Fiji has 910,000 people. Located 2,000 kms from New Zealand, it is an island country in the South Pacific Ocean. Fiji is an archipelago of more than 330 islands – 110 of which are permanently inhabited – with a total area of 18,300 square kilometres. Today, 87% of the total population live on the two major islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. Three-quarters of Fijians live on Viti Levu’s coasts: in the capital city of Suva; or in Nadi, where tourism is the major local industry; or in Lautoka, where the sugar-cane industry is dominant. The interior of Viti Levu is sparsely inhabited because of its terrain. History informs us that cannibalism was a routine part of life in old Fiji where human flesh served as a much-needed source of protein, due to lack of meat-bearing animals. In the 1700s Europeans began exploiting Fijian’s natural resources. Sandalwood, coconuts, and sea cucumber were exchanged with firearms and alcohol. The British brought labourers from India to Fiji – many stayed behind. In 1874, after a brief period in which Fiji was an independent kingdom, the British established the Colony of Fiji. In 1970, Fiji gained its independence. Since then, four major coups took place – ignited by racist overtones of indigenous Fijians discriminating against the Indian settlers. In 1987, following a coup, the military government under Sitiveni Rabuka declared Fiji a republic. In 2006, in another coup, Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized power. In 2014, after years of delay, a democratic election took place. Frank Bainimarama’s FijiFirst party won 59.2% of the votes, and international observers deemed the election credible. In 2022, following general elections, former coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka, the head of the People’s Alliance Party (PAP), became Fiji’s 12th prime minister, succeeding Frank Bainimarama. Fiji has one of the most developed economies in the Pacific, through its abundant forest, mineral, and fish resources. Their currency is the Fijian dollar, with the main sources of foreign exchange being the tourist industry, remittances from Fijians working abroad, bottled water exports, and sugar cane. 

  1. In about 2,000 words, I will describe major events that affected Fiji from 1900 to the present.
  2. 1900 (to 1916) – Since 1879 more than 60,000 indentured labourers are brought by the British from India to work on sugar plantations in Fiji.
  3. 1904 – Legislative Council, consisting of elected Europeans and nominated Fijians, is set up to advise the British Governor.
  4. 1916 – British colonial government in India stops the recruitment of indentured labourers from India. First Indian is appointed to Legislative Council.
  5. 1918 – 14% of the population is killed by the Spanish flu pandemic (within 16 days).
  6. 1920 – All labour indenture agreements in Fiji end.
  7. 1929 – Wealthy Indians enfranchised for the first time. Indian representation in the Legislative Council is made elective.
  8. 1934 – Gold rush occurs due to opening of a gold field in Fiji.
  9. 1941 – World War Two. New Zealand assumes responsibility for defence of Fiji. USA base their troops in Fiji. Fijian troops serve in Solomon Islands.
  10. 1948 – India sends a commissioner to Fiji.
  11. 1951 – Founding of Fijian Airways.
  12. 1952 – Fijian troops serve in Malaya, helping the British fight against members of the Malayan Communist Party. 
  13. 1953 – Visit by Queen Elizabeth II. She opens the Fiji Medical School. Legislative Council is expanded, but elective seats still a minority.
  14. 1956 – Census reveals that the Indian settlers outnumber the iTaukei people (local indigenous Fijians).
  15. 1959 – Strikes and street riots occur in Suva.
  16. 1963 – Indigenous Fijians and Women enfranchised. Alliance Party (AP), predominantly indigenous Fijians, is set up.
  17. 1968 – University of the South Pacific is established.
  18. 1970 – Fiji attains independence, ending 96 years of British rule. Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara of the Alliance Party (AP) becomes prime minister.
  19. 1971 – Fiji is admitted to the Commonwealth. The Pacific Forum is formed.
  20. 1972 – First elections held under the 1970 Constitution, won by the Alliance Party (AP) with 33 seats out of 52.
  21. 1972 – Fiji Sugar Corporation Limited is formed. It takes over CSR Company operations in 1973, when the sugar industry is nationalised.
  22. 1981 – The South Pacific Regional Trade and Economics Agreement (SPARTECA) gives the island countries duty-free concessions and unrestricted access to Australia and New Zealand. Prime Minister of India, Mrs Indira Gandhi visits Fiji.
  23. 1982 – Alliance Party (AP) wins the election again with 28 seats. Visit by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Fiji hosts the first Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting.
  24. 1985 – Timoci Bavadra (Fijian of Melanesian descent) sets up the Fiji Labour Party with trade union support.
