aftermath of Fiji’s historic 2006 election. Shedding light on the complex weave of traditional chiefly systems, race relations, economics, constitutionality, the military ethos and religion, From Election to Coup in Fiji is essential reading for anyone with an interest in Fiji, the South Pacific and the politics of divided societies.

Globalisation and Governance in the Pacific Islands »

State, Society and Governance in Melanesia

Edited by: Stewart Firth
The Pacific Islands are feeling the effects of globalisation. Free trade in sugar and garments is threatening two of Fiji’s key industries. At the same time other opportunities are emerging. Labour migration is growing in importance, and Pacific governments are calling for more access to Australia’s labour market. Fiji has joined Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Kiribati as a remittance economy, with thousands of its citizens working overseas. Meantime, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands grapple with an older kind of globalisation in which overseas companies exploit mineral and forest resources. The Pacific Islands confront unique problems of governance in this era of globalisation. The modern, democratic state often fits awkwardly with traditional ways of doing politics in that part of the world. Just as often, politicians in the Pacific exploit tradition or invent it to serve modern political purposes. The contributors to this volume examine Pacific globalisation and governance from a wide range of perspectives. They come from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Hawai’i, the Federated States of Micronesia, Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand and Jamaica as well as Australia.