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Fiji to remove ‘outdated’ Union Jack from its flag

A child waves the flag of Fiji at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand
A child waves the flag of Fiji at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand Peter Parks, AFP

Fiji will remove Britain's Union Jack from its flag and replace it with a design that symbolises the Pacific nation rather than its former colonial power, the prime minister said Tuesday, announcing a national competition to design a new flag.

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Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said the flag had served the country well since independence from the United Kingdom in 1970, but was now outdated.

"We need to replace the symbols on our existing flag that are out of date and no longer relevant, including some anchored to our colonial past," said the former coup leader, who was elected last September in Fiji's first elections in eight years.

"The existing flag is widely loved and admired and I want to stress that this initiative is in no way a repudiation of it or the warm sentiments we all feel whenever it is raised," he said, adding that the new flag "should reflect Fiji's position in the world today as a modern and truly independent nation state".

Fiji's flag is light blue with the Union Jack in the top left corner. It also features a shield with the cross of St George and a British lion, along with sugar cane, bananas, a palm tree and a dove of peace.

"What does this have to do with us?" Bainimarama asked, saying the images were "honoured symbols of our past, but not our future".

Fiji's prime minister said the government would organise a national competition for all Fijians, including children, to design a new flag, with the aim of hoisting it on October 10 this year, the 45th anniversary of independence.

"We must all have an open mind about the final result, but it should be symbolic of the unity of the nation and instantly recognisable the world over as uniquely and proudly Fijian," he said.

Colonial legacy

Bainimarama's decision to change the flag is the latest in a string of moves aimed at replacing Fiji's colonial symbols.

He scrapped the Queen's Birthday public holiday in 2012 and also removed Queen Elizabeth's head from the country's currency when he still ruled by military decree.

Bainimarama pointed out that New Zealand, Australia and Tuvalu were the only other former British colonies that still had the Union Jack on their national flag.

New Zealand will hold a binding referendum next year on changing its flag, with conservative Prime Minister John Key favouring a design featuring a silver fern similar to the one worn by the All Blacks rugby team.

Australia has also faced periodic calls to change its flag, particularly ahead of major events such as the 2000 Olympics. The flag debate in Australia is closely linked to whether the country should become a republic, an idea rejected in a 1999 referendum.

The most recent decommissioning of the Union Jack came in 1997, when Hong Kong was handed over to the People's Republic of China.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
 

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