It has been deeply moving for me as Prime Minister to witness the way Fijians have rallied around the national flag as our Rugby Sevens team brought home Olympic Gold for Fiji. And I know this sentiment is shared by most Fijians.
While I remain convinced personally that we need to replace some of the flag’s colonial symbols with a genuinely indigenous expression of our present and our future, it has been apparent to the Government since February that the flag should not be changed for the foreseeable future.
It is a question of resetting national priorities as our people continue to recover from Tropical Cyclone Winston. The cost of any flag change is better spent at the present time assisting Fijians back on their feet.
I urge every Fijian to display our flag when our victorious Sevens team returns to Fiji on Sunday and during our special national holiday on Monday. It is a time to celebrate not only their remarkable achievement but our collective unity and national sense of purpose.
Tropical Cyclone Winston, the strongest and costliest storm in Southern Pacific history, hit Fiji last February killing 44 and causing $1.4 billion in damage.
This month Fiji won its first Olympic gold medal ever by beating its former colonial master Great Britain 43 to 7 in Men’s Rugby Sevens. There was dancing in the streets – and much flag waving.
Back in March we featured some amazing flag transformation videos that had been recently posted on the YouTube channel Vexillographer. Since then, Vexillographer (a young man named Peter, based in the US) has posted a number of other flag-related videos, has been featured on New Zealand radio talking about that country’s flag change — and has plans for 2016 for continuing his vexillology and geography vlog.
A particularly interesting link provided by The Vexillogicast is to the text of Prime Minister Bainimarama’s speech from just under a year ago, in which he announced and justified the flag change. We’ll end with an excerpt:
But now that our new democracy is in place, we can proceed with the program I flagged at the beginning of 2013 to adopt a symbol that is more in keeping with our national aspirations in the 21st century.
We need to replace the symbols on our existing flag that are out of date and no longer relevant, including some anchored to our colonial past. The new flag should reflect Fiji’s position in the world today as a modern and truly independent nation state.
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. It has served us well since it was introduced at Independence in 1970.
Our United Nations peacekeeping troops have fought and sometimes died under it. Our sportsmen have stood before it as they achieved some of the greatest and most inspirational victories in our sporting history.
As a nation, we will never forget the image of Iliesa Delana [see above] –now an Assistant Minister in my Government – waving our flag before the vast crowd and the global television audience when he won Gold at the London Paralympics. And, of course, every Fijian has stood before it in our schools as they sing our national anthem with patriotism and pride.
So we honour our existing flag as an important link to our past and it will continue to have an important place during the transitional phase to our new national symbol.
But after 45 years, my fellow Fijians, it is time to dispense with the colonial symbols on our flag – the Union Flag of the United Kingdom and our colonial shield – and embrace a flag that is relevant to every Fijian today.
The newfijiflag.com website hasn’t yet been updated, but according to the following media release from late last year, the process to choose a new flag for Fiji is once again moving forward and will be completed this year by the 7th of September. Note that design submissions are currently being accepted, up until Leap Day, Monday, 29 February 2016.
MEDIA RELEASE: EXTENSION OF FIJI FLAG FEEDBACK PERIOD
The Fijian Government has announced the extension of the feedback period for designs for the new national flag to February 29, 2016.
The Government has received a number of new submissions since the 23 designs were published earlier this year.
From March 1 to 19, five designs will be chosen, through the PM’s Office, for members of the public to vote on. Members of the public will have 3 months to vote on the 5 designs through public consultations, social media and text messaging.
It is expected that the design with the most votes will be announced on 1 July to be our new national flag. The new national flag will be raised on Constitution Day which is on September 7.
Submissions for new designs can be sent to email@example.com, hand delivered to the Department of Information, Ground Floor, New Wing, Government Buildings, 26 Gladstone Road, Suva or mailed to the Department of Information, PO Box 2225, Government Buildings, Suva.
