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Fiji ( ; ), officially the Republic of the Fiji Islands ( ; ), is an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean east of Vanuatumarker, west of Tongamarker and south of Tuvalumarker. The country comprises an archipelago of about 322 islands, of which 106 are permanently inhabited, and 522 islets. The two major islands, Viti Levumarker and Vanua Levumarker, account for 87% of the population.

Etymology

Fiji's main island is known as Viti Levu and it is from this that the name "Fiji" is derived, though the common English pronunciation is based on that of their island neighbors in Tonga. Its emergence was best described as follows:

Fijians first impressed themselves on European consciousness through the writings of the members of the expeditions of Cook who met them in Tonga. They were described as formidable warriors and ferocious cannibals, builders of the finest vessels in the Pacific, but not great sailors. They inspired awe amongst the Tongans, and all their Manufactures, especially bark cloth and clubs, were highly esteemed and much in demand. They called their home Viti, but the Tongans called it Fisi, and it was by this foreign pronunciation, Fiji, first promulgated by Captain James Cook, that these islands are now known.



History

Pottery excavated from Fijian towns shows that Fiji was settled before or around 3500–1000 BC, although the question of Pacific migration still lingers. It is believed that the Lapita people or the ancestors of the Polynesians settled the islands first but not much is known of what became of them after the Melanesians arrived; they may have had some influence on the new culture, and archaeological evidence shows that they would have then moved on to Tongamarker, Samoamarker and Hawai'imarker.

The first settlements in Fiji were started by voyaging traders and settlers from the west about 3500 years ago. Lapita pottery shards have been found at numerous excavations around the country. Aspects of Fijian culture are similar to Melanesian culture to the western Pacific but have stronger connection to the older Polynesian cultures such as those of Samoa and Tonga. Trade between these three nations long before European contact is quite obvious with Canoes made from native Fijian trees found in Tonga and Tongan words being part of the language of the Lau group of islands. Pots made in Fiji have been found in Samoa and even the Marquesas Islandsmarker. Across 1000 kilometres from east to west, Fiji has been a nation of many languages. Fiji's history was one of settlement but also of mobility. Over the centuries, a unique Fijian culture developed. Constant warfare and cannibalism between warring tribes was quite rampant and very much part of everyday life. During the 19th century, Ratu Udre Udre is said to have consumed 872 people and to have made a pile of stones to record his achievement. Fijians today regard those times as "na gauna ni tevoro" (time of the devil). The ferocity of the cannibal lifestyle deterred European sailors from going near Fijian waters, giving Fiji the name Cannibal Isles, in turn Fiji was unknown to the rest of the outside world.

The Dutchmarker explorer Abel Tasman visited Fiji in 1643 while looking for the Great Southern Continent. Europeans settled on the islands permanently beginning in the nineteenth century. The first European settlers to Fiji were Beachcombers, missionaries, whalers and those engaged in the then booming sandalwood and bêche-de-mer trade.

Ratu Seru Epenisa Cakobau was a Fijian chief and warlord from the island of Bau, off the eastern coast of Viti Levu, who united part of Fiji's warring tribes under his leadership. He then styled himself as King of Fiji or Tui Viti and then to Vunivalu or Protector after the Cession of Fiji to Great Britainmarker. The British subjugated the islands as a colony in 1874, and the British brought over Indian contract labourers to work on the sugar plantations as the then Governor and also the first governor of Fiji, Arthur Charles Hamilton-Gordon, adopted a policy disallowing the use of native labour and no interference in their culture and way of life. In 1875-76, measles epidemic killed over 40,000 Fijians, about one-third of the Fijian population. The population in 1942 was approximately 210,000 of whom 94,000 were Indians, 102,000 native Fijians, 2,000 Chinese and 5,000 Europeans.

