18 Aug 2016

Fiji PM says flag won't be changed

1:45 pm on 18 August 2016

Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has announced that the Fiji flag will not be changed for the foreseeable future.

In a statement, Prime Minister Bainimarama said he was moved by the way Fijians have rallied around the national flag as their rugby sevens team won Olympic Gold for Fiji.

And he added he knows this sentiment is shared by most Fijians.

He said while he remained convinced personally that the country needed to replace some of the flag's colonial symbols with a genuinely indigenous expression of Fiji's present and its future, it had become apparent to the government since February that the flag should not be changed for the foreseeable future.

Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama speaking to disciplined forces in January 2016

Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama Photo: Supplied

He also said it was a question of resetting national priorities as the Fiji 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," he said.

The prime minister has urged every Fijian to display the flag when the victorious sevens team returns to Fiji on Sunday, and during Fiji's 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," Mr Bainimarama said.

In 2015, Frank Bainimarama said Fiji would remove the Union Jack from its flag and replace it with a design that wasn't about the colonial past.

He had also ruled out a referendum despite calls for the public to be given a chance to decide.

However the process to choose a new flag had been delayed several times with the government offering no explanation for the delay.

Opposition praises U-turn on flag

The Leader of the Opposition in Fiji Ro Teimumu Kepa has praised the Prime Minister over his u-turn on changing the country's flag.

Ro Teimumu said after three weeks mingling among people in Rio he did the right thing.

fiji flag at parliament

Photo: RNZI/ Sally Round

She said she hoped it was the beginning of Mr Bainimarama seeing people's voices really need to be heard.

"What he saw with his own eyes, he knows that the flag is something that is very dear to our hearts and when he was in Rio, he saw that very evident that there was no reason at all to change the flag, which is what everyone wants."