Saturday, February 27, 2021

Fiji | Introduction

Australia and Oceania Fiji Fiji | Introduction

Fiji, officially the Republic of Fiji, is an island state in Melanesia in the South Pacific, about 2,000 km northeast of the North Island of New Zealand. The nearest neighbouring countries are Vanuatu to the west, New Caledonia to the southwest, New Zealand’s Kermadec Islands to the southeast, Tonga to the east, Samoa and France’s Wallis and Futuna in the northeast, while Tuvalu is to the east.

Fiji consists of more than 330 islands, of which 110 are populated permanently, and over 500 islets that cover a total area of approximately 18,300 km2. The most distant island is Ono-i-Lau. 87 percent of the almost 860,000 inhabitants live on the two main islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. The capital Suva on Viti Levu is Fiji’s main cruise port. Approximately three quarters of Fijians reside in the coastal areas of Viti Levu, and in smaller urban centres such as Suva, Nadi  and Lautoka. The inner part of Viti Levu is more sparsely inhabited due to relief efforts.

Fiji has one of the most developed economies in the Pacific due to its rich forest, mineral and fishery resources. The main sources of foreign exchange today are the tourism industry and sugar exports. The country’s currency is the Fiji dollar. Fiji’s local government, in the form of local councils, is overseen by the Department of Local Government and Urban Development.

The majority of the Fiji archipelago was created through volcanic activity approximately 150 million years ago. There are still some geothermal activities going on on the islands of Vanua Levu and Taveuni today. Fiji has been around since the second millennium BC. Inhabited and was settled first by the Austronesians and then by the Melanesians with some Polynesian influences. During the 17th century, Europeans first visited Fiji and in 1874, only a short time after it became an independent kingdom, the British colonised Fiji. Fiji was a crown colony until 1970 when it gained independence as a Commonwealth Kingdom. A republic was proclaimed in 1987 after a series of coups.

In 2006, Commodore Frank Bainimaramase took power in a coup. In 2009, after the Supreme Court declared that military leadership was illegal, President Ratu-Josefa Iloilo, who had been retained by the military as the nominal head of state, officially suspended the constitution and re-appointed Bainimarama as president. And later that year, Iloilo has been replaced as president by Ratu Epeli Nailatikau. After years of delay, a democratic election was held on September 17, 2014.

Tourism

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Fiji has a significant tourism component. The popular regions are Nadi, the Coral Coast, Denarau Island and the Mamanuca Islands. As for international visitors, their major sources of visitors are from Australia, New Zealand and the US. Fiji has a considerable number of soft coral reefs so diving has become a very popular tourist activity.

Fiji’s main attractions for tourists are mainly white sand beaches and aesthetically pleasing islands with year-round tropical weather. In general, Fiji is a medium sized holiday destination with most accommodation in this area. Fiji is also home to many world-class luxury five-star resorts and hotels. More budget resorts are opening in remote areas, offering more tourism opportunities.

Official statistics show that in 2012, 75% of visitors said they had come for a holiday.  Honeymoons have been very popular, as well as romantic getaways in general. There are also family-friendly resorts with facilities for young children, including kids’ clubs and nannies.

Fiji has several popular tourist destinations. For example, the Thursten Botanical Gardens that are located in Suva, the Sigatoka Sand Dunes as well as the Colo-I-Suva Forest Park represent 3 popular options on the mainland. Diving is a main tourist attraction on the outer islands.

Geography

Fiji has a total area of about 194,000 square kilometres, of which about 10% is land area.

Fiji is the centre of the Southwest Pacific, halfway between Vanuatu and Tonga. The archipelago lies between 176° 53 ′ east and 178° 12 ′ west. The 180° meridian crosses Taveuni, but the international dateline is curved to give the entire Fiji group a uniform time (UTC + 12). With the exception of Rotuma, the Fiji group lies between 15 ° 42 ′ and 20 ° 02 ′ to the south. Rotuma is 220 nautical miles (410 km; 250 miles) north of the group, 360 nautical miles (670 km; 410 miles) from Suva, 12 ° 30 ′ south of the equator.

