The Fijian flag that still includes the Union Jack is once again flying at the Commonwealth Secretariat gardens in London following an announcement from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group which decided to ease but not lift the current ban on Fiji’s status in the Commonwealth. This means that Fiji is eligible to participate in the Commonwealth Games.
Fiji was suspended from the Commonwealth in 2009 after it refused to go ahead with elections that year. The Fijian government says the decision is recognition of the progress Fiji is making towards the introduction of its first genuine democracy with elections to be held later in the year, and they look forward to regaining full Commonwealth membership.
When most people think of Fiji, they think of beautiful beaches and lush scenery, but the island nation and former British Realm has also been the centrepiece for Government turmoil in the Commonwealth on and off for over two decades. Fiji’s first significant coup saw Fiji proclaimed as a republic on 6 October 1987 after a successful coup d’état ending the Fijian Monarchy and Her Majesty’s reign as Queen of Fiji.
The next significant coup was in 2000, when the first Indian-Fijian Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry was elected. On the first anniversary of his election, he and his ministers were taken hostage. They were eventually sacked by President Sir Kamisese Mara who had plans to take full control until he himself was deposed, and replaced with an interim Military Government set up by then Commodore Frank Bainimarama who believed President Mara was not dealing with the situation adequately. Frank Bainimarama lead negotiations for the release of the hostage former Prime Minister Chaudhry. Commodore Frank Bainimarama was Acting President until he installed Josefa Iloilo as acting President.
Following on from the 2000 coup, tensions flared in 2006 which ultimately led to Commodore Frank Bainimarama taking control of the Government as Acting President, until he again installed Josefa Iloilo as President, who in turn appointed Bainimarama as Acting Prime Minister of Fiji. He is still currently serving as Acting Prime Minister.
Josefa Iloilo has since passed away and, following the Constitutional Crisis of 2009 that saw the country’s constitution suspended, Epeli Nailatikau has since been appointed President by Bainimarama and their leisure, presumably until the elections in September.
Following these turbulent decades, it will be great to hopefully one day see Fiji reinstated as a full member of our great Commonwealth.