Should Fiji change its flag? | Pacific Beat

Should Fiji change its flag?

Should Fiji change its flag?

Updated 13 September 2012, 17:02 AEST

That's the issue raised in a submission to the Constitution Commission by the CEO of the NGO Pacific Dialogue, Jone Dakevula.

He says Fiji these days is a republic with a president, and having a flag with the Union Jack in the top left hand corner is a reminder of negative colonial inheritances such as racism, divide and rule and cringing subservience.

But the man who staged Fiji's first two military coups, Major-General Sitiveni Rabuka, says the flag symbolises Fiji's history and identity and should not be changed.

Bruce Hill reports.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: CEO of the NGO Pacific Dialogue, Jone Dakevula.Major-General Sitiveni Rabuka

(MUSIC)

HILL: It's precisely that noble banner blue, featuring the Union Jack and even the national anthem itself, that Jone Dakevula would like to change.

The Pacific Dialogue CEO says it's really Fiji itself that has already effectively severed the link with the United Kingdom.

DAKEVULA: It's because Fiji has had a number of coups right since 1987, and the coups basically meant that Fiji had rejected the constitutional link with the British, and that is symbolised by the flag. Therefore it's time to have a new flag.

HILL: Does this arise out of some sort of anti-British sentiment or attitudes towards Fiji's past that you want to sort of forget?

DAKEVULA: No it's not of matter of forgetting the past, it's just that flag as it is, it doesn't really mean much to the people of Fiji. You have in one corner of the flag the Union Jack, which is a symbol of the United Kingdom, it doesn't represent Fiji. And the coups have rejected that link with the British. And we need a new flag because we are starting anew too, and a flag which is more symbolic of the history of Fiji and cultural and other features of Fiji that are of meaning to people should be in that flag.

HILL: What kind of symbols or figures or things would you like to see on a new flag for Fiji?

DAKEVULA: I can't say now because I think it is a matter that should come out of that flag creating competition that we are recommending that we should have at the end of this constitutional review process.

HILL: Tell me about your submission to the Constitution Commission, there are other things obviously than the flag, what do you think was the most important submission that your organisation put forward?

DAKEVULA: There's a range of about 27 issues that we have raised, and we have talked about national anthem, we've talked about changes to street names, those are the symbolic issues. Then we have talked about constituting assembly and how we think this should be formed. We have talked about the possibility of a referendum on the constitution, we have proposed changes in parliament, reform of parliament, cabinet, power-sharing, remuneration of members of parliament, electoral system, new electoral system, bill of rights and a whole range of issues.

HILL: But any change to the flag should be resisted, according to Major-General Sitiveni Rabuka, who himself led two military coups in 1987.

He says history matters, and Fiji should not do anything to forget its own past.

RABUKA: How far back do you want to go, how much of what you are do you want to get rid of? I think we take a recommendation that yes I will give the appropriate treatment to and just forget about it.

HILL: Is the fly in the Union Jack in the Fiji flag popular with the people in Fiji or not popular? Is it a symbol of colonialism as Jone Dakevula suggests?

RABUKA: No it is a record of our history. There are many aspects of one's history that people may not like, changing the flag will not change the fact that we were a colony. We cannot look to the future without a past. We have had a past and we learned from our past and move forward.

HILL: Do you think that this call to change the flag would be popular with people in Fiji, or would people prefer to keep it as it is?

RABUKA: I do not know, there's not been a public outcry of whether we should do away with the flag. And even if we put it to the people now, many people would say that it is of no significance. I was just looking at the Papua New Guinea flag today and its evolution from the German flag and then the Papuan flag and the territory of New Guinea flag until they adopted the black and red and the bird of paradise and the star, and they just moved straight into it in 1971 when they got independence. So if we put it to the people now they might, people might express some real for … but so far, nobody has really paid much attention to it.

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