Save the wave!

This article is by Isha Afeef

The government’s plan to build a bridge connecting the capital and the airport island may destroy the Maldives’ most consistent surf break at Malé’s Raalhugandu, surfers have said.

“These surf breaks cannot be built like football grounds. They are forces of nature, and a bridge in the area will destroy my hometown’s wave. This is disastrous for anyone who surfs,” local surfer Hassan ‘Zakitte’ Irfan said.

Housing minister Dr Mohamed Muizzu told Haveeru last week that the US$100 million Malé – Hulhulé Bridge will run from Malé’s south east corner at Raalhugandu to the end of the airport runway at Hulhulé. A second survey of the ocean basin is ongoing.

The government says the bridge will increase connectivity between Malé and its suburb Hulhumalé, where 20,000 people live. The bridge is to be completed by the end of 2017.

Over 90 percent of Maldives’ surf athletes practice at Raalhugandu, while a majority of local surfing competitions and several international competitions have been held there.

Although Raalhugandu has weathered through severe damage to Malé’s reef from the construction of a sea wall, and the reclamation of land from the ocean, the placement of the bridge’s pillars may affect the ocean currents that form waves suitable for surfing in the area, local surfers have said.

Ahmed ‘Karo’ Fauzan, who has surfed at Raalhugandu for the past 20 years, says the bridge is bad news for all of Malé City’s residents. Nearly one-third of the Maldives’ population lives in Malé, and the Raalhugandu area is one of the few public spaces were Malé city residents can go for a run or a swim. Many people, old and young alike, while away the evenings at the various food carts, sipping on coconuts and nibbling on local delicacies.

“The impact of this bridge is bigger than a wave. It is going to lead to a loss of culture. We’re not living the way Maldivians are supposed to be living. We have no access to the natural resources in this city. Yet we’re living,” he said.

All of the nearby islands and lagoons have now been sold off for tourism, industrial or military purposes, making the loss of the narrow beach at Raalhugandu even more devastating.

For Karo, surf breaks are a natural resource that must be protected, not only because of the foreign revenue surfers bring in, but also because surfing for him is an expression of love for the ocean.

Dhafy Hassan, a female surfer, agrees: “I am in love with my country because of the ocean and the beaches. I think every Maldivian is proud of our natural beauty no matter what. Surfers, divers and fishermen, we have this beautiful excuse to be in the water, this is what makes us who we are. But if the bridge is built, that will be taken away from us. Why destroy what makes us?”

The possible loss of Raalhugandu comes as a big blow for local surfers, especially since the government in 2011 sold off nearby Thamburudhoo island, home to the Maldives’ best waves. Tourism revenue from the island will go to military welfare.

“With no other spots nearby, this bridge will become a huge blow for our community. We treat her as our home. We don’t litter here or make her dirty.” Ahmed Aiham, 16, who has just recently started to surf, said.

Karo, who also worked on the “Save Thamburudhoo” campaign, said Maldivians must fight for the waves. He also said the bridge may also disrupt another wave at Hulhulé island.

He has urged the government to reveal details of the environmental impact assessment of the bridge, and said the government must factor in the loss of Raalhugandu wave before approving development.

Meanwhile, Hussein Fayani, at Malhu surf school, said funds allocated for the bridge should be invested to improve the ferry system between Malé and Hulhumalé. His school teaches 25 children, aged between four and six, how to surf every month.

“Building the bridge is not something that should be done at all,” he said.

Environmentalist Noorain Jaleel described the bridge as a “selfish and inconsiderate step in the name of development.”

“How far will we go till we understand how delicate our environment is? How vital its balance is, even to us mighty humans. The currents, surfs and tides have their roles. Selfish inconsiderate steps in the name of development will one day bring all of us to our knees. Better planning with serious consideration of the environment will take us a long way. For our future generations. You are answerable for them.”

The Maldives Surfing Association and the Maldives Body Boarding Association declined to comment on the issue, saying they are working on a plan for discussions with the government.


Comment: Our future is bleak

This article is by Sighpad Mohamed, who writes the the blog

Vote a government in. Give them a year of two. Take to the streets. Mount pressure, topple the elected leader and change the government. Rinse and repeat as needed. Maldivians seem to have taken to this formula like a duck to water. This has to stop.

When former president Mohamed Nasheed was ousted in a coup d’état on February 7, 2012, he warned of more unlawful changes of the government in the Maldives’ future. Take in to account the events of May Day’s mass antigovernment protest #EkehFaheh15.