There are 332 islands ( from which 106 are populated) as well as 522 small islets in Fiji. Fiji’s 2 main islands are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, which represent approximately 3/4 of the country’s entire land area. The islands are mountainous, with peaks as high as 1,324 metres, and covered with dense tropical forests.

Highest point is Mount Tomanivi located on Viti Levu. Viti Levu is home to the capital Suva, where almost three quarters of the population live. Other major towns are Nadi and Lautoka.

The most important towns located on Vanua Levu are Labasa and Savusavu. Among the other islands as well as island groups are Taveuni and Kadavu , the Mamanuca and the Yasawa, which are popular tourist destinations, the Lomaiviti group off the coast of Nadi . Suva and the distant Lau group.

Demographics

The 2007 census showed that the permanent population of Fiji was 837,000. The population density at that time was 45.8 inhabitants per square kilometre. Life expectancy in Fiji was 72.1 years. Since the 1930s, the population of Fiji has increased by 1.1% per year. The population is dominated by the age between 15 and 64 years. The average age of the population was 27.9 years and the sex ratio was 1.03 males per 1 female.

Ethnic groups

Fiji’s population is mainly made up of indigenous Fijians (54.3%), as well as Indo-Fijians (38.1%). The proportion of the population of Indo-Fijian descent has declined significantly in the last two decades due to migration for various reasons. Indo-Fijians suffered reprisals for a time after the Fiji coup of 2000. There is also a small but significant group of descendants of Indo-Fijian workers from the Solomon Islands.

About 1.2% are Rotumans – natives of the island of Rotuma, whose culture has more in common with countries like Tongaor Samoa than with the rest of Fiji. In addition, there are also smaller but economically important groups of Europeans, Chinese as well as other Pacific Island minority groups. The total number of members of other Pacific Islander ethnic groups is about 7,300.

Political relations among ethnic Fijians and Indo-Fijians have frequently been tense, and tensions among these two communities seem to have dominated the politics of the islands. The level of political tension varies between the different regions of the country.

Religion

Based on the 2007 census, 64.4% of the population in the country was Christian, while 27.9% were Hindu, 6.3% are Muslim, while 0.8% are non-religious, 0.4% are Sikh and 0.3% are from other religions.

The dominant Christian denomination is the Fiji and Rotuma Methodist Church With 34.6% of the population (including almost two-thirds of ethnic Fijians) following Methodism, Fiji has a higher percentage of the population than any other nation.

The Catholics are led by the Archdiocese of Suva, whose province also includes the dioceses of Raratonga (in the Cook Islands for these and Niue, both countries associated with New Zealand) and Tarawa and Nauru and the Sui Iuris Mission of Tokelau. This reflects that many important Roman Catholic missionary activities were carried out in the former Apostolic Prefecture (established in 1863 by the Apostolic Vicariate of Central Oceania), then in the Apostolic Vicariate of Fiji, which has since been promoted to the entire Archdiocese of Suva Fiji.

In addition, the Assemblies of God, Seventh-day Adventists and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (HLT Church) are significant. Fiji is also home to the Anglican Diocese of Polynesia.These and other denominations have a small number of Indo-Fijian members; Christians of all kinds make up 6.1% of the Indo-Fijian population.

Hindus belong mainly to the Sanatan sect (74.3% of all Hindus) or are unspecified (22%). The small Arya Samaj sect claims to be about 3.7% of Hindus in Fiji. Muslims are predominantly Sunni (96.4%), following the Hanafi school of law, with a small Ahmadiyya minority (3.6%). Sikhs make up 0.9% of the Indo-Fijian population as well as 0.4% of the Fijian nation. Their ancestors came from the Punjab region of India; They are a relatively recent wave of immigrants who did not live through the Indenture system. The Bahá’í Faith has over 21 local spiritual assemblies throughout Fiji, and Bahá’ís live in more than 80 places. The first Bahá’ís to the islands were New Zealanders who arrived in 1924. Additionally, there is also a small Jewish population of approximately 60 people. Every year the Israeli Embassy organises a Passover celebration with about 50-60 participants.