I spent the past two weeks traveling with the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on its Vaudhuge Dhathuru (‘Journey of Pledges’) campaign, all the way from Kolamaafushi Island in Gaaf Alif Atoll to Addu City. We visited more than 20 islands, including Addu City.
I was born and raised in the capital city of Male’. I am 19 years-old, but except for brief vacations with my family I have not traveled very much in the Maldives. Hence, I have not been able to experience “island life” and by this I do not mean the white sandy beaches or crystal clear waters of the Maldivian islands, but the daily lives of the residents who spend their whole lives on these isolated islands.
The trip was an absolute adventure; one that made me realise my own privilege in growing up in Male’, and the huge discrepancies between the urban centers and the rural islands. I have lived all my life in a bubble created by my parents. Can you believe I’ve never had to make my own bed? To live in a kanneli dhoni for 12 days was a huge challenge for me.
I was on Reyva Dhoni, known as ‘Media Odi’, along with 52 others. Everyone else wanted to be on Reyva Dhoani. We had all the photographers, media and the young and energetic ‘Yellow Force’ on board, so you can imagine how much fun it was. And really, you could actually see how prepared MDP was for this trip. They had thought of everything; there was a kitchen boat that came along with us, and a small launch, in case we may had a need for it.
Meals were prepared and we’d enjoy them in the middle of the ocean. There would always be someone singing a classic bodu beru song, or at times, a couple of guys getting together for Lava Baazee. It was never silent, it was so happening, and it would always turn out to be something exciting. As for the toilet arrangements, there was one toilet and usually 52 people on board, so you do the math. It was so small, you wouldn’t believe. Someone would always be knocking on the door, and as you can guess, it was always an emergency.
I would very much like to tell you about the first 24 hours of the trip. We left Male’ at around 5:00PM and it soon got dark. And all of a sudden, without warning, out of nowhere the boat started to wobble and it suddenly hit me, I’m going to have to stay put for 22 hours or perhaps even longer.
I started to miss my family and my bed… and mostly the toilet. I thought to myself, ‘I couldn’t survive in this place, why the hell did I even come…’ I was on the rooftop all night, inside my sleeping bag, because it was so cold, trying so hard not to puke (you don’t want to be the one who pukes, believe me!). I was not able to lift my head, because I didn’t want to pop like a puke-filled balloon.
After 22 hours we arrived at our first stop, Kolamaafushi Island in Gaaf Alif Atoll. I got myself together and took a shower, changed my clothes and set foot on the harbour, and the first thing I saw was the beautiful monument that was built for fishermen’s day.
On top there was a banner stating: ‘Welcome to the first democratically-elected President, Mohamed Nasheed’.
After become acquainted with the friendly, welcoming people of Kolamaafushi, MDP Youth Wing Leader Aminath Shauna and I went to the island’s MDP office, and we arranged our policy workshop. A handful of people joined us for the workshop, mostly people who’ve previously worked in the island’s health post or utilities company, people who’ve lost their jobs due to political reasons.
I was really glad to see a couple of elders and single mothers in this small crowd, it was what you would call ‘A little bit of everything.’ Shauna explained to them what the MDP had achieved in government during the past three years, and how many lives have been changed over the few years we were able to serve in government. For instance, in Kolamaafushi alone 889 people were covered by some sort of social protection program, and Shauna explained that Nasheed’s administration had spent about 4.2 million rufiya (US$272,000) for that.
That was just Kolamaafushi. We discussed housing projects, infrastructure and education, we were told by someone from the group that the pass percentage had increased to 62 percent in 2011, which I thought was remarkable. And it elated me to see how fired up they were and how determined they were to increase the pass percentage to even higher in the coming years.
When Shauna concluded her presentation, the islanders began to express their thoughts. They told us they haven’t seen a single laari of the ‘Disability & Single Parent’ benefit for the past three months. They said they had not been able to purchase medicine from the local pharmacy. The island’s Women’s Development Committee had set up the pharmacy, but the health corporation acquired the place and had decided to stop services.
