History of Fiji
It is believed that the first peoples came into the Pacific from Southeast Asia via the Malay Peninsula.
The European discoveries of the Fiji group were made in 1643 by the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman followed by Captain James Cook who sailed through in 1774, and made further explorations in the 18th century.
Major credit for the discovery and recording of the islands went to Captain William Bligh who sailed through Fiji after the mutiny on the Bounty in 1789.
Cannibalism practiced in Fiji at that time quickly disappeared as missionaries gained influence. When Ratu Seru Cakobau accepted Christianity in 1854, the rest of the country soon followed and tribal warfare came to an end.
From 1879 to 1916 Indians came as indentured labourers to work on the sugar plantations. After the indentured system was abolished, many stayed on as independent farmers and businessmen. Today they comprise 43.6 per cent of the population.
European missionaries whalers traders and deserters settled during the first half of the 19th century. Their influence caused increasingly serious wars among the native Fijian confederacies. In 1871 the Europeans in Fiji established an administration under Ratu Seru Cakobau who had become paramount chief of eastern Viti Levu years before. Chaos followed until a convention of chiefs ceded Fiji unconditionally to the United Kingdom on October 10 1874.
In April 1987 the Alliance Party of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara which had governed Fiji since independence lost a general election and was replaced by an NFP-Labour Coalition government. The new government was headed by Dr. Timoci Bavadra an ethnic Fijian with most support coming from the ethnic Indian community. On May 14 1987 Lt. Col. Sitiveni Rabuka Chief of Operations of the Royal Fiji Military Forces staged a military coup. Rabuka's stated reasons for the coup were to prevent inter-communal violence and to restore the political dominance of the ethnic Fijians in their home islands. After a period of confusion Governor-General Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau took charge. In September the Governor-General and the two main political groupings reached agreement on a government of national unity. However Rabuka objected to participation by the deposed Coalition in the proposed government and the exclusion of the military from the negotiations and consequently staged a second coup on September 25 1987. The military government declared Fiji a republic on October 10. This action coupled with protests by the Government of India led to Fiji's expulsion from the Commonwealth. The military regime was unsuccessful in governing and Rabuka voluntarily handed over the reins of government to civilians on December 6 1987. Former Governor-General Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau became President. Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara was brought back as Prime Minister and formed a mostly civilian Cabinet containing four military officers including Rabuka. In January 1990 the term of the first interim government came to an end and the President announced a second interim government with a reduced seventeen-member Cabinet devoid of active-duty military officers.
The first Europeans to land and live among the Fijians were shipwrecked sailors and runaway convicts from the Australian penal settlements. Sandalwood traders and missionaries came by the mid 19th century.
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