The British granted Fiji independence in 1970. Democratic rule was interrupted by two military coups in 1987 because the government was perceived as dominated by the Indo-Fijian (Indian) community. The second 1987 coup saw the British monarchy and the Governor General replaced by a non-executive President, and the country changed the long form of its name from Dominion of Fiji to Republic of Fiji (and to Republic of the Fiji Islands in 1997). The coups and accompanying civil unrest contributed to heavy Indian emigration; the population loss resulted in economic difficulties but ensured that Melanesians became the majority.

In 1990, the new Constitution institutionalised the ethnic Fijian domination of the political system. The Group Against Racial Discrimination (GARD) was formed to oppose the unilaterally imposed constitution and to restore the 1970 constitution. Sitiveni Rabuka, the Lieutenant Colonel who carried out the 1987 coup became Prime Minister in 1992, following elections held under the new constitution. Three years later, Rabuka established the Constitutional Review Commission, which in 1997 led to a new Constitution, which was supported by most leaders of the indigenous Fijian and Indo-Fijian communities. Fiji is re-admitted to the Commonwealth of Nations.

The new millennium brought along another coup, instigated by George Speight, that effectively toppled the government of Mahendra Chaudhry, who became Prime Minister following the 1997 constitution. Commodore Frank Bainimarama assumed executive power after the resignation, possibly forced, of President Mara. Fiji was rocked by two mutinies at Suva's Queen Elizabeth Barracks, later in 2000 when rebel soldiers went on the rampage. The High Court ordered the reinstatement of the constitution, and in September 2001, a general election was held to restore democracy, which was won by interim Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase's Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua party.

In 2005, amid much controversy, the Qarase government proposed a Reconciliation and Unity Commission, with power to recommend compensation for victims of the 2000 coup, and amnesty for its perpetrators. However, the military strongly opposed this bill, especially the army's commander, Frank Bainimarama. He agreed with detractors who said that it was a sham to grant amnesty to supporters of the present government who played roles in the coup. His attack on the legislation, which continued unremittingly throughout May and into June and July, further strained his already tense relationship with the government. In late November 2006 and early December 2006, Bainimarama was instrumental in the 2006 Fijian coup d'état. Bainimarama handed down a list of demands to Qarase after a bill was put forward to parliament, part of which would have offered pardons to participants in the 2000 coup attempt. He gave Qarase an ultimatum date of 4 December to accede to these demands or to resign from his post. Qarase adamantly refused to either concede or resign and on 5 December President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, was said to have signed a legal order dissolving Parliament after meeting with Bainimarama.

In April 2009, the Fiji Court of Appeal ruled that the 2006 coup had been illegal. This began the 2009 Fijian constitutional crisis. President Iloilo abrogated the constitution, removed all office holders under the Constitution including all judges and the Governor of the Central Bank. He then reappointed Bainimarama as Prime Minister under his "New Order" and imposed a "Public Emergency Regulation" limiting internal travel and allowing press censorship.

For a country of its size, Fiji has large armed forces, and has been a major contributor to UN peacekeeping missions in various parts of the world. In addition, a significant number of former military personnel have served in the lucrative security sector in Iraq following the 2003 US-led invasion.

Politics

Politics of Fiji normally take place in the framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic, whereby the Prime Minister of Fiji is the head of government, the President the head of state, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Parliament of Fiji. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

Since independence there have been four coups in Fiji, two in 1987, one in 2000 and one in late 2006. The military has been either ruling directly, or heavily influencing governments since 1987.

2006 Military takeover

Citing corruption in the government, Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, staged a military takeover on 5 December 2006 against the Prime Minister that he himself had installed after the 2000 coup. There had been two military coups in 1987 and one in 2000. The commodore took over the powers of the presidency and dissolved the parliament, paving the way for the military to continue the take over. The coup was the culmination of weeks of speculation following conflict between the elected Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, and Commodore Bainimarama. Bainimarama had repeatedly issued demands and deadlines to the Prime Minister. At particular issue was previously pending legislation to pardon those involved in the 2000 coup. Bainimarama named Jona Senilagakali caretaker Prime Minister. The next week Bainimarama said he would ask the Great Council of Chiefs to restore executive powers to President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo.

