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Fiji

Fiji joined Quota International’s network in 1975.
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Fiji is the home of Quota International of Ba

A recent civil coup has made Fiji a hot topic in Asia-Pacific news this year. An archipelago of 332 islands in the Koro Sea, Fiji has had a fairly unstable government since gaining independence from Great Britain in 1970. The most recent problems began in May 2000 when seven masked gunmen stormed Fiji’s parliament building and appointed a new prime minister.

The coup leaders were arrested, and an interim government with a third prime minister was put into place by Fiji’s military and the Great Council of Chiefs to restore order during the civil unrest.

Fiji

Courtesy of The General Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

The hostile takeover of parliament came only one year after the first elections were held under Fiji’s 1997 Constitution. Although Mahendra Chaudhry was elected Fiji’s first prime minister of Indian ethnicity, he was not restored to power after the rebels were arrested. Instead, the military-appointed leader, Qarase, has promised to rewrite Fiji’s constitution by August 2001 to guarantee that indigenous Fijians hold top political jobs. He also promises to hold elections in 2002.

Legend suggests that the great tribal chief Lutunasobasoba led the first Fijians to the islands from Southeast Asia by way of Indonesia nearly 3,500 years ago. The Melanesians and the Polynesians intermarried and developed a complex, highly developed society many years before the arrival of the first Europeans. The Dutch were the first to arrive to Fiji when Abel Tasman passed through in 1643.

As missionaries spread Christianity through the South Pacific, more foreigners became inclined to make the islands their home. In 1874, Fiji was officially ceded to Great Britain. The colonial government was surprisingly tolerant of many local customs, and many natives were interested in learning about European customs. As a result, Fiji established profitable sugar and mining industries. Though Fiji is considered a developing country, tourism became a large source of supplemental income for the otherwise poor economy.

Today, Fiji enjoys the diversity of a multi-racial and multi-ethnic culture. Native Fijians make up 51 percent of the total population, while ethnic Indians make up 44 percent. The Indians are descendents of migrant workers who came to Fiji, when it was a British colony, to work on sugar plantations.

English is the country’s official language, though local dialects such as Bauan Fijian and Fiji-Hindi are spoken in certain enclaves. Indo-Fijians tend to live in the urban centers of Suva and Lautoka, while native Fijians tend to live in the smaller towns and villages.

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