Inside Male’s growing gang culture

Following the arrest of 26 people in a special operation to try and curb rising gang violence in Malé, Minivan News today spoke to three gang members, on condition of anonymity, to try and learn if both the operation was proving effective, and what was contributing to rising gang violence in the first place.

The first gang member identified himself as ‘Matey’, from a gang in Henveiru. The second gang member, ‘Don’, wished to keep his gang anonymous, likewise the third, a senior gang member.

The gang members spoke candidly about their reasons for being involved in gangs, finding jobs, crime, the police and politicians.

Joining the gang

All three gang members joined for different reasons and under circumstances, but they all speak about their gangs as “a second family”, with particular emphasis on a sense of community within the gang.

Matey said he loves being in the gang “because my family does not care about me, but the gang members always help me in every way.”

He said his parents “hated” him because he had a close relationship with his brother, also a gangster.

”I did not use to go and hang out with the gangs with him,” Matey said. ”I just hung out with him sometimes because he is my brother. But then my Mum and Dad thought I was becoming like him, and started ignoring me.”

Matey said he likes being with the gang because they help him “in everything he does” and he can “refresh his mind” with marijuana and alcohol.

He said first smoked marijuana because his parents always accused of him being drunk while he wasn’t, ”so one day I just tried it to see what happened.”

Don told Minivan News that he joined the gang after the police took him one day to police custody and kept him there as a suspect.

”As you know, that place is full of gangsters and I had to be in [police custody] with them,” he said.

”When I came out a few days later, I saw them on the streets and started hanging out with them.”

He said after completing his O’ levels he met the leader of the gang, who was “a friend of a friend.”

”I just joined with them to start a business,” he said.

Don said he also likes being in the gang because they “love me as much as my parents.”

The senior gang member told Minivan News he likes being in a gang because the other members “help me with everything and always back me up.”


The gang members said they wanted jobs, but felt unable to get them because of the stigma attached to their police records.

Matey said he now prefers selling drugs instead of looking for a job “because it pays more”, but Don said he was compelled to stay in the gang until his police record was cleared in five years.

”In five years when my police records are cleared I will get a job,” he said.

The senior gang member said his family forced him to earn money but he was unable to get a job, also because of his police record.

”I would like to be like other people, going to work and earning money,” he said.

He added that the government “must provide more job opportunities for the people.”


The police did not know how to handle gangs, Matey said: ”They arrest anyone with long hair and earrings.”

Because the police sometimes arrested innocent people, he explained, it had became a way for innocent people to get into gangs through association with gangsters.

”When [innocent people] are taken into police custody they meet lots of gangsters and become friends with them,” he said.

Don added ”the new government is trying to make Maldives a carbon neutral country, but don’t they know police vans, jeeps and motorbikes patrolling 24 hours harms the environment a lot?”


Many people are continuing to join gangs for protection, the gang members explained.

Matey said the need for protection was driving people who did not have any family problems to become involved in crimes with gangs, because they wanted support and protection from other gangs.

Don said this was particularly common for the younger gang members, who were seeking protection and support from the gang.

While the gangs were not particularly interested in the country’s politics, Don explained that “some political figures support the gangs by paying them to do crimes, sometimes to attack someone or for their protection.”

The senior gang member said his gang received support from political figures, usually for ‘protecting’ their business.

”In return they provide funds for our needs,” he said.

Curbing crime

Matey said he did not think rising crime in Malé could be prevented, while Don said the way to make Malé peaceful was “for police to leave the gangs alone.”

However the senior member suggested that to make Malé peaceful “police should arrest everyone connected to crimes.”

“The gangs don’t just commit crimes,” he said. ”We conducted a diving course this year, and once I was offered [the opportunity] to go abroad for studies.”

He said the leaders of the gangs did not want to create violence in Malé, but warned “we will attack if we are attacked.”

Crime and income

Matey agreed with the senior gang member that robbery was proving the most lucrative crime in Malé, although the latter said drug dealing also was also a main source of income for the gangs.

