11.7.09

Flying Sunday July 12, 2009.



July 12 2009 is the 30th anniversary of the independence of Kiribati, formerly known as the Gilbert Islands. The Kiribati flag will fly in Vernon Street today and tomorrow. It is one of my favourite flags from my collection.



The Flag of Kiribatihas an upper half of red with a gold frigatebird flying over a gold rising sun, and the lower half is blue with three horizontal wavy white stripes to represent the ocean and the 3 island groups (Gilbert, Phoenix and Line Islands). The 17 rays of the sun represent the 16 Gilbert Islands and Banaba (former Ocean Island). The shield was designed by Sir Arthur Grimble in 1932 for the Gilbert and Ellice Islands British colony.


The former flag of the Gilbert Islands as a British Colony.


The shield was incorporated into the center of the fly half of a British Blue Ensign as the state ensign of the colony. Shortly before independence was granted in 1979, a local competition was held to choose a new national flag, and a design based on the colonial coat of arms was submitted to the College of Arms. The College of Arms decided to modify this design. Both the golden frigate bird and the sun were enlarged to occupy more of the top of the flag, and the width of the blue and white wavy bands was reduced. The local people, however, insisted on the original design, in which the top and bottom halves of the flag were equal, the sun and local frigate bird small, and the various design elements outlined in black. The new flag was hoisted during the independence day celebrations in the capital, Tarawa, on July 12, 1979.


Geography

Kiribati, officially the Republic of Kiribati, is an island nation located in the central tropical Pacific Ocean. It is composed of 32 atolls and one raised coral island, dispersed over 3,500,000 square kilometres, (1,351,000 square miles) straddling the equator, and bordering the International Date Line to the east. The name Kiribati is the local pronunciation of "Gilberts", derived from the main island chain, the Gilbert Islands.



The Gilbert Islands became a British protectorate in 1892 and a colony in 1915; they were captured by the Japanese in the Pacific War in 1941. The islands of Makin and Tarawa were the sites of major US amphibious victories over entrenched Japanese garrisons in 1943. The Gilbert Islands were granted self-rule by the UK in 1971 and complete independence in 1979 under the new name of Kiribati. The US relinquished all claims to the sparsely inhabited Phoenix and Line Island groups in a 1979 treaty of friendship with Kiribati.

Kiribati has few natural resources and is one of the least developed Pacific Islands. Commercially viable phosphate deposits were exhausted at the time of independence from the UK in 1979. Copra and fish now represent the bulk of production and exports. The economy has fluctuated widely in recent years. Economic development is constrained by a shortage of skilled workers, weak infrastructure, and remoteness from international markets. Tourism provides more than one-fifth of GDP. Private sector initiatives and a financial sector are in the early stages of development. Foreign financial aid from the EU, UK, US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, UN agencies, and Taiwan accounts for 20-25% of GDP. Remittances from seamen on merchant ships abroad account for more than $5 million each year. Kiribati receives around $15 million annually for the government budget from an Australian trust fund.