It’s October 10th, and in the US it is Indigenous Peoples Day (known as Columbus Day…but we know better..) – but if your from Fiji, you may be celebrating Fiji Day!
Over 150 years ago, King Cakobau (pronounced Thakombau) ruled over the island of Fiji. He is known as the country’s first and last king. As history tells it, King Cakabou united Fiji as one and ruled his kingdom for a short three years before ceding the country to the British Empire, on October 10th, 1874, making Fiji a crown colony.
A few years later, in 1879 the first of over 60,000 Indians arrived in Fiji as Indentured Slaves. I talk more about this time period also known as the Girmitya here.
Ninety-Six years after King Cakobau ceded his kingdom, Fiji became an independent sovereign state within the commonwealth on October 10, 1970. Thus making October 10th a day of celebration in Fiji. Although independent, Queen Elizabeth II still ruled as the head of state.
It wasn’t until 1987 (unbelievably the year after I was born) where Fiji became a republic and the monarchy ended due to Fiji’s second military coup. Despite abolishing the monarchy in 1987, Fiji still issued bank notes with the Queen’s portrait until 2012.
Though the currency has changed to reflect Fiji’s independence, the flag of Fiji has not.
The flag consists of the Union Jack, which represents the country’s link to the United Kingdom. A shield for the national coat of arms representing the country’s agricultural activities. The coat of arms consist of:
- a British lion holding cocoa powder between it’s paws
- Sugar Cane is represented in the top left quarter
- A coconut palm in the top right quarter
- A dove for peace in the bottom left quarter
- and a bunch of bananas in the bottom right corner
Current Prime Minister Frank Bainarama announced the flag would change in 2013 (soon after the removal of the Queen from Fiji currency). However in 2016 he publicly announced that the government would abandon plans to change the flag as it had gained popularity after the 2016 Summer Olympics, when Fiji won the country’s first ever gold medal in men’s rugby, which they retained in the 2020 Olympics as well. So for now, there are no initiatives to change the flag.
“He said while he remained convinced personally that the country needed to replace some of the flag’s colonial symbols with a genuinely indigenous expression of Fiji’s present and its future, it had become apparent to the government since February that the flag should not be changed for the foreseeable future. – www.rnz.co.nz