They expressed anger at having to travel to a neighboring island for shopping and for medicine. I thought to myself, why are they complaining about that? The neighboring island isn’t that far, and then there’s the nation-wide state transport system, introduced by the MDP during President Nasheed’s administration. But then I got a ‘slap in the face’ from the locals: apparently the state transport service has not been consistent at all. What really made me upset was seeing so many young people without a job or education. I thought to myself, the ‘Skill [Hunaru] program’ could have changed the lives of a few of these youngsters, maybe a whole bunch in five years.
That day I realised it is not that these kids want to live off their parents. They want to earn a honest living. They just want opportunity, for someone to believe in them and to give them the chance, to change their lives. Someone to take an interest in them, someone or even a program to drive them to where they need to be.
After hearing all that, it suddenly didn’t matter that I had to shower in a small cube, or that I had to sleep on a mat most nights. It was a small price to pay to see what I saw in person, and of course the islands were so beautiful. It is true what Anni said, even if you’ve lived your whole life here, you can’t fail to be impressed by the beauty of these islands.
The trip made me realise that there’s so much we could do to change the lives of the hopeful people of this country, from the youngster who has just finished his A-levels to the diabetic single mother with three kids who needs constant medication.
Waheed and the government coalition boast about making tough decisions, but never took them. They seem to lack the confidence and guts to take risks. I personally believe we were on the right track.
It was so comforting to learn that the things that mattered the most for the people of these islands were health care, transport, social security, and anything that would help their daily lives. I believe that these were the kind of real, concrete, lasting changes President Mohamed Nasheed and MDP government brought, and I am convinced that they are the kind of radical changes that Kolamaafushi and the rest of the country desperately needs.
We must link the great divides in this country – and where better to start than the gap between the islands and the capital?
I have learned a lot. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I’m so glad that I went.
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23 thoughts on “Comment: On the ‘Vaudhuge Dhathuru’ campaign trail”
The urban - rural divide has been created with no bridges being seen to iron out the disparity. Just because it has been politically very convenient. Not that people do not know trickery of the old regime, but they has no choice.
MDP can bridge the gap and liberate Maldives. We have pinned our hopes on the strategies of MDP to break free from the clutches of corruption and squandering of public funds.
Wonderful article Maiz. I'm disillusioned with the MDP government. But your article serves to reaffirm that the MDP is the only party in the Maldives with a party structure that is compatible with a democratic form of government. Your article did this in two ways. First, you explained the focus on policy. Second, and most importantly, it elucidates how the party is able to imbue democratic spirt in young people like yourself. There is still hope for us. Thanks and keep writing
MDP has not done much during their regime and it was mostly signing of MOU and nothing much was done to bridge the gap.
All what they have done is to use the public money to help Male' people and not the Islanders. All housing projects were concentrated in Male' , Hulhumale and those flats were only qualified by people from Male'.
Once these flats were given to Male' people, then Islanders have to rent them out from Male' people . Anni and his associates have done this purposely to create a wealth for their people and let the " Dogs" the Islands works and Male' people enjoy the hard work of those islanders.
Anni had introduced so called transport system in the country. Look at that too. Most of the ferries so called are basis Dhoni and most of those ferry even does not have a toilet on the ferry. These transport ferries are connected with Resorts and then these resorts were again given to Male' people and those who are close friends of him . People like Dhonblieh Ahmed, Shauna, MVK Shafeeq etc to name few.
Anni promised to provide GAS and Water line to many of the Island before end of 2011 , and non of this had happened and even started the work any of the Island in Maldives. These were just false fornicated stories that he made on bis first visit to some of the large Islands in Maldives .
First of all there is no rural or urban life in Maldives. The life in Maldives can be defined Islanders life. The people in the capital Island do not have any privileges over any other Islander. The only difference is those who live in Male’ have a sense of pride being able to live in a capital the capital that offers nothing that you call urban life. We don’t see long and Wide Street that roams speeding cars, with high rising building packed with shoppers visiting shipping malls, eating in road side franchised eating places that offers delicious variety of ethnic and international foods.
