Republic of the Fiji Islands
Republic of the Fiji Islands/Matanitu ko Viti
Joined United Nations: 13 October 1970
Human Rights as assured by their constitution
Updated 23 October 2012
Suva (on Viti Levu)
890,057 (July 2012 est.)
Ratu Epeli Nailatikau
President since 30 July 2009
Note - former President Iloilovatu announced his retirement in
late July and stepped down on 30 July 2009; Vice President
Ratu Epeli Nailatikau will serve as acting-president pending the
selection of a new president
Next scheduled election: September 2014
HEAD OF GOVERNMENT
Note- On 10 April 2009 the president suspended the constitution
and fired the judges who declared its military government illegal.
Bainimarama resigned as interim Prime Minister but is expected
to be reappointed as part of a new interim government which
would serve until elections in September 2014.
|DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Fijian 57.3% (predominantly Melanesian with a Polynesian admixture), Indian 37.6%, Rotuman 1.2%, other 3.9%
(European, other Pacific Islanders, Chinese) (2007 census)
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)
Republic comprised of 4 divisions and 1 dependency; Legal system is based on British system
Executive: President elected by the Great Council of Chiefs for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); prime
minister appointed by the president; election last held 8 March 2006 Note- former President Iloilovatu stepped
down effective 30 July 2009; Vice President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau will serve as new president. In a December 2006
military coup led by Commodore Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama, he initially appointed himself acting president.
Iloilovatu was reaffirmed as president by the Great Council of Chiefs in a statement issued on 22 December, and
reappointed by the coup leader Bainimarama. In January 2007, Bainimarama was appointed interim prime minister
by Iloilovatu. On 10 April 2009 the president suspended the constitution and fired the judges who declared its military
government illegal. Bainimarama resigned as interim Prime Minister but was reappointed as part of a new interim
government which would serve until elections in September 2014.
Legislative: Bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (32 seats; 14 appointed by the president on the advice of
the Great Council of Chiefs, 9 appointed by the president on the advice of the Prime Minister, 8 on the advice of the
Opposition Leader, and 1 appointed on the advice of the council of Rotuma) and the House of Representatives (71
seats; 23 reserved for ethnic Fijians, 19 reserved for ethnic Indians, 3 reserved for other ethnic groups, 1 reserved
for the council of Rotuma constituency encompassing the whole of Fiji, and 25 open seats; members serve five-year
terms) elections: House of Representatives - last held 6-13 May 2006 (next to be held September 2014)
Judicial: Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the president); Court of Appeal; High Court; Magistrates' Courts
English (official), Fijian (official), Hindustani
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, remittances from Fijians working abroad, and a growing
tourist industry - with 400,000 to 500,000 tourists annually - are the major sources of foreign exchange. Fiji's sugar
has special access to European Union markets but will be harmed by the EU's decision to cut sugar subsidies. Sugar
processing makes up one-third of industrial activity but is not efficient. Fiji's tourism industry was damaged by the
December 2006 coup and is facing an uncertain recovery time. In 2007 tourist arrivals were down almost 6%, with
substantial job losses in the service sector, and GDP dipped. The coup has created a difficult business climate. The
EU has suspended all aid until the interim government takes steps toward new elections. Long-term problems include
low investment, uncertain land ownership rights, and the government's inability to manage its budget. Overseas
remittances from Fijians working in Kuwait and Iraq have decreased significantly. Fiji's current account deficit
peaked at 23% of GDP in 2006, and has been improving since that year.
Source: CIA World Factbook (select Fiji)
Disgruntled by two bills before the Fijian Parliament, one offering amnesty for the leaders of the 2000 coup, the
military leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama asked Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase to resign in mid October,
2006. The Prime Minister attempted to sack Bainimarama without success. Australian and New Zealand
governments expressed concerns about a possible coup.
On 4 November 2006, Qarase dropped the controversial amnesty measures from the bill.
On 29 November New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters organised talks in Wellington between Prime
Minister Laisenia Qarase and Commodore Bainimarama. Peters reported the talks as "positive" but after returning to
Fiji Commodore Bainimarama announced that the military were to take over most of Suva and fire into the harbour
"in anticipation of any foreign intervention".
