More Top Stories


Bigger and busier 2023: PM

31 December 2022

Other Sports

Double gold for Darts

21 January 2023


Covid-19 cases stable: TMO

10 January 2023


Population policy endorsed

10 January 2023


PM Brown vows to change law

23 January 2023

Rugby league

Moana target 2025 World Cup

11 November 2022


We’re halfway there!

16 November 2022


From the river to the ocean

18 November 2022

Fiji’s flag designer ‘disappointed’

Friday 6 February 2015 | Published in Regional


suva – The designer of Fiji’s current flag says she is disappointed by prime minister Frank Bainimarama’s move to replace it with a new one.

Tessa Mackenzie – now 80 years old – won the competition in 1970 to design the flag after placing the British Union Jack and the shield from Fiji’s Coat of Arms on a sky blue background.

This week, Bainimarama said they were British symbols that were not relevant to a modern, independent Fiji.

Mackenzie, still living in Suva, told the ABC’s Pacific Beat programme that she disagrees.

“To say that our past is not relevant in any situation if foolish – we cannot get away from our past,” she said.

“I think it’s a non-argument to me to say that we want to get away from the colonial past. Your past is always there.”

A spokesman for the main opposition Sodelpa Party, Peter Waqavonovono, said many people were against changing the flag, which has been used since Fiji gained independence.

“Although there are segments of our population who are bitter about our British past, we all do not share the same sentiments and therefore cannot be forced to accept their (the government’s) ridiculous laws,” he said.

Fiji Labour Party president Lavinia Padarath said parliament was the proper forum to debate such a change.

“ Bainimarama should realise that in a parliamentary democracy issues of national importance should be approved by the parliament,” she said.

“The people of Fiji must decide whether they want the flag changed and if so, what the changes should be.”

Mackenzie said she believed the majority of Fijians still embraced their current flag design.

“People love it, they really feel proud of it,” she said.

“If you ever watch Sevens Rugby, whether we’re winning or losing people are waving it – and people wear the flag on their T-shirts in everyday life.”

The current flag introduced in 1970 is Fiji’s fourth since colonisation.

Reaction on social media has been mixed, with an online petition calling for the flag not to change until the question has been put to a referendum.

Samson Verma, an expatriate Fijian living in Paris, has started a Facebook page called Keep our Fiji Flag.

“That flag, the way it is, contains much of Fiji’s history and it contains much of what Fiji has gone through in the last 150 years or so,” he said.

“We see that flag as one that flies above all the ethnic differences in Fiji.”

Bainimarama said his competition to design a new flag would start this month and run for two months, with the winning flag to be flown for the first time on Independence Day in October.

“The union flag belongs to the British, not us,” Bainimarama said.

He said that replacing the flag and the shield bearing the Cross of St George is not a reflection of bad relations with Britain.

“Britain is a country with whom we are friends and will continue to be so, but they are not symbols that are relevant to any Fijian in the 21st century and they should go,” he said.

Not everyone think removing the Union Jack from a nation’s flag is that big a deal.

“If you take a book out of the library, on loan, you have to give it back some time – and the Union Jack has been on loan to these countries for a long time,” said Tony Burton from research and preservation group, Flags Australia.

“Fijians like their flag because it represents them. I think they will also take to a new flag that speaks more clearly to the symbolism of Fiji.”

Prime Minister Bainimarama said he wants a new flag to unite a nation where racial tensions between the traditional owners and Indo-Fijians have sparked numerous coups.

New Zealand has started down the road of acquiring a new flag with a referendum due this year.

“I am proposing that we take one more step in the evolution of modern New Zealand by acknowledging our independence through a new flag,” New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said last March.

Bainimarama said he wants to beat New Zealand to the draw with the new Fijian flag decided by a national competition over the next two months and then decided by a committee of prominent Fijians.

Mackenzie said she was not planning on entering a new design into the competition.

“I find it very difficult to envisage what they can choose which will be appropriate and relevant for everybody,. not just now but for the future,” she said.

“A flag is a national symbol that needs to be very meaningful, so I think it will be very hard to find good symbols.

“If they are going to change it, I just hope that they are going to change it to something suitable and let’s not be too much like other people’s flags because when you look at most of the flags in the world, so many of them are messy.”