The Kiribati Flag is similar in color and layout to the coat of arms of the colony of the Gilbert and Ellis Islands. This coat of arms was designed in 1932 by Sir Arthur Grimble. Grimble was a British civil servant who served as a Colonial Administrator in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. Ultimately, the Gilbert Islands became the nation of Kiribati. The final design of the flag was chosen during a competition in 1979, when Kiribati declared its independence.
The top of the Kiribati flag features a rising sun emitting seventeen golden rays on a red field, meant to be the sky at sunrise. The seventeen rays represent the islands and atolls comprising the nation of Kiribati. Above the sun there is a yellow frigate bird, which symbolizes power, poise and freedom. Disagreements arose during the 1979 competition regarding the size and position of the yellow frigate bird in relation to the top edge of the flag and its position above the sun. However, the frigate bird is highly regarded by the natives of Kiribati as a symbol of sovereignty. The final accepted design of the flag, once independence was declared, reflected a large and prominent image of the bird. The bottom half of the flag features three sets each of alternating blue and white waves. These waves signify the sea and the Guilbert, Phoenix and Line Islands. The flag is designed at a ratio of two to one, thus it is twice as wide as it is tall.
The initial coat of arms was designed by a British civil servant and featured the color scheme used by the British Navy. The gold color used for the frigate bird, the sun and its rays, the red of the sky at sunrise, and the blue and white waves of the sea are all depicted in the colors used by the British Navy in its official colors.
As defined by the National Identity Act of 1989, any destruction or defacement of the Kiribati flag shall result in a two hundred dollar fine or a prison term of six months, or both. Use of any image of the Kiribati flag for commercial purposes will also face fines and imprisonment, and any use of the image of the flag of Kiribati must receive approval from the Secretary of the Cabinet.