Fiji, (Fijian: Matanitu ko Viti; Fijian Hindustani: फ़िजी), officially the Republic of the Fiji Islands (Fijian: Matanitu Tu-Vaka-i-koya ko Viti; Fijian Hindustani: फ़िजी द्वीप समूह गणराज्य, fiji dvip samooh ganarajya), is an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean east of Vanuatu, west of Tonga and south of Tuvalu. The country comprises an archipelago of about 322 islands, of which 106 are permanently inhabited, and 522 islets. The two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, account for 87% of the population.
Fiji's main island is known as Viti Levu and it is from this that the name "Fiji" is derived, though the common English pronunciation is based on that of their island neighbors in Tonga. Its emergence was best described as follows:
Fijians first impressed themselves on European consciousness through the writings of the members of the expeditions of Cook who met them in Tonga. They were described as formidable warriors and ferocious cannibals, builders of the finest vessels in the Pacific, but not great sailors. They inspired awe amongst the Tongans, and all their Manufactures, especially bark cloth and clubs, were highly esteemed and much in demand. They called their home Viti, but the Tongans called it Fisi, and it was by this foreign pronunciation, Fiji, first promulgated by Captain James Cook, that these islands are now known.
Pottery excavated from Fijian towns shows that Fiji was settled before or around 3500–1000 BC, although the question of Pacific migration still lingers. It is believed that the Lapita people or the ancestors of the Polynesians settled the islands first but not much is known of what became of them after the Melanesians arrived; they may have had some influence on the new culture, and archaeological evidence shows that they would have then moved on to Tonga, Samoa and Hawai'i.
The first settlements in Fiji were started by voyaging traders and settlers from the west about 3500 years ago. Lapita pottery shards have been found at numerous excavations around the country. Aspects of Fijian culture are similar to Melanesian culture to the western Pacific but have stronger connection to the older Polynesian cultures such as those of Samoa and Tonga. Trade between these three nations long before European contact is quite obvious with Canoes made from native Fijian trees found in Tonga and Tongan words being part of the language of the Lau group of islands. Pots made in Fiji have been found in Samoa and even the Marquesas Islands. Across 1000 kilometres from east to west, Fiji has been a nation of many languages. Fiji's history was one of settlement but also of mobility. Over the centuries, a unique Fijian culture developed. Constant warfare and cannibalism between warring tribes was quite rampant and very much part of everyday life. During the 19th century, Ratu Udre Udre is said to have consumed 872 people and to have made a pile of stones to record his achievement. Fijians today regard those times as "na gauna ni tevoro" (time of the devil). The ferocity of the cannibal lifestyle deterred European sailors from going near Fijian waters, giving Fiji the name Cannibal Isles, in turn Fiji was unknown to the rest of the outside world.
The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman visited Fiji in 1643 while looking for the Great Southern Continent. Europeans settled on the islands permanently beginning in the nineteenth century. The first European settlers to Fiji were Beachcombers, missionaries, whalers and those engaged in the then booming sandalwood and bêche-de-mer trade.
Ratu Seru Epenisa Cakobau was a Fijian chief and warlord from the island of Bau, off the eastern coast of Viti Levu, who united part of Fiji's warring tribes under his leadership. He then styled himself as King of Fiji or Tui Viti and then to Vunivalu or Protector after the Cession of Fiji to Great Britain. The British subjugated the islands as a colony in 1874, and the British brought over Indian contract labourers to work on the sugar plantations as the then Governor and also the first governor of Fiji, Arthur Charles Hamilton-Gordon, adopted a policy disallowing the use of native labour and no interference in their culture and way of life. In 1875-76, measles epidemic killed over 40,000 Fijians, about one-third of the Fijian population. The population in 1942 was approximately 210,000 of whom 94,000 were Indians, 102,000 native Fijians, 2,000 Chinese and 5,000 Europeans.
The British granted Fiji 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 and accompanying civil unrest 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 to 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 re-admitted 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.
In April 2009, the Fiji Court of Appeal ruled that the 2006 coup had been illegal. This began the 2009 Fijian constitutional crisis. President Iloilo abrogated the constitution, removed all office holders under the Constitution including all judges and the Governor of the Central Bank. He then reappointed Bainimarama as Prime Minister under his "New Order" and imposed a "Public Emergency Regulation" limiting internal travel and allowing press censorship.
For a country of its size, Fiji has 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.
Fiji covers a total area of some 194,000 square kilometres (75,000 sq mi) of which around 10% is land.
Fiji is the hub of the South West Pacific, midway between Vanuatu and the Kingdom of Tonga. The archipelago is located between 176° 53′ east and 178° 12′ west. The 180° meridian runs through Taveuni but the International Dateline is bent to give uniform time to all of the Fiji group. With the exception of Rotuma, the Fiji group lies between 15° 42′ and 20° 02′ south. Rotuma is located 400 kilometres north of the group, 670 km from Suva, 12° 30′ south of the equator.
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. The islands are mountainous, with peaks up to 1,300 metres (4,250 ft), and covered with thick tropical forests. Viti Levu hosts the capital city of Suva, and is home to nearly three quarters of the population. Other important towns include Nadi (the location of the international airport), and the second city -Lautoka (the location of a large sugar mill and a seaport). 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 kilometres (310 mi) north of the archipelago, has a special administrative status in Fiji. Fiji's nearest neighbour is Tonga. The climate in Fiji is tropical and warm most of the year round.
Matanitu Tu-Vaka-i-koya ko Viti (Fijiano)
फ़िजी द्वीप समूह गणराज्य (Fijī dvīp samūh gaṇrājya)-Hindi
فیجی دویپ سموہ گنراجیہ (Fījī dvīp samūh ganrājyâ)-Arab
Republic of the Fiji Islands (English)
10 October 1970
Na vosa vaka-Viti (Fijian), Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu), Arab and English