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Republic of the Fiji Islands
Matanitu Tu-Vaka-i-koya ko Viti
Flag of Fiji Coat of Arms of Fiji
( In Detail) ( In Detail)
National motto: Rerevaka na Kalou ka Doka na Tui
(English: Fear God and honour the Queen)
Location of Fiji
Official languages English, Bau Fijian, and Hindustani ( Hindi/ Urdu)
Religion Christianity, Hinduism, Islam
Capital Suva
Largest City Suva
President Ratu Josefa Iloilo
Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase
Chairman Great Council of Chiefs Ratu Ovini Bokini
Great Chief Great Council of Chiefs Queen Elizabeth II
- Total
- % freshwater
Ranked 151st
18,270 km²
- Total ( 2005)
- Density
Ranked 153rd
HDI ( 2003) 0.752 ( 92nd) – medium
Independence 10 October 1970
Currency Fijian dollar
Time zone UTC + 12
National anthem God Bless Fiji
Internet TLD .fj
Calling Code +679
† - Recognised by Great Council of Chiefs, not repudiated
The Republic of the Fiji Islands, or Fiji, is an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Vanuatu, west of Tonga and south of Tuvalu. The country occupies an archipelago of about 322 islands, of which 106 are permanently inhabited; in addition, there are some 522 islets. The two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, account for some 87 % of the total population. The name Fiji is the old Tongan word for the islands, which is in turn derived from the Fijian name Viti.

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Local government

History - Contents

Levuka, 1842
Levuka, 1842
The first inhabitants of Fiji arrived from South East Asia long before contact with European explorers in the 17th century. This academic question of Pacific migration still lingers. It is documented that Fiji was discovered by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in an attempt to find the Great Southern Continent in 1643. It was not until the 19th century, however, that Europeans came to the islands to settle there permanently. The islands came under British control as a colony in 1874. It was granted independence in 1970. Democratic rule was interrupted by two military coups in 1987, caused by concern over a government perceived as dominated by the Indo-Fijian (Indian) community. A consequence of the second 1987 coup was that the British Monarchy was abolished, the Governor General was replaced by a non-executive President, and the long form of the country's name changed from Dominion of Fiji to Republic of Fiji (in turn changed to Republic of the Fiji Islands in 1997).A 1990 constitution guaranteed ethnic Fijian control of Fiji, but led to heavy Indian emigration; the population loss resulted in economic difficulties, but ensured that Melanesians became the majority. Amendments enacted in 1997 made the constitution more equitable. Free and peaceful elections in 1999 resulted in a government led by an Indo-Fijian. A year later, this was deposed in a coup led by George Speight, a hardline Fijian nationalist. Democracy was restored towards the end of 2000, and Laisenia Qarase, who had led an interim government in the meantime, was elected Prime Minister. Fiji's membership of the Commonwealth of Nations was suspended due to the anti-democratic activities connected with the 2000 coup.For a country of its size, Fiji has exceptionally capable armed forces, and has been a major contributor to UN peacekeeping missions in various parts of the world.

Politics - Contents

Executive authority
Fiji's Head of State is the President, who is elected by the Great Council of Chiefs for a five-year term. Although his role is largely an honorary one, modelled after that of the British monarchy, the President has certain "reserve powers" that may be used only in the event of a national crisis. He is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The Great Council of Chiefs recognizes Queen Elizabeth II as its Paramount Chief, in respect as a nation within the Commonwealth of Nations.The president formally appoints the Prime Minister, who must be able to rely on the support of a majority in the House of Representatives. In practice, that means that the leader of the largest political party or coalition normally becomes Prime Minister, rendering the President's role in the appointment little more than a formality. Sometimes, however, Parliament may become deadlocked, as a result of electoral fragmentation or party splits. In such cases, the President takes on the role of arbitrator, and after consulting with all the political factions, must appoint as Prime Minister the person he judges to be the most acceptable to the majority in the House of Representatives. On the Prime Minister's nomination, the President formally appoints a Cabinet of around ten to twenty five ministers, who exercise executive authority. According to the constitution, the Cabinet is supposed to reflect the political composition of the House of Representatives, with every party holding more than 8 seats in the House entitled to proportionate representation in the Cabinet. In practice, this rule has never been strictly implemented.

Legislative authority
Fiji's Parliament is bicameral. The House of Representatives has 71 members. 25 of these are elected by universal suffrage. The remaining 46 are reserved for Fiji's ethnic communities and are elected from communal electoral rolls: 23 Fijians, 19 Indo-Fijians, 1 Rotuman, and 3 " General electors" (Europeans, Chinese, and other minorities). The upper chamber of the parliament, the Senate, has 32 members, formally appointed by the President on the nomination of the Great Council of Chiefs (14), the Prime Minister (9), the Leader of the Opposition (8), and the Council of Rotuma (1). Less powerful than the House of Representatives, the Senate may not initiate legislation, but it may reject or amend it.

Judicial authority
Judicial power is vested in three courts (the High Court, Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court) established by the Constitution, which also makes provision for other courts to be set up by Parliament. The High Court and the Supreme Court are both presided over by the Chief Justice (currently Daniel Fatiaki); the Chief Justice is barred, however, from membership of the Court of Appeal, which has its own President (currently Jai Ram Reddy). The Appeal Court has the power "to hear and determine appeals" from judgements of the High Court; decisions of this court may be further appealed to the Supreme Court, whose decision is final.

