Fiji country profile

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Map of Fiji

Fiji has one of the most developed economies in the Pacific, relying heavily on its tourism and sugar industries.

Since independence from Britain in 1970, rivalry between the indigenous Fijian and the ethnic Indian communities has been at the root of much of the political upheaval in the country.

The archipelago consists of more than 330 islands and 540 islets scattered over about 3,000,000 sq km (about 1.1 million sq miles). Of the islands, about 100 are inhabited.

REPUBLIC OF FIJI: FACTS

  • Capital: Suva
  • Area: 18,274 sq km
  • Population: 926,200
  • Language: Fijian, English, Fiji Hindi, plus Rotuman
  • Life expectancy: 65 years (men) 69 years (women)

LEADERS

President: Jioji Konousi Konrote

Image source, Getty Images

Jioji Konousi Konrote was elected as president in October 2015. He is the first non-indigenous president and the first to be elected by parliament. Previous presidents were selected by the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC).

He has had a long career in the military, government and diplomatic service.

Prime Minister: Sitiveni Rabuka

Image source, Getty Images

Sitiveni became prime minister in December 2022 following general elections in which opposition parties reached a deal to form a new coalition government, ending Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama's nearly 16-year rule.

Fiji's coalition government has broader regional significance. Both parties have signalled a desire to cool relations with China, which has been steadily increasing its financial and diplomatic interests in the Pacific.

Mr Bainimarama came to power in a 2006 coup, one of a series of political upheavals since Fiji gained independence from the UK in 1970. The rivalry between the indigenous Fijian and the ethnic Indian communities has been at the root of much of the tensions.

In 2013 the constitution was changed to remove a race-based electoral system that favoured indigenous Fijians over the country's large Indian population.

Mr Rabuka is a former international rugby player who was the leader of Fiji's first coup in 1987, which came after tensions between indigenous Fijians and ethnic Indians. He served as prime minister in 1992-99.

MEDIA

Image source, Getty Images

Private TV and radio stations operate alongside outlets run by the state-owned Fiji Broadcasting Corporation.

Reporters Without Borders has praised the media's "spirit of resistance" but says journalists are restricted by a "draconian" media decree.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in Fiji's history:

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Fiji has been at the forefront of international efforts deal with climate change, which threatens to submerge low lying islands

1643 - Dutch explorer Abel Tasman is the first European to visit the islands.

1830s - Western Christian missionaries begin to arrive.

1874 - Fiji becomes a British crown colony at the request of Fijian chiefs.

1875-76 - Measles epidemic wipes out one-third of the Fijian population; British forces and Fijian chiefs suppress rebellion.

1879-1916 - More than 60,000 indentured labourers brought in from the Indian subcontinent to work on sugar plantations.

1916 - British colonial government in India stops the recruitment of indentured labourers.

1920 - All labour indenture agreements in Fiji end.

1970 - Fiji becomes independent with Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara of the AP as prime minister.

1987 - Indian-dominated coalition wins general election, ending 17 years of rule by the AP. Lieutenant-Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka seizes power in a bloodless coup with the aim of making indigenous Fijians politically dominant. In a saecond coup he proclaims Fiji a republic

1999 - Mahendra Chaudhry is elected Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister but is overthown a year later when bankrupt businessman George Speight and retired major Ilisoni Ligairi storm parliament, aiming to make indigenous Fijians the dominant political force.

2001 - Elections to restore democracy.

2002 - Fiji announces radical privatisation plan designed to stave off collapse of vital sugar industry threatened by withdrawal of EU subsidies.

2006 - Military chief Frank Bainimarama carries out coup.

2012 - Martial law is lifted.

2014 - Frank Bainimarama becomes the country's civilian leader after winning parliamentary elections.

2016 - At least 42 people are killed and tens of thousands are left homeless as Cyclone Winston hits Fiji in the worst storm ever recorded in the southern hemisphere.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Fiji consists of an archipelago of more than 330 islands

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