FIJI ISLANDS HISTORICAL TIMELINE

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Historical Timeline





1643





Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman discovered the islands but did not attempt to land because of reports of cannibalism that was rampant in the islands.




1774





English navigator, Captain James Cook, also sailed close to the group but, again, did not attempt any landing. By 1777 Captain Cook had been able to talk to Fijians living in Tonga and had written the following to the master of Resolution (W Bligh), which was under his command during that expedition. "Feejee and Tongataboo engage in war against each other; and the inhabitants of the latter are often so much afraid of his enemy that they bend the body forward and cover the face with the hands, to express the sense of their own inferiority to the Feejee men..."




1789





Captain William Bligh, after mutiny on the Bounty (April 28), sailed through the Fiji group, entering it south of Moce and North of Yagasa on Monday, May 4. Within the next 24 hours he would pass close to Nairai and Gau, noting that there were bigger islands appearing in the SW and NNW. Bligh was chased by two canoes in the Yasawas but they managed to stay out of reach.

1792

Bligh revisits Fiji in HMS Providence

1800

Bukatatanoa Reef, near Lakeba, is where the American schooner Argo ran aground. One crew member died, but the ship carried a deadlier cargo which was to infest the Fiji group under the name "Lila Balavu" a strain of Asian cholera.



The Argo was closely followed by the La Plumier which had picked up Oliver Slater, who had discovered and was the first man to market sandalwood from Bua.

1808

It was a June night when the American Brigantine, Eliza hit Mocea reef near Nairai, bringing to Fiji the notorious, Charlie Savage and his muskets

1813

February, an East Indiaman, under Captain Robson and a tender Elizabeth under its master Peter Dillon, arrived in Bua to get more sandalwood.

1817

Seru, later Cakobau is born

1820

The village of Suva relocates from Nauluvatu to its new location in what is now Thurston Gardens. They moved because the Tui Suva Tabakaucoro had married a Bauan lady who did not want to climb hills.

12th October 1835

David Cargill and William Cross spotted Lakeba and landed there on their way from Vavau. They were later joined by Hunt, Jaggar and Calvert, in 1839 and started the move to Rewa then into Bau. In 1840 Viwa was a Christian settlement with its own chapel These missionaries died in their field stations:



William Cross 1842 at Somosomo;

John Hunt 1848 at Viwa

David Cargill 1843 in Tonga.

May 1840

The United States Exploring Expedition reached Fiji, after spending three months in Fiji waters charting the major islands of the group under the leadership of Commodore Charles Wilkes

1843

The siege of Suva, in which 400 people were killed, started over a pig. After the initial attack from Rewa and her allies, the people of Suva had gone back to Uluvatu and later presented na i soro. The Rewans accepted but a small chieftain Kovelevu broke the armistice when he clubbed a woman, which received a sharp rejoinder from the husband.

1844

First Roman Catholic missionaries arrive in Lakeba.

1845 - the 11 year war

On a June morning the Roko Tui Dreketi, Banuve, was invited aboard Cakobau's canoe, Ra Marama, where he was to formally accept Cakobau's offer of peace, but no sooner had he stepped on board when Cakobau split his head with his battle axe.

1848

Ma'afu had arrived and set up government at Lakeba. He put in place a Parliament and a system of land tenureship and lease holdings and taxation, before finally relocating and moving lock stock and barrel, to Lomaloma in Vanua Balavu

1854

Tanoa dies and Seru Cakobau assumed the title of Vunivalu and styles himself as Tui Viti, and on a Sunday, April 30, Cakobau became a christian and the death drum 'Rogorogo i valu' was beaten to herald his first church service.

April 7, 1855

The Battle of Kaba, as Cakobau, aided by King George of Tonga, swept through the Kaba promontory killing 200 defenders and capturing a further 200, whom Cakobau, in a religious fervor pardoned. Ratu Mara was captured later at Levuka and taken to Bau where he was hanged. Before the hanging he was approached by a village elder to pronounce the birth of a son whom he named Madrai-wiwi (sour bread) saying his life had turned sour as he was to die. Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi became the father of Ratu Sir Joseva Lalabalavu Vanaaliali Sukuna, the father of modern Fiji.

