Republic of the Fiji Islands

President: Ratu Epeli Nailatikau (2009)

Prime Minister: Frank Bainimarama (2007)

Total area: 7,054 sq mi (18,270 sq km)

Population (2014 est.): 903,207 (growth rate: .7%); birth rate: 1986/1000; infant mortality rate: 10.2/1000; life expectancy: 72.15

Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Suva (on Viti Levu), 177,000

Monetary unit: Fiji dollar

Current government officials

Languages: English (official), Fijian (official), Hindustani

Ethnicity/race: iTaukei 56.8% (predominantly Melanesian with a Polynesian admixture), Indian 37.5%, Rotuman 1.2%, other 4.5% (European, part European, other Pacific Islanders, Chinese)
note: a 2010 law replaces 'Fijian' with 'iTuakei' when referring to the original and native settlers of Fiji (2007 est.)

Religions: Protestant 45% (Methodist 34.6%, Assembly of God 5.7%, Seventh Day Adventist 3.9%, and Anglican 0.8%), Hindu 27.9%, other Christian 10.4%, Roman Catholic 9.1%, Muslim 6.3%, Sikh 0.3%, other 0.3%, none 0.8% (2007 est.)

National Holiday: Independence Day, 2nd Monday of October

Literacy rate: 93.7% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2013 est.): $4.45 billion; per capita $4,900. Real growth rate: 3%. Inflation: 3%. Unemployment: 7.6%. Arable land: 9.17%. Agriculture: sugarcane, coconuts, cassava (tapioca), rice, sweet potatoes, bananas; cattle, pigs, horses, goats; fish. Labor force: 335,000; agriculture 70%, industry and services 30%. Industries: tourism, sugar, clothing, copra, gold, silver, lumber, small cottage industries. Natural resources: timber, fish, gold, copper, offshore oil potential, hydropower. Exports: $1.026 billion (2013): sugar, garments, gold, timber, fish, molasses, coconut oil. Imports: $2.054 billion (2012): manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment, petroleum products, food, chemicals. Major trading partners: U.S., Australia, UK, Samoa, Japan, China, Tonga, New Zealand, Singapore.

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 88,400 (2012); mobile cellular: 858,800. Broadcast media: Fiji TV, a publicly traded company, operates a free-to-air channel as well as Sky Fiji and Sky Pacific multi-channel pay-TV services; state-owned commercial company, Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, Ltd, operates 6 radio stations - 2 public broadcasters and 4 commercial broadcasters with multiple repeaters; 5 radio stations with repeaters operated by Communications Fiji, Ltd; transmissions of multiple international broadcasters are available (2009). Internet hosts: 21,739 (2012). Internet users: 114,200 (2009).

Transportation: Railways: total: 597 km; note: belongs to the government-owned Fiji Sugar (2008). Highways: total: 3,440 km; paved: 1,692 km; unpaved: 1,748 km (2011 est.). Waterways: 203 km; 122 km navigable by motorized craft and 200-metric-ton barges (2012). Ports and harbors: Lambasa, Lautoka, Suva. Airports: 28 (2013).

International disputes: none.

Major sources and definitions

Flag of Fiji

Geography | Government | History


Fiji consists of 332 islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean about 1,960 mi (3,152 km) from Sydney, Australia. About 110 of these islands are inhabited. The two largest are Viti Levu (4,109 sq mi; 10,642 sq km) and Vanua Levu (2,242 sq mi; 5,807 sq km).




Fiji, which had been inhabited since the second millennium B.C., was explored by the Dutch and the British in the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1874, an offer of cession by the Fijian chiefs was accepted, and Fiji was proclaimed a possession and dependency of the British Crown. In the 1880s large-scale cultivation of sugarcane began. Over the next 40 years, more than 60,000 indentured laborers from India were brought to the island to work the plantations. By 1920, all indentured servitude had ended. Racial conflict between Indians and the indigenous Fijians has been central to the small island's history.

