History of Fiji
Oceania, island group in the South Pacific Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand situated on the international dateline Fiji comprises of 332 islands - of which only 110 are inhabited. The group has a land area of 18,000sq kms and the main islands are Viti Levu and Vanu Levu .Population 890,000 (2005)
Fiji became independent in 1970, after nearly a century as a British colony. Democratic rule was interrupted by two military coups in 1987, caused by concern over a government perceived as dominated by the Indian community (descendants of contract laborers brought to the islands by the British in the 19th century). A 1990 constitution favored native Melanesian control of Fiji, but led to heavy Indian emigration; the population loss resulted in economic difficulties, but ensured that Melanesians became the majority. Amendments enacted in 1997 made the constitution more equitable. Free and peaceful elections in 1999 resulted in a government led by an Indo-Fijian, but a coup in May 2000 ushered in a prolonged period of political turmoil. Parliamentary elections held in August 2001 provided Fiji with a democratically elected government and gave a mandate to the government of Prime Minister Laisenia QARASE.
Europeans Fijians first impressed themselves on European consciousness through the writings of the members of the expeditions of Cook who met them in Tonga. They were described as formidable warriors and ferocious cannibals, builders of the finest vessels in the Pacific, but not great sailors.They inspired awe among the Tongans, and all their manufactures, especially bark-cloth and clubs, were highly esteemed and much in demand. They called their home Viti, but the Tongans called it Fisi, and it is by this foreign pronounciation, Fiji, first promulgated by Cook, that these islands are now known.After the explorers, other Europeans followed. For over half a century, Fijian culture enjoyed what has been called its "golden age", as tools and weapons brought by traders were turned by resourceful chiefs to their own advantage.Canoes and houses were built, confederations formed and wars fought on a grand scale without precedent. Gradually and inevitably, however, the Fijian way of life was changing. As Christianity spread in the islands, wars ceased abruptly and western clothing was adopted. After Fiji was ceded to Great Britain in 1874, epidemics nearly wiped out the population and it seemed as if the natives were doomed. But the colonial government took the Fijians' side.Land sales were forbidden, health campaigns implemented and the population picked up again. Theirs was not, of course, the culture of the heathen "golden age", but one modified by the new religion and increasingly the new economic order. Yet in today's Fiji, independent since 1970, a surprising amount has survived.20th CenturyThe 20th century brought about important economic changes in Fiji as well as the maturation of its political system. Fiji developed a major sugar industry and established productive copra milling, tourism and secondary industries.As the country now diversifies into small scale industries, the economy is strengthened and revenues provide for expanded public works, infrastructure, health, medical services and education.The country's central position in the region has been strengthened by recent developments in sea and air communications and transport. Today, Fiji plays a major role in regional affairs and is recognised as the focal point of the South Pacific. Fiji is now home to many races - Indians, Part Europeans, Chinese and other Pacific islanders living in harmony, and keeping their own cultures and identity. Fijians, slightly over 50 per cent of the total population, are essentially members of communities. They live in villages and do things on a communal basis.The Indians have also regarded Fiji as their home. Most of them are descendants of labourers brought to the country from India to work in the sugar plantations about 100 years ago under the indentured labour system.Although they were offered passages back to India after their term, most preferred to stay. And through the years they have continued to work the land, becoming prominent in agriculture and also commerce. There has been some intermarriage, but this has been minimal.However, Indians living in the rural areas have adapted well, some even speaking the local dialect and mixing well with the Fijians.As a country, Fiji is rural based with about 60 per cent of the population living in the rural areas.
Postal History of Fijian Stamps
Before the establishment of the British protectorate, mail was carried by trading vessels to Sydney and posted there. In 1870 the proprietors of the Fiji Times instituted an efficient letter and parcel service. This was not accepted by the British Consul,who tried to close it in 1871, and appointed an official postmaster. The government postal service was more expensive, but on 8th May,1872 the Fiji Times closed its service stating that it had '...... received notice from the Fiji Government to discontinue the receipt and dispatch of inter-island correspondence' On 3rd December,1871 the Fiji Government issued the first Fijian stamps with the cypher of King Kakobau and established their own service. The first Post Office Act was passed soon afterwards, and the stamps were overprinted with'vr in 1874 when Fiji became a Crown Colony.
Fiji joined the UPU in 1891 at the same time as the Australian Colonies. The currency of Fiji was complicated by the fact the stamps and postage rates were in sterling while the locals used dollars and cents. The different currencies had to be quoted on Post Office notices. Before Fiji became a member of the UPU, Fijian stamps were not accepted outside the colony, though a special agrrement must have existed between the islands and Australia and New Zealand.
During the World War II Fiji was used as a base and in 1940 the Local Defence Force was strengthened by the addition of New Zealand troops. Forces PO marks were used in the islands. Mails of the Fijian forces were also active in the Solomons with the New Zealand forces. In 1950 there were 57 Post Offices in Fiji. The first Fijian stamps of the newly independent country were issued on independence day, 10th October,1970.
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