2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Countries; Geography of Oceania (Australasia)

Matanitu Tu-Vaka-i-koya ko Viti
फ़िजी فِجی

Republic of the Fiji Islands
Flag of Fiji Coat of arms of Fiji
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Rerevaka na Kalou ka Doka na Tui
(English: Fear God and honour the Queen)
Anthem: God Bless Fiji
Location of Fiji
(and largest city)
18°10′S 178°27′E
Official languages English, Bau Fijian, and Hindustani (Hindi]]/Urdu)
Government Republic
 - President Ratu Josefa Iloilo
 - Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase
 - GCC Chairman Ratu Ovini Bokini
 - Great Chief Queen Elizabeth II1
Independence from UK 
 - Date 10 October 1970 
 - Total 18,274 km² ( 155th)
7,056 sq mi 
 - Water (%) negligible
 - July 2006 estimate 905,949 ( 156th)
 - Density 46/km² ( 148th)
119/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2005 estimate
 - Total $5.447 billion ( 149th)
 - Per capita $6,375 ( 93rd)
HDI  (2006) 0.752 (medium) ( 90th)
Currency Fijian dollar ( FJD)
Time zone ( UTC+12)
Internet TLD .fj
Calling code +679
1 recognised by the Great Council of Chiefs.

Fiji (Fijian: Viti; Hindustānī: फ़िजी فِجی), officially the Republic of the Fiji Islands, is an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Vanuatu, west of Tonga and south of Tuvalu. The country occupies an archipelago of about 322 islands, of which 106 are permanently inhabited; in addition, there are some 522 islets. The two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, account for some 87% of the total population. The name Fiji is the old Tongan word for the islands, which is in turn derived from the Fijian name Viti.


Levuka, 1842.
Levuka, 1842.

The first inhabitants of Fiji arrived from South East Asia long before contact with European explorers in the 17th century. Evidence shows through pottery excavated from Fijian towns that Fiji was settled before or around 1000 BC. This academic question of Pacific migration still lingers. It is documented that Fiji was visited by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in an attempt to find the Great Southern Continent in 1643. It was not until the 19th century, however, that Europeans came to the islands to settle there permanently. The islands came under British control as a colony in 1874. It was granted independence in 1970. Democratic rule was interrupted by two military coups in 1987, caused by concern over a government perceived as dominated by the Indo-Fijian (Indian) community. A consequence of the second 1987 coup was that the British Monarchy and the Governor General were replaced by a non-executive President, and the long form of the country's name changed from Dominion of Fiji to Republic of Fiji (in turn changed to Republic of the Fiji Islands in 1997). The coups contributed to heavy Indian emigration; the population loss resulted in economic difficulties, but ensured that Melanesians became the majority.

A 1990 constitution guaranteed ethnic Fijian control of Fiji. Amendments enacted in 1997 made the constitution more equitable. Free and peaceful elections in 1999 resulted in a government led by an Indo-Fijian. A year later, this was deposed in a coup led by George Speight, a hardline Fijian nationalist. Fiji's membership of the Commonwealth of Nations was suspended due to the anti-democratic activities connected with the 2000 coup. Democracy was restored towards the end of 2000, and Laisenia Qarase, who had led an interim government in the meantime, was elected Prime Minister. Fiji was readmitted to the Commonwealth as a Commonwealth Republic in 2001.

For a country of its size, Fiji has exceptionally capable armed forces, and has been a major contributor to UN peacekeeping missions in various parts of the world.


The Politics of Fiji take place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic, whereby the Prime Minister of Fiji is the head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Parliament of Fiji. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

Administrative divisions

Fiji is divided into four parts, called divisions (capitals in parentheses):

  • Central Division (Suva)
  • Northern Division ( Labasa)
  • Eastern Division (Levuka)
  • Western Division ( Lautoka)

These divisions are further subdivided into fourteen provinces. Additionally, the island of Rotuma, north of the main archipelago, has the status of a dependency. It is officially included in the Eastern Division for statistical purposes, but administratively has a degree of internal autonomy.

Municipal governments, with City and Town Councils presided over by Mayors, have been established in Suva, Lautoka, and ten other towns.


Map of Fiji
Map of Fiji

Fiji consists of 322 islands, of which 110 are inhabited, and 522 smaller islets. The two most important islands are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. Viti Levu hosts the capital city of Suva, and is home to nearly three quarters of the population. The islands are mountainous, with peaks up to 1,300 metres (4,250  ft), and covered with tropical forests. Other important towns include Nadi (the location of the international airport), and Lautoka. 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, endowed with forest, mineral, and fish resources, is one of the more developed of the Pacific island economies, though still with a large subsistence sector. Fiji experienced a period of rapid growth in the 1960s and 70s but stagnated in the early 1980s. The coups of 1987 caused further contraction. Economic liberalisation in the years following the coup created a boom in the garment industry and a steady growth rate despite growing uncertainty of land tenure in the sugar industry. The expiration of leases for sugar cane farmers (along with reduced farm and factory efficiency) has led to a decline in sugar production despite a subsidised price. Subsidies for sugar have been provided by the EU and Fiji has been the second largest beneficiary after Mauritius.

Urbanization and expansion in the service sector have contributed to recent GDP growth. Sugar exports and a rapidly growing tourist industry — with 430,800 tourists in 2003 and increasing in the subsequent years — are the major sources of foreign exchange. Sugar processing makes up one-third of industrial activity. Long-term problems include low investment and uncertain property rights. The political turmoil in Fiji has had a severe impact on the economy, which shrank by 2.8% in 2000 and grew by only 1% in 2001. The tourism sector recovered quickly, however, with visitor arrivals reaching pre-coup levels again during 2002, which has since resulted in a modest economic recovery. This recovery continued into 2004 but grew by 1.7% in 2005 and is projected to grow by 2.0% in 2006. Although inflation is low, the policy indicator rate of the Reserve Bank of Fiji was raised by 1% to 3.25% in February 2006 due to fears of excessive consumption financed by debt. Lower interest rates have so far not produced greater investment for exports. However, there has been a housing boom from declining commercial mortgage rates.

