The decision to award the title to Torika Watters, who is of mixed European-Fijian heritage, prompted hundreds of racist and violent comments which had to be removed from the official Miss World Fiji Facebook page.
The 16-year-old defeated several full-blooded Fijians to win the contest. The controversy was heightened because the judging panel consisted of several non-Fijians and was overseen by Rachel Hunter, a New Zealander.
The former British colony has long been beset by racial tensions, mainly stemming from its mix of ethnic Fijians and a large minority of Fijians of Indian descent.
Pageant organisers lashed out at the criticism and said the row would not affect the decision.
"In the past few days, there has been nothing but negative criticism and remarks from our own people," a pageant spokeswoman wrote on the Facebook site. "Instead of bringing all the wrong attention to our brand and country, why not start supporting our ambassador, building her up and praying that she impacts the world with her story?”
The pageant spokeswoman said the furore was damaging efforts to gain some good publicity for the island nation. The country has come under widespread international criticism and been suspended from the Commonwealth over the failure of the military ruler, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, to hold elections as scheduled.
"Fiji has received enough negative press already, shouldn't this be one for making up for lost ground?” the spokeswoman said. “Our forefathers promoted unity and respect and, sadly, in our society today this is not evident (among) many who call themselves proud Fijians."
The pageant had already attracted controversy over the winner’s age. This prompted a retort from Ms Hunter, who said she was 16 when first scouted in New Zealand as a model for a brand of ice cream.
SOURCE: The Telegraph, UK, 4/28/2012