  25. 1987 – Indian-dominated coalition, Labour-National Federation Party led by Timoci Bavadra wins the general election, ending 17 years of rule by the Alliance Party (AP) and Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. Timoci Bavadra becomes Prime Minister for one month. First bloodless military coup takes place, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka, the third down in the military hierarchy of the Fiji Military Forces, with the aim of making indigenous Fijians politically dominant. Later, Sitiveni Rabuka stages a second coup and appoints Governor-General Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, president. Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau in turn appoints Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara prime minister. Sitiveni Rabuka declares Fiji a republic. Fiji is excluded from the Commonwealth. Britain, USA, Australia, and New Zealand suspend aid.
  26. 1987 (to 1992) – Interim government is led by Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.
  27. 1989 – Thousands of ethnic (local) Indians flee Fiji.
  28. 1990 – New constitution enshrining political dominance for indigenous Fijians introduced. Group Against Racial Discrimination (GARD) formed to oppose the unilaterally imposed constitution and restore the 1970 constitution.
  29. 1992 – Former coup leader, Sitiveni Rabuka of the Fijian Political Party (FPP), becomes prime minister following a general election.
  30. 1994 – Great Council of Chiefs appoints Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara president in January following the death of Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau in the previous month. Former coup leader, Sitiveni Rabuka of the Fijian Political Party (FPP), again wins general election.
  31. 1994 – Election results force Sitiveni Rabuka to open negotiations with the Indo-Fijian (local ethnic Indian Fijian) dominated Opposition.
  32. 1995 – Sitiveni Rabuka establishes the Constitutional Review Commission.
  33. 1997 – Constitutional conference leads to a new constitution, supported by most leaders of the Indigenous Fijian and Indo-Fijian communities. Fiji is re-admitted to the Commonwealth of Nations
  34. 1999 – First general election held under the 1997 Constitution won by Fiji Labour Party (FLP). Mahendra Chaudhry, an ethnic local Indian, becomes prime minister.  
  35. 2000 – Civilian coup, instigated by George Speight (a bankrupt businessman) and retired major Ilisoni Ligairi, topples the Mahendra Chaudhry government. They aim to make Indigenous Fijians the dominant political force. They take Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and his cabinet hostage. George Speight proclaims himself acting premier. President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara sacks the Mahendra Chaudhry government on the orders of Fiji’s Great Council of Chiefs.
  36. 2000 – Commonwealth suspends Fiji. Mahendra Chaudhry and other hostages released. Great Council of Chiefs appoints Ratu Josefa Iloilo (a former father-in-law of George Speight’s brother) president.
  37. 2000 – George Speight and 369 of his supporters are arrested – for the civilian coup.
  38. 2000 – Eight soldiers are killed in a failed army mutiny.
  39. 2001 – Elections are held to restore democracy. George Speight becomes a member of parliament in a new government. Indigenous Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase sworn in but does not offer cabinet posts to opposition Labour Party, in defiance of the constitution. George Speight is expelled from parliament for failing to attend sessions.
  40. 2001 – Fiji is re-admitted to the Commonwealth.
  41. 2002 – George Speight sentenced to death for treason. President Ratu Josefa Iloilo commutes his sentence to life imprisonment.
  42. 2002 – Government announces radical privatisation plan designed to stave off collapse of vital sugar industry threatened by withdrawal of European Union subsidies.
  43. 2003 – Supreme Court rules that Indigenous Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase must include ethnic-Indian members of the opposition Labour Party in his cabinet.
  44. 2004 – Former leader Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, considered to be independent Fiji’s founding father, dies aged 83.
  45. 2004 – Vice President Ratu Jope Seniloli found guilty of treason over his involvement in the May 2000 coup attempt. He serves a few months of a four-year sentence.
  46. 2004 – Labour Party declines cabinet seats in favour of opposition role.
  47. 2004 – Fijian soldiers leave for peacekeeping duties in Iraq.
  48. 2005 – Military chief warns that he will remove the government if proposed amnesty for those involved in 2000 coup goes ahead.
  49. 2006 – Great Council of Chiefs elects incumbent President Ratu Josefa Iloilo to a second, five-year term.
  50. 2006 – Former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka is charged with orchestrating a failed army mutiny in November 2000.
  51. 2006 – Ruling party leader and incumbent Indigenous Prime Minister Laesenia Qarase narrowly wins elections and is sworn in for a second term.
