Addu grows roots with SAARC preparations

“This is the foundation of Addu’s development,” said Addu’s mayor Abdullah Sodiq, referring to the city’s SAARC preparations during a press conference held in Hithadhoo yesterday. He said the projects had been supported by “99 percent” of Addu residents.

Maldivian media was flown to Addu yesterday to observe preparations for the upcoming 17th annual SAARC Summit, scheduled for November 10-12. Festivities will be held in the area starting on the first of the month, in conjunction with the Muslim holiday of Eid.

“We are expecting a lot of traffic through here, and are confident that everything will be ready in time,” Sodiq said. “But this is only the beginning, and we have many more plans for development.”

Addu’s SAARC projects have been underway for six months, officials report. As the deadline approaches, construction teams are working round the clock to finish two harbors, a VVIP lounge, roads and the country’s largest convention center.

Sodiq said the harbors will renovate Addu’s commercial prospects, while the convention center provides new opportunities for locals, officials and foreigners alike.

Construction of Feydhoo harbor continues as the first deadline passes and another approaches.

“The harbor is a central place for Addu, there is demand for it even after SAARC and we have plans to generate more industry and shipping using these new resources,” said Sodiq.

New roads constructed around the convention center have made future road development less expensive for the council’s budget, he added.

Addu’s council also plans to use the Rf115 million convention center, a two-story building of glass, wood and marble with a capacity of 3000, to transform the atoll from a quiet place to a hub of business and tourism.

“We have some representatives talking to businesses in Singapore and Malaysia about hosting events here,” Sodiq told Minivan News. “We will be soliciting bids to find the right event manager to look after the convention center as well. I think there are people interested in what Addu has to offer, and I’m sure we can get a market for it.”

Officials and locals interviewed also hinted at hopes for musical events, theatrical performances, art exhibitions and holiday celebrations.

Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Assistant Director Ahmed Abeer Ismail said the centre’s origins were a sign of Addu’s potential. “That area began as a swamp, now it’s the biggest convention center in the country.” The swamp was heavily landscaped by MNDF and police forces, and now features a few scenic islands.

One of the Maldives’ most strategic atolls, Addu has been largely left to seed since the British withdrew its forces and influence in 1975. City councilor Ahmed Mirzad called SAARC the beginning of a new Addu.

“For 30 years we had Gayoom, and nothing was done in Addu. Then there was a new president, and unlike Gayoom he didn’t just look after Male’, he looked after the entire Maldives. For 30 years we didn’t even have one harbor that was working for Addu, but in the past six months, we have gotten everything,” said Mirzad.

Addu’s councilors were elected for the first time six months ago. Mirzad said the next three years will be a difficult but critical time for the council to prove itself to Addu’s people. Still, the timing is ideal.

“I don’t think, I know that this summit is the right starting point. Now, we will only keep going with our plans to grow,” he said.

Workers cross a newly-constructed road to continue landscaping across from the convention center.

One particular operation illustrates the grassroots motives behind the SAARC preparations. Selected from Maldives National University (MNU) Addu first-year students in hospitality, 24 Media Liaison Officers greeted Male’s press pack yesterday.

One young woman said the event was as much for the liaisons as for Male’ press.

“It’ll be challenging to handle foreigners and media personnel,” a group of students concurred. “But we are so happy to have this opportunity.”

“I was shocked to be asked to take part in SAARC, I never thought that I would get to work at something I’d heard so much about,” said another student. “And the certificate of reference that I’ll get afterwards will be really helpful for me when I’m looking for a job after graduation,” she added.

Liaisons have just completed a six-month management course and are attending seminars and briefings for SAARC. They will be divided into 11 teams of two to three officers and assigned to press pooles from different countries.

“The ministry was going to get people from Male’, but I suggested we use the local energy. They are good, they can do the job, and this is a key event, so why shouldn’t these students take part?” said Abeer.

Addu’s development isn’t only tailored to foreigners; Sodiq said part of the development plan is to bring Addu residents home.

“Unlike other islands, we have historical places to visit and our islands are connected, so tourists can actually see more than the sun, sand and sea. We will be constructing more lodgings as well, and our hospital and airport are going to be expanded. More business means more jobs, and part of the purpose of all this is to bring Addu citizens back after their migrations to Male’,” he said.

In Addu, infrastructure is a priority for community growth. Noting that education was key to development, Sodiq said that a Kangaroo school is scheduled to open next year, and a Billabong school is being considered.

For the moment, however, Addu’s mind is on SAARC.

With teams working around the clock to complete harbors in Gan and Feydhoo, and MNDF motorcades practicing their moves late into the night, Addu is a bustle of construction and security.

Both harbors were originally due for completion on October 25, yet concrete foundations have not yet been laid. However officials assure that they are 90 percent complete. When asked about setbacks, National Security Advisor Ameen Faisal said, “The weather. Due to heavy rains, many projects were delayed. It was unexpected and beyond our control, but we managed and we are on target.”

Inquiries of Addu’s appearance for SAARC yielded few details. “It’s a secret, we want it to be a surprise,” Faisal and Sodiq concurred.

Security, however, is highly detailed.

MNDF has delegated security teams to specific event components including media, medical, resort transport, and the airport. “Right now we are very confident in our security personnel and do not anticipate any problems during the SAARC summit,” said International Media Coordinator Ahmed Ibrahim.

Ibrahim added that “it will be helpful to have the extra security forces that other countries are providing because Addu is very big.” In addition to ground security, MNDF will be supported by the coast guard, which will establish multiple security layers around Addu’s marine perimeter, special task forces from Sri Lanka, and surveillance equipment from China, among others.