Until recently, the tallest building in Fiji was the 14-story Reserve Bank of Fiji Building in Suva, which opened in 1984. As of November 2005, the 17 story Suva Central commercial centre is now the tallest building in Fiji.


Ethnic groups

The population of Fiji is mostly made up of native Fijians, a people of mixed Polynesian (partly Tongan) and Melanesian ancestry (54.3%), and Indo-Fijians (38.1%), descendants of Indian contract labourers brought to the islands by the British in the 19th century. The percentage of the population of Indian descent has declined significantly over the last two decades because of emigration.

About 1.2% are Rotuman — natives of Rotuma Island, whose culture has more in common with countries such as Tonga or Samoa than with the rest of Fiji. There are also small, but economically significant, groups of Europeans, Chinese and other minorities.

Relationships between ethnic Fijians and Indo-Fijians have often been strained, and the tension between the two communities has dominated politics in the islands for the past generation. The level of tension varies between different regions of the country.


Three official languages are prescribed by the constitution: English, which was introduced by the former British colonial rulers, Bau Fijian, spoken by ethnic Fijians, and Hindustani, the main language spoken by Indo-Fijians. Citizens of Fiji have the constitutional right to communicate with any government agency in any of the official languages, with an interpreter to be supplied on request.

The use of English is one of the more enduring legacies of almost a century of British rule. Widely spoken by both ethnic Fijians and Indo-Fijians, English is the main medium of communication between the two communities, as well as with the outside world. It is the language in which the government conducts most of its business, and is the main language of education, commerce, and the courts.

Fijian belongs to the Austronesian family of languages. Fijian proper is closely related to the Polynesian languages, such as Tongan. There are many dialects, but the official standard is the speech of Bau, the most politically and militarily powerful of the many indigenous kingdoms of the 19th Century.

"Hindustani" is considered an umbrella term in India for the standard languages Hindi (preferred by Hindus) and Urdu (preferred by Muslims), as well as many closely related tongues that are sometimes considered separate languages. A patois known as Fiji Hindi descends from one of the eastern forms of Hindustani, called Awadhi and has synthesized a number of North Indian languages and adopted a considerable number of loanwords from English and Fijian. It has developed some unique features that differentiate it from the Awadhi spoken on the Indian subcontinent, although not to the extent of hindering mutual understanding. It is spoken by nearly the entire Indo-Fijian community regardless of ancestry, except for a few elders.

In addition to the three official languages, several other languages are spoken. On the island of Rotuma, Rotuman is used; this is more closely related to the Polynesian languages than to Fijian. Some Fijian dialects, especially in the west of the country, differ markedly from the official Bau standard, and would be considered separate languages if they had a codified grammar or a literary tradition. Among the Indo-Fijian community, there a proportion of Gujarati speaking and Punjabi speaking communities, and a few older Indo-Fijians still speak Telugu and Tamil, with smaller numbers of Bihari, Bengali, and others.

In the Fijian alphabet, some of the letters have unusual values. For one, the "c" is a voiced "th" sound, [ð]. (For example, the name of Fiji-born New Zealand rugby player Joe Rokocoko is often mis-pronounced. The correct pronunciation is IPA: [rɒkɒˈðɒkɒ].) Another difference is that the letters "b" and "d" are always pronounced with a nasal before them, [mb, nd], even at the beginning of a word. The "q" is pronounced like a "g" with a nasal "ng" before it, [ŋg] as in the word "finger", while the "g" is pronounced like the "ng" of the word "singer", [ŋ].


Religion is one of the faultlines between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians, with the former overwhelmingly Christian (99.2% at the 1996 census), and the latter mostly Hindu (76.7%) and Muslim (15.9%).

The largest Christian denomination is the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma. With 36.2% of the total population (including almost two-thirds of ethnic Fijians), its share of the population is higher in Fiji than in any other nation. Roman Catholics (8.9%), the Assemblies of God (4%), and Seventh-day Adventists (2.9%) are also significant. These and other denominations also have small numbers of Indo-Fijian members; Christians of all kinds comprise 6.1% of the Indo-Fijian population. Much major Roman Catholic missionary activity was conducted through the Vicariate Apostolic of Fiji.

Hindus belong mostly to the Sanatan sect (74.3% of all Hindus) or else are unspecified (22%). The small Arya Samaj sect claims the membership of some 3.7% of all Hindus in Fiji. Muslims are mostly Sunni (59.7%) or unspecified (36.7%), with an Ahmadiya minority (3.6%) regarded as heretical by more orthodox Muslims.

The Sikh religion comprises 0.9% of the Indo-Fijian population, or 0.4% of the national population in Fiji. Their ancestors came from the Punjab region of India.


The national sport of Fiji is considered to be rugby union (see Rugby union in Fiji). The national team is quite successful, and have competed at four Rugby World Cups, the first being in 1987, which has also thus far been their best result, reaching the quarter finals. Fiji also compete in the Pacific Tri-Nations and the Pacific Nations Cup. The sport is governed by the Fiji Rugby Union who are a member of the Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance, and contribute to the Pacific Islanders rugby union team. At club level there is the Colonial Cup and the Pacific Rugby Cup. The Fiji sevens team are also one of the most successful rugby 7s teams in the world.

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