  52. 2006 – Tensions rise between Indigenous Prime Minister Laesenia Qarase and military chief Frank Bainimarama, who threatens to oust the government after it tries, and fails, to replace him. Indigenous Prime Minister Laesenia Qarase goes into hiding as the crisis escalates.
  53. 2006 – Frank Bainimarama says in a televised address he has taken executive powers and dismissed Indigenous Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase. Commonwealth suspends Fiji because of the coup.
  54. 2007 – Frank Bainimarama restores executive powers to President Ratu Josefa Iloilo and takes on the role of interim prime minister.
  55. 2007 – Frank Bainimarama announces plans to hold elections in 2010.
  56. 2007 – Frank Bainimarama sacks the Great Council of Chiefs and suspends all future meetings, after the chiefs refuse to endorse his government and his nomination for vice president.
  57. 2007 – Frank Bainimarama says police have foiled a plot to assassinate him.
  58. 2007 – Population of ethnic groups in Fiji: iTaukei 56.8% (Indigenous Fijians), Indian 37.5% (local ethnic Indian Fijians), and the balance 5.7% (others).
  59. 2008 – Frank Bainimarama appoints himself as chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC), a body he suspended after it failed to back his December 2006 coup.
  60. 2008 – Frank Bainimarama postpones elections promised for early 2009, on the grounds that electoral reforms could not be completed in time.
  61. 2008 – South Pacific leaders warn Fiji that it faces suspension from their regional grouping if it fails to show progress towards holding elections.
  62. 2009 – Pacific leaders demand Fiji hold elections by the end of the year.
  63. 2009 – Appeal Court rules the military regime was illegally appointed after the 2006 coup and says a caretaker prime minister should be appointed to call elections to restore democracy.
  64. 2009 – President Ratu Josefa Iloilo repeals the constitution, appoints himself head of state, sets a 2014 election deadline, and sacks all the judges. He then reappoints military chief Frank Bainimarama as interim prime minister. Martial law is imposed.
  65. 2009 – South Pacific nations suspend Fiji from the Pacific Islands Forum regional bloc for its failure to hold elections.
  66. 2009 – Frank Bainimarama unveils plans for a new constitution by 2013, ahead of elections in 2014. He says that under the proposed changes, the ethnic-based system introduced in 1997 will be scrapped.
  67. 2009 – President Ratu Josefa Iloilo steps down, succeeded on an interim basis by Vice-President Epeli Nailatikau.
  68. 2009 – The Commonwealth fully suspends Fiji after the refusal of the military government to bow to demands to call elections by 2010. It is only the second full suspension in the organisation’s history.
  69. 2010 – A court jails eight men for attempting to kill Frank Bainimarama in 2007. Critics say the eight did not have a fair hearing.
  70. 2010 – Fiji authorities admit to losing the legal document confirming independence from the United Kingdom.
  71. 2011 – Government orders cancellation of annual conference of Fijian Methodist Church – which has been highly critical of the interim military-led regime – saying that its leadership is too political.
  72. 2012 – Frank Bainimarama announces lifting of martial law and says that consultations on a new constitution will begin in February.
  73. 2012 – Australia and New Zealand agree to restore full diplomatic ties with Fiji after Frank Bainimarama agrees to call elections by 2014.
  74. 2012 – Ousted former Indigenous Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase is jailed for a year on corruption charges dating back to his time as head of a state investment company in the 1990s.
  75. 2013 – Fiji’s fourth constitution is signed into law, paving the way for elections.
  76. 2014 – Forty-five Fijian peacekeepers are held hostage for more than two weeks by Islamist militants in Syria.
  77. 2014 – Frank Bainimarama becomes the country’s civilian leader after winning parliamentary elections – first general elections held since 2006.
  78. 2014 – Commonwealth re-instates Fiji as a full member, after a 5-year suspension in 2009.
  79. 2014 – The United Nations says 45 captured peacekeepers from Fiji have been released in Syria after being held for two weeks by rebels from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.
  80. 2014 – An annual international survey of world happiness lists Fiji as the happiest nation in the world, according to polling organisation WIN/Gallup.
  81. 2015 – After decades of campaigning, Fijian military veterans receive financial compensation for their exposure to radiation from British nuclear tests carried out on Christmas Islands in the late 1950s.
  82. 2015 – Fiji confirms plans to change its flag to remove the Union Jack, saying the existing design includes symbols which are out of date and rooted in a colonial past.
  83. 2015 – Police reportedly arrest more than 50 people suspected of plotting to form a breakaway Christian state on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu.
  84. 2015 – Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama threatens long prison sentences for people he says are plotting to overthrow his government.
