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Fiji

Nation and archipelago in the SW Pacific, 1,300 mi N of New Zealand . Discovered by Abel Tasman in 1643, it was visited by Captain James Cook in 1774. The Fiji Island s, strategically located and agriculturally rich, were annexed by Great Britain in 1858. An important Allied supply point in World War II, Fiji became an independent dominion of the Commonwealth in 1970 with Sir Ratu Kamisese Mara as prime minister. In 1987 Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka led two coups that took control of the government for the native Fijians from the ethnic Indians. Fiji was declared a republic and left the Common-wealth of Nations. In 1990 a new constitution granted nonurban native Fijians a disproportionate say in the government. In 1992, Rabuka became prime minister, and in 1994 Mara was appointed president. In 1997, the constitution was amended giving nonethnic Fijians a larger voice, and in 1999 Mahendra Chaudhry of the Labor Party became Fiji’s first ethnic Indian prime minister. In 2000 a military coup by Fijian nationalists took power, but the coup eventually failed. A new government was elected in 2002, but was ruled illegal when it did not include the opposition party. In 2004, Chaudhry agreed to take a role as head of the opposition and the government crisis was ended, but ethnic conflict continues to be a problem.


     

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