The current flag of Fiji was adopted on 10 October 1970. The state arms have been slightly modified but the flag has remained the same as during the colonial period. It is a defaced sky-blue "Blue Ensign" (the actual Blue Ensign version of the flag is the Government ensign). It has remained unchanged since Fiji was declared a republic in 1987, despite calls from some politicians (such as Opposition Senator Atu Emberson-Bain) for changes.
Its bright blue background symbolizes the Pacific Ocean, which plays an important part in the lives of the islanders, both in terms of the fishing industry, and the huge tourist trade. The Union Jack reflects the country's links with the United Kingdom. The shield is derived from the country's official coat of arms, which was originally granted by Royal Warrant in 1908. It is a white shield with a red cross and a red chief (upper third of a shield). The images depicted on the shield represent agricultural activities on the islands, and the historical associations with the United Kingdom. At the top of the shield, a British lion holds a cocoa pod between its paws. The upper left is sugar cane, upper right is a coconut palm, the lower left a dove of peace, and the lower right a bunch of bananas.
The current flag is very similar to the colonial ensign used prior to independence, the main differences being the latter used a darker shade of blue and displayed the entire Fijian coat of arms as opposed to just the shield. While some reformists have called for the removal of the Union Flag, seeing it a British colonial emblem, others support its retention for the sake of historical continuity. The flags of three other independent countries (Australia, New Zealand, and Tuvalu) currently retain the Union Flag in their national flags.
Full Fijian Coat-of-Arms
Some influential Fijians have called for the restoration of the full coat of arms to the flag. On 30 November 2005, Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs called for the two warrior figures, who guard the shield on the coat of arms, to be placed on the flag, along with a miniature canoe and the national motto, Rerevaka na kalou ka doka na tui ("Fear God and honour the Queen") — symbols that were featured on the original flag of the Kingdom of Viti, the first unified Fijian state created under the leadership of Seru Epenisa Cakobau in 1871.
"The coat of arms is very significant because it has the word of God, then it has the two warriors and the Fijian canoe also. I think that the council members prefer that the full coat of arms be included in the Fiji flag," said Asesela Sadole, General Secretary of the Great Council of Chiefs.
Prior to ceding the country to British rule in 1874, the government of Fiji adopted a national flag featuring blue and white vertical stripes, with in the centre a red shield depicting a white dove. This flag ceased to be used when the colonial era began and Fiji relinquished its independence. Fiji was a British colony from 1874 to 1970.
Proposal for a new flag
In his New Year's Day address in 2013, Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama announced that the flag would soon be changed so as "to reflect a sense of national renewal, to reinforce a new Fijian identity and a new confidence in being Fijian on the global stage". The change in the flag would accompany the adoption of a new Constitution, intended by Fiji's military leader (who came to power in a coup in December 2006) to establish a "one person, one vote", non-racial and secular democracy under military oversight. The country, a republic, had removed the Queen from its currency a few weeks earlier.
On 3 Febuary 2015, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said the flag of Fiji will be replaced. A national competition to design the new flag will be held, with the aim of hoisting it on 11 October 2015, the 45th anniversary of independence. Source: Wikipedia
In anticipation of independence, Fiji held a competition to develop a national flag. Familiarity with the old design and close links with other Pacific countries (especially Australia and New Zealand) led to the selection of a modified version of the colonial flag. The only changes introduced when the nation became independent on October 10, 1970, were the substitution of light blue for dark in the field of the flag and the omission of the crest, motto, and supporters in the coat of arms, allowing the shield to be larger and more easily visible. No further changes were made during the period (1987–97) that Fiji was separated from the Commonwealth.
Whitney Smith, Director, Flag Research Center, Winchester, Massachusetts. Author of The Flag Book of the United States and Flags and Arms Across the World.
UNIFY OUR PEOPLE FIRST, FIX OUR BROKEN DEMOCRACY SECOND, GET SERIOUS ABOUT TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY THIRDLY, BEFORE WE THINK ABOUT A NEW FLAG THAT CAN REFLECT THESE POSITIVE CHANGES
The decision by the Prime Minster to change Fiji’s flag is the latest example of a Parliamentary dictatorship at work.
There has been no call from the people for our long established flag to be thrown on the national scrap heap. The Prime Minister himself says it is widely loved and admired. Why then is he bent on getting rid of it? He is obviously unaware of the contradictions in his thinking.
This is just a continuation of the dictatorial decisions of the 8 year rule of the Khaiyum–Bainimarama Government. But now it operates under the guise of a ‘new democracy’.
This Khaiyum-Bainimarama democracy involves undemocratic decision making followed by attempts to create a semblance of inclusivity for an outcome that has already been decided.
The Chiefs and people of Fiji have a long and historic relationship with Great Britain and the British Crown which is reflected in our current flag. The majority of our people treasure these links with Great Britain and its monarchy. This is one of the reasons why the flag, in the words of the Prime Minister, is widely loved and admired.
There are also our very close ties through our former and current troops who are members of the British Army, our proud fighting history with the forces of Great British in times of conflict from the First World War to the present day. We are held in high regard internationally through these relationships that mean something to the majority of us.
Lest we forget, it was the British who introduced English to these Islands, is Prime Minster Bainimarama suggesting we also remove this link to our colonial past?
Important symbols like a national flag should only be changed if some momentous circumstances warrant it and after a wide national conversation leading to a referendum.
The tragic and disturbing reality is there for all to see when the Prime Minister calls for new symbols that ‘reflect our present state as a nation’. If he had thought about this carefully, he would see that momentous events that have had the greatest impact on our country and its well being are military coups and their disastrous consequences. He knows a great deal about this.
So what symbols for treason and traitors can we use that would truthfully reflect our history of military takeovers? Should we include guns, handcuffs, truncheons, and other implements used to suppress the people, physically abuse them and deny then their human rights?
Now Prime Minister Bainimarama and his government intend to deny our citizens the right to have a say in whether or not our much loved flag should be changed. He and Mr Khaiyum must learn to exercise their authority in a genuinely inclusive, transparent and accountable manner. Otherwise we will continue to live in a fake democracy.
First they need to unify the people, and then they must get serious about democratic principles, transparency and accountability.
Ratu Isoa Tikoca
February 4th 2015