On 4 January 2007, the military announced that it was restoring executive power to President Iloilo, who made a broadcast endorsing the actions of the military. The next day, Iloilo named Bainimarama as the interim Prime Minister, indicating that the Military was still effectively in control.

In the wake of the take over, reports have emerged of intimidation of some of those critical of the interim regime. It is alleged that two individuals have died in military custody since December 2006. These deaths have been investigated and suspects charged but not yet brought to court.

On 9 April 2009 the Court of Appeal overturned the High Court decision that Bainimarama's take-over of Qarase's government was legal, and declared the Interim Government illegal. Bainimarama agreed to step down as Interim PM immediately, along with his government, and President Iloilo was to appoint "a distinguished person independent of the parties to this litigation as caretaker Prime Minister, ..... to direct the issuance of writs for an election ..."

On 10 April 2009 President Iloilo suspended the Constitution of Fiji, dismissed the Court of Appeal and, in his own words, "appoint[ed] [him]self as the Head of the State of Fiji under a new legal order". As President, Iloilo had been Head of State prior to his abrogation of the Constitution, but that position had been determined by the Constitution itself. The "new legal order" did not depend on the Constitution, thus requiring a "reappointment" of the Head of State. "You will agree with me that this is the best way forward for our beloved Fiji", he said. Bainimarama was re-appointed as Interim Prime Minister; he, in turn, re-instated his previous Cabinet.

On 13 July 2009, Fiji became the first nation ever to be expelled from the Pacific Islands Forum, for its failure to hold democratic elections by that date.

On 1 September 2009, Fiji became only the second country to be suspended from the Commonwealth of Nations. The action was taken because Commodore Frank Bainimarama refused to hold elections by 2010, elections that the Commonwealth of Nations had demanded after the 2006 coup. He states a need for more time to end a voting system he claims favours ethnic Fijians. Critics claim that he has suspended the constitution and was responsible for human rights violations by arresting and detaining opponents.

Demographics

Ethnic groups

The population of Fiji is mostly made up of native Fijians, who are Melanesians (54.3%), although a few also have Polynesian ancestry, and Indo-Fijians (38.1%), descendants of Indian contract labourers brought to the islands by the Britishmarker in the nineteenth century. Most of these Indo-Fijians are or are descendants of Bhojpuri-speaking Biharis. The percentage of the population of Indianmarker descent has declined significantly over the last two decades due to migration for various reasons. The Fiji coup of 2000 has provoked a violent backlash against the Indo-Fijians. There is also a small but significant group of descendants of indentured laborers from Solomon Islandsmarker.

About 1.2% are Rotuman — natives of Rotuma Island, whose culture has more in common with countries such as Tongamarker or Samoamarker than with the rest of Fiji. There are also small, but economically significant, groups of Europeans, Chinese, and other Pacific island minorities.The total membership of other ethnic groups of Pacific Islanders is about 7300. Tongans, who as traders and warriors have lived in Fiji for hundreds of years, form the largest part of this community. In the old days there was active commerce between Tonga and Fiji, and later in the history of this relationship the Fijians in the Lau Islands became vassals to the King of Tonga. One particular reason Tongans and Samoans came to Fiji was to build drua (large double-hulled canoes) which they couldn’t build on their own islands because of the lack of proper timber.

Relationships between ethnic Fijians and Indo-Fijians at a political level have often been strained, and the tension between the two communities has dominated politics in the islands for the past generation. The level of tension varies between different regions of the country.

Demonym

Within Fiji, the term Fijian refers solely to indigenous Fijians: it denotes an ethnicity, not a nationality. Constitutionally, citizens of Fiji are referred to as "Fiji Islanders" though the term Fiji Nationals is used for official purposes. In August 2008, shortly before the proposed People's Charter for Change, Peace and Progress was due to be released to the public, it was announced that it recommended a change in the name of Fiji's citizens. If the proposal were adopted, all citizens of Fiji, whatever their ethnicity, would be called "Fijians". The proposal would change the English name of indigenous Fijians from "Fijians" to itaukei, the Fijian word for indigenous Fijians.

Deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase reacted by stating that the name "Fijian" belonged exclusively to indigenous Fijians, and that he would oppose any change in legislation enabling non-indigenous Fijians to use it. The Methodist Church, to which a large majority of indigenous Fijians belong, also reacted strongly to the proposal, stating that allowing any Fiji citizen to call themselves "Fijian" would be "daylight robbery" inflicted on the indigenous population.

In an address to the nation during the constitutional crisis of April 2009, military leader and interim Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, who has been at the forefront of the attempt to change the definition of "Fijian", stated:
"I know we all have our different ethnicities, our different cultures and we should, we must, celebrate our diversity and richness. However, at the same time 'we are all Fijians. We are all equal citizens. We must all be loyal to Fiji; we must be patriotic; we must put Fiji first."


Religion

Indigenous Fijians are mostly Christian (97.2% at the 1996 census), and the Indo-Fijians mostly Hindu (70.7%) and Muslim (17.9%).Breakdown per the CIA world factbook: Christian 64.5% (Methodist 34.6%, Roman Catholic 9.1%, Assembly of God 5.7%, Seventh Day Adventist 3.9%, Anglican 0.8%, other 10.4%), Hindu 27.9%, Muslim 6.3%, Sikh 0.3%, other or unspecified 0.3%, none 0.7% (2007 census).

The largest Christian denomination is the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma. With 36.2% of the total population (including almost two-thirds of ethnic Fijians), its share of the population is higher in Fiji than in any other nation. Roman Catholics (8.9%), the Assemblies of God (4%), the Seventh-day Adventists (2.9%) and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) (2.2%), also are significant. Fiji also is the base for the Anglican Diocese of Polynesia (part of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia). These and other denominations also have small numbers of Indo-Fijian members; Christians of all kinds comprise 6.1% of the Indo-Fijian population. Much major Roman Catholic missionary activity was conducted through the Vicariate Apostolic of Fiji, which has since been renamed the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Suva, which spans the whole of Fiji.

Hindus belong mostly to the Sanatan sect (74.3% of all Hindus) or else are unspecified (22%). The small Arya Samaj sect claims the membership of some 3.7% of all Hindus in Fiji. Muslims are mostly Sunni (59.7%) and Shia (36.7%), with an Ahmadiyya minority (3.6%) regarded as heretical by more orthodox Muslims. The Sikh religion comprises 0.9% of the Indo-Fijian population, or 0.4% of the national population in Fiji. Their ancestors came from the Punjabmarker region of India. The Bahá'í Faith has over 21 Local Spiritual Assemblies throughout Fiji and Baha'is live in more than 80 localities. The first Baha'i in the islands was a New Zealandermarker who arrived in 1924. There is also a small Jewish population. Every year the Israeli Embassy organises a Passover celebration with approximately 100 people attending.

Political divisions

Map of the divisions of Fiji


Fiji is divided into Four Major Divisions:

These divisions are further divided into 14 provinces:

Fiji was also divided into 3 Confederacies or Governments during the reign of Cakobau, though these are not considered political divisions, they are still considered important in the social divisions of the indigenous Fijians:

Geography

Map of Fiji


Fiji covers a total area of some of which around 10% is land.

Fiji is the hub of the South West Pacific, midway between Vanuatumarker and the Kingdom of Tongamarker. The archipelago is located between 176° 53′ east and 178° 12′ west. The 180° meridian runs through Taveunimarker but the International Dateline is bent to give uniform time to all of the Fiji group. With the exception of Rotuma, the Fiji group lies between 15° 42′ and 20° 02′ south. Rotuma is located 400 kilometres north of the group, 670 km from Suva, 12° 30′ south of the equator.