Fiji became independent on Oct. 10, 1970. In Oct. 1987, Brig. Gen. Sitiveni Rabuka staged a coup to prevent an Indian-dominated coalition party from taking power. The military coup caused an exodus of thousands of Fijians of Indian origin who suffered ethnic discrimination at the hands of the government.

A new constitution, which took effect in July 1998, provided for a multiracial cabinet and raised the prospect of a coalition government. The previous constitution had guaranteed dominance to ethnic Fijians. In 1999, Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, took office.

Prime Minister Is Deposed in Attempted Coup

Continuing ethnic tensions, partly fueled by economic problems, plunged Fiji into a national nightmare in 2000. On May 19, a group of armed soldiers entered Parliament and took three dozen people hostage, including Prime Minister Chaudhry. George Speight, a part-Fijian businessman, led the insurrection, and he demanded that the 1998 constitution be rewritten to allow dominance of ethnic Fijians. The standoff lasted two months. In July 2000, Speight and other coup leaders were taken into custody and charged with treason. In Feb. 2002, Speight was sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted.

Although the coup was foiled, deposed prime minister Chaudhry and his democratically elected government were not restored to power. Instead, the military and the Great Council of Chiefs, a group of 50 traditional Fijian leaders, appointed an interim government dominated by ethnic Fijians. Elections were held in 2001, but no party achieved a majority. Interim prime minister Laisenia Qarase's Fijian United Party won 31 of 71 seats, and Qarase was sworn in as prime minister in September. His cabinet consisted entirely of ethnic Fijians, but the supreme court declared Qarase's government unconstitutional in 2003. In 2004, political infighting stalled the implementation of a new multiethnic cabinet. Much to Prime Minister Qarase's displeasure, Vice President Ratu Jope Seniloli and four other prominent figures were convicted for their part in the 2000 coup and imprisoned in Aug. 2004. In 2005, Qarase backed a highly controversial bill that included an amnesty clause for the 2000 coup leaders. The bill was supported by the Great Council of Chiefs and the ethnic Fijian establishment but vehemently rejected by the opposition (led by former prime minister Chaudhry, who was deposed in the coup) as well as the military. Qarase was narrowly reelected in May 2006 for another five-year term.

Dr. Senilagakali Is Installed As Prime Minister in Fiji's Fourth Coup

In December 2006, Fiji's military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, announced he had assumed executive power, deposed Prime Minister Qarase, and appointed Jona Senilagakali, a medical doctor, as interim prime minister. It was the country's fourth coup since 1987. Tensions had built up over several years between the military and Qarase over a corruption scandal and issues regarding the 2000 coup—the military accused the prime minister of excessive leniency toward those who had orchestrated that coup.

In Jan. 2007, Bainimarama reinstated Josefa Iloilo as president. Senilagakali resigned as interim prime minister, and Bainimarama succeeded him.

Bainimarama and the military grabbed more power in April of 2009. Reacting to a ruling by Fiji's Court of Appeal, which stated that the military government was illegally appointed after the 2006 coup and that democratic elections should be held as soon as possible, Bainimarama refused to step down and instead increased censorship of Fiji's media, expelled foreign journalists, and announced that elections would not be held until 2014. President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, believed to be a puppet of Bainimarama, announced that he had repealed the Constitution. Iloilo retired in July and was replaced by Ratu Epeli Nailatikau.

In Sept. 2009, the Commonwealth of Nations, an association of Great Britain and its dependencies and former dependencies, suspended Fiji, saying the country had failed to make progress toward returning to a democracy.

A general election was held on Sept. 17, 2014. Bainimarama's newly formed Fiji First party won, receiving 59.2% of the vote. Five days later he was sworn in as the democratically-elected prime minister by President Nailatikau.

See also Encyclopedia: Fiji
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes: Fiji
Statistics Bureau .


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