Fiji Day

Fiji Day is October 10, a double anniversary. On that date in 1874, Fiji was ceded to the United Kingdom, and on that date in 1970, Fiji gained its independence from British colonial rule. The week leading up to October 10 is known as Fiji Week and is a celebration of national unity and of religious and cultural diversity. Every day, there are performances and programs centered in Fijian and Indian culture--the two main ethnic cultures. The Christian, Hindu and Muslim religions all observe traditions and ceremonies, and there are rallies, songfests, political speeches, a focus on children's games and activities, craft shows and government-sponsored drives to promote health, education and social programs.

How Fiji Attained its Independence

A constitutional conference was held in London in July 1965, to discuss constitutional changes with a view of introducing responsible government. Indo-Fijians, led by A. D. Patel, demanded the immediate introduction of full self-government, with a fully elected legislature, to be elected by universal suffrage on a common voters' roll. These demands were vigorously rejected by the ethnic Fijian delegation, who still feared loss of control over natively owned land and resources should an Indo-Fijian dominated government come to power. The British made it clear, however, that they were determined to bring Fiji to self-government and eventual independence. Realizing that they had no choice, Fiji's chiefs decided to negotiate for the best deal they could get.

A series of compromises led to the establishment of a cabinet system of government in 1967, with Ratu Kamisese Mara as the first Chief Minister. Ongoing negotiations between Mara and Sidiq Koya, who had taken over the leadership of the mainly Indo-Fijian National Federation Party on Patel's death in 1969 led to a second constitutional conference in London, in April 1970, at which Fiji's Legislative Council agreed on a compromise electoral formula and a timetable for independence as a fully sovereign and independent nation with the Commonwealth. The Legislative Council would be replaced with a bicameral Parliament, with a Senate dominated by Fijian chiefs and a popularly elected House of Representatives. In the 52-member House, Native Fijians and Indo-Fijians would each be allocated 22 seats, of which 12 would represent Communal constituencies comprising voters registered on strictly ethnic roles, and another 10 representing National constituencies to which members were allocated by ethnicity but elected by universal suffrage. A further 8 seats were reserved for "General electors" - Europeans, Chinese, Banaban Islanders, and other minorities; 3 of these were "communal" and 5 "national." With this compromise, Fiji became independent on October 10, 1970.

About Fiji

The Republic of Fiji is an archipelago of more than 300 islands in the South Pacific. Most of the population is concentrated on two main islands and so the diverse cultures, Fijian, Indian and Muslim, share many festivals and official holidays throughout the year from Christmas to Mohammed's birthday. Fiji gained independence from Britain in 1970 and became a republic in 1987, but retains ties to British culture and holidays as well. Because of the abundance of forest, mineral, and fish resources, Fiji is one of the most developed economies in the Pacific island realm. Today, the main sources of foreign exchange are its tourist industry and sugar exports. The country's currency is the Fijian dollar.

Fiji has a local government system where city and town councils fall under the general supervision of the Ministry of Local Government and Urban Development. President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau became Fiji's president, after a high court ruled that the military leadership was unlawfully appointed after a 2006 coup.

Fijian indigenous society is very communal, with great importance attached to the family unit, the village, and the vanua (land). A hierarchy of chiefs presides over villages, clans, and tribes. Chiefly positions are hereditary; a deceased chief is invariably followed by a kinsman or kinswoman, though not necessarily his own son or daughter reflecting Polynesian influence. However, in most Melanesian societies, chiefs are appointed on merit.

The traditional attire was loin cloths for men and grass skirts for women. Skirts were short for single women, and long for married women, with girls wearing virgin locks before marriage. Most ladies of rank had the lower parts of their bodies decorated with tattoos. Chiefs dressed more elaborately. Modern Fiji's national dress is the sulu, which resembles a skirt. It is commonly worn by both men and women. Many will wear a shirt with a western-style collar, tie, and jacket, with a matching Sulu va taga and sandals, this type of sulu can be worn to a semi-formal or formal occasion. Women usually wear a multi-layered Tapa cloth on formal occasions. On special occasions, women often wear a tapasheath across the chest, rather than a blouse. On other occasions, women may be dressed in a chamba, also known as a sulu I ra, a sulu with a specially crafted top.

Happy Fiji Independence Day, from your CPSC Family!

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