Fiji in Brief
Fiji is located in the South Pacific Ocean, 1,739 miles (2,798km) east of Brisbane, Australia and 1,308 miles (2,105km) north of New Zealand. It is 9,532 miles (15,340km) from Ethiopia across the Indian Ocean. Fiji is an island group (330 islands) with a total landmass of 7054 square miles (18,270 square kilometres) and a population nearing 900,000. The terrain is mostly mountains of volcanic origin. The highest point is Tomanivi at 4,343 feet (1,324 meters) above sea level.
There are two major islands - Viti Levu which is 10,429 square kilometers and Vanua Levu 5.556 square kilometers. Other main islands are Taveuni (470 sq km), Kadavu (411 sq km), Gau (140 sq km) and Koro (104 sq km). 87.9% of land is owned by indigenous Fijians while 3.9% is State land. Freehold land comprises 7.9% and Rotuman land is 0.3%.
The capital is Suva and it is one of the two cities in Fiji. The other city is Lautoka and both are located on the island of Viti Levu. The islands are surrounded by sandy beaches and reefs with mountains covering the centre of most of the islands.
Fiji is blessed with a tropical South Sea maritime climate without great extremes of heat or cold. The islands lie in area which is occasionally traversed by tropical cyclones, and mostly confined between the months of November to April every year. On the average some ten to twelve cyclones per decade affect some parts of Fiji, and two to three cyclones can be very severe. At all seasons the predominant winds over Fiji are the Trade Winds from the east to south - east. On the western and eastern sides of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu however, day time breezes blow in across the coast.
In general, the winds over Fiji are light or moderate, the most persistent being in the period July - December. Temperatures average 22°Celsius (72 °F) for the cooler months (May to October) while (November to April) temperatures are higher with heavy downpours. Although rainfall is highly variable, the average rainfall increases steadily inland from coastal areas. It usually increases between December - April, especially over the larger islands, but in May - October it is often deficient, particularly in the dry zone on the western and northern sides of the main islands.
Fiji's flora and fauna are relatively few in number but are of exceptional scientific interest because of the higher proportion of endemic forms - i.e. those found nowhere else in the world. Ten per cent of the 476 indigenous Fijian plant species identified are endemic. Fiji also has a few rare reptiles and birds. Notable of this, is the Crested Iguana, found only in some parts of Fiji namely Yadua Taba in Bua and the Yasawa Islands.
Other rare species include the Fiji burrowing snake, Fiji petrel, the pink billed parrot finch, the red throat lorikeet and the long legged warbler. Two researches in conjunction with the Fiji Museum found bones of crocodiles, giant tortoises and giant Fiji pigeons during one of their projects. The crocodiles were around two and a half meters long and the giant iguanas a meter and a half long. The amended bones of these long extinct animals were found in the Volivoli and Qarinivokai caves which is situated to the West of Sigatoka dunes.
Fijian Culture & Tradition
Fiji was first settled about three and a half thousand years ago. The original inhabitants are now called "Lapita people" after a distinctive type of fine pottery they produced, remnants of which have been found in practically all the islands of the Pacific, east of New Guinea, though not in eastern Polynesia. Linguistic evidence suggests that they came from northern or central Vanuatu, or possibly the eastern Solomons.
Before long they had moved further on, colonising Rotuma to the north, and Tonga and Samoa to the east. From there, vast distances were crossed to complete the settlement of the Pacific to Hawaii in the north, Rapanui (Easter Island) in the east and Aotearoa (New Zealand) in the South.
Unlike the islands of Polynesia which showed a continuous steadily evolving culture from initial occupation, Fiji appears to have undergone at least two periods of rapid culture change in prehistorically times. This may have been due to the arrival of fresh waves of immigrants, presumably from the west. Pre-historians have noted that a massive 12th century volcanic eruption in southern Vanuatu coincides with the disappearance there of a certain pottery style, and its sudden emergence in Fiji.
It is hardly surprising then, that the Fijian culture is an intricate network and that generalizations are fraught with danger. Although the high chief of Bau, Naulivou, and his successors had control over a large area of eastern Fiji in the latter 18th to 19th century, at no time before colonialisation was Fiji a political unity. Nevertheless, Fiji does exhibit certain traits that set it apart from its neighbours, and it is this that defines a distinctive Fijian culture.