1860-1870

Settlers began to arrive in droves making Levuka their home by choice

1864

Blackbirders arrived in Fiji and with them brought the first New Hebrides and Solomon Island labourers, to assist in the cotton plantations.

1865

A confederacy of native kingdoms was first mooted and Fiji's first constitution was drawn up and signed by seven independent chiefs of Fiji, representing the states of Bau, Lakeba, Rewa, Bua, Cakaudrove, Macuata and Naduri, each to form part of the General Assembly. Cakobau was elected president for two years in a row, and when Ma'afu sought the seat in the third year, the Fijian chiefs refused to be governed by a Tongan and withdrew causing the confederacy to collapse.

1867

Ma'afu did not mind and went ahead with his own plans, coming up with the "Confederation of North and East Fiji" (Na Tovata ko Natokalau kei Viti), consisting of Lau, Cakaudrove and Bua. Ma'afu managed to assume chairmanship later, as Tui Lau.

1869

The Fiji Times began publication at this point in time from an office in Levuka

1870

The Levuka Charter was ratified by Seru Cakobau, giving the settlers the authority to set up and police municipal regulations. However, the Charter was voided by a letter from the Governor of New South Wales.

1871

The villagers of Lovoni were auctioned off as slaves by Seru Cakobau. In June of that same year Cakobau announced a government complete with Ministers. Ma'afu arrived in Levuka a month later and swore allegiance to Cakobau, in turn receiving a salary of 800 pounds p.a. title of Lieutenant Governor of Lau and ownership of Moala, Matuku and Totoya (yasayasa Moala)

August 1, 1871

First sitting of the House of Representatives, which was predominantly a white affair, however they managed to establish a postal service, currency, bank regulations and a land commission.

1872

The Klu Klax Klan was formed to oppose the Cakobau government and a Taveuni planter joined Government, John Bates Thurston. The arrival of the HMS Cossack set things in place as the master, Captain Douglas, threatened anyone crossing Cakobau. England, indirectly, had given a firm nod of assurance to Fiji's King.

1873

This year saw Cakobau's government battle the Kai Colo, following an incident which saw two European cotton planters slaughtered by the Kai Colo. Involved in the fight were the people of Bulu, Nasau, Nanukunuku, Savanunu, Nasautabu, Cubu, Magodro, Nubutautau, Qaliyalatina and Naloto. Cakobau also dissolved the Assembly

1874

On September 28 the Council of Chiefs gave Fiji unreservedly to the Queen. Following this Sir Hercules Robinson, Ratu Cakobau and Thurston went island hopping to get all the necessary signatures



October 10th Fiji was ceded to Great Britain after a meeting of the first Great Council of Chiefs, who were there to witness the solemn occasion

1875

Measles killed over 40,000 in Fiji, reportedly after Ratu Cakobau and his two sons returned from Australia, where they contracted the disease.



Fiji's first Governor, Sir Arthur Gordon arrived from Australia.

28th October 1876

Sir Arthur Gordon issues a proclamation pardoning all hill tribes, bringing to an end all the wars in Viti Levu.

1877

The Home Office and Queen gives approval for Fiji's capital to move from Levuka to Suva.

May 14, 1879

The ship Leonidas arrived in Levuka, and the first group of indentured labourers had arrived from Calcutta. All in all 87 vessels, carrying indentured labourers came to Fiji over a five year period.

1880

Special constables enrolled to guard Levuka from possible attack and the first land sale was conducted in Suva at the Ivi Tree.

August 30, 1882

The Governor, Colonial Secretary and other departmental heads left Levuka on board the Ocean Queen, for the new capital.

1902

The Trans-Pacific cable linking America with Australia, and New Zealand reached Fiji.

1905

The first motorcar arrived in Fiji and was put on public viewing at the park..

1914

30 years after the expiry of the indentured labourers agreement (girmit) 16,000 acres had been leased to Indians. Lautoka sugar mill was receiving 50,000 tons of cane and independent farmers had raised 10,000 head of cattle.

1915

Apolosi Nawai, who came from Narewa village in Nadi claimed a messianic revelation calling upon him to free the Fijians and in the event started the Viti Kabani.

January 1, 1915

The first Fijian contingent sailed for Europe (WWI) aboard the RMS Makura.

