Australia to allow online tourist visas for Maldivians

The Australian government will allow Maldivian nationals to apply for tourist visas online from July 1.

In a statement, the Australian High Commission in Colombo said the new system would not require Maldivians to have a visa label placed in their passport.

“A notification is sent to the client providing details of the visa and airlines are able to confirm the visa entitlements through the Advanced Passenger Processing System,” the High Commission said.

“Clients can also, if they wish, print a copy of their visa approval notification email to carry with them whilst traveling to Australia.”

For more information and to access the lodgement gateway, go to


Letter on freedom and the Maldives

Dear Maldives,

I would like to share my story with you guys, to reflect on the prospect of freedom in the Malsdives.

In July 2001, as a student of Humanities at Curtin University in Western Australia, I met, fell in love with and married a Maldivian woman, an ‘overseas student’ from my Political Sciences class.

Due to certain painful complications, although pregnant with my first ever child, the Australian government was threatening to send my wife back to the Maldives.

Preparing myself to live and work in the Maldives to be with my wife and baby, I looked up the Maldives on the net. I wanted to learn something about the ‘culture’ of the Maldives so that I had an idea of how to go about fitting in.

Guess what came up.

The Maldives Culture website and its terrifying tales of a nation run by a murderous dictator who brutally imposed a rigid, mental strait jacket on his people through the control of the religious thought of his people enraged me.

Images of murder and torture imposed on any who dared to think with their own minds, or exercise an ounce of independent thought, religious free thinking or existential creativity caused me to tremble with indignation that a people could be so repressed. I felt this with a particularly fierce intensity seems I have always deeply cherished creative religious thought. My own background involved personal rebellion against the church I had been brought up in, so I was an individualistic oddball even by post-modern western standards, you might say.

Yet, still believing that for love, the sacrifice of self was noble, I decided I would be conformed to whatever I had to be to make sure I could be with my wife and child-to-be. I would allow this Maumoon to control my mind if it meant I was given a visa to be with my family in the Maldives, as it seemed at that stage they had to go back to Maldives. I felt I had no choice.

The next set of complications started when it became difficult to get our marriage registered in the Maldives. Although one particularly kind Maldivian gentleman tried hard to submit our marriage registration papers to Maldivian authorities and get our marriage validated so that I could get a visa, we kept on getting feedback such as, how can I prove my conversion to Islam was not just for marriage purposes? I received letters from the Imam to verify my revert status, certificates, yet the Maldivian Government still was not satisfied that I was genuine.

I began to panic.

I had nightmares of my wife being whipped for adultery and my son being brought up as a half-caste, illegitimate, ostracised nobody in the Maldives, a “bastard’ to use the term in its technical sense. I was told that this was a particularly grave shame in the Maldives. My hatred of Maumoon, who I believed would do this to my family, my fear of him became so intense, that I nearly had a nervous breakdown.

For the sake of my wife’s health, I put on a brave face as though nothing was wrong. When my son was finally born, my wife fell unconscious. I held my newborn baby son in my arms, loving him, so protective. Not knowing if I would keep him or lose him, I clung to him like a desperate madman. In front of everyone, I broke down and wept all over him, I loved him so much; I could not hold my pain inside me any longer. He was so beautiful, and here was I, his Daddy, who loved him so much, yet felt so completely helpless and afraid, so utterly powerless, and the grief was tearing my soul apart.

It took another six difficult years to have this issue resolved. I was in hell, not knowing whether Australian immigration or Maldivian immigration were going to come through. These were years of panic and immense stress. In that time, we had another child, and my interest in Maldivian politics became deep and personal.

The problem became harder when Abdullah Yameen Abdul-Gayoom came to Perth for a week to settle his son into studies. Trying all I could to get things done in the Maldives, I met up with him and tried to patronise him to use him to get some help for me. Sadly, that plan backfired on me viciously.

During these years, I found myself inspired and encouraged by reading about one particularly brave hero, Mohammed ‘Anni’ Nasheed, and the sufferings and the torture he went through fighting a non-violent struggle against this ruthless dictator Maumoon. This Nasheed character was embedded into my imagination as the archetype of courage, freedom, strength, justice, compassion and liberty.

Though I had never met him, he became something like a cult figure to me. I believed that he was suffering so that all oppressed Maldivians could be free. I believed that he was suffering for me. In my confused, anxious, distressed mind, I felt a deep spiritual bond with this guy, although, at that time he would not have known that I even existed.