Furthermore, yesterday Luke Rawalie of The Fiji Times published a short article summarizing Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s recent statements regarding the flag change process. It’s entitled New flag ‘inevitable’, and contains this information of particular interest to anyone wishing to submit a new design:
Responding to calls from members of the public on the island for the retention of the coat of arms because of its symbolic status to the people of Fiji and its history, Mr Bainimarama said the only feature of the flag to be retained would be its navy [sic] blue colour. Apart from that, Mr Bainimarama said everything in the new flag would change and be replaced including the coat of arms.
It was a very ambitious timetable, and now it has slipped: Fiji’s new flag will be adopted not this year, but next, allowing the period of consultation that was to have ended today to now end in six months, at the end of this year. Here is the full text of Prime Minister Bainimarama’s press release:
STATEMENT BY THE PRIME MINISTER ON THE FLAG, 6/30/2015
I am delighted by the high level of engagement we are now getting from the Fijian people about a new national flag. After a relatively slow start, the national debate on the new designs for the new flag is now in full swing.We are getting an unprecedented number of responses via our national flag website, through email correspondence and talkback radio. In addition, national flag feedback teams have already returned from Kadavu and certain parts of Lau, are currently in Rotuma and Lomaiviti and will soon be visiting the Yasawas, Mamanucas, Vanua Levu and Taveuni.
The response these teams have been receiving from the Fijian people has been very positive. And the Government recognises that they want more time to consider what form the new flag should take and are seeking more choices than are being offered by the existing 23 designs.
While we had originally set a deadline of today for the first phase of the flag selection process to be completed, the Government has decided to extend the period of consultation. More choices are going to be offered over the next few weeks and months. And the closing date for design consultations will now be 31 December 2015. Cabinet and then Parliament will consider the new flag design when it convenes in 2016.
By extending the deadline, there is now ample opportunity for Fijians of all ages and backgrounds to further contribute and consider what symbols most appropriately represent our wonderful nation. It has taken some time – in the Fijian way – for many people to become fully engaged and I very much welcome the current lively debate on the flag designs.
We will soon be announcing precise details of the revised timetable for consultations. And I appeal to all Fijians who have yet to do so to become involved in the process in a spirit of cooperation, collaboration, goodwill and nationhood.
I appeal to every Fijian to join our quest for a flag that represents who we are today, rather than our past, and that we can fly proudly into the future as we fulfil our vision to become a modern nation state.
Fiji’s National Flag Committee has selected 23 designs from the hundreds submitted as finalists for the new Fijian flag. At newfijiflag.com Fijians and foreigners are able to give their feedback on each of the finalists.
In order to interpret the designs, the committee provides this guide to the symbols they employ:
“Fiji Blue” provides continuity from the 1970–2015 flag, remaining the “banner blue” of the national anthem. It represents peace, serenity, and freedom, as well as the Pacific Ocean. It shows solidarity with all island nations.
Yellow represents radiance, life, sustenance, and a new beginning. It recalls the sun and Fiji’s place as “the land of the first rising sun” and its tropical location.
Dark Blue stands for peace, prosperity, trust, dignity, and intelligence. The colour of the deep ocean, it represents the depth of Fiji’s culture.
Red represents passion, strength and energy of the Fijian people.
The Sun symbolises a new day, hope, and Fiji moving forward. It recalls Fiji’s place as “the land of the first rising sun” and its tropical location. It represents health, light, life, and energy, as well as the warmth of the Fijian people.
The Triangle signifies Fiji moving forward together as one people.
Stars represent guidance, navigation, and direction. They symbolize the gallantry of Fiji’s people.
Three represents the three independent branches of Government as a strong and vibrant democracy under our Constitution: the executive, the judiciary and the legislature.
Seven is a number that symbolises a good omen for many Fijians.
The Tagimoucia represents blessings, courage, and peace. The flower is unique to Fiji and found only on the island of Taveuni.
The Turtle represents the humility, strength, patience, and perseverance of the Fijian people.
The Davui [conch shell trumpet] represents community and respect; the call of the nation to come together as one people.
The Drua [double-hulled sailing canoe] represents past, present, and future of all Fijians and our voyage into the future as one people, one nation.