September 26, 1915

It was the First world war and the First Battalion of the French Foreign Legion had just been repulsed three times in front of Fort Navarin. The first company volunteered to carry out the last attempt. Among them was a Fijian who was wounded in that action, he was Ratu JLV Sukuna.

1917

The Fiji Labour Detachment is born. Count Felix von Luckner is captured in Wakaya by members of the Fiji Constabulary.

1920

Indians force government into making radical changes in attitude towards free Indians, especially in politics.

1921

A lightning bolt hit Government House and caused a fire which completely razed the Governor's residence.

February 9, 1923

In the early morning the many buildings along the street was razed in a fire that engulfed everything in the vicinity. 45 shops were destroyed. These included eight tailors, 18 refreshment rooms (grog shops) and several retailers.

June 5, 1928

The Southern Cross. piloted by Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm landed at Albert Park. Other members of the crew included radioman Jim Warner and navigator Harry Lyons.

1929

Indian community given go ahead to elect to have elected representation on Legislative Council.

1932

First gold bullion exported from Mt Kasi, and by November a gold rush was officially on.

1933

Establishment of Fiji Airways, but it later fails.

October 1934

The Dolphin, Emperor and Loloma mines were opened. Ten years later they were producing gold valued at 15 million dollars.

1935

Broadcasting services begun in Fiji by a local subsidiary of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd.

1937

Non-official Legco membership becomes partly elected and partly nominated.

1939

New Government Buildings opens in Suva. First airfield built at Nadi. Pan-Am begins trans Pacific flying boat service.

1940

Native Lands Trust Board set up to look after the welfare of the indigenous Fijian through the better management of their land.

1942

WWII was now in earnest and government had started recruiting the previous year, managing to recruit a force of 6500 which included three regular Battalions, two commando units artillery section labour Corp and all the necessary supporting units.

1947

Introduction of residential permits to restrict immigration.

1951

Harold Gatty restarts Fiji Airways, later renamed Air Pacific.

1952

On the 8th of January 800 men of the 1FIR boarded the troopship Asturias for Malaya, to take part in the Malayan Emergency, a tour of duty that would take four years

December 17, 1953

Queen Elizabeth II arrives in Fiji on her first visit, and the first ever of any reigning British monarch.

1954

Ratu JLV Sukuna (soon to be knighted) is appointed first Speaker of the Legislative Council. Fiji Broadcasting Commission is formed and the Credit Union movement is established.

1955

Formation of the Housing Authority, to look at the problems of housing in the urban centres, for low income earners.

May 30, 1958

9.45am Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna died on the Arcadia enroute for England

December 14, 1960

The United Nations General Assembly passes a resolution defining colonial domination as repression of basic human rights.

1963

The first general elections which gave Fijians total franchise, earlier elections saw Fijians being elected into the Legco through the GCC, and for the first time an Indian dominated political party had entered the race. First South Pacific Games held in Suva.

January 1963

The Great Council of Chiefs met in Wakaya and drafted what became known as the Wakaya letter, what was to become the basic negotiating document of Fijians in the 1960s., asserting the principles of Fijian paramountcy signed by Ratu George Cakobau, Ratu Mara, Ratu Penaia Ganilau, Semesa Sikivou, Ravuama Vunivalu, AC Reid, John Falvey and RM Major.

1964

Establishment of the Fiji National Provident Fund and the Methodist Church in Fiji becomes an autonomous body.

June 21, 1964

The National federation Party became the first political party to be formed the formalised in Fiji, after the adoption of its constitution.

July 1, 1964

Membership system was introduced in the Legislative Council:



John Falvey - Member for Communications & Works;

Ratu Kamisese Mara -Member for Natural Resources; and

AD Patel -Member for Social Services.

26 July - 9 August, 1965

A Constitutional delegation left Fiji to finalise talks on the Constitutional process for the Independence of Fiji. The delegation was made up of Government and opposition members, led by the Chief Minister, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. The conference was held at Marlborough House, in sixteen separate sessions. Fishing industry established in Levuka.

1966

Formation of political parties including Alliance as Legco is enlarged and reconstituted. FEA established and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Suva is established.

1967

Council of Ministers replaces old Executive Council and Ratu Mara assumes the post of Chief Minister.

