In 1987 two military coups in Fiji undermined institutions previously thought to be democratic in character. The coup leader, Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka, claimed that the coups were necessary in order to protect the rights of indigenous Fijians against the demands of the large Indian community. Combining the techniques of the historian, the anthropologist, and the political theorist, Stephanie Lawson discusses the contemporary political situation in Fiji from both a historical and a theoretical viewpoint, and tracing the sources of the current divisions in Fiji to the well-intentioned,but in the end misguided, ambitions of colonial administrators to protect the way of life of indigenous Fijians. Dr Lawson's analysis reveals many ironies. The very presence in Fiji of a large Indian community, now made a scapegoat by the coup leaders, is a result of the desire of colonial administrators to avoid forcing the indigenous population to become landless labourers, while at the same time securinga source of labour for a plantation-based agricultural system. She argues that post-colonial political institutions, themselves shaped by generations of colonial administrators, exacerbated and possibly created the very tensions between the indigenous population and Indians that they were designedto temper. Dr Lawson demonstrates why race was never really an issue in recent events but why Rabuka could plausibly claim that it was. She comes to the provocative but convincing conclusion that Fiji has never really been a democracy in the Western sense of the word.