Fiji consists of 322 islands (of which 106 are inhabited) and 522 smaller islets. The two most important islands are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. The islands are mountainous, with peaks up to 1,300 metres (4,250 ft), and covered with thick tropical forests. Viti Levu hosts the capital city of Suva, and is home to nearly three quarters of the population. Other important towns include Nadimarker (the location of the international airport), and the second city -Lautokamarker (the location of a large sugar mill and a seaport). The main towns on Vanua Levu are Labasamarker and Savusavumarker. Other islands and island groups include Taveunimarker and Kadavumarker (the third and fourth largest islands respectively), the Mamanuca Groupmarker (just outside Nadi) and Yasawa Groupmarker, which are popular tourist destinations, the Lomaiviti Group, outside of Suva, and the remote Lau Groupmarker. Rotumamarker, some 500 kilometres (310 mi) north of the archipelago, has a special administrative status in Fiji. Fiji's nearest neighbour is Tonga. The climate in Fiji is tropical and warm most of the year round.

Economy

Fiji, endowed with forest, mineral, and fish resources, is one of the more developed of the Pacific island economies, though still with a large subsistence sector. Natural resources include timber, fish, gold, copper, offshore oil potential, hydropower. Fiji experienced a period of rapid growth in the 1960s and 1970s but stagnated in the 1980s. The coup of 1987 caused further contraction. Economic liberalization in the years following the coup created a boom in the garment industry and a steady growth rate despite growing uncertainty of land tenure in the sugar industry. The expiration of leases for sugar cane farmers (along with reduced farm and factory efficiency) has led to a decline in sugar production despite a subsidized price. Subsidies for sugar have been provided by the EU and Fiji has been the second largest beneficiary after Mauritiusmarker.

Urbanization and expansion in the service sector have contributed to recent GDP growth. Sugar exports and a rapidly growing tourist industry — with 430,800 tourists in 2003 and increasing in the subsequent years — are the major sources of foreign exchange. Fiji is highly dependent on tourism for revenue. Sugar processing makes up one-third of industrial activity. Long-term problems include low investment and uncertain property rights. The political turmoil in Fiji has had a severe impact on the economy, which shrank by 2.8% in 2000 and grew by only 1% in 2001. The tourism sector recovered quickly, however, with visitor arrivals reaching pre-coup levels again during 2002, which has since resulted in a modest economic recovery. This recovery continued into 2003 and 2004 but grew by 1.7% in 2005 and grew by 2.0% in 2006. Although inflation is low, the policy indicator rate of the Reserve Bank of Fiji was raised by 1% to 3.25% in February 2006 due to fears of excessive consumption financed by debt. Lower interest rates have so far not produced greater investment for exports. However, there has been a housing boom from declining commercial mortgage rates. The tallest building in Fiji is the fourteen-storey Reserve Bank of Fiji Building in Suva, which was inaugurated in 1984. The Suva Central Commercial Centre, which opened in November 2005, was planned to outrank the Reserve Bank building at seventeen stories, but last-minute design changes made sure that the Reserve Bank building remains the tallest.

Trade with Fiji has been criticized due to the country's military dictatorship. In 2008, Fiji's interim Prime Minister and coup leader Frank Bainimarama announced election delays and that it would pull out of the Pacific Islands Forum in Niuemarker, where Bainimarama would have met with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Culture



Fiji's culture is a rich mosaic of indigenous, Indian, Chinese and European traditions, comprising social polity, language, food (based mainly from the sea, casava, dalo & other vegetables), costume, belief systems, architecture, arts, craft, music, dance and sports.

The indigenous culture is very much active and living, and is a part of everyday life for the majority of the population. However, it has evolved with the introduction of old cultures like the Indian and Chinese ones, as well as a large influence from Europe, and from various Pacific neighbours of Fiji, mainly the Tongan,Rotuman and Samoan. The culture of Fiji has created a unique communal and national identity.

Holidays

This is a list of holidays in Fiji:

The exact dates of public holidays vary from year to year, but the dates for this year and recent years can be found at the Fiji Government Web Site

Language

Fijian is an Austronesian language of the Malayo-Polynesian family spoken in Fiji. It has 350 000 first-language speakers, which is less than half the population of Fiji, but another 200,000 speak it as a second language. The 1997 Constitution established Fijian as an official language of Fiji, along with English and Hindustani, and there is discussion about establishing it as the "national language", though English and Hindustani would remain official. Fijian is a VOS language.