Fiji's ethnic groups include iTaukei (indigenous Fijian), 54 percent (predominantly Melanesian with a Polynesian admixture); Indian, 38 percent; and small communities of European, other Pacific Islanders and overseas Chinese. Major religious groups are Christian, 52 percent (Methodists 37 percent, Roman Catholics nine percent); Hindu, 38 percent; and Muslim, eight percent. Ethnic Fijians are mainly Christian and Indians Hindu. The main languages are English (official), Fijian and Hindustani.
Fiji gained independence from Britain on October 10, 1970, after nearly a century as a British colony. A democratic republic since 1987, Fiji is currently undergoing a political and structural reform process following the political events of 2006 whereby a new constitution was promulgated in September 2013 by H.E then President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau. One of the unique features of the new constitution is that, for the first time, all citizens of Fiji now have a common name. The first parliamentary elections under the new constitution were held in September 2014 that saw the introduction of a new format in the electoral process - the one man-one vote system. The FijiFirst Party, led by current Prime Minister, Hon Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, won a landslide majority, winning 32 of the 50 available seats. The next national general elections are scheduled for 2018.
With the retirement of H.E Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, in November 2015, Parliament elected H.E Major General (ret’d) Jioji Konousi Konrote, as the new President of the Republic of Fiji.
Fiji and the World
The country is an active member of the international community. On a per-capita basis, Fiji contributes more troops to United Nations peacekeeping missions than any other country. It's sent military forces to Lebanon, Kosovo, East Timor and Sinai as well as observer missions to Kuwait and Papua New Guinea. On the African continent, Fijian troops have previously served in UN Missions in Namibia and Sudan while Fiji currently has members of the Fiji Police Force participating in the UN Peacekeeping Force in Liberia.
Fiji was given the privilege to chair the G77 + China group in 2013, thus making it the first South Pacific nation to hold this honour. The G77 + China group consists of more than 130 developing countries and is the largest bloc of countries in the UN. On 8th January 2014, Fiji's Minister for Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, formally handed over the chairmanship of the G77 + China group to Bolivia's Head of State, H.E President Evo Morales Ayma, at the UN. Fiji was again recently honoured at the international forum when Ambassador Peter Thomson, Fiji’s Permanent Representative at the UN, was elected as President of the UN for the 71st Session beginning in September 2016.
Fiji, like its Pacific Island neighbours, enjoys participating in sports. Athletics, boxing, cricket, netball, rugby and soccer are sporting events that Fijians love to play. Notable Fijians in sports include the international legendary maestro of sevens rugby, Dr. Waisale Tikoisolomone Serevi, who led Fiji to 2 Rugby Sevens World Cup titles in 1997 and 2005. The 1997 Sevens World Cup tournament coincided with the Hong Kong 7’s tournament where Fiji won over South Africa, 24 – 21, in what was a pulsating final. In 2008, Serevi, as he is widely known was given a honorary sports degree by the Leeds Metropolitan University in recognition of his sporting achievements.
Another notable Fijian is golfer Vijay Singh, who has won tournaments in many parts of the world and has recently retired from professional golf. Singh, who is of Indian Sikh ancestry, was born in Lautoka, Fiji’s second largest city, but grew up in Nadi, on the western side of the main island of Viti Levu. In 2004 and 2005 Singh spent a total of 32 weeks at the top of the Official World Golf Rankings, making him the first man to displace Tiger Woods as World Number 1 this century. In April 2005, Vijay Singh became the youngest living person elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Iliesa Delana won a gold medal in the high jump event at the 2012 Paraplegic Olympics held in London. In doing so, Iliesa became the first Fijian - and South Pacific Islander - to win a gold medal at an Olympic event.
The latest addition to Fiji’s sporting notables is the Fiji rugby 7s team. Ably led by Englishman and coach Ben Ryan they had back-to-back wins in the International Rugby World 7s series for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 periods. But the pinnacle achievement came when the team defeated Great Britain by 43 – 7 to take gold on 11 August 2016 at the Rio Summer Olympics. In doing so, the team created history because it was the first time that rugby 7s was being introduced as a sport in the Olympic Games. Google reported that the team not only created history but that Fiji became the most researched subject on their website.