President Abdulla Yameen denied he was under any pressure, but the record number of press conferences he appeared in and tweets by officials indicate otherwise. The government was indeed jittery. But president Yameen’s disregard for the people was blatant when he appointed his tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb as his representative for negotiations, when the opposition had accused Adeeb of corruption and had called for his resignation.

Despite intimidation and harassment, tens of thousands of people took to the streets on May Day in the largest antigovernment protest in a decade. Protesters hoped president Yameen would relent. But the police cracked down brutally and hundreds were arrested and injured. It was clear the police were targeting vocal social media critics with the arrest of Yameen Rasheed, Waddey and Hamid Shafeeu. But unlike February 7, 2012, the government remained unchanged, and the ruling party held fireworks the next day to celebrate its “victory.”

Maldivian history is rife with examples of coup d’états, and they will continue unless the elected governments listen to its citizens’ concerns, and work for their development, not for the benefit of a handful of loyalists.

I do not support coups, but when the commonwealth backed commission that investigated president Nasheed’s ouster in 2008 ruled the transfer of power legal, despite a police and military mutiny, it has opened the doors for citizens to once again resort to the same means to topple a government. But deep in our hearts, we know this is not right. The power lies with the people who cast their votes to elect a leader for five years, not one, two or even four, but five. Let us not forget that. But the elected government must not forget they are elected to do right by the people. Not to fulfill their own agenda by pocketing the taxpayer’s money. And if the government does not rectify its mistakes, there will be more coup d’états.

Prior to 2008, Maldives weathered through 30 tough years of torture and fear, where individuals who simply expressed the desire to see a different president were jailed and tortured. They came out from jail only as a shell of the person they had been. I weep over the many accounts of torture that remain untold to this day, of the various ways former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s regime ruined the lives of many families by rendering their loved ones incapable of taking care of their personal needs after being “reprogrammed” at the infamous Dhoonidhoo jail.

But Maldivians rose up and they embarked on a nonviolent struggle. It was not easy, but we persevered.

Little now remains of the democratic changes we fought so hard for. The government is out to silence all dissent. With all the leaders of the opposition now behind bars, the Maldives is on the verge of becoming the next Egypt, where a revolution was undermined and a former general continues to consolidate his power by massacring his people and jailing all of his opponents.

The fear and intimidation we thought were a thing of the past is now back. Ruling party MP Ahmed Nihan has threatened to dismiss opposition supporters from civil service jobs, and urged the government to cancel the licenses of the scores of boats that had carried thousands of islanders to Malé for the protest. I for one, have a foreboding feeling that we are once again headed towards the era where Maldivians huddled in fear at every second of every day.

The Maldivian government is adamant that its foreign policy reflects its domestic tyranny, and that’s exactly what’s being conveyed through the diplomatic channels. But the single flickering light at the end of this dark tunnel is the international community and its sanctions.

President Nasheed calls for perseverance from his jail cell, where he is to spend the next 13 years of his life, all because he fought for dignity and equality for the people of the Maldives. My wish for the Maldives and my people is simple, one that aligns with the vision that president Nasheed has for this country. That we be a prosperous nation, a just and able society, one in which the government serves all of its people, regardless of their political ideology, and one where the government listens to our concerns without declaring war on us when we oppose the government.

Our future is bleak. The people continue to struggle, they continue to raise their voices, despite the fact the government celebrates the brutalizing and jailing of hundreds with fireworks. But if this tyranny continues, a civil war is not far off. The scars of the 2012 coup may have scabbed over, but the wounds are deep, festering with hatred, resentment and a deep disillusionment with a justice system that continues to fail us. Only time alone can tell if those of us, who are fighting for human rights, justice and democracy will emerge victorious, or whether we will be browbeaten to embrace a culture of corruption, nepotism, injustice and brutality for years to come.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


May Day! Hear our voices!

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Photos by Shaari

Tens of thousands of jubilant opposition supporters took to the streets on Friday against government’s authoritarianism.

The march was peaceful, but clashes erupted when protesters attempted to enter Malé’s central Republic Square at dusk.

Police say 193 people were arrested, the largest numbers arrested from a single protest in the last decade.


Comment: May Day! May Day! May Day! Maldives

“When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right.” – Victor Hugo.

By many accounts, the atmosphere in Male’ is both festive and fearful right now. And so it would be. Today, supporters of democracy in the Maldives and those who want to prolong the increasingly autocratic regime of Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom are going head to head. Both sides are ready to give it their all, whatever happens, whatever it takes.