Bainimarama announced on 3 December 2006 that he had taken control of Fiji.
Bainimarama restored the Presidency to Ratu Josefa Iloilo on 4 January 2007, and in turn was formally appointed
interim Prime Minister by Iloilo the next day.
On April 10, 2009, Fijian President Ratu Josefa Iloilo announced on a nationwide radio broadcast that he had
suspended the Constitution of Fiji, dismissed the Court of Appeal and assumed all governance in the country after
the court ruled that the current government is illegal.
Most of Fiji's political controversies are related to the ethnic fault line that characterizes Fijian politics. Fiji is one of
the rare countries in the world that officially imposes disabilities on a group that constitutes a large part of the
population, on the basis of race. It has caused an exodus of the Indians, who until recently formed a slight majority.
Sources: Wikipedia Politics of Fiji
|HUMAN RIGHTS STATEMENTS, ANALYSIS AND CRITIQUES
|2011 Human Rights Reports: Fiji
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
May 25, 2012
Fiji is a republic under a military-led government since armed forces commander Commodore Josaia Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama
overthrew the elected government in a bloodless coup in 2006. In 2009 the interim government headed by Prime Minister
Bainimarama abrogated the constitution, imposed a state of emergency, and continued its rule by decree, a situation that remained at
year’s end. During the year the country had no constitution or parliament. Security forces did not report to civilian authorities.
The leading human rights problems during the year included the government’s continued denial of citizens’ right to change their
government peacefully; the government’s targeting of opponents and human rights and labor activists for harassment, arbitrary
arrest, and abuse; and continued enforcement of the wide-ranging Public Emergency Regulations (PER) issued in 2009.
The PER imposed a state of emergency that remained in force at year’s end, giving the military and police power to arrest and
detain persons without a warrant and limiting freedoms of speech and press, assembly, association, and movement. The PER also
give military and police authority to use whatever force they deem necessary to enforce PER provisions, resulting in impunity for
abuses. Freedom of the press was further restricted by a 2010 media decree. By year’s end the government had begun taking steps
to ease enforcement of the PER and the media decree. The Essential National Industries Decree implemented in September severely
restricts trade union and collective bargaining rights for workers in designated industries and corporations deemed essential to the
Other human rights problems included poor prison conditions, interference with judicial independence, prosecution of regime critics
and human rights activists, restriction of freedom of religion for members of the Methodist Church, attacks against religious
facilities, government corruption, deep ethnic divisions, violence and discrimination against women, and sexual exploitation of
The government did not take steps to prosecute and punish police and military officials who assaulted persons in custody. The
military continued to act with impunity in detaining, and in many cases abusing, persons deemed critics of the government,
including journalists, politicians, trade unionists, and Methodist Church officials, ostensibly claiming authority under the PER to do
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31 August 2012
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
6 – 31 August 2012
Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 9 of the Convention
Draft Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
2. The Committee welcomes the State party’s report which is in conformity with the Committee’s guidelines on the content and
form of reports. It appreciates the State party’s timeliness in submitting the report and the opportunity to engage in a constructive
and frank dialogue with the State party. The Committee appreciates the efforts made by the delegation in responding to the
questions and comments raised by Committee members.
3. The Committee notes with interest the involvement of civil society organizations in the reporting process.
B. Positive aspects
4. The Committee welcomes the withdrawal of reservations and declarations to articles 2 to 6, 15 and 20 of the Convention on 10
5. The Committee welcomes efforts made by the State party towards the elimination of institutionalized racism and the
establishment of democratic institutions, including the adoption of the Roadmap for Democracy and Sustainable Socio-Economic
6. The Committee welcomes the establishment of the Constitution Review Commission for the elaboration of a new constitution
and notes the commitment made by the State party to ensure the participation of all Fijians in the constitutional consultation process.
7. The Committee notes with interest a number of measures towards the elimination of racial discrimination in schools and
promoting diversity, including the compulsory education of iTaukei and Hindi languages.