The Fiji Islands developed many languages, some similar and some very different. Missionaries in the 1840s chose the language of one island off the southeast of the main island of Viti Levu, to be the official language of Fiji. This island, Bau, was home to Cakobau, the chief that eventually became the self forged "King" of Fiji. Missionaries were interested in documenting a language and in standardizing all of Fiji on one official language to make their job of translating and teaching in Fiji a bit easier. Standard Fijian is based on the language of Baumarker, which is an East Fijian language. There are many other dialects that make up the West Fijian languages including dialects spoken in the Nadroga/Navosa which are unique and those of the western island groups and provinces.

Sport

The national sport of Fiji is considered to be rugby union (see rugby union in Fiji). The national rugby union team is very successful given the size of the population of the country, and has competed at four Rugby World Cups, the first being in 1987, where they reached the quarter-finals. The Fiji national side did not match that feat again until the 2007 Rugby World Cup when they upset Wales 38–34 to progress to the quarter-finals. Fiji also competes in the Pacific Tri-Nations and the Pacific Nations Cup. The sport is governed by the Fiji Rugby Union which is a member of the Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance, and contributes to the Pacific Islanders rugby union team. At the club level there are the Colonial Cup and Pacific Rugby Cup. The Fiji sevens team is one of the most successful rugby sevens teams in the world, having won the two world cup titles and the 2006 IRB Series.

Rugby league is also widely played. The Fiji national rugby league team, known as Fiji Bati, has competed in the Rugby League World Cup on three occasions, with their best result coming when they made the semi-finals of the 2008 competition. The team also competes in the Pacific Cup.

Other than the codes of rugby, association football is also popular in Fiji. Fiji participates in FIFA in the Oceania Confederation. They defeated New Zealand 2–0 in the 2008 OFC Nations Cup.

See also



Footnotes

  1. PDF article from Fiji Government on Line, section on Europeans in Fiji.
  2. Peggy Reeves Sanday. " Divine hunger: cannibalism as a cultural system". p.151.
  3. Peggy Reeves Sanday. " Divine hunger: cannibalism as a cultural system". p.166.
  4. Pacific Peoples, Melanesia/Micronesia/Polynesia, Central Queensland University.
  5. Abel Janszoon Tasman Biography, Answers.com.
  6. Oceania - A Short History of Fiji, Jane Resture's Oceania Page
  7. " Historical Timeline". Fiji Government Online.
  8. " Timeline: Fiji " BBC News.
  9. " World Battlefronts: Yanks in the Cannibal Isles". TIME. October 26, 1942.
  10. "President's Address to the Nation", April 10, 2009 (Fiji government website)
  11. Commonwealth.org
  12. BBC NEWS
  13. Fiji Islands: From Immigration to Emigration. Migration Information Source.
  14. " Future bleak for Fiji's Indians". BBC News. July, 2000.
  15. " Dealing with the dictator". The Australian. April 16, 2009.
  16. "Charter proposes common Fijian name", August 4, 2008
  17. "The Name “Fijian” Belongs to Indigenous - Qarase", FijiVillage, August 8, 2008
  18. "Communalism is ‘to love thy neighbour'", Fiji Times, August 29, 2008
  19. "PM Bainimarama - Address to the nation following appointment of Cabinet - 11 April 2009", Fiji government website
  20. Fiji Economy and Politics,Economy and Politics in Fiji,Economy and Politics at Fiji. Retrieved 10 May 2008.


References

  • Traces the colonization of the Fiji Islands, explains how the Fijians have managed to keep their language and culture intact, and describes modern Fiji society.
  • Details on Fiji its history and Geography.
  • Details of Fiji's History, Geography, Economy.
  • Back to the Chessboard: The Coup and the Re-Emergence of Pre-colonial Rivalries in Fiji. In:
  • Travel guide.


Bibliography



External links

Government
General information
  • Fiji at UCB Libraries GovPubs
Travel
Other



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