For democracy

There is little doubt that the country is heavily divided. On the side of democracy supporters are at least 48% of the electorate who voted for Mohamed Nasheed in the 2013 election stolen by Yameen Abdul Gayoom through the Supreme Court. Added to this are a majority of the 23% who in 2013 voted for Qasim Ibrahim, the tourism tycoon who helped fund Yameen’s win and is now being persecuted by him. Also among the democracy supporters are those aligned with the religious Adhaalath Party who voted either for Qasim Ibrahim or Yameen. One of their leading figures, Sheikh Imran Abdullah, so zealously effective against Nasheed in the 2013 presidential campaign, is also now campaigning against this government. All in all, Yameen–and the autocratic values that he represents–has the support of less than 25% of the electorate, if that. A conservative estimate would, therefore, put the percentage of the Maldivian electorate against the government at around 65%. A higher figure is likely to be more accurate.

A large share of these people will be out on the streets of the capital Male’ today for what is likely to be the biggest demonstration in the history of the country.

People have come on boatloads from across the 1200 island archipelago. ‘We have travelled on different ships, but we are now all on the same boat’, observed one such protester on social media. They will all be congregating in Male’ at 3:45 in the afternoon, under the hot tropical sun. They want to rise up against the government that has refused to listen to any of their multitude of woes and worries: murders that have not been solved; abductions that have not been investigated; corruption that has been encouraged; islands that have been sold to shady businesses; lagoons that have been signed away for centuries; atolls handed to foreign governments for unknown purposes; medical care that has been negligent; basic services that have been inadequate; streets that have become too dangerous to walk; children who have not been protected; living that has become too expensive to afford; freedoms that have been severely curtailed; promises that have been unfulfilled; and lives that have become too joyless and filled with fear to enjoy. They want a government that would listen; a government of the people, for the people. And they are ready, in their tens of thousands, to come out on the street and demand all this, all theirs by right.

Against democracy

‘I do not want to rule with force,’ President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has said. But short of using his own fists, he has done nothing but. All three powers of the State are entirely in his hand, though he continues to insist they are not. Some of the claims are laughable, such as his insistence that the judiciary is independent from his influence. The entire world has seen and said otherwise after the courts prosecuted and jailed opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed in the manner it did. With Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) holding an absolute majority, the parliament is his toy, too. As is the Prosecutor Generals’ Office, almost all independent commissions, and also the country’s armed forces.

With clear evidence of the partiality of these institutions laid bare on a daily basis, Yameen’s claims of not exercising undue influence makes him frequently look like Iraq’s Comical Ali: Maldives’ own Comical Abdulla.

The government has been preparing for the protest by banning civil servants from attending the rally, by firing pro-democracy staff in government-run institutions, and by producing and repeating the narrative that to protest is to destroy the country’s peace–as if there can be peace when a majority of the people are refusing to be ruled against their will. None of it is working. Desperate, it has wheeled out religious clerics to say it is against Islam to rise up against an elected leader. Sadly for the government, a majority of Maldivian clerics–having helped instigate the February 2012 coup which brought down the country’s first democratically elected–government, has little credibility left in this department.

In the meantime, Yameen’s right hand man, the financially rich but morally bankrupt Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, has tried to heat things up further, challenging the protesters to ‘bring it on!’ He has said the government is ready to take on anyone that disagrees with it. There is fear, as well as compelling room for conviction, among democracy supporters that Adeeb–’bro’ to hundreds of gangsters–would not hesitate to bring the ‘boys’ out on the streets today. The plan would be, as has been executed many times before, to get his thugs to pretend they are part of the protest, and commit acts of violence in response to which the SO can unleash their own violence against the peaceful thousands marching for their rights.

The security forces


The Maldives Police Service has become one of the country’s least respected institutions. With a Police Commissioner of little education and even less knowledge of policing at the helm–appointed solely for his loyalty to Yameen–the force has become even more disliked than it was after the 7 February which a group of them facilitated. Since Hussein Waheed became Commissioner, the police have been deployed to do a lot of Yameen’s dirty work–framing political opponents, freeing criminal allies, and brutalising democracy activists. Members of theSpecial Operations police (SO)–supposedly an ‘elite’ group–have become such lackeys of the president that they are even attending to the president’s superstitions, carrying out ‘top secret’ midnight operations to cut down trees that were supposedly cursed against the government.