C. Concerns and recommendations
8. The Committee notes the comment made by the State party that the prohibition of collecting data based on ethnicity
(CERD/C/FJI/18-20, para. 6) was established in pursuance of the Committee’s previous recommendation (CERD/C/FJI/CO/17,
paragraph 16), and was aimed at eliminating racial profiling, for example in immigration forms. However, the Committee regrets the
lack of disaggregated data on the socio-economic situation of members of ethnic groups as well as the lack of gender analysis of
data provided (arts. 1 and 5).
Recalling its revised reporting guidelines (CERD/C/2007/1 of 13 June 2008, paragraph 11), the Committee reaffirms that if progress
in eliminating discrimination based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin is to be monitored, some indications of the
number of persons who might be treated less favourably on the basis of these characteristics are needed. Also, the Committee
recommends that in preparing data in accordance with the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25 (2000) on gender-related
dimensions of racial discrimination, the State party also take into account gender issues which may intersect with racial
discrimination, and provide data disaggregated by gender.
In line with its general recommendation No. 8 (1990) on the interpretation and application of article 1 of the Convention, the
Committee recommends that the State party ensure that data on the socio-economic situation of the population by ethnicity is
collected on a voluntary and self-identification basis. It requests that the State party include such disaggregated data in its next
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FREEDOM IN THE WORLD REPORT- 2012
Political Rights Score: 6
Civil Liberties Score: 4
Status: Partly Free
New anti-union regulations, which took effect in September 2011, seriously limit trade union and collective bargaining rights. Also
during the year, the interim government tightened control over the media, and prominent political opponents and critics continued to
face harassment, including overseas travel bans, arrests, and serious charges such as sedition.
In 2009, the court of appeals ruled that the 2006 dismissal of Qarase and his cabinet, the dissolution of Parliament, and the 2007
appointment of Bainimarama as interim prime minister were illegal. The interim president, Josefa Iloilo, was ordered to appoint a
caretaker prime minister to dissolve Parliament and call elections. The next day, Iloilo suspended the 1997 constitution, nullified all
judicial appointments, reconfirmed himself as president, reappointed Bainimarama as interim prime minister, and imposed Public
Emergency Regulations (PER) to ban public protests and tighten government control of the media. In July 2009, Iloilo stepped
down, and Vice-President Epeli Nailatikau assumed the role of interim president.
The international community reacted by terminating millions of dollars in development aid and suspending Fiji from the
Commonwealth. In spite of international pressure, Bainimarama announced in 2009 that new elections would not be held until
September 2014, pending the passage by 2013 of a new constitution that would address the recommendations of the People’s
Charter. Bainimarama also declared in March 2010 that no politician active since 1987 would be allowed to run in the 2014
elections. In 2010, the interim government granted immunity from prosecution to all those involved in the 2000 and 2006 coups
who had not been convicted in court hearings. Beneficiaries included Iloilo, Bainimarama, and members of the military, police, and
In 2011, the interim government continued to silence its critics. Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara, a former lieutenant colonel and ally of
Bainimarama in the 2006 coup, absconded bail and fled to Tonga in May, accused of making seditious comments and inciting a
mutiny. Mara’s sister, Adi Ateca Ganilau, then lost her position in July as head of the Lau provincial council for allegedly criticizing
the interim government. On December 30, Dr. Mere Samisoni, a 74-year-old former parliamentarian who has close ties to Mara’s
family, was taken into military custody and charged with inciting violence. The interim government also increased its control of
organized labor during the year, including limiting collective bargaining rights, refusing to grant permits for union meetings, and
harassing union leaders.
Fiji’s economy continued to suffer from the global economic downturn and the suspension of development assistance from
international donors. The government consequently intensified efforts to attract Chinese investment in casino gaming, hotels, and
mining. In 2011, China promised $4.3 million to fund a new hospital and gave $3 million to various development programs. To
increase state revenues, the interim government raised the value-added tax in January and cut pensions in September.
Fiji is not an electoral democracy. Under the 1997 constitution, which was suspended in 2009, Parliament consisted of a 32-seat
Senate and a 71-seat House of Representatives. The president was appointed to a five-year term by the Great Council of Chiefs;
however, this role was suspended in 2007. The prime minister was appointed by the president and was generally the leader of the
majority party or coalition in Parliament. Since the suspension of the constitution, the interim government has essentially ruled by
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15 October 2012
Fiji reform process flawed
The independent group set up to review Fiji’s constitution needs to take urgent measures to ensure women and young people are
able to fully participate in the process, Amnesty International said on Monday.
