03 September, 2014

Third World – Small World

Alternate, pretty picture - Fiji

When I think of photography in the Third World, I think of Steve McCurry, ceremonies, colourful portraits, street vendors.

So, not long ago, when I was in Fiji, I had hopes of such opportunities. Alas, the cities where I visited didn't seem to have fully recovered from Cyclone Evan in late 2012. The resorts, of course, are fine, and we didn't have a chance to get out into the villages.

As I already knew, the Third World is not always vibrant and colourful, but can be quite sad. Sometimes it just doesn't seem right to whip out a camera and start snapping away. I was in Fiji in the early '80s, and my recollections are different to what I found this time.

For some time, Fiji has been under the control of the military. This was presaged by a coup in 2000, when George Speight and a small force kidnapped the Prime Minister and 35 parliamentarians.

I worked with George in 1990 when he lived in Brisbane. (My wife, Susan, and I were introduced to kava at a birthday party at his house.) It was a shock, then, to see him on the news taking over the government of Fiji. I remember watching the news and Susan asking, "Isn't that George?" Small world.

George was sentenced to death for overthrowing the constitutional government, but the death penalty was abolished. The current "leader" had a much more effective solution to constitutional quibbles. When the Supreme Court ruled his military takeover unconstitutional, he had the President abrogate the constitution. Easy.

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