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 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.Some of the countries and territories with the Union Jack on their flags.This week, Mr Bainimarama said they were British symbols that were not relevant to a modern, independent Fiji.Ms Mackenzie, now 80 years old and still living in Suva, told the ABC’s Pacific Beat program 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 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 ridiculous laws,” he said.
Fiji Labour Party president Lavinia Padarath said parliament was the proper forum to debate such a change.
“Mr Bainimarama should realise that in a parliamentary democracy issues of national importance should be approved by the house (parliament),” she said.
“The people of Fiji must decide whether they want the flag changed and if so, what the changes should be.”
Flag ‘flies above ethnic differences’
Ms 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.”
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.”
Mr 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.
Ms 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.”
Source:Radio Australia (ABC)