A women’s youth group, the Emerging Leaders Forum Alumni, was prevented from giving verbal evidence to the Constitutional
Commission on Saturday.
Kate Schuetze, Pacific Researcher at Amnesty International, said:
“This strikes at the heart of the credibility of the Constitutional Commission. If people are denied the opportunity to fully participate
in the process then it undermines any future constitution. It is essential that women and young people are fully involved in
establishing the new constitution so that it reflects their vision for the country as well as protects their rights."
"The Commission needs to urgently ensure all public consultations are inclusive, meaningful and transparent. It is the Commission’
s responsibility to ensure there’s adequate time for this to happen.”
"Widespread censorship remains in Fiji and Amnesty International urges the government to lift these restrictions on freedom of
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Fiji: Letter to Acting Minister for Defence, National Security, and Immigration Joketani Cokanansiga
June 13, 2012
Dear Minister Cokanansiga,
I write to you on behalf of Human Rights Watch to express our concern over the cancellation of a parade in Suva by the Fiji police
on May 17, 2012.
HRW is an independent organization dedicated to defending and promoting fundamental rights. We investigate and expose human
rights violations in over 90 countries around the world and hold abusers accountable.
On May 17, 2012, the police cancelled a parade organized by Oceania Pride to celebrate the International Day against Homophobia
and Transphobia in Suva. The organizers had acquired all the necessary permits from the police department and the city council to
hold the parade; however, on the day of the parade they had their permits unexpectedly revoked. When they asked for the reason of
this sudden decision they were informed that the police had not been aware that the parade was of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender (LGBT) nature.
The abrogated Fiji Constitution provides for freedom of assembly. After the military coup, the interim government has denied
permits for marches and meetings to nongovernmental organizations, religious groups, and other civil society organizations due to
the arbitrary enforcement of restrictions on gatherings and meetings, which were provided for in the Public Emergency Regulations
to break up any gathering seemed unlawful.
More so, the actions taken by the police also contradict the People’s Charter for Change, Peace, & Progress, which was launched
by the Interim Government in December 2008 with aims to “rebuild Fiji into a non-racial, culturally vibrant and united, well-
governed, truly democratic nation.” The Charter highlights the “equality and dignity of all citizens” and it underlines the Fijian
people’s desire for inclusiveness and mutual respect through, among other things, “a strong and free civil society.”
The cancellation of the parade to mark the international day against homophobia and transphobia has harmed the claims by the
government to build a free civil society and to “empower and uplift the lives” of all Fijians, including vulnerable and disadvantaged
communities, as stated in the People’s Charter.
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GOVT ADVANCES WOMEN'S LEGAL AND SOCIAL RIGHTS
Ministry of Information
Apr 27, 2012
The Fijian Government has approved the Family Law (Amendment) Decree 2012. The Family Law Act 2003 did not afford spouses
living in de facto relationships in Fiji the same rights to property and spousal maintenance as those couples married under the civil law.
In this sense, spouses of de facto relationships had no legal mechanisms or provisions to receive property or spousal maintenance
when their relationship ceased.
“Government found it necessary to ensure that all Fijians are provided a strong legal framework under which to protect their own
interests – and in this instance, of property and spousal maintenance,” stated Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. “It is imperative
that all Fijians living in genuine de facto relationships are afforded the same rights as legally married couples. This was also recognized
in the original Law Reform Commission report”
In determining whether a couple lives in a ‘domesticide facto relationship’, the courts will henceforth consider the following factors:
· the duration of the relationship;
· the nature and extent of common residence;
· whether or not a sexual relationship exists;
· the degree of financial dependence or interdependence and arrangements for financial support between the parties;
· the ownership, use and acquisition of property;
· the degree of mutual commitment to a shared life;
· the care and support of children, if any;
· the performance of household duties; and
· the reputation and public aspects of the relationship.
