Rotuma was governed as an integral part of the Colony of Fiji after cession to Great Britain in 1881. Following Fiji's independence in 1970 and the military coups of 1987, Rotuma remained with Fiji.
Social Organization. Rotuma is divided into seven autonomous districts, each with its own headman ( gagaj 'es itu'u). The districts are divided into subgroupings of households ( ho'aga ) that function as work groups under the leadership of a subchief ( gagaj 'es ho'aga). All district headmen and the majority of ho'aga headmen are titled. In addition, some men hold titles without headship, although they are expected to exercise leadership roles in support of the district headman. Titles, which are held for life, belong to specified house sites (fuaq ri). All the descendente of previous occupants of a fuaq ri have a right to participate in the selection of successors to titles. On formal occasions titled men and dignitaries such as ministers and priests, government officials, and distinguished visitors occupy a place of honor. They are ceremonially served food from special baskets and kava. In the daily routine of Village life, however, they are not especially privileged. As yet no significant class distinctions based on wealth or control of resources have emerged, but investments in elaborate housing and motor vehicles by a few families have led to visible differences in standard of living.
Political Organization. At the time of discovery by Europeans there were three pan-Rotuman political positions: the fakpure, the sau, and the mua. The fakpure acted as convener and presiding officer over the council of district headmen and was responsible for appointing the sau and ensuring that he was cared for properly. The fakpure was headman of the District that headed the alliance that had won the last war. The sau's role was to take part in the ritual cycle, oriented toward ensuring prosperity, as an object of veneration. Early European visitors referred to the sau as "king," but he actually had no secular power. The position of sau was supposed to rotate between districts, and a breach of this custom was considered to be incitement to war. The role of mua is more obscure, but like the sau, he was an active participant in the ritual cycle. According to some accounts the mua acted as a kind of high priest. Following Christianization in the 1860s, the offices of sau and mua were terminated. Colonial administration involved the appointment by the governor of Fiji of a Resident Commissioner (after 1935, a District Officer) to Rotuma. He was advised by a council composed of the district headmen. In 1940 the council was expanded to include an elected representative from each district and the Assistant Medical Practitioner. Following Fiji's independence in 1970, the council assumed responsibility for the internal governance of Rotuma, with the District Officer assigned to an advisory role. Up until the first coup, Rotuma was represented in the Fiji legislature by a single senator.
Social Control. The basis for social control is a strong Socialization emphasis on social responsibility and a sensitivity to shaming. Gossip serves as a mechanism for sanctioning deviation, but the most powerful deterrent to antisocial behavior is an abiding belief in immanent justice, that supernatural forces will punish wrongdoing. Rotumans are a gentle people; violence is extremely rare and serious crimes nearly nonexistent.
Conflict. Prior to cession, warfare, though conducted on a modest scale, was endemic in Rotuma. During the colonial era political rivalries were muted, since power was concentrated in the offices of Resident Commissioner and District Officer. Following Fiji's independence, however, interdistrict rivalries were again given expression, now in the form of Political contention. Following the second coup, when Fiji left the British Commonwealth of Nations, a segment of the Rotuman population rejected the council's decision to remain with the newly declared republic. Arguing that Rotuma had been ceded to Great Britain and not to Fiji, these rebels declared Rotuma independent and were charged with sedition. Majority opinion appears to favor remaining with Fiji, but rumblings of discontent remain.