Government to replicate legendary boat

The government is planning to replicate a boat used to liberate the Maldives from Portuguese rule in the sixteenth century, as part of the ongoing celebrations to mark fifty years of independence from the British.

Mohamed Thakurufaanu and his brothers from the northern island of Utheemu reportedly sailed the legendary Kalhuohffummi by night, infiltrated islands, killed sleeping Portuguese soldiers and sailed away by day break.

British author Roysten Ellis said the Kalhuohffummi was crucial in the eight-year long guerrilla war against the Portuguese, with the three brothers using the boat’s superior speed and maneuverability to outsmart Portuguese warships.

The home ministry today signed an agreement with the Maritime and Underwater Heritage Society to replicate the Kalhuoffummi for a professional fee of MVR 1.6 million (US$105,000).

Deputy Home Minister Ahmed Saleem unveiled the boat’s design today and said it was finalized after two months of research.

The heritage society’s Mohamed Haleem said the design is based on books by Hussein Salahudeen and Burahad Mohamed Fulhu.

“Our research shows the vessel is 51 foot and 4 inches. We are trying to construct the boat using traditional techniques used at the time to remain true to the original vessel,” he said.

The boat will be built on Baa Atoll Maalhos, transported to Malé and put on display at the Sultan Park.

“We will be able to finish the boat by August. We are currently trying to find the best timber for the boat. It has to be very specific coconut timber,” said deputy minister Saleem.

The Maldives’ independence day falls on July 26, and is celebrated to mark independence from British rule.

The Maldives celebrates Mohamed Thakurufaanu’s struggle every year on National Day, which falls on the first of Rabee-ul-Awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar. Thakurufaanu ruled for 16 years.

Other events planned by the home ministry to mark the golden jubilee of independence from the British include skydiving, a swimming competition, a sea sports festival, a world record attempt, float parades, an international football tournament, a police tournament, several music shows and the unveiling of the new currency design.

The government has also started decorating the streets of Malé with national flags and sacrificed 150 goats in a public ceremony in April.

The Independence Day celebrations have drawn criticism over the lack of transparency of expenses made out of the state budget. However, the ‘Independence 50′ office under the home ministry has said that most of the work is done by volunteers.


Police charge driver in 2011 Kuredu quad-bike crash that killed British newlyweds

Police have forwarded a case against the driver of a quad-bike that crashed and killed two passengers on Kuredu Island Resort to the Prosecutor General (PG)’s office.

The recently-married British couple from West Yorkshire, Emma and Jonathan Gray, were riding on the quad-bike as passengers when it collided with a tree around 4:00am on August 6, 2011. The pair had been married for just seven days and had a six-month old son, Jake.

Police subsequently identified the driver as 23 year-old Swedish national Filip Eugen Petre, the son of a shareholder of the company that operates the resort, who was employed by the company as a trainee guest relations officer.

Petre, who was injured in the crash, was charged under section 88 (d) of the penal code, Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News today. He confirmed that Petre was in the Maldives and was free to move about, “although his passport has been retained.”

The section cited broadly refers to “Disobedience to order authorised by Sharia or law”. Article (d) reads that “Where such disobedience resulted in the death of a person the offender shall be subjected to punishment described by Islamic Law.”

UK media reporting the charges have noted that the maximum extent of these punishments include the death penalty, however while this sentence is still given by the courts it is usually commuted to up to 25 years imprisonment and was last implemented in 1953: Hakim Didi, by firing squad, on charges of practicing black magic.

Several MPs in parliament, including Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Ibrahim Muthalib and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Rasheed have previously submitted amendments to the relevant Clemency Act demanding that such sentences be carried out if upheld at Supreme Court level, however they have not been passed.

The prospect of Petre facing such a penalty was “shocking. It’s absolutely horrendous,” Jonathan’s mother Cath Davies told the Halifax Courier.

“We never expected there to be an outcome like this. It’s good they have dealt with it. It’s great they have investigated it properly. But I wouldn’t want it to be carried out. It’s not going to bring Jay and Emma back. It’s not going to make us feel any better. It doesn’t seem right. I just find it quite abhorrent,” she told the paper.

“It’s not like he set out to maliciously hurt or kill them. He never intended it. What happened was a tragic accident and not the result of wilful or malicious intention.”

Hearing of the charges had “brought back all the events that happened and what we have gone through since,” she said.

“We don’t want to keep revisiting these things. We want to move on and we want to remember Jay and Emma for the lovely couple they were and not always being brought back to the tragic event that ended their lives,” she said.

Following the incident in 2011, Filip’s father Lars Petre provided a statement to Minivan News in which he described the accident as “by far the most tragic event in my life, and words cannot describe how saddened we are. I and my family are deeply concerned with errors on some of the media reports and we are also deeply saddened by some accusations made at my son.”

“My son Filip Petre (23 years) was taking the two guests home, to the other side of the island, when he experienced some difficulties with the bike, and crashed headlong into a tree on the road. The crash took two lives and badly injured my son.

“He fell unconscious with the crash and woke up some time later to find the two deceased also lying on the road. He immediately called for help and worked alongside with the doctor who arrived to try and save the victims of the crash, while he was bleeding himself.

“The quad bike which my son was driving was registered and my son Filip is licensed to drive such vehicles. My son Filip and his brother Tom (who was the first to arrive at the scene of the accident with the doctor), the management and staff of Kuredhu have been cooperating with the police investigation fully, and I give every assurance that they will continue to do so in the future.

“We understand the grief of the families who lost their loved ones in the accident, and we also respect the duty of the Maldives Police Service to investigate the matter. However the fact remains that what happened on August 6 is an accident, a very tragic fatal event, which my son no anyone else had the power to change.”


British woman who died at Kuredhoo “a strong swimmer”, say parents

The 42 year-old British woman whose body was found on the shore of Kuredhoo Island Resort has been identified as Sharon Duval from the village of Kidlington in Oxfordshire, UK.

The Oxford Mail reported that Duval died while on