The only people looking forward to the protests as much as, or even more, than the protesters themselves today are the police. From everything they have said and done since today’s protests were announced, they have been preparing for this day. In the last week there have been almost daily press briefings all of which have included threats, intimidation and announcements of new measures to curb the right to freedom of assembly. They have all but imposed visa requirements on people travelling to Male’ from other islands for the protests, demanding they have accommodation, food and other arrangements pre-booked before travelling. They have instigated stop and search operations targeted at boats en route to Male’; paraded troops with imitation guns, banned batons, and gas canisters to perform ‘training exercises’; and they have used ‘intelligence reports’ to arbitrarily arrest leading opposition activists. They have arbitrarily banned the media from certain areas; and banned protests ‘between two prayer times’ — as if there is any time that’s not between one of the five daily prayers. They have warned that caution must be exercised near mosques and schools – as if there is any area on the two square kilometres of Male’ that is not near a mosque or a school. They have said no sound systems can be used after 11:00p.m and that it must all end at sharp midnight. They have declared the protest, yet to begin, ‘not peaceful’. They have announced a strategy of zero tolerance. Any infringement of the growing list of illegally actions, at anytime during the protest, by anyone, and ‘we will crackdown’, they have said.

Strength in unity

Not everyone who supports democracy, wants to protest the unjust incarceration of Nasheed, and rise up against the current government, can join the march today. There are many valid reasons to hold people back–mothers who cannot leave their children; the unwell; people who believe they simply cannot risk their livelihoods; people who cannot be in Male’ for various reasons; and more. But, no matter how hard the government and the police would like to believe otherwise, fear is the last reason holding any democracy supporter back from the streets of Male’ today. Together, the people are stronger than any government, no matter how brutal.

This article was originally published on

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Taking out the trash

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An assessment dive ahead of a full day clean-up of the West Park land and reef area reveal years of accumulated trash dumped on the reef. Divers found bottles, bicycles, tires and even electronic devices at depths of about 10 meters.

Join the “Fari Faru 2015” full day clean up on Saturday, April 25 and help preserve the fragile reef around Malé.

Find more information about the event at Fari Faru 2015 Facebook page. 

Underwater photos by Nine Star Diving.


Comment: A climate hero languishes in prison. Let’s fight to get him out

This article is by Bill McKibben. It was first published on April 16 on

The underwater pictures from the Maldives last weekend brought back a staggering rush of memories.

In 2009, when was still a fledgling organization and not the world’s largest grassroots climate campaign, we’d called for our first global day of action. All around the world people rallied in iconic locations, from the summit of Antarctica’s highest mountain to the middle of Times Square. There were 5,200 demonstrations in all, in what CNN called ‘the most widespread day of political activity in the planet’s history.’ But maybe the most memorable was from the Maldives.

Or rather, from below the Maldives. Where newly elected president Mohamed Nasheed, who had taught his cabinet to scuba dive, convened their regular meeting underwater, on the edge of their threatened coral reef. There they signed a proclamation to the UN, asking that it work to lower the level of carbon in the atmosphere.

Underwater Cabinet

That picture helped bring home the newly dawning truth of global warming—that entire nations like the low-lying Maldives were on the edge of extinction. It also marked Nasheed as the most committed head of state in the climate fight.

But that’s not all Nasheed represented. He’s also the Mandela of the Indian Ocean, the man who through long years of nonviolent resistance freed his nation from a long tyranny and won its first democratic election.

That thug government just receded into the shadows, though, and a few years lateroverthrew Nasheed in a military coup. And now it has jailed him for 13 years on absurd charges of terrorism after a trial that would have delighted Kafka—among other things, the presiding judges were also witnesses against the accused.

The long-suffering people of the Maldives are fighting back, though—peacefully, with massive demonstrations night after night in the streets of Male. And over the weekend, a hundred of them dove down to the reef with scuba tanks, and with banners demanding Nasheed’s release. The picture—a purposeful echo of the moment when he made the world notice his embattled archipelago—should alert the planet once more.

There are signs of international support beginning to emerge. Maybe most significantly the renowned human rights lawyer Amal Clooney (yes, that Clooney) has joined his defense team, bringing both great skill and a bright spotlight. But much more is needed.

For one thing, though Nasheed and his colleagues have not called for a tourist boycott, it’s hard to imagine anyone with a conscience wanting to support the goons running the country at the moment. Its beaches are indeed beautiful—but they will be more beautiful once the Maldives have returned to democratic rule.

