Community Share Offer — your chance to own New Internationalist! Learn more »

New Internationalist


November 1988

new internationalist
issue 189 - November 1988


[image, unknown] Mention Fiji and people think of an idyllic island in the South Pacific. In fact there are 300 islands. Vitu Levu is the biggest and is host to the nation's relatively buzzing capital, Suva.

A British colony until 1970, when it was granted independence, Fiji is a mixture of imposed Western values and indigenous traditions; of native Fijians and a majority Indian population which migrated to the country in the last hundred years.

British missionaries started arriving in the early 1800s and convinced Fijians that they should wear clothes. Merchants followed hot on their heels selling fabrics and other manufactured goods in exchange for copra oil. The Fijian king, impressed with this kind of 'progress', offered his country to Washington for annexation. In the throes of civil war, the White House declined his offer.

The British stepped in. Short of sugar, they discovered the archipelago's potential for growing cane - still the country's major export - and annexed the islands in 1874. While there was little resistance to the purchase or expropriation of their land for cash crops, Fijian peasants refused to work the plantations. Indian semi-slaves were shipped in by the British and most of these stayed on after their contract ended, bringing their families over and settling down, becoming small shopkeepers, craftsmen and bureaucrats in the colonial administration.

British colonization did little to help the majority of Fijians, bringing commerce and economic development which benefited few. In the cities lack of employment has led to despair and alcoholism.

The streets of Fiji's major cities are reminiscent of Australian country towns as the advertisement hoardings proclaim the extent of Australian business penetration. Japanese and Taiwanese ships are anchored in the bays, testimony to the importance of the country's export industry.

But the traditional Fijian élites, the power and influence of Australian and multinational companies, and US military and strategic interests were seriously threatened by the last duly elected civilian administration, Bavandra's Labour government. Now many Indians see no future for them in Fiji and there is a mass exodus.

For the majority of Fijian citizens who cannot emigrate, there seems little alternative in the short term to growing unemployment and hunger.

Fiji's decline is abetted by its newly-acquired reputation as a 'banana republic' following the two coups last year when the military leader Colonel Rambuka refused to allow the democratically-elected government to take office.

The worsening unemployment, poverty and despair have fostered the fascist 'Taukei' movement which was behind last year's coups and is currently shaping the country's political future.

Larry Jagan

Leader: Colonel Rambuka

Economy: GNP per capita $1,710 (US $16,690)
Monetary unit: Fill dollar = $0.80
Major industries: sugar, tourism, coconut oil and fishing.
Major exports: sugar, molasses, coconut oil, gold and timber.
Major imports: manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment, food, chemicals and fuels. Import earnings are running at double export earnings with foreign debt over $200 million. Direct foreign investment, mainly from Australia is $13.2 million. Inflation is running at around 20 per cent and there are 200000 unemployed with substantial underemployment in the rural sector.

People: 700,000

Health: Infant mortality: 27 per 1,000 live births (US 10 per 1,000)

Culture: Fifty per cent of the population are Indians, descendants from the immigrant Hindu workers, 46 per cent are of Melanesian origin, the rest being Chinese or Europeans. English is official language, but Urdu, Hindi, Fijian and Chinese are also spoken.
Religions: Hindu, Christian - mainly Methodist - and a Muslim minority.


[image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
[image, unknown] [image, unknown]
[image, unknown]

[image, unknown] [image, unknown]
Widespread rural poverty, with a wealthy urban élite.

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown] [image, unknown]

Export-oriented economy dominated by foreign capital.

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown] [image, unknown]

Patriarchal society.

[image, unknown] [image, unknown]
[image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]
Some democratic institutions but threat of military control continues.

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]

Male 79%, Female 64%

[image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]

Tight press control and general censorship.

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]

70 years.
(US 75 years)

[image, unknown]
[image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]

previous page choose a different magazine go to the contents page go to the NI home page [image, unknown]

This feature was published in the November 1988 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

Never miss another story! Get our FREE fortnightly eNews

Comments on Fiji

Leave your comment


  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

...And all is quiet.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

Get our free fortnightly eNews


Videos from visionOntv’s globalviews channel.

Related articles

Recently in Features

All Features

Popular tags

All tags

This article was originally published in issue 189

More articles from this issue

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.