Addu Atoll is to be considered a single administrative island to be developed as a city, following the outcome of the public referendum on Saturday, President Mohamed Nasheed announced yesterday.
Speaking to press at the President’s Office, Nasheed said that after official discussions with the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), the parties agreed to jointly propose amendments to the Decentralisation Act, based on the results of the referendum, and list administrative constituencies by October 17.
“When the islands are announced, there will be a major change to the largest atoll in the south, Addu Atoll” he said. “In my view, the results of the referendum showed very clearly that citizens of the atoll want to develop as a city. So we will designate Addu Atoll as one city island. Addu Atoll is an island with the districts Hithadhoo, Maradhoo-Feydhoo, Maradhoo, Hulhudhoo and Meedhoo.”
Instead of an atoll office, he continued, the southernmost atoll will have a municipality run by an elected municipal council.
With over 30,000 inhabitants, Addu Atoll is the second largest population centre in the country. However, as much as 60 percent of some islands currently reside in the capital Male’.
President Nasheed denied that the results and the low turnout was a failure of the government, as small islands rejected the government proposal for administrative consolidation with larger islands.
“In a democracy, if an election is seen as useless, there’s nothing I have to say about that,” he said.
Moreover, Nasheed argued that establishing a nationwide transport network was the government’s policy on population consolidation, as outlined in the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) manifesto, as opposed to “taking a population and settling them in another island.”
While the referendum revealed that small islands did not want to “lose their identity”, Nasheed said that a secret ballot was needed to determine the views of the electorate as he routinely received petitions from islanders requesting relocation.
According to official results, of 26,676 people who participated in the referendum, 8,402 voted in favour of the proposal while 16,695 voted against it.
However, of the six islands in Addu Atoll where voting took place, citizens of Hithadhoo, Maradhoo, Maradhoo-Feydhoo and Hulhudhoo endorsed the proposal, while islanders of Feydhoo and Meedhoo rejected it.