The Family Law (Amendment) Decree 2012 is significant, not only in the impact it will have in protecting overall spousal rights, but
also in the legal provisions it will provide to women who are often the most vulnerable when these relationship end.
Government is committed to the advancement of gender equality, for example through the implementation of the Domestic Violence
Decree, and the implementation of the New Crimes Decree, which removes the rules of corroboration for rape, and which has
modernised the laws to make it more gender sensitive.
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Sri Lanka and Fiji: Ghost Human Rights Commissions
Written By Sri Lanka Guardian on September 20, 2011 | 2:21 PM
by Vanessa Spencer
Strategic Initiatives Programme
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
A National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) is a body created and funded by the state with a mandate to protect and promote
human rights. In order for an NHRI to provide human rights education to the public, advise the government on human rights issues
and monitor state actors – who may be perpetrators of human rights violations – it must be independent and impartial. Indeed,
independence from the state, together with active engagement with non-government organisations and other civil society actors, are
key components of an effective NHRI. The Human Rights Commissions (HRC) of Sri Lanka and Fiji, countries marred by civil
conflict, lack both.
FIJI HRC: A STATE OF INADEQUACY
With a long history of coups d’état and constitutional crises, Fiji’s human rights situation has been severely undermined in the past
The Fiji Human Rights Commission (FHRC) was established in 1997 to, inter alia, provide human rights education and make
recommendations to the government on human rights issues.
FHRC’s lack of independence has been a matter of concern after the 2006 military coup, when its Chairperson, Shaista Shameem,
was unconstitutionally appointed. In 2007, Shameem publicly supported both the coup and the limitation of human rights by the
military forces on account of the State of Emergency. The Commission eventually resigned from the Asia Pacific Forum (the
network of Asia Pacific NHRIs) and from the ICC, which had criticised its lack of “both credibility and independence”.
The promulgation of the 2009 Human Rights Commission Decree further hindered FHRC’s independence by determining that “the
functions, powers and duties of the Commission do not extend to receiving complaints against, or investigating, questioning or
challenging, the legality or validity of the Fiji Constitution Amendment Act, 1997, Revocation Decree, 2009, or such other Decrees”.
The blatant disregard of FHRC’s legislative duty to consult and cooperate with human rights organisations has been particularly
patent in its criticism of human rights NGOs’ role in Fiji. In 2008, it published confidential e-mails between NGOs and newspaper
publishers on the country’s political situation and supported the expulsion of the latter due to “national security” concerns. It
further recommended the enhancement of governmental scrutiny of the media and NGOs.
The Commission’s unwillingness to investigate numerous cases of torture, detention and the killing of human rights defenders and
other government critics by the military continues to this day. In January and February 2011, trade unionists Pramod Rae and Attar
Singh were threatened and intimidated by army officers. In February, the Prime Minister threatened two human rights defenders
with detention following their critics of the country’s judiciary system at Fiji’s Universal Periodic Review. The occurrence of
similar cases rose in the weeks leading to a plan for a peaceful demonstration against the government in the Fijian capital last
March, which was cancelled due to high police and military presence. Nevertheless, FHRC states that no recent complaints of
abuse, detainment or intimidation by the security forces have been made, which suggests that a lack of trust in the Commission and
fear of repercussions effectively silence victims of human rights abuses.
GHOST NHRIS OR NO NHRIS AT ALL?
The Sri Lanka and Fiji Human Rights Commissions are excellent examples of NHRIs that, owing to their lack of independence, see
their engagement with civil society deeply hampered. More shamefully, they fail to protect those who are in the best position to
document past and present human rights violations.
In principle, their mandates guarantee that they will effectively protect and promote human rights. In practice, their role has been
virtually reduced to that of superficial human rights education.
Civil society actors who work towards the improvement of a country’s human rights situation can be invaluable sources of
independent and comprehensive information – an essential ingredient to understanding the human rights issues at stake and the
consequences of not addressing them appropriately. This is especially important when public awareness of and access to NHRIs is
limited, and when these institutions lack resources and staff.
NHRIs that are preserved with the only purpose of convincing citizens and the international community that the government is
dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights not only fail in their rationale but are also detrimental to the idea behind
institutions such as NHRIs.