Summit guests include three of the world’s most controversial heads of state from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Their reputations do not appear to cause anxiety to SAARC officials.

“They will not receive any special treatment, unless requested of course,” said MNDF Commander of SAARC Airport Security, Ahmed Shafeeq.

“There is no risk at all,” said Faisal. “We aren’t even bothered about it.”


17 thoughts on “Addu grows roots with SAARC preparations”

  1. this saarc summit is held in addu just to get more votes from the southern maldives for the next election. beware all!

  2. Mayor Abdullah Sodiq, have declared that 99% of his citizens approve of Saarc summit to be held in Addu city.
    But however, he has failed to inform of one of Addu’s leading citizen, the honorable member of Majlis Hassan Latheef whole heartedly is against the idea of building a conventional center in Adedu also taking up road projects for there.

  3. 35yrs too late,but,better late than never..I wish ADDU the best of luck in the future.The secret is to get the airport up to standard for international flights,and a harbour that can handle the amount of tourists that will arrive on cruise ships.Investment,not dreams, is what is required.

  4. All the beyfulus were in Male. The further from Male you went, the less beyfulu Maldivians became.It was great to be a beyfulu and tragic not to be beyfulu. Addu was considered to be a competitor to Male, and the Addu Rebellion was used as an excuse to destroy the Addu elite.The attempt does not seem to have succeeded.

  5. 35 years too late indeed. I just wonder what this convention centre would be like in 5 years time. I do sincerely hope that it fares better than the "international harbour" and the "international airport" of Addu!

    I have some real concerns over Sodiq's over confidence in being able to find a party to look after the convention centre, unless the good people of Addu plan to have a right old "rave" very frequenly there!

    I'm afraid that a convention centre (however modern) in the middle of nowhere is not going to attract much attention. After all, it has to offer much more than a tropical climate around it!

    Here's an idea: the Chinese have a fondness for gambling; and we already have sizeable numbers of Chinese visitors. Make this into a Gambling Centre instead of a Convention Centre. Although success isn't guaranteed, there's a far better probability of that being profitable!

  6. From what I hear in the media, Addu cannot be made ready in time and the SAARC Summit will have to be postponned.

  7. @Ahmed:
    Just because we are used to one wrong does not mean we shall do the next wrong thing. So there shall be no gambling in Maldives. Even the kaafir Americans call Las Vegas the 'sin city'. So even they associate gambling with sin after all other sins became perfectly acceptable to them including being gays etc.

    The convention center will not fall apart for lack of business. There was similar talk about dharubaaruge when it was built in Male'. The convention center in Addu will in future host 80% of weddings, 100% political party meetings, hall of dharus as well as anything else that comes the way. It will be a heck of a busy place and it will be the heart of the city. You watch my words and prove me wrong in 6 months!

  8. Of-course, you are right!!!! Addu people HATE those Presidents who seek votes with empty hands....We will definitely vote Anni

  9. this centre will be used for various meetings and events. However it may not be used everyday, unlike the Dharubaaruge here in Male'. I heard the Mayor saying that the area in the vicinity of the CC will be developed in a very special way.It is also stupid not to do anything saying what will be the use of this place. We also have build harbors out of proportion in small islands. Eventhough it is an important infra structure we dont use it in the best way. So a we are good at having white elephants around us!

  10. 99% figure is wrong but 89% can be acceptable. Their lot of people with personal greed that national interests like few people who are in PPM. It seems these hate mongers are failing in the southern area. Sobe is proving action speaks louder than words. The nation needs such leaders if development is the goal.

  11. Awesome! lets us jackals join hands to pave way for large corporations to exploit the few resources of Addu.

  12. Come on everyone Addu is a part of our Nation. We should be happy with all the developmental work going on. People seem to discourage everyone who is contributing to the work. MNDF helped to collect sand for our airport, some lost their lives doing the work. Promote love and care and not hatred. I am with you all Addu people. Don’t listen to the discouraging words its not worth it. Your challenge would be to attract all Addu people back to Addu and open the huge houses locked up. You don’t need to stay in Male’. Develop educational and health facilities so that your children need not come to Male. You have the money you can achieve success without the help of Male’ people

  13. SAARC is a very important event that our country will be hosting. For more than 3-4 days, Maldives will be in news all over the world. This will definitely be good for our tourism. More and more people would like to visit to Addu where SAARC was held. Because of this SAARC, the Addu got a conventional centre, harbour, airport was upgraded. This is all good for the country in general and for Addu in particular.

    We should appreciate and thank India for providing us 15 Million Dollars aid and more than 150 vehicles to our country for SAARC summit. Thank U India.

  14. SAARC summit is a waste of time and money of some of the poorest nations in the south asia. The only reason they hold this summit is to decide a venue for the nect time. Plus there can be no real progress in SAARC unless India and Pakistan sincerely make peace with each other in all aspects and lead SAARC just like the way Germany and France takes sincere responsibility in leading EU. India and Pakistan has to leave their decades old enemosity and develope SAARC to give the rest of the SAARC nations too a better life. Until this happens, this just a waste of time, time, and lots of money which could be well used on the poor people in SAARC nations.

  15. what hogwash. the poor people of Addu lured by the sparkle of a convention centre. trust not! ruling party will use your votes to win and then through the next term subject the people of this country to dire straits. we would be blind deaf and completely senseless not to realize that the situation in the country is deteriorating by the day. and what about Male' - completely neglected and abused to serve for the whims of everyone else. anni got one thing right. the poorest are those in Male' now. in a bid to be the island president, his excellency has gravely disregarded and sidelined the people of male' - when an all around approach would have been much better.development should not have to happen at the cost of others.


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