Local government - Contents

Fiji is divided into four parts, called divisions (capitals in parentheses):
  • Central Division ( Suva)
  • Northern Division ( Labasa)
  • Eastern Division ( Levuka)
  • Western Division ( Lautoka)
These divisions are further subdivided into fourteen provinces. Additionally, the island of Rotuma, north of the main archipelago, has the status of a dependency. It is officially included in the Eastern Division for statistical purposes, but administratively has a degree of internal autonomy.Municipal governments, with City and Town Councils presided over by Mayors, have been established in Suva, Lautoka, and ten other towns.

Geography - Contents

Map of Fiji
Map of Fiji
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. Viti Levu hosts the capital city of Suva, and is home to nearly three quarters of the population. The islands are mountainous, with peaks up to 1200 meters, and covered with tropical forests. Other important towns include Nadi, (the location of the international airport) and Lautoka. The main towns on Vanua Levu are Labasa and Savusavu. Other islands and island groups include Taveuni and Kadavu (the third and fourth largest islands respectively), the Mamanuca Group (just outside Nadi) and Yasawa Group, which are popular tourist destinations, the Lomaiviti Group, outside of Suva, and the remote Lau Group. Rotuma, some 500 kilometers north of the archipelago, has a special administrative status in Fiji.

Economy - Contents

Fiji, endowed with forest, mineral, and fish resources, is one of the most developed of the Pacific island economies, though still with a large subsistence sector. Sugar exports and a growing tourist industry—with 300,000 to 400,000 tourists annually—are the major sources of foreign exchange. 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. The government's ability to manage its budget—which ran a net deficit of 6% in 2002—is dependent on a return of political stability and investor confidence.The tallest building in Fiji is the 14-story Reserve Bank of Fiji Building in Suva.

Demographics - Contents

Ethnic Groups
The population of Fiji is mostly made up of native Fijians, a people of mixed Polynesian and Melanesian ancestory (54.3%), and Indo-Fijians (38.1%), descendants of Indian contract labourers brought to the islands by the British in the 19th century. The percentage of the population of Indian descent has declined significantly over the last two decades because of emigration. About 1.2 % are Rotuman—natives of Rotuma Island, whose culture has more in common with countries such as Tonga or Samoa than with the rest of Fiji. There are also small, but economically significant, groups of Europeans, Chinese, and other minorities. Relationships between ethnic Fijians and Indo-Fijians 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.

Three official languages are prescribed by the constitution: English, which was introduced by the former British colonial rulers, Bau Fijian, spoken by ethnic Fijians, and Hindustani, the main language spoken by Indo-Fijians. Citizens of Fiji have the constitutional right to communicate with any government agency in any of the official languages, with an interpreter to be supplied on request.The use of English is one of the most enduring legacies of almost a century of British rule. Widely spoken by both ethnic Fijians and Indo-Fijians, English is the main medium of communication between the two communities, as well as with the outside world. It is the language in which the government conducts most of its business, and is the main language of education, commerce, and the courts.Fijian belongs to the Austronesian family of languages. Fijian proper is closely related to the Polynesian languages, such as Tongan. There are many dialects, but the official standard is the speech of Bau, the most politically and militarily powerful of the many indigenous kingdoms of the 19th Century."Hindustani" is considered an umbrella term in India for the standard languages Hindi (preferred by Hindus) and Urdu (preferred by Muslims), as well as many closely related tongues that are sometimes considered separate languages. Fijian Hindustani descends from one of the eastern forms of Hindustani, called Awadhi. It has developed some unique features that differentiate it from the Awadhi spoken on the Indian subcontinent, although not to the extent of hindering mutual understanding. It is spoken by nearly the entire Indo-Fijian community regardless of ancestry, except for a few elders.In addition to the three official languages, several other languages are spoken. On the island of Rotuma, Rotuman is used; this is more closely related to the Polynesian languages than to Fijian. Some Fijian dialects, especially in the west of the country, differ markedly from the official Bau standard, and would be considered separate languages if they had a codified grammar or a literary tradition. Among the Indo-Fijian community, there is a small Gujarati-speaking community, and a few older Indo-Fijians still speak Telugu and Tamil, with smaller numbers of Bihari, Bengali, and others.In the Fijian alphabet, some of the letters have unique values. For one, the "c" is a voiced "th" sound, [ð]. (For example, the name of Fiji-born New Zealand rugby player Joe Rokocoko is often mis-pronounced. The correct pronunciation is IPA: /rɒkɒˈðɒkɒ/.) Another difference is that the letters "b" and "d" are always pronounced with a nasal before them, [mb, nd], even at the beginning of a word. The "q" is pronounced like a "g" with a nasal "ng" before it, [ŋg] as in the word "finger", while the "g" is pronounced like the "ng" of the word "singer", [ŋ].

Religion is one of the faultlines between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians, with the former overwhelmingly Christian (99.2 % at the 1996 census), and the latter mostly Hindu (76.7 %) or Muslim (15.9 %).The largest Christian denomination is the Methodist Church. 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 %), and Seventh-day Adventists (2.9 %) are also significant. These and others denominations also have small numbers of Indo-Fijian members; Christians of all kinds comprise 6.1 % of the Indo-Fijian population.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 %) or unspecified (36.7 %), with an Ahmadiya minority (3.6 %) regarded as heretical by more orthodox Muslims.The Sikh faith comprises 0.9 % of the Indo-Fijian population, or 0.4 % of the national population in Fiji. Their ancestors came from the Punjab region of India.
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