Just as the endurance, the non-violence and the suffering of Mohammed Nasheed became the hope of oppressed Maldivians, he became my hope as well.

When my issue was finally resolved, I went to the Maldives for three months. The first thing I did was march into the MDP office wishing to offer my support. Anni and a host of other high profile MDP characters were there as there was some important MDP conference coming up. It was about a year before Anni became President. So I met Anni, and the most embarrassing thing happened. All my stress and anger at Maumoon and Yameen flew out of my mouth in that second. I exploded with rage, sadness, I was trembling. Years of pent up pressure, fear, confusion and anger was released onto Anni. I have no doubt he thought I was a total mad man, and he would have been right. Before I could explain myself to him calmly and plainly, I was whisked out of that MDP office as I had a sea plane to catch. Though I tried desperately hard to meet with Anni again to explain myself clearly, it was never meant to be.

Although my hero ‘Anni’ no doubt remembers me as a mad man, to this day, I still revere him for the sacrifices he made to oust a dictator.

This is why it is so hard for me to mentally digest it if it seems that Anni may have been involved in shady deals (bribing MP’s for example) even if they were deals done in desperation to secure the common good of the Maldives. My education and rational mind tells me, Ben, you know what politics is, don’t be so damned naïve. My rational mind is screaming, you know the way that reality works Ben, get the hell over it, power corrupts, and the path to power is corrupt.

My rational mind knows that the MDP is not entirely a bunch of humanitarian martyrs. I know that MDP has the support of both the liberal thinkers and the previously disgruntled businessmen whose motives may not be national interest. Yet my imagination, my creative mind says NO, not Anni, not he, my hero. It hurts me to digest the truth, but, I am a man, so I am digesting the truth, as unsettling as it is. I went through this same painful loss of faith when I left my church, and I am doing it again. I will be less naïve with my comments from now on.

However, if ever I met Anni again, I would like to remind him, that he is still the hope of many Maldivians for freedom and justice.

President Mohammed Anni Nasheed, I would like to remind you, that for many painful years, you were the hope of the freedom of the people of the Maldives. Your people were lead to believe, through Sandhaanu, through the Maldives Culture website, through Dhivehi Observer website and through Minivan Daily and later through Minivan News, that you would free the people of the Maldives from fear.

This includes the freedom from the fear of being used by corrupt politicians, freedom from the fear of gangsters, freedom from the fear of homelessness, freedom from the fear of hunger and want, freedom from the fear of mind control, and freedom from the fear of the loss of freedom of speech.

For the liberties that you have already given, I am deeply grateful, thank you very much. I am appreciative for all that you have done, and I am sure many of your people are as well.

Again, thank you.

But please keep in mind dear President, that many Maldivians still live in a state of fear, and that it seems that when you made the people believe there would be no more fear of the type they experience, you still have a lot of work to do to fulfill what you have allowed people to believe you would do.

It is less painful to have not hoped, than to have hoped and to have been disappointed, dear President. It seems you have been the source of that hope, you will also be targeted as the source of the pain should the people’s hopes remain unfulfilled. I am sure that you are aware of what that means. You will be punished by the electorate, and in how you will go down in memory, if the hopes of the people are betrayed.

So please, from now on, do everything in your power, to realise your people’s hope, dear President. Put all unnecessary things aside; waste no money on non-essentials, and just GO FOR IT!

Despite the recent disappointments, we still believe in you. Our love and our prayers will help you.

Your Sincerely,

Ben Plewright

All letters are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write a letter, please submit it to [email protected]


Australians have “primitive phobia” of sharks and “19th century idea of the ocean”: Tim Winton

“We have this 19th century idea of the ocean; we still have this idea that the ocean can absorb the punishment that we dish out,” says award-winning Australian writer Tim Winton. “We think we can just keep putting a few hooks in and we’ll pull something out.”

“People have begun to understand that the great fish like tuna and the marlins and the swordfish are in massive decline … but people don’t realise that sharks are among that cohort. In fact, sharks are really more threatened than whales or dolphins,” he says.

“I’m asking people to be conscious of the kind of footprint that we leave… It’d be a sad thing to bequeath to our children an empty, acidic ocean.”

Read more


Clean energy possible in ten years: Zero Carbon Australia 2020 report

Australia’s energy grid could run entirely on renewables such as wind and solar power within 10 years, according to a report endorsed by the International Energy Agency (IAEA).

Only technologies that are proven and commercially available are referred to in the report, according to the ABC.