He said the public “respect anybody who has lots of money”, and did not appear to worry too much about how it was earned. Regarding robberies, he said, “we normally get information for our missions from expats who work with [the places we are robbing],” he said. ”In return, we give them a share of what we get.”

The senior gang member said that ”the most important thing is to avoid corruption in the country, because today we can buy anything for money; the police, Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation (DPRS), jail officers and judges, too,” he said. ”There are gang members inside the police.”


A police spokesperson confirmed that criminal records were kept for five years, but that they were only applied if the person was convicted by a court.

He reiterated that police would only arrest someone if they had enough evidence, as the court would not accept a case otherwise.


19 thoughts on “Inside Male’s growing gang culture”

  1. Gangs are popular because gangs can provide many things that family and Government cannot provide, such as sense of belonging, money, drugs, friends, etc..

    Gangs form in response to racial, ethnic, and other forms of discrimination in order to provide their members with feelings of acceptance and belonging otherwise denied them.

  2. This is the result of overworked parents, migration to Male', overcrowding and lack of physical individual space, plus lack of healthy options for group formation for young people. Sad,but true and no attempts to address these issues either at the community or government levels.

  3. not it is not a parents problems it is result of corrupted parlament.if young generations cannot get job they will approach to the crime .question to all democracy funs of new MDP era in Maldives why you are wondering?democracy it is not a game or talk about freedom from is very hard work to make country rich and strong and need clear heart and high level of patriotism.but if all accept only talks part and virtual presentation of bad dreams, nothing will happend in real you think if you from early morning say 10000 times blablabla about medical servises, after that hospitals appear in different atolls?and crime will stop?or you invite fandhitta or sihuru masters to build up new schools for childrens?hehehe try it.

  4. Journalism

    Minivan News bringing these issues to light cannot be faulted for doing so. We have to have a standard for journalism and they need to do whatever they can to protect their sources and allow for the open and free flow of information. Journalists cannot be scared or confined from reporting on any issue.

    The Gangs

    The gangs in Male' are in ever sense of the word - social clubs. The provide services, entertainment, and support for their members.

    The problem is that many of these larger gangs can only sustain themselves through illicit activities like selling drugs and stealing.

    But it goes beyond that. We have a culture of gangs, which is not just a social club atmosphere - but rather violent and hateful aggression toward one another. They are territorial, abusive, and violent. This past summer, it seemed that the biggest hobby gangs would have was to steal the cars of the members of other gangs - drive them around Male' - and leave them somewhere. This insult was then returned. There is a culture of abuse, where girls who are related to one gang's members are abused and rapped by members of the other gang. This is not okay.

    The rest of use leave it alone because it does not affect us. Its not our sister or our daughter. These are people who asked for it cause they were involved with gangs to begin with. Are you kidding me?! What kind of attitude is this?

    The Police

    The majority of these gangs operate outside of the law. The Police Towing Yard is stopped from towing Gang Cars and Motorcycles. And those Police who are trying to address the situation, do not have the tools to move forwards.

    We are still lacking appropriate legislation to allow forensic evidence. We are still lacking basic protection laws, and our MPs are so busy squabbling over partisan nonsense that they can't get their act together long enough to pass effective legislation.

    The Judiciary

    We need significant reform in the Judicial sector. Judges have no firm precedents and give out sentences off the top of their had - rather than basing it on legal doctrine. Instead of interpreting the laws to hold citizens accountable, they're releasing them and proving that we have no system of reprimand. What reprimands are given, are done so for political reasons. Judges are supposed to be free of such blatantly partisan politics. But if any judge (that is not a Supreme Court Judge) is not meeting the basic requirements of his office without going overboard, then he should be held accountable!

    That way, they in turn will hold our citizenry accountable as well.

  5. I have to agree with buscador de la verdad largely. What this article doesn't say is these people joined the gangs because of the respect and attention they receive from news media such as this very article. We need to ignore them, get angree with them and unite against them. Not be accepting of their behaviour by legitimise their actions by accepting their justifications for being criminals.