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September 2, 2012
Fiji Mine Workers' Union Submission to the Constitution Commission
I am informed the Fiji media has not reported anything on this submission, and I cannot see why. It is critical of government
inaction in recent years but its recommendations to the Commission are sound, and the root of the unresolved problem goes back
to 1991. The union's concerns seem to have fallen between the cracks created by the demise of the Ombudsman's Office and the
Fiji Human Rights Commission and the Abrogation of the 1997 Constitution in 2009. I trust my publication of their submission
will remind Government of its promise to the mine workers in 2007, and of the right of all workers to expect fair treatment.
Honourable Members of the Constitution Commission,
We, members of the Fiji Mineworkers Union (FMUW) who have been on strike in Fiji since 27th February 1991- that is for 21
years and 6 months, make these submissions to the Honourable Constitution Review Commission.
Our strike is considered to be the longest in history and is mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records.
The reason that we are making these submissions to the Commission is because in 2007, when the current Government took over,
we were promised resolution of our strike by the following government representatives at a meeting held at the Fiji Human Rights
Commission on 23rd April 2007. These representatives were:
Captain Teleni (former Deputy Commander of the RFMF);
Captain Leweni (former Military spokesman);
Interim Attorney-General Mr Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum
After that meeting nothing much eventuated and the former Director of the Human Rights Commission, Dr Shaista Shameem,
wrote regularly to the Attorney General seeking up-dates to which there were no responses.
Subsequently, our Union and the Human Rights Commission had decided to take the matter to the court through the mechanisms of
Chapter 4 of the 1997 Constitution and specifically under section 33 on Fair Labour Practices and also the Human Rights
Commission Act 1999.
However before our application could be filed in court, the 1997 Constitution was thrown out. That was in April 2009. At the same
time the Human Rights Commission and Ombudsman’s Office became defunct. The Human Rights Commission is now open in
In 2009, the Fiji Mineworkers Union formally withdrew our case from the Human Rights Commission. Instead we decided to send
our complaint directly to the International Labour Organisation in Geneva. Our complaint was drafted in the form of a
Communication, and sent to the Committee on Freedom of Association and to the Committee of Experts of the ILO.
A copy of the ILO communication with attachments can be made available to the Commission if it would like to have a copy.
However, we will just outline a few points because this has a connection with our submissions today.
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Polynesian peoples are believed to have settled the Fijian islands some 3,500 years ago, with Melanesians following
around a thousand years later. Most authorities agree that they originated in Southeast Asia and came via Indonesia.
Archeological evidence shows signs of settlement on Moturiki Island from 600 BC and possibly as far back as 900
BC. According to oral tradition, the indigenous Fijians of today are descendants of the chief Lutunasobasoba and
those who arrived with him on the Kaunitoni canoe. Landing at what is now Vuda, the settlers moved inland to the
Nakauvadra mountains. Though this oral tradition has not been independently substantiated, the Fijian government
officially promotes it, and many tribes today claim to be descended from the children of Lutunasobasoba. Recent
research by the Fiji Museum and the University of the South Pacific (USP) has found that skeletons excavated at
Natadola in Sigatoka, at least 3000 years old, belonged to the first settlers of Fiji, with their origins in South China or
Taiwan. Dutch navigator Abel Tasman was the first known European visitor to Fiji, sighting the northern island of
Vanua Levu and the North Taveuni archipelago in 1643. James Cook, the British navigator, visited one of the
southern Lau islands in 1774. It was not until 1789, however, that the islands were charted and plotted, when
William Bligh, the castaway captain of the HMS Bounty, passed Ovalau and sailed between the main islands of Viti
Levu and Vanua Levu en route to Batavia, in what is now Indonesia. Bligh Water, the strait between the two main
islands, is named after him, and for a time, the Fiji Islands were known as the Bligh Islands. The first Europeans to
settle among the Fijians were shipwrecked sailors and runaway convicts from Australian penal colonies. In 1804, the
discovery of sandalwood on the southwestern coast of Vanua Levu led to an increase in the number and frequency