Read more


Australian PM replaced by deputy in sudden party coup

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was disposed last night by his party, with his deputy Julia Gillard being sworn in today as the country’s new leader, and first female prime minister.

Rudd, who is on good terms with President Mohamed Nasheed, was elected in a landslide win in 2007 as leader of the Labor Party, but fell victim to factions within the party after his opinion polls plummeted, in what Australian Associated Press described as “a cloak-and-dagger plot hatched by shadowy backroom operators.”

“I have given my absolute all,” Rudd said, struggling to retain his composure in his final speech two hours after he stood down.

“I was elected by the Australian people as the prime minister… to bring back a fair go for all Australians. I have given my absolute best to do that,” he said, adding that he was less proud of “blubbering”.

“Having said all that folks, we’ve gotta zip,” he concluded.

Gillard gave credit to Rudd “for leading the nation in such difficult times and keeping people in work,’’ but said the government “was losing its way.”

“I love this country and I was not going to sit idly by and watch an incoming opposition cut health, cut education and smash rights at work,” she said.

Australian commentators observed that Rudd’s popularity divebombed during a damaging fight with Australia’s monolithic mining industry over a proposed 40 percent tax on their profits.

However many acknowledged surprise at the sheer speed of Rudd’s eviction – none more than Rudd himself, who visibly struggled through his exit speech.

Gillard appeared slightly discontented at the shadowy nature of her arrival at the helm and accepted the role somewhat grudgingly, remarking that she would not move into the Prime Minister’s official residence until she was voted into power in the upcoming Australian election.


President Nasheed defends Australian PM’s eco politics

A visitor to Australian shores, Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, might best have exemplified what’s wrong with local politics, reports the Herald Sun in Australia.

Perhaps both politicians and the public take the nation’s democratic tradition for granted.

Mr Nasheed, from an island nation that stands to suffer immeasurable damage from climate change, launched a staunch defence of Mr Rudd and his decision to delay the introduction of an emissions trading scheme.

The first democratically-elected leader of the Maldives, Mr Nasheed, who spent much of his life a political prisoner, made it clear to journalists he wasn’t just trying to curry favour with the Prime Minister.

“I’ve spent half my adult life in jail, and I’m not a person to say things that I don’t believe in,” he said.

Full story


Nasheed to depart on first state visit to Australia

President Mohamed Nasheed will depart this evening on his first state visit to Australia, at the invitation of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

The President is to be given a full guard of honour when he is received in the Australian capital of Canberra, where he will meet Rudd and the Governor General Quentin Bryce.

Nasheed will also meet with Maldivian students studying in Canberra.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair noted that the Australian government will fund most of the costs associated with the trip, aside from airfares.

“Our country is becoming increasingly important on the world stage. People now listen to what the Maldives has to say on issues of international importance,” Zuhair said.


Australia issues travel warning for the Maldives

The Australian government has issued a travel warning to Australians travelling to the Maldives, reports Miadhu.

The warning was first classified as level 3, meaning “high degree of caution.” It has now been downgraded to level 4, “exercise caution.”

Australia has warned its citizens to be careful of crime and civil unrest in the Maldives, and has suggested travellers to keep informed of the news about possible safety risks.

Australian citizens have also been warned to avoid public gatherings and demonstrations as they could turn violent.

Although the United States has not advised its citizens not to travel to the Maldives, the US embassy to the Maldives does warn its nationals not to engage in political activities in the Maldives.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Naseem, told Miadhu that such travel advisories will affect the tourism industry in the Maldives and added the Australian government had not consulted with the Maldivian government before issuing the warning.


Australia and the Maldives strengthening diplomatic relations

Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed met with Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Kathy Klugman, where they discussed the challenges faced by the Maldives and ways in which Australia could assist the government.

Dr Waheed said some of the biggest challenges are employing well trained staff at drug rehabilitation centres, building safer prisons and the lack of job opportunities for Maldivian youth.

Klugman said there are different works being carried out by the Australian government in the Maldives, especially volunteer training programmes in different atolls.

She also mentioned several Australian scholarships for Maldivian students, and said these scholarships present a good opportunity for training in the area of drug rehabilitation.

The meeting took place a day after the first-ever Australian diplomatic event in the Maldives at the Holiday Inn on Sunday, where President Mohamed Nasheed thanked the Australian people and government for their assistance to the Maldives.

He also commended Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for his help in making the Copenhagen Accord a reality and for his honesty and good work as a politician.

Klugman also spoke at the function. She congratulated the government on the transition to democracy and assured further assistance from Australia to the Maldives, especially in the education sector.