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Rotuma Independentist Flag 1987-1988 (Fiji)

Republic of Rotuma

Last modified: 2010-05-28 by ian macdonald
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[Independentist Flag 1987-1988 (Rotuma, Fiji)] ~3:5 image by Dirk Schönberger

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Rotuma Independentist Flag 1987-1988

In the South Pacific Handbook Moon Publications Inc, California, 1989, a text about Rotuma says:

(...) Rotuma is run like a colony of Fiji, with the administration in the hands of a district officer responsible to the district commissioner at Levuka. Decisions of the appointed Rotuma island council are subject to veto by the national government. The island wasn't directly represented in the old house of representatives, being lumped into the Lau Group constituencies, although it did have an appointed senator. In early 1988 Rotuma attempted to secede from Fiji, citing human rights violations by the military-backed republican regime. The Fijian district officer on the island promptly demonstrated his disgust by blasting the flag of the New Republic of Rotuma with a shotgun. Soon after, a "peace keeping force" of 13 Rotuman soldiers arrived, and the protesters were taken to Suva and charged with sedition (...)

Jaume Ollé, 7 April 1997
Jarig Bakker, 26 November 1998

Sorry, but there is no Rotuman flag apart from the Fiji flag.
Alan Howard

A kind of apartheid ("pro-Fijian and anti-Indian") had been established in Fiji the previous year, by Col. Rabuka, if I remember correctly. Maybe this was incentive for Rotumans to leave the Fijian nation, however. And "independentist" flags certainly were not tolerated in those years, while I do not know how they would be welcomed now.
Thanh-Tâm Lê, 28 November 1998

From the Pacific Islands Report:

Suva, Fiji Islands, January 28, 2000
The 2,500 residents of Rotuma are divided over a proposal by a secessionist group to sever all ties with Fiji and declare the island a republic. Fiji's Daily Post reported that David Koran, an American tourist in Fiji on a visitor's permit, has encouraged Rotuma's chiefs and residents to sign documents to break away from Fiji. Koran is believed to have developed a constitution for the proposed Republic of Rotuma. Daily Post reporter Josephine Prasad, who first broke the story, said reaction from residents in Rotuma has been mixed. (...) "Generally there's a rift between Rotumans in Fiji and Rotumans in Rotuma", Prasad said. However, she said, a majority of Rotumans are not for a change. (...) This is not the first time a republic has been suggested for Rotuma. The issue was mooted in the early 1970s by members of the Malmahau clan of Rotuma, headed by Gagaj Sau Langfakmaro, and after the 1987 military coups.
My comments: Korem (not Koran) is the webmaster of the Dominion of Melchizedek website, a rather bombastic domain, which claims the territories of Taongi Atoll (north of the Marshall islands), Clipperton island and several other uninhabited islands. The Dominion has a flag.
Jarig Bakker, 28 February 2000

According to Pacific Island Report, on 2nd April 2001 a Fijian court stated that the debate about Rotuman independence should be allowed. I found this webpage in a serious website about Rotuma with no micronation feeling. There I found a black and white picture of the flag used by Gibson in 1987-88 when he tried to lead an independence movement in Rotuma. Here is an abstract of the page, which provides much more information on the symbols and history of this movement:

Symbols of Power and the Politics of Impotence: The Mölmahao Rebellion on Rotuma
Alan Howard [Published in Pacific Studies 15:83-116, 1992]

AH: Why is the American flag flying over Mölmahao?
AM: It's not the American flag, it's the United Nations flag.
AH: But the United Nations flag is different; it's blue and white and has an outline of the world on it.
AM: No, this is really the flag of the United Nations; it only looks like the American flag.
AH: Where did you get it from?
AM: From New Zealand.
AH: From Lagfatmaro?
AM: Yes.

Shortly after the second military coup in Fiji, in September 1987, a part-Rotuman man in New Zealand by the name of Henry Gibson announced to the newspapers that he had declared the island of Rotuma independent of Fiji. According to media accounts, Gibson said he was "king" of Rotuma and claimed a popular following on the island. His argument was that Rotuma had been ceded to Great Britain separately from Fiji, and that when Fiji became a republic and left the Commonwealth, it had lost the right to govern Rotuma. He petitioned the Queen of England for recognition of Rotuma's status as an independent state that would remain within the Commonwealth. His plea went unheeded, but his followers on Rotuma created a new island-wide council intended to replace the Council of Rotuma (composed of chiefs and district representatives). As a result, they were arrested and charged with sedition.

Gibson claims to have had a dream visitation from the first three sau (kings) of Rotuma and a sauhani (queen). He says they urged him to return to Rotuma to clean up the Mölmahao "foundation" in the district of Noatau, which was presumably the place from which their titles came. The Mölmahao foundation is one of many named housesites (fuag ri) on Rotuma that have been unoccupied for many years. The visitants also told him to take the title Lagfatmaro (unconquerable victor). This was the title of the first sau, Gibson alleges, and entitled him to be sau.

Three flags now fly atop poles in front of the Mölmahao foundation. One is the Union Jack. It symbolizes the commitment of Gibson's followers to the Deed of Cession, by which Rotuma's chiefs ceded the island to Great Britain in 1881. It also embodies the hope that the queen will recognize the plight of Rotuma and will support the move toward independence from Fiji. The second flag was designed by Henry Gibson. It is the Mölmahao flag. It consists of a gold circle on a purple background; radiating out of the circle are gold stars and gold stripes (Figure 1). In a letter responding to my inquiry, Gibson responded that, "The meaning of the flag which flies at Molmahao is the sacred Fa'apui of King Gagaj Sau Lagfatmaro also performed in the Kava Ceremony" (pers. com., 26 Sept. 1988). It is thus his personal symbol. The third flag is [the] Old Glory, mistakenly perceived by the Mölmahao group for a symbol of the United Nations. To them it signifies the hope that the United Nations will support their leader's declaration of independence (Gibson sent a letter to the general secretary of the United Nations presenting his case for Rotuma's autonomy). To me it signifies the fact that most of the symbols that Gibson has imposed upon his followers are empty of cognitive significance for Rotumans. They are therefore weak symbols for mobilizing sentiment.

As far as I know, another attempt of independence of Rotuma was done in 1999 or 2000 by the leaders of the Dominion of Melchizedek, a rather not trustworthy micronation which used a white flag with its seal and runs this website, and which once (after Fuligni 1997) claimed the property of the Colombian island of Malpelo and sold the waters around the island to make money... By the way, [there is] no Rotuma-related page in Fuligni 1997.
Olivier Touzeau, 1 May 2001

The image quoted above as Figure 1 (see top of this page) shows the flag has a ratio of about 3:5.
Olivier Touzeau
, 1 May 2001