Male’ is like any other island surrounded by sea confined to 1 square kilo meter filled with concrete tiny match boxes. People who live in this Island are no difference than those who live in the rest of Islands, people eat same food, and women are caged in a massive cloth fence. Young star are hooligans who roam on the tiny walkways aimlessly on motor bikes and the big spend most of their times talking rubbish about politics like that if they are born to do politics.
The best way for Maldives to abandon this bird hatchery and try to migrate to the real world, The writer has missed the most import part of Anni’s ideology, get the people out of this cocoon and bubble world..
so you've learned something.what are you gonna do to use what learned to improve the society? or you're just telling that you enjoy the trip & the government now is doing nothing to improve the life of islanders.
Ibra,,a lot of what you say is correct..There can never be enough work in the Maldive for the expanding population..The answer of course is for people to go overseas to seek fresh opportunities.The only way to achieve this is education..If only a small amount of educated 'Islanders' can go overseas,learn new ideas,then come back home with those new ideas,bring fresh hopes to those islands--then maybe,,just maybe,those islanders could have a better future..
Its good to see you complete the journey without vomitting. Congatulations! In my experience those who puke on longer journeys could be cured by travelling frequently the way you did.
I also have traveled to many islands in Maldives, work related. Though I live in one of the pigeon whole of Male' rented. I still felt that the islanders have been stolen from there share of wealth of economic growths and educational rights and also proper health facilities..We dont live in Male' cuz its comfortable. we live here cuz it is the only plc with some decent facilities..four years back i was in an island and the ignorance of the islanders brought tears to my eyes..the government take all the loans on the name of our poverty n eat it all...
One of the reasons why I feel a new order is needed is the point you make about the condition of the people living on the islands. For so long, Gayoom and his cronies did nothing to help these people simply because they were too busy bleeding the nation, using what is ours by right to live their jet-setting life styles. It has gone that way again. That is why I support MDP. While I do not expect MDP to be perfect, I do believe they have the welfare of our people at heart. Thank you for sharing your feelings about the trip with us. In a world where it is not 'cool' to show that your experiences challenged and made you re-think your attitudes and opinions, I am pleased to see that you are adult enough, at the young age of 19, to see through the political rhetoric of the regime and show signs of a developing social conscience.
I grew up in Male. But unlike you, my family took me round the islands and showed me the predicament of people who have less than what we had- and god knows, we didn't have much. I wish you all the best and keep on the good work; Maldives can do with young adults like you.
Nsheed in his 3 years term has been mostly completed some of MDPs 5 pledges whether some ppl believe it or not.
Anni had introduced so called transport system in the country, Yes he started the service but we all know when something start for the 1st time, we may faced many problems but in time it will improve. So sad some people do not understand the difficulty some islanders go through when there was no transport system by then. Anni has introduced many programs which are beneficial to elders, youth & so on . so lets think and carefully compare Maumoon's 30 years and Nasheed's 3 years term.
Today MVK is saying it is impossible to sustain the transport system in south.
It is is not enough just to have some thing introduced without having proper plan how to sustain .
Anni did lot of talk to fool the people and he never did those things with a good heart.
Anni is a racist and he discriminates Islanders and Male people and treats differently.
If you are from an Island and if you know bit of Anni and if you had worked with him and then think deeply how he behaves and how he speaks to you and how he look down on you. No matter how constructive idea you may give him, he would had never listen to you .
I am saying this after having had the experience and having know how Anni sees those Islanders as third grade citizen.
Anni never wanted to build any housing units or flats in any Island and his priority was to help Male' people to build up wealth at the expenses of the Islanders.
Anni never want to provide higher education facilities to Islanders and he only want to make Islanders suffers.
Anni never improve the health facilities at any Island , because he wanted Islanders to suffer.
Anni only was good at his talks and fool the people . Since many of the islander are ignorant , it was quite easy for Anni to fool them.