  85. 2016 – At least 44 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.
  86. 2016 – Fiji becomes the first country in the world to formally approve the United Nations climate deal after its parliament ratifies the Paris agreement.
  87. 2016 – Fiji reverses plans to change its flag saying the cost to remove the Union Jack as a symbol of its colonial past is too great and should be directed at recovery work in the wake of Cyclone Winston.
  88. 2016 – Amnesty International calls on the government in Fiji to withdraw soldiers from police duties, citing several allegations of torture against civilians under arrest.
  89. 2016 – New Zealand prime minister John Key visits Fiji over two days to improve relations following democratic elections in 2014.
  90. 2017 – China repatriate 77 fraud suspects from Fiji, as it battles an explosion of phone scamming that has cost victims billions of dollars.
  91. 2018 – Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama will stay in power for a second term as he narrowly wins a general election.
  92. 2018 – Fiji’s leader Frank Bainimarama is sworn in for four more years with a reduced majority, after earlier lashing out at his opponents.
  93. 2019 – European Union governments adopt a broadened blacklist of tax havens, adding the United Arab Emirates and ‘British and Dutch overseas territories’ in a revamp that triple the number of listed jurisdictions. The new list adds the British overseas territory of Fiji, Bermuda, the Marshall Islands, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Vanuatu, and Dominica; and the Dutch Caribbean Island of Aruba, Barbados and Belize. The EU blacklist originally comprised 17 jurisdictions, including the United Arab Emirates, but shrank to five after most listed states commit to change their tax rules.
  94. 2021 – Fiji, the favourite of Western nations, wins the presidency of the UN Human Rights Council, in a secret ballot that resolves a tense deadlock over the selection.
  95. 2021 – It is reported that a growing coronavirus outbreak in Fiji is stretching the health system and devastating the economy. It has even prompted the government to offer jobless people tools and cash to become farmers.
  96. 2021 – Fiji’s health ministry says about 54% of Fijians have received at least one dose of the AstraZeneca or Sinopharm vaccines.
  97. 2021 – Ratu Wiliame Katonivere is elected the new President of Fiji by the parliament.
  98. 2022 – Former coup leader, Sitiveni Rabuka, head of the People’s Alliance Party (PAP), becomes Fiji’s 12th prime minister replacing Frank Bainimarama, after winning the general elections.
  99. 2020 (to 2023) – COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 880 deaths in Fiji.
  100. 2023 – Fiji has 910,000 people.

© Comasters April 2023.

  • Jim KABLE
    Posted at 18:45h, 12 April

    Jeffrey: Interesting. My mother’s maternal grand-father was born In Levuka in 1876 – two older brothers were born before Fiji became a British Colony in 1874. His father arrived out of Worthing in England around 1860, 1861 – and he pioneered the beef and dairy industry – and is buried in the graveyard surrounding the Church in Church Street in Camperdown/Newtown. I laughed at your claims of Fiji being a society where cannibalism was practised as a way of getting protein into their traditional diet. This is the kind of claim of non-European societies perceived by racist Europeans often and incorrectly made. One could make the same claim of all practising Catholics – they are themselves cannibals every time they attend Mass and partake of the Host (which becomes in that ritual the flesh of Christ). On other matters – reasonable – the political statistics and detail of population, etc. An older brother of my great great grand-father traded through the South Pacific in the early 19th century – including Fiji – to China (Guangzhou which we used to call Canton). And one of my nieces was at one stage married to a young fellow from Fiji – and they had a child together – so there is that link, too. I have only once been to Fiji – that was in January 1972. Jim Kable

    • comasters1
      Posted at 22:29h, 12 April

      Jim, Nice to see your comments on Fiji. Levuka is a town along the beach front and was the first colonial capital of Fiji, ceded to the British in 1874. You must have visited the birthplace of your ancestor (Levuka) in January 1972 (51 years ago). On cannibalism, Fiji Musuem states this: “Archaeological evidence shows that cannibalism was common in Fiji from over 2,500 years ago, with butchered human bones being common in food waste up until the mid-1800s. By 1800 cannibalism was a normal and ritualized part of life, integral to Fijian religion and warfare”. Apparently, they like to eat their enemies! I chose to study and write about Fiji first, of all the nations in the Pacific, because although there have been four coups since 1970, the country is generally doing very well, compared with its neighbours. I reiterate item 80 of the above blog post: 2014 – An annual international survey of world happiness lists Fiji as the happiest nation in the world, according to polling organisation WIN/Gallup. Jeff