of Western trading ships visiting Fiji. A sandalwood rush began in the first few years but it dried up when supplies
dropped between 1810 and 1814. By 1820, the traders returned for beche-de-mer or sea cucumber. In the early
1820s, Levuka was established as the first European-style town in Fiji, on the island of Ovalau. In the early 1820s,
Levuka was established as the first modern town in Fiji, on the island of Ovalau. The intervention of European
traders and missionaries, of whom the first arrived from Tahiti in 1830, led to increasingly serious wars among the
native Fijian confederacies. Supplied with weapons by Swedish mercenary Charlie savage, Ratu Tanoa, the Vunivalu
(a chiefly title meaning Warlord, often translated also as Paramount Chief) of Bau Island, defeated the much larger
Burebasaga Confederacy and succeeded in subduing much of western Fiji. His successor, Seru Epenisa Cakobau,
fought to consolidate Bauan domination throughout the 1850s and 1860s, and started calling himself the Tui Viti, or
King of Fiji. He faced opposition, however, from local chiefs who saw him at best as first among equals, and also
from the Tongan Prince Enele Ma'afu, who had established himself on the Island of Lakeba in the Lau archipelago in
1848. A Christian, Ma'afu brought Wesleyan missionaries from Tonga, and the Methodist Church gained its first
foothold in Fiji. Most chiefs in the west regarded the Wesleyan missionaries, aligned as they were seen to be with
Ma'afu, as a threat to their power, refused conversion, and resisted missionary attempts to set up outposts in their
villages. Cakobau's claimed position was also undermined by international developments. The United States
threatened intervention following a number of incidents involving their consul, John Brown Williams. His trading store
had been looted by Fijian natives following an accidental fire, caused by stray cannon fire during a Fourth of July
celebration in 1849. In June 1871, John Bates Thurston, the British honorary consul, forged a "marriage of
convenience" between Cakobau and the settlers, and persuaded the Fijian chiefs to accept a constitutional monarchy
with Cakobau as king, but with real power in the hands of a cabinet and Legislature dominated by settlers. The
formal cession of Fiji to Britain took place on 10 October 1874, when Cakobau, Ma'afu, and the Paramount Chiefs
of Fiji signed two copies of the Deed of Cession. Ninety-six years of British rule followed. Sir Hercules Robinson,
who had arrived on 23 September 1874, was appointed as interim Governor. He was replaced in June 1875 by Sir
Arthur Gordon. Gordon decided in 1878 to import indentured labourers from India to work on the sugarcane fields
that had taken the place of the cotton plantations. The 463 Indians arrived on 14 May 1879 - the first of some
61,000 that were to come before the scheme ended in 1916. Fiji was only peripherally involved in World War I. By
the time of World War II, the United Kingdom had reversed its policy of not enlisting natives, and many thousands of
Fijians volunteered for the Royal Fiji Military Forces. After World War II, Fiji began to take its first steps towards
internal self-government. These steps towards self-rule were welcomed by the Indo-Fijian community, which by that
time had come to outnumber the native Fijian population. With numerous compromises, Fiji became independent on
October 10, 1970. Since attaining independence from the United Kingdom on 10 October 1970, Fijian history has
been marked by exponential economic growth up to 1987, followed by relative stagnation, caused to a large extent
by political instability following two military coups in 1987 and a civilian putsch in 2000. Rivalry between indigenous
Fijians and Indo-Fijians, rather than ideological differences, have been the most visible cleavage of Fijian politics. A
series of coups have ensued since independence, the most recent on 5 December 2006 which continues today.
Sources: Wikipedia History of Fiji
Click on map for larger view
Click on flag for Country Report
Current situation: Fiji is a source country for children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation
and a destination country for a small number of women from China and India trafficked for the purposes of forced
labor and commercial sexual exploitation
Tier rating: Tier 3 - Fiji does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is
not making significant efforts to do so; the government has demonstrated no action to investigate or prosecute
traffickers, assist victims, take steps to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, or support any anti-trafficking
information or education campaigns; Fiji has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol (2009)
Prime Minister since 10 September 2000
Commodore Frank Bainimarama
Acting Prime Minister
since 10 April 2009