Our leaders, too, need to act. India, America, the EU all need to be firm in the demand for Nasheed’s safety (there are great fears for his life as he returns to the prison where he’s already spent so many years) and for his release.

For those of us in the worldwide climate movement, this is not just a moment to stand by one of our own. It’s also a good reminder that we need working, inclusive, democratic governments if we are to make real progress. The autocrats now running the Maldives of course abandoned the Nasheed government’s remarkable plan to turn the nation carbon-neutral and even offered to drill for oil in the surrounding waters; as in so many places around the world, tyranny and fossil fuel have a friendly working relationship.

The Maldives is existentially imperiled by a rising ocean. But before it can fully deal with that predicament it needs its voice back. At the moment that voice is languishing in prison.We all should work to get him out.

Bill McKibben is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and co-founder of His most recent book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Comment: International community must not ignore the plight of ‘Mandela of the Maldives’

The following op-ed was written by Anders Henriksen and Lykke Friss from the University of Copenhagen and first appeared on The Conversation. Republished with permission.  

This year has been anything but tranquil in paradise. In March, after a prolonged period of tension in the Maldives – the Indian Ocean island nation better known as a honeymoon paradise – a panel of judges found the former president, Mohamed Nasheed, guilty of terrorism and sentenced him to 13 years imprisonment.

The international community has condemned Nasheed’s trial as a farce. The charges against him were highly dubious, he was denied the right to legal counsel, given just a few days to prepare his defence – and two of the presiding judges even testified on behalf of the prosecution. Amnesty International labelled the trial as “a travesty of justice”.

As numerous UN reports have shown, the Maldivian judiciary is highly corrupt. It is a judiciary that is loyal not to the rule of law, but to the regime that has been in charge since a coup d’état in 2012. Nasheed is now back in the same jail where he spent years as a prisoner of conscience during the former Maldives dictatorship.

Shattered dreams

At the end of 2008, when democracy swept aside 30 years of dictatorship, it all looked so promising. The Maldivian people chose Nasheed as president in their first democratic elections and, for a brief moment, freedom blossomed.

During Nasheed’s presidency, Maldivians could speak freely for the first time, enjoy new found political freedoms, and express themselves through art and culture. Internationally, the charismatic new leader gained fame for his remarkable efforts to persuade the world to combat climate change, which threatens low-lying Maldives. Nasheed toured the world as a political rock-star, receiving accolades from the White House to Windsor Castle.

But it did not take long for the old regime to move against the young democratic government. On February 7 2012, Nasheed was forced to resign and the presidency was handed to Mohamed Waheed, a puppet of the former regime. The Maldivessoon reverted to type: journalists were targeted, protesters beaten up, and opposition politicians threatened and murdered.

The subsequent presidential elections 2013 were marred by widespread allegations of vote-rigging. The former dictator’s half brother, Abdulla Yameen, won – despite an overwhelming expectation that Nasheed would be returned.

Democracy trampled

Nasheed’s incarceration should be cause for concern to anyone who cares about democracy, liberty or the rights of women. In the Maldives, the moderate, freedom-oriented version of Islam that Nasheed espoused is under threat from a regime that colludes with Islamic extremists.

Unless the current trajectory is turned, the liberal forces in the countries will lose the on-going battle with fundamentalist Islam. In the last year alone, Islamic State supporters have rallied in the streets of Male, the Maldivian capital, and a growing number of Maldivians – some with experience of terrorist training camps in Pakistan – have gone to Syria to fight for Islamic State. Only Nasheed and his Maldivian Democratic Party have been willing to tackle the growing problems of Islamic radicalism.

There are few statesmen of Nasheed’s stature. Many foreign journalists, with good reason, refer to him as the “Mandela of the Maldives”. In the interests of democracy and stability, the international community must take a clear stand. Unless Nasheed is swiftly released from prison, the European Union and other nations should impose targeted sanctions against those in power.

These sanctions should include travel bans and foreign asset freezes. The sanctions should target President Yameen, his cabinet ministers, including the minister of tourism, and the corrupt judges who imprisoned Nasheed, and members of the security forces responsible for attacks on peaceful protesters.

Furthermore, since the survival of the regime depends on the annual arrival of the more than a million foreign tourists, individual countries should also supplement sanctions with a tourism boycott. Just like potential tourists should think twice before spending their money on the atolls. Yameen’s regime is baring its teeth. It is time for the international community to respond in kind.

Anders Henriksen is an associate professor of public international law and Lykke Friis is the prorector for education at the University of Copenhagen.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]