Fiji became independent in 1970, after nearly one hundred years as a British colony. Since then, the country has witnessed a series of coups and discord between native Melanesians and the Indian community, the descendents of laborers brought to the island by the British in the 19th century.
In 1987, a coup by the native Melanesians resulted in the fall of the elected, Indian-dominated coalition. A 1990 constitution ensured the Melanesian control of the island, which caused many Indians to emigrate. Free elections in 1999 brought an Indo-Fujian prime minister to power, but in 2000, another coup also overthrew this government.
Another round of elections held in August 2001 brought the government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase to power. Qarase was reelected in May 2006, but he angered the opposition and the military by with his proposal to pardon those behind the 2000 coup. Qarase's government was ousted in a December 2006 coup led by Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, who is now the interim prime minister.
Political upheavals have adversely impacted Fiji’s international reputation and its economy, especially its tourism industry. In addition to tourism, sugar is a major foreign exchange earner for Fiji. Its economy is also dependent on its developed services sector, some light manufacturing, and the mining of gold, silver and limestone. Fiji has faced constant trade and budget deficits and is highly dependent on aid. By some records, it is the one of the world’s largest per capita recipients of aid.
The indigenous Melanesian population and the Indians rarely intermix, and this informal segregation exists at every level. Other ethnic groups include the Chinese and the Rotumans.
Sources: BBC, International Crisis Group, CIA World Factbook.