WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Fijians will get the opportunity to design a new flag as the country prepares to ditch Britain's Union Jack.
Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama announced Friday the Pacific island nation was launching a two-month competition starting Monday to find the best replacement flag. He said a panel of citizens will chose the best designs, with the final decision going to lawmakers.
He said the winning designer will get to hoist the new flag on Oct. 10 — the 45th anniversary of the nation's independence.
Fiji's current flag features the Union Flag, commonly called the Union Jack, in the canton, or top left corner.
In a speech earlier this month, Bainimarama said that the flag's symbols were part of Fiji's colonial past.
"They are the symbols of the colonizer, Britain, a country with whom we are friends and will continue to be so," he said. "But they are not symbols that are relevant to any Fijian in the 21st century. And they should go."
Bainimarama is encouraging schools to enter into the competition for a new flag, offering them the chance to win prizes, including a large-screen television, for participating.
"I stress that the competition to design the flag is open to everyone," he said Friday. "But we are especially keen to encourage our young people to give full rein to their imaginations, because this flag is ultimately for them and future generations of Fijians."
Bainimarama was elected leader in September when Fiji returned to democracy, eight years after he seized power in a military coup. Since then, the U.S., Australia and other countries have dropped sanctions against the nation of 900,000.
New Zealand is also considering ditching the Union Jack from its flag. Voters in that country will get to first choose a favorite alternative flag from among several options, and then get to decide on whether that alternative should replace the current flag.