1968

University of the South Pacific established.

October 10, 1970

Fiji's first Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara receives the instruments of Independence by HRH Prince of Wales, Prince Charles.

1971

First South Pacific Arts festival held in Suva.

1972

The first general elections under the 1970 constitution which introduced a bi-cameral Parliament composed of an Upper House (Senate) and a Lower House (House of Representatives. Alliance won 33 of the 52 seats in the Lower House.

1973

Ratu Sir George Cakobau is appointed Govenor General.

1977

Fiji had to have two general elections this year after the first, which was won by the National federation Party could not get started because of internal bickering amongst NFP members, notably Siddiq Koya and Karam Ramrakha. The Alliance took a 20 seat majority in the second elections.

June 1978

Fijian troops leave Fiji for Peacekeeping duties in Southern Lebanon with the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

1981

Pieces of pottery found in Naigani said to be 3500 years older than any previous find.



The Western United Front has its inaugural meeting.

1982

The Alliance Party again won the general elections. Another Battalion of Fijian soldiers live for Peacekeeping duties in the Sinai Peninsula with the Multi-National Forces and Observers (MFO) a US brokered initiative.

1983

Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau sworn in as Governor General.



Hurricane Oscar causes US$70m damage



Monasavu hydroelectric dam comes on stream.

1984

Reserve Bank of Fiji opens and QANTAS takes over management of Air Pacific.

1985

Four cyclones devastate the country early in the year.



The labour party is formed and two FM radio stations begin broadcasts.

1987

The General Election was won by the Coalition NFP-FLP, and resulted in the relegation of former PM, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara and Alliance MP to the Opposition, while Dr Timoci Bavadra was sworn in as Prime Minister.

May 14, 1987

On a cloudless Thursday, Lieutenant Colonel, Sitiveni Rabuka, third in command of the Royal Fiji Military Forces executed a bloodless military coup at 10am.



There is a second coup in September, after which Fiji is declared a Republic and severs ties with the British Monarchy.

1989

Former Governor General, and Vunivalu of Bau, Ratu Sir George Cakobau passes away

1990

A new constitution was promulgated by the first President, of the Republic of Fiji, Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, giving Fijians 37 seats, Indians 27, General voters 5 and Rotumans 1.

1992

The first general elections under the new 1990 constitution was conducted and the Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei took control of the polls.

1993

The Rabuka government falls after failing to get majority support for the Appropriations Bill.



The President, Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, dies in the US after medical treatment, following a long illness. He was later buried in Taveuni, and the nation is in a year long period of mourning.

January 18, 1994

Tuesday morning and Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara is sworn in as President and Commander in Chief.

1995

The President appoints a Constitution Review Commission to review the 1990 Constitution. Sir Paul Reeves, Dr Brij Lal and Tomasi Vakatora.

September 6, 1996

After 14 months of consultation the CRC hands in their report to the President, which was duly tabled in a joint Parliamentary seating on September 11. Thereafter a Joint Parliamentary Select Committee was convened to sift through the 697 recommendations, and which was tabled in parliament in July.

1997

Fiji wins the Rugby Sevens World Cup.

May 14, 1997

JPSC report on constitution tabled in Parliament, and also given green light by GCC at its June meeting.

June 6, 1997

History is created when the Leader of the Opposition, Jai Ram Reddy addresses the Great Council of Chiefs.

July 3, 1997

The Constitution (Amendment) Bill 1997 is passed by the Lower House.

July 10, 1997

The Constitution (Amendment )Bill 1997 is passed by the Upper House.

July 25, 1997

The Constitution (Amendment) Bill 1997 is signed by the President and becomes law.

1998

The Constitution Amendment Act is prorogued and becomes law on July 27th.

1999

The Fiji Labour Party gains victory in the national elections. It forms the People’s Coalition Party with three other political parties, the Veitokani ni Lewenivanua Vakarisito (VLV), Party of National Unity (PANU) and the Fijian Association Party (FAP). Mahendra Chaudhry is sworn in as Prime Minister, and becomes the first ever Indo-Fijian Prime Minister of Fiji.

2000

Civilian parliament takeover on May 19th. An Interim Government is appointed with the approval of the Great Council of Chiefs and the President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo on July 28th.