Ethical Foundations of Democracy and Human Rights (by: A.Warbrooke)

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Amartya Sen author of ‘Democracy as a Universal Value’ makes an interesting analyses between democratic governance and its natural acceptance as a universal value. From my point of view the notion of democracy as the ‘right’ governing system or as a universally relevant system is subject to debate. From a utilitarian perspective I can see how democracy is justifiable, however from a position of ‘situation ethics ‘, I will disagree.

In Sen’s example of “The Indian Experience” he clearly indicates that democracy continues to thrive despite religious and communal differences. Arguably, this was not the case for Fiji during its 1987 and 2000 coup, both of which had underlying issues of cultural and ethic indifference. In these examples democracy in Fiji failed to meet the challenge of a legitimate non-indigenous prime minister. From an ethical stance, what seemed to bring about the most happiness (democracy) in one country (India) didn’t work so well for another (Fiji).

Fiji is not the only example worth mentioning. Other Pacific Islands have also struggled with democracy. Tonga, Samoa, PNG and Cook Islands have their fair share of challenges to democratic governance. Peter Larmour author of “Custom and Democracy in the Pacific Islands” makes good sense in recognizing a significant correlation between political custom and democratic participation in the Pacific.

Certainly for me, custom is important and even helpful however I also consider it a barrier that hinders democratic progress in the Pacific. The political custom I particularly oppose is our pacific islanders common belief in genealogical rank. This idea that chiefs are the most suitable participants to stand for election is in itself democratically corrupt and unjust.

My argument is not with how this was practiced during the colonial period but rather how this stereotype is in some ways still prevalent today. For example most of our high-ranking government officials have a chiefly title of...
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