    The views of the last law abiding citizen should be listened ahead of the biggest gang star. But it seems we all need to be gang starts if we want our opinion heard. So are you with the gangs or are you with the us?

  6. maybe we should legalise drugs? that way it won't be such a lucrative business, where the immense profits they make enable them to bribe politicians and law enforcement officials?

    or atleast de-criminalise and allow those who want to rehabilitate get that facility without a criminal record.

  7. Former President and His dear Younger brother Yamin, thinks they are the Al Capone s in Male'.

    Well done, Police you are doing a good job, we must never let these terror groups created by the above two devils rule the street of our beloved Male'.

    We Male'ans are keeping quiet for now, but we are finding very difficult to tolerate this now. when we come out, we can and we will clean out the streets.

    Al Capone never won in New York and we should never let these people win. We must read and learn from how New York and other countries solved this menace and I know for sure, good only wins.

    We the good citizens of Male' will come out winners. Its so easy to blame someone and become a damn nuisance, these please come to Male' in the name of studies from atolls and has ruined the the Peace of Male', a law should be set up to sent these pain in the necks back to there islands.

    and as for Maumoon, Citizens, please don't think he is out of politics, he and his family is behind every evil in Maldives, all he has done is direct our focus towards another area so that he is left alone to plan all these evil deeds, Its time to make his life hell by arranging more demonstrate near his home.

    Maumoon should be dispersed as a cat.

  8. Even if a mouse or a worm speaks the truth, it is still the truth. This is the truth of society in the Maldives today. Poverty, lack of economic development and the "facade" culture that is rampant in Maldives is why youths join gangs.

    I feel that the only way to alleviate the vicious cycle of drugs, violence and economic destitution is to move forward into the future; by bringing more economic opportunities, investment, and social development - and to do so, we must let go of the decadent, old guard way of doing things.

  9. So Minivan is to blame for gangs just because Minivan reported it.

    Next time, blame the Met office whenever it rains. If there is an earthquake or a tsunami, just round up the geologists and lock them up..

    lets kill the messengers..

  10. Hassan K, That's the messed up george w. bush kindda attitude that's making the world go wrong. Are you with us or them? Why should we even seperate them and us? We are all one, trying to survive in the same society so ignoring and pretending the problem doesn't exist won't help anyone. And who are you to finger point and call people killers. Law abiding citizens would know that under the law, one is innocent until proven guilty.

  11. the promotion of criminal rights were founded by the human rights commision who never gave the slightest attention to the victims and their rights and minivan news just seem to be promoting it. the gangs have labeled themselves as the outlaws, killers etc. so on what legal grounds does minivan news have the rights to kick aside the tortured and bring forward the the torturers?the whole article is diverted to the promotion of evil within the societies order!and create mass havoc within us!! responsible journalism is of noway resemblance t

  12. While I certainly appreciate the effort, this article seems shallow and incomplete. A more in depth piece would have been better!!! Mediocre journalism! And I am been kind.

  13. buscador.

    These so-called thieves, mobs and killers are formed when a society fails to nurture them and help them in their darkest hours. Their existence is an unadulterated sonar feedback on how well the society is faring.

    No crisp line of figures, charts or GDP or whatever can accurately describe social growth/retardation as well as they can. Why?. Because they are born from the failure of society; and they know what it means to be rejected.

  14. ya i accept that, thats why police should take them to rehab or somewhere and help them, just not leave them in the society. i dont mean jail or kudagolhi as a way to pay them,

  15. It is completely ignorant to believe that we should just ignore the reasons for why a violent gang culture is developing in the Maldives. For years, the government (including the previous administration's) solution was just to lock up everyone. But without addressing the root of the problem we can never progress as a society and as a nation.

    Every single one of us knows a gang member personally. Why? Because gangs are everywhere. Even the loosest social group is called and considered a gang. We have to change that entire culture. This is not a new concept. Everyone is saying it, now everyone just needs to acknowledge it as well.

    We need to all be part of the solution. Because if we're not - if we give into apathy like we've been told to do all our lives, then we are part of the problem. We need to be the solution.


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