Fiji History 101
Fiji is known by many as one of the most favorite holiday destinations in the world. Its history certainly reflects its culture. The traceable history of Fiji dates back to around 1500 B.C and is evident from specimens of pottery and utensils unearthed from various locations. It is believed to be the Polynesians who first settled in Fiji and then they were later joined by and overrun by Melanesia’s around 500 B.C. During those years, people were classified as cannibals and the various villages and tribes warred amongst each other and against neighboring lands across the ocean. Fijians were considered to be excellent navigators and fierce warriors.
It is known that the first Europeans to discover and live amongst the Fijians were shipwrecked sailors and runaway convicts from the Australian penal settlements. The sandalwood traders and missionaries arrived in Fiji by the mid-19th century. By that time the missionaries gained a lot of influence and put an end to most of the practicing of cannibalism. Ratu Seru Cakobau, the Tui Viti (King of Fiji) was the first Fijian to accept Christianity in the year 1854 and soon after that the whole country followed suit which brought an end to traditional tribal warfare.
Soon after that phase, from the years 1879 to 1916, British colonizers imported indentured laborers from India to work in the sugar plantations. It was an extremely difficult life for these Indian workers with economic freedom virtually non-existent and their situation was really only a step or two above what we associate with conventional slavery. When the indenture system was abolished, many farmers remained in Fiji as independent farmers or businessman. Now the Indo- Fijian community comprises approximately 34% of the total population of Fiji and wields considerable economic clout.
Fiji during the World War II
During the World War II, Fiji was a British colony. The Defense Force of Fiji served with the New Zealand and Australian Army, a formation which was under the Allied Pacific Ocean Areas command. The attack on Pearl Harbor on 8th December, 1941, marked the beginning of the Pacific War. Because of its central location, Fiji was selected to be a training base for the Allies. The Fiji Infantry Regiment was under the command of Ratu Sir Edward Cakobau.
On October 10, 1970, the British declared independence to Fiji and the Late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, a Fijian chief, led a multiracial Fijian dominated government up until 1987. During this time the independent Fijian government was involved in a coup, which was to prevent the shifting of power to an Indian- dominated coalition party. The Indian ethnic groups faced a lot of discrimination during this period. Later on in the year 2000, Fiji again witnessed another coup. The main reason for this takeover was to demand the dominance of ethnic Fijians as opposed to the 1998 constitution which provided a multicultural cabinet.
Today, Fiji governance has experienced its ups and downs while it deals with residual elements remaining from older hierarchical governing systems laced with religious and ethnic overtones that occasionally conflict with other governing systems. In the end, Fiji always moves forward, uniquely branding its own method of politics and culture with an increasingly relevant tourism based industry. The current government is working towards an election in 2014, a new constitution and equality for all its citizens.