Statsraad Lehmkuhl visits Fiji June 26-30 and July 19-21 2022.
The Republic of Fiji consists of 332 islands, 2,000 kilometers north of New Zealand. People live on 110 of the islands, 880,000 in total. The vast majority on the two largest islands Vanua Levu and Viti Levu, where the capital Suva is located.
The islands are volcanic, with peaks over 1,000 meters, surrounded by coral reefs. The inland is covered in forests, even the mountains, and most of the settlements are found along the coasts. Large areas have been cultivated, and the export of sugar and fisheries are important industries in addition to tourism.
The islands were populated by people from Southeast Asia around 3500 BCE. The first Europeans arrived here in 1643, when the Dutchman Abel Tasman was on a voyage of discovery. The first to draw the islands on the world map was William Bligh in 1789, on his way west after the mutiny on the Bounty.
The islands eventually became a popular stop for whalers and merchant ships, which bunkered new supplies and water. In the early 19th century, European trading posts were established, the town of Levuka on Ovalu was built, and European missionaries came to the islands.
War and unrest
One of the local chiefs disliked the European influence. He managed to throw the missionaries out of Levuka for a few years, before christened islanders took back power with the help of a British warship.
After several years of war and turmoil, Europeans, Australians and Americans were in control. In 1871 the Kingdom of Fiji was established, with a local chief as monarch. Forests were cleared and cotton plantations established, and much of the old culture disappeared. But the unrest between the locals and the immigrants continued throughout the 19th century. Islanders were taken as slaves and sent away, villages were burned and many killed or captured.
In 1874, Britain made Fiji a British colony. A year later a measles epidemic broke out on the islands, and over 40,000 died, a third of the inhabitants. The British brought people from India to work on the plantations. Most came on five-year contracts, but many settled on the islands for good, and gained great political influence.
Fiji became independent from Great Britain in 1970. In 1987, the military took over power in a coup, arguing that the Indian-descended part of the population had gained too much power. After another coup, many of the Indians chose to leave the islands. Melanesians are now in the majority. The political unrest continued with several coups, the last in 2006.
The country now has democratic elections, has become an economic center in this part of the Pacific, and is an important driving force in bringing climate up the political agenda.
The climate in Fiji is tropical, with slight variations throughout the year. It is warmest and wettest from November to April.
Normal maximum temperature in June: 27.7 ℃
Normal rainfall in June: 163 mm