Fiji: Truth, Knowledge, History of South Pacific Island Nation


(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACTBOOK)

 

Fiji

Introduction Fiji became independent in 1970, after nearly a century as a British colony. Democratic rule was interrupted by two military coups in 1987, caused by concern over a government perceived as dominated by the Indian community (descendants of contract laborers brought to the islands by the British in the 19th century). The coups and a 1990 constitution that cemented native Melanesian control of Fiji, led to heavy Indian emigration; the population loss resulted in economic difficulties, but ensured that Melanesians became the majority. A new constitution enacted in 1997 was more equitable. Free and peaceful elections in 1999 resulted in a government led by an Indo-Fijian, but a civilian-led coup in May 2000 ushered in a prolonged period of political turmoil. Parliamentary elections held in August 2001 provided Fiji with a democratically elected government led by Prime Minister Laisenia QARASE. Re-elected in May 2006, QARASE was ousted in a December 2006 military coup led by Commodore Voreqe BAINIMARAMA, who initially appointed himself acting president. In January 2007, BAINIMARAMA was appointed interim prime minister.
History The first inhabitants of Fiji arrived long before contact with European explorers in the seventeenth century. Pottery excavated from Fijian towns shows that Fiji was settled before or around 1000 BC, although the question of Pacific migration still lingers.[2] The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman visited Fiji in 1643 while looking for the Great Southern Continent.[3] It was not until the nineteenth century, however, that Europeans settled the islands permanently.[4] The islands came under British control as a colony in 1874, and the British brought over Indian contract labourers. It was granted 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 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 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 readmitted 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.

For a country of its size, Fiji has a 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.

Geography Location: Oceania, island group in the South Pacific Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand
Geographic coordinates: 18 00 S, 175 00 E
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 18,270 sq km
land: 18,270 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than New Jersey
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 1,129 km
Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic straight baselines
territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation; rectilinear shelf claim added
Climate: tropical marine; only slight seasonal temperature variation
Terrain: mostly mountains of volcanic origin
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Tomanivi 1,324 m
Natural resources: timber, fish, gold, copper, offshore oil potential, hydropower
Land use: arable land: 10.95%
permanent crops: 4.65%
other: 84.4% (2005)
Irrigated land: 30 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 28.6 cu km (1987)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.07 cu km/yr (14%/14%/71%)
per capita: 82 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: cyclonic storms can occur from November to January
Environment – current issues: deforestation; soil erosion
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: includes 332 islands; approximately 110 are inhabited
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 (Frank) Bainimarama, Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, staged a military take over on December 5, 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 when the military had taken over from elected governments led by or dominated by Indo Fijians. On this occasion the military took over from an indigenous Fijian government which it alleged was corrupt and racist. The Commodore took over the powers of the President 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. Bainamarama 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. Despite intervention to reconcile the parties by the President, Vice President and Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand there was no willingness to make concessions on either side. This therefore failed to resolve the crisis.

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.[5] On December 6, Bainimarama declared a state of emergency, and warned that he would not tolerate any violence or unrest.

Following the coup, the Commonwealth of Nations held an emergency meeting in London, where they declared Fiji’s membership had been suspended. On December 9, the military rulers advertised for positions in the Government, including cabinet posts, in a national newspaper. They stated people wishing to apply must be “of outstanding character”, have no criminal record, and never have been bankrupt.[6]

Also on December 9 the IFNA withdrew the right of Fiji to host the 2007 World Netball Championships as a consequence of the Military takeover. The withdrawal is expected to have a significant impact in Fiji due to the popularity of sports such as Netball.

On January 4, 2007, the military announced that it was restoring executive power to President Iloilo,[7] who made a broadcast endorsing the actions of the military.[8] The next day, Iloilo named Bainimarama as the interim Prime Minister,[9] 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.

Following ongoing criticism from neighbours, specifically Australia and New Zealand, the New Zealand High Commissioner Michael Green was expelled from Fiji in mid June 2007, in the aftermath of restrictive emergency regulations having been lifted (recognised as a generally positive development by outside observers).

On September 6, 2007, Commodore Frank Bainimarama said Fiji’s military declared again a state of emergency as he believed ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase was engaged in destabilization efforts when he returned to Suva after 8 months of exile on his home island Vanuabalavu in Lau, Elections were tentatively set on March 2009.[10]

The interim Government set up an anti corruption Commission which have received numerous complaints and allegations, also there have been a number of high profile dismissals from government and associated industry. The anti corruption body however, has yet to successfully prosecute anyone for alleged corruption.

During November 2007 there were a number of people brought in for questioning in regard to an assassination Plot directed at the Interim Prime Minister, senior army officers and members of the Interim Cabinet.

People Population: 918,675 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 30.9% (male 144,665/female 138,816)
15-64 years: 64.7% (male 297,709/female 296,897)
65 years and over: 4.4% (male 18,397/female 22,191) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 24.9 years
male: 24.4 years
female: 25.4 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.394% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 22.37 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 5.66 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: -2.78 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.042 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.003 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.829 male(s)/female
total population: 1.006 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 11.99 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 13.3 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 10.61 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 70.12 years
male: 67.6 years
female: 72.76 years

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