The UK flag -known as the Union Jack or Union Flag- is set to be removed from the national flag of the Pacific nation of Fiji. Fijian Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama announced the decision earlier this week. According to Bainimarama, the Union Jack turns the current Fijian flag into a symbol "anchored to our colonial past."
Bainimarama underlined that the change is not meant to dishonor the current flag, which -he said- is important for Fijians and their history. But "the Union Flag," Bainimarama argued, "belongs to the British, not us."
Fiji gained independence from the UK in 1970. Similarly to other former colonies, the Pacific country has retained the Union Jack on its flag since.
An "inclusive" process to choose a new design
The Prime Minister said that an "inclusive" process, "based on consensus," will be launched to design a new flag. A national competition will be called, in which school children will also be encouraged to participate. A committee representing the Fijian society will pick a design from proposals set forth.
The new flag must be ready on 10th October, as Fiji will be marking the 45th anniversary of its independence on that day.
Bainimarama suggested that designers use symbols linked to the local flora and fauna. The current Fijian society is made up of two major ethnolinguistic groups: Melanesian Fijians (54%, descendants of the first settlers of Fiji) and Indo-Fijians (38%, descendants of Indian workers brought to Fiji by the British to work in plantations). Coexistence between both groups has not always been easy.
Three other independent Pacific countries still retain Union Flag
Fiji's move means that the Union Jack will only be retained by three independent states in the Pacific area: Australia, New Zealand and Tuvalu. The figure could be further reduced, as New Zealand is planning a double-round referendum to decide whether it changes its flag or not. The vote, to be held between November 2015 and April 2016, will let New Zealanders choose between the current flag and an alternative proposal.
Tuvalu removed the Union Jack from its flag in 1996, but reverted to the previous one the following year.
Several non-independent Pacific countries also retain the Union Jack. This is the case for Niue and the Cook Islands -both are states in free association with New Zealand- and the US state of Hawaii.