Key Points:

New Zealand needs to appreciate and understand the reasons for Fiji's coup culture, and help to eradicate it.

Every man and his dog, and their leaders in New Zealand, Australia, the US, Britain, the EU and other corners of the Pacific and the world are crying out for elections in Fiji.

It appears that these gurus and proponents of democracy believe that democracy measured by elections is a solution to all problems in Fiji.

As Father Kelvin Barr, a learned commentator and elder in Fiji, recently said, the great flurry of activity in hastily pushing Fiji to supposedly democratic elections has become very interesting. The international community seems to think that the sooner Fiji holds elections and returns to democracy, all its problems will be over.

It is a great pity that we do not learn from history, because history is repeating itself in Fiji. After the coups of 1987 and 2000, similar pressures were exerted on Fiji to return to parliamentary democracy.

This happened, and the international community was overjoyed to welcome Fiji back into the democratic fold. But Fiji's basic problems were not solved by mere elections.

When the basic problems reappeared under a racist, nepotistic and corrupt Qarase regime that was dragging the country to economic and moral decay and bankruptcy, the international community which had urged Fiji towards elections was in deep slumber. The now-vocal neighbours New Zealand and Australia seemed unconcerned.

No fact-finding missions came from anywhere to check on a failing democracy. Helen Clark and other Pacific leaders did little to put pressure on a regime to act in the interests of all its citizens and deliver the social justice that a true democracy was supposed to deliver to all its people.

But how about the fundamental problems in Fiji that are the root cause of the so-called coup culture? Who will go to the bottom of that? Nobody seems to be interested in the multitudes of fundamental issues that Father Barr has identified.

Among them is the agenda of the nationalists who want Fiji for Fijians and Fiji as a Christian state. Another issue is the racially explosive mix of fundamentalist religion and extreme nationalism found in Assembly of Christian Churches in Fiji, which has a strong influence on the political and social process.

In addition, the inherent conflicts and tensions within Fijian, chiefly between families and confederacies, are a smouldering volcano, ready to erupt.

The culture of corruption, nepotism and cronyism have been deeply nurtured and rooted under the last regime. Fiji's economic policy makes the rich richer and poor poorer - plus the racially divisive electoral process has been splitting the people of Fiji.

There is also an urgent need for a well-conducted census, and leading from that the creation of fair and proper electoral boundaries. None of this was undertaken before the last election. And most fundamental of all is voter education about the nature and purpose of democracy.

Mere timetables for elections are not permanent solutions to Fiji's problems. What we need is serious consideration and strategies to address the fundamental problems with a view to eradicating the coup culture.

That is what the interim administration has been working towards. However, the international community has been so obsessed with elections and democracy that is blind to the fundamental ills that the clean-up process is supposed to address.

Setting up the Council for Building a Better Fiji for All is a positive step in this direction.

Qarase's opposition to such a charter is understandable. It would remove the fodder of deceit and racial divisiveness which has been putting Qarase's fundamentalist nationalist party in power under the guise of democracy.

The nationalist propaganda under such racist affirmative action ensures that votes can easily be bought at taxpayers' expense from impoverished, simple villagers. In the last election some $23 million of taxpayers' money was abused in this way.

It is essential for Australia and New Zealand to understand how democracy works in poor Third World countries. And how the leaders in such countries can exploit it for their personal and political gains while showing all the niceties of a democratic government. Qarase's deposed SDL Government was a master at this.

New Zealand needs to come off its high horse and establish communication with Fiji. It is in the interests of New Zealand and Australia to make Fiji into a vibrant and thriving democracy like them.

Big Brother New Zealand and Australia should stop kicking Fiji in the teeth and give it a helping hand.

The ball now is in New Zealand's court to show its political and regional maturity and neighbourly love in strengthening a fledgling democracy in Fiji.

* Thakur Ranjit Singh is an Auckland-based third generation Indo Fijian migrant community worker, a commentator on Fiji affairs and a human rights activist.