Ibra, people like you from Male' will try to argue on my comments . But truth of the matter is that Male' people want Islanders to do all dirty work and so you Male; people will be able to have a lavish life style either in Male' or abroad.
You Male' people rent you houses and building to Islanders and then you and your family do not need to work and buy houses and flats abroad to get better education , health .
Do you have to be an MDP member or party activist to get your writings published on this website?
Why don't you publish something under your own name tsk tsk and see for yourself?
Oh how could I when I'm not allowed to join his holiness President Nasheed for eye-opening campaign trips.
If only I was 19, then I could devise national policy but I'm just 7 so I guess I have 12 more years to wait.
Maybe in the meantime I could learn more cool slang from US-produced studios from Cable TV. That would somehow make me superior to the people in the islands with their sad little lives. Probably couldn't tell the difference between 'puke' and 'nuke' the poor fools.
Alas their savior Nasheed has been removed from power. If only we could find a way to prop him back up again. Then Nasheed can somehow magically wave away the harsh reality that if we choose to 'develop' the atolls at the expense of Male' with our meager income, then we in Male' would not have the meager luxuries that Maeed et. al. are celebrating.
Yet, then again, I shouldn't be so harsh. How can a 19 year old understand the difficulty of making hard choices with limited funds. His parents probably bought him that ridiculous sleeping bag he took on his trip. After all we Divehin just take a bed-sheet and some pillows. I guess MALDIVIANS like Maeed live in a different world.
Publish that Dhonbe!
View of the Journey of Pledges from the eyes of a Spoilt Brat, what did you expect tsk tsk?
Old man, this boy is the future. Call it what you want debauchery, hedonsim, apostasy - he is questioning the status quo. He is of a generation who will refuse to bow down to your Pharoah. You can equate MDP and Anni with all the evils in the world, they will never be as important to him as PPM and the beloved Pharoah is to you.
Granted our income is limited and that there are limits in life. But the days when "Bodun" keep the lions share and throw crumbs at the peasants are gone.
Count the days of your political ideology, they are numbered. Meanwhile continue to project your ire against kids like Maiz for having the privilege of possessing a sleeping bag, while ignoring the fact that your Pharoah used a gold plated toliet seat to park his royal tush - after all that was not "against the rules" of the time.
Totally agree with peasant this time. Old people like tsk tsk should learn to digest this article written by a very very young boy who is the future of Maldives.
Well done Maiz!! Dont be distracted by the comments of some fools like tsk tsk.. Keep writing.
Oh my, it seems my helpful comment was taken offence to and elicited a somewhat incoherent diatribe on the part of tsk tsk.
"Puke" and "Nuke"? Triumphantly daring ME to "publish that"...?
What on earth are you on about?Is this senility or petulance?
For the record investing in infrastructure outside of Male' is not the caricature of some socialist redistribution enterprise you make it out to be. Developing Addu and the like is going to take some of the population pressure off of Male' and help us GROW our meagre income.
As for the rest of your (bizzare) comment I can only assume that you've lost your mind completely.
*developing the atolls and the like
Old man tsk tsk. lmfao
funny but how true. The old guards of Gayoomism are crumbling with zealous youths of Maldives taking up the guiding light of democracy.
please! you all are missing the real picture here. its not about the language used in the article or the age of the writer. who cares if he's a spoiled brat or not? its whats going on in those islands that matter. the people who are unable to get to the medicine that they need because the pharmacies are closed, the disabled children who aren't getting their funds, the single parent fund and so on. That is the real picture. That's what we should focus on. Not criticizing one another.
@ Hypothetical Aisha: too right, thank you so much for highlighting what truly matters instead of wallowing in our own ego fueled bickering. We do need reminding often it seems. I applaud Maiz for writing and sharing. Keep it up I say. Our youth are ready to engage. They just need to be given the chance. That is what is being stolen from them by ageing despots. But the future is theirs no matter what - and I hope they seize it well.
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