Fiji celebrates 50 years
Updated: Nov 3
Today I don't intend to discuss the current challenges facing Fiji. I simply want to congratulate the Fijian people on the golden anniversary of their nation's independence. With all my heart, I wish Fiji the best possible future.
On 10th October 1874, Fiji's chiefs led by Ratu Cakobau ceded sovereignty to Queen Victoria in return for her protection. On the same date in 1970, her great great granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth, gave up that control, ceding government to Fiji's inhabitants under a modern democratic constitution. Thus was created the nation of Fiji, an independent dominion of the Commonwealth of Nations and 127th member of the United Nations. Preparations for self-government were conducted without struggle or bloodshed and to this day, both Cession and Independence are celebrated annually in Fiji Week.
However, the prospect of Independence was controversial in Fiji. It is fair to say that in general Fijians opposed the idea but the Indian population, who outnumbered indigenous Fijians at the time, embraced it. Nevertheless, both groups agreed to a compromise constitution which has been modified several times since.
10th October 1970
The Queen had visited Fiji in April 1970 to present the University of the South Pacific with a Royal Charter, in effect securing the university's independence from any future government. The Queen delegated her eldest son, Prince Charles, to represent her at the elaborate independence ceremonies held over several days. This original Movietone newsreel will give you a feel for the occasion. If you'd like a fuller picture, you'll find a series of longer YouTube videos here. It's true - you can find just about anything on YouTube!
1970 to 2020
Despite three coups, disastrous cyclones, devastating crop diseases and this year, the tourism-wrecking-ball of Covid-19, the resilient and optimistic people of Fiji have done much better than simply survive. United Nations' indicators of life expectancy, health and education put Fiji near the top of developing nations. The country of fewer than a million citizens has contributed to the world through its enthusiastic participation in international operations including UN policing and peace-keeping missions, fishing observer programs under the Law of the Sea Convention, and of course, the Rugby World Cup!
At the end of 2019, President Jioji Konrote said, “Given the great expectations every Fijian holds for that moment, it would be a shame to only limit our celebrations to a single day, week or even a month. We must see every day of the year ahead as an opportunity to appreciate the first 50 years of our nation’s journey; the crowning moments of achievement as well as the mistakes which do not bear repeating.”
The President visited Levuka, where the Deed of Cession was signed in 1874, to kick off the 50th anniversary celebrations on 1st October.
Prince Charles was prevented from taking his place in the celebrations by the Covid-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, Fijian soldiers of the Black Watch of the Royal Regiment visited him at his home and performed for him, dressed in informal sulus and rugby jerseys.
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