Trade & Industry
Fiji, endowed with forest, mineral, and fish resources, is one of the most developed of the Pacific island economies. Tourism, mining, energy, transportation and communications, timber and manufacturing are the fastest growing industries in Fiji. Sugar processing makes up one-third of industrial activity. Sugar exports and a growing tourist industry - with approximately 500,000 tourists on average annually - are the major sources of foreign exchange. Near-term economic prospects are good and overseas remittances from Fijians working in the United Kingdom, Germany, United States, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt (Sinai), Kuwait, Iraq and United Arab Emirates have increased significantly.
The most important emerging sector is information and communications technology, where the government is offering generous incentives for investment and development. Another emerging sector is the film industry. The Fiji Audio Visual Commission is developing sound stages, and the government offers tax incentives to attract both high-end producers from Hollywood and lower budget producers from Bollywood. Tourism has grown rapidly since the early 1980s and is the leading economic activity in the Fiji islands. Approximately 632,000 people visited Fiji in 2010, the highest number of visitors recorded so far. Australians accounted for the largest numbers of visitors, but there are large contingents from New Zealand, the US, Britain and Japan. While there are not many tourists from Africa, it is anticipated that developments in trade, culture and sports will enable a growing exchange in people travelling between Africa and Fiji.
Fiji's flag flew for the first time on Independence Day, October 10, 1970. It includes the red, white and blue Union Flag of Britain in the top left-hand corner and the shield from the Fiji Coat of Arms on a light blue background in the fly. The Fiji Government has indicated that there will be a new flag and that calls for new designs have been made and the selection process is currently underway with an announcement to be made soon.
Coat of Arms
Fiji's National Coat of arms consists of the images of two Fijian warriors on either side of a shield and the motto "Rerevaka na Kalou ka Doka na Tui" below the shield. These words quote the scripture, "Fear God and honour the King." The shield from the coat of arms has the image of a heraldic lion holding a cocoa pod across the top. Sugarcane, a coconut palm and a bunch of bananas are shown in three of the shields sections, which represents agricultural commodities that are part of Fiji’s economy. The fourth contains the reproduction of a dove of peace, the main feature, of the Cakobau Government's flag before cession.
The tabua or whale's tooth is much prized in Fijian tradition. It takes precedence over everything else and occupies first place in Fijian ceremony, whether for family, intertribal or state occasions. It is regarded as a sacred bond between two parties. It is used as a symbol of peace and disputes or quarrels can be smoothed over by its presentation.
Blessing grant oh God of nations on the isles of Fiji
As we stand united under noble banner blue
And we honour and defend the cause of freedom ever
Onward march together God bless Fiji
For Fiji, ever Fiji, let our voices ring with pride.
For Fiji ever Fiji her name hail far and wide,
A land of freedom , hope and glory to endure whatever befall.
May God bless Fiji Forever more!
Blessing grant oh God of nations on the isles of Fiji
Shores of golden sand and sunshine, happiness and song
Stand united , we of Fiji, fame and glory ever
Onward march together God bless Fiji.
Words by: Michael Francis Alexander Prescott (b. 1928)
(The melody is based on an old traditional Fijian song)
Fiji became an independent Commonwealth country on the 10th of October, 1970.
Listen to the Fiji National Anthem
Format: quicktime - realaudio - midi
Meda Dau Doka - Fijian Version
Meda dau doka ka vinakata na vanua
E ra sa dau tiko kina na savasava
Rawa tu na gauna ni sautu na veilomani
Biu na i tovo tawa savasava
Me bula ga ko Viti
Ka me toro ga ki liu
Me ra turaga vinaka ko ira na i liuliu
Me ra liutaki na tamata
E na veika vinaka
Me oti kina na i tovo ca
Me da dau doka ka vinakata na vanua
E ra sa dau tiko kina na savasava
Rawa tu na gauna ni sautu na veilomani
Me sa biu na i tovo tawa yaga
Bale ga vei kemuni na cauravou e Viti
Ni yavala me savasava na vanua
Ni kakua ni vosota na dukadukali
Ka me da sa qai biuta vakadua
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