The Tapa [decorative barkcloth] represents the many islands of Fiji and our past with its geometric, triangular elements in the centre of the flag.
The Coconut Tree represents sustenance and the versatility of the Fijian people.
Here are the 23 designs as presented in the online survey (sizes have been reduced to approximate viewing them at a distance):
Note: “Flutterings” — notes from the editor on our last meeting — is a regular feature in The Vexilloid Tabloid.
May Flutterings You Need to Know
In our May meeting, hosted by John Schilke, 18 PFA members and guests enjoyed a lively 3-hour evening of flags and other wide-ranging topics. As the host, John led the introductions and moderated the discussion.
Ken Dale reflected on the bicentennial of the end of the War of 1812 and on its causes.
David Anchel described how the equality flag (yellow equals sign on blue) was designed in Portland and how Elmer’s makes it in-house.
Dennis Stevens is pleased that his changed work schedule will allow him to attend our meetings.
David Ferriday shared some of his recent flag-related acquisitions, including a beer stein, shot glass, and key ring. He shared images of the Scandinavian flags at the Nordic Cultural Center on Oleson Road and some images from design books.
Larry Snyder showed an image of Spokane, Washington’s Cathedral of St. John, its interior festooned with the banners of every church in the diocese.
David Koski asked: “How long does an outdoor flag usually last?”. He got full answers from David Anchel (6 months to a year) and Mike Hale (who went on to explain his invention of “feather flags”). They reported a rule of thumb common to flag dealers but new to us: replace a U.S. flag when the stripes are shorter than the canton.
Mike Hale played “name that flag” with a souvenir bought during his May 2014 visit to Bruges, Belgium.
In response to his letters soliciting flags for educational purposes, Michael Orelove continues to receive them from nations, cities, and government agencies. The latest include Senegal; Springfield, Illinois; and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (which warned him to use the flag only for non-profit purposes!).
Max Liberman took careful notes; Jessie Spillers enjoyed the flags.
Patrick Genna reveled in giving out over a dozen flags of all sizes he’d gleaned at Goodwill. One inscribed “Cherokee Braves” at first seemed to him the flag of a sports team; he then learned of the Confederate troops raised from native tribes.
Visitor Casey Sims brought his Portland Ska Flag (see VT #51) and described the process of its creation by a bandmate as well as his own interest in flags.
Keryn Anchel may commemorate the now-famous carpet from the Portland International Airport with a flag using its motif.
In February, Fiji’s recently-elected prime minister announced that the country would change the flag to remove the colonial symbols it had borne since its adoption at independence in 1970.
Aiming to raise a new flag on independence day, 10 October 2015, he set an ambitious schedule: A flag-design contest to run until 1 May, open to the people of Fiji. A narrowing-down to finalist designs by a committee of 13, representing a broad cross-section of modern Fiji, by the end of May. A sharing of prospective designs for comment by the Fijian people (using a website, the press, and other means) in June. A parliamentary motion and adoption of a final design in July. Production and distribution of the new flag in quantity before October.
The government of Fiji asked me to serve as the technical advisor to the national flag committee. On a week’s notice, at the end of May I flew to Suva, the capital, for a three-day marathon session with enthusiastic committee members.
The first order of business was to share the basic principles of flag design…easily done, as the committee members understood them intuitively. We also reviewed the flags of Fiji’s neighbors in the Pacific, and those national flags the committee members most admired.
Over 2,000 distinct designs had been submitted—some people sent in several (plus 7,000 images of the current flag, submitted by those opposed to a change).
The flag committee reviewed every one and narrowed them down to 167 on the first day. During the second day, they reduced the field to 47, and then to 20. All would be successful national flag designs, and all featured “Fiji Blue”.
The national press covered our work intensively (see fijisun.com.fj and search on “flag” or “Kaye”).
Now the work shifts to the people of Fiji, who will respond to the field of prospective flags. The committee will review the responses and eventually a design will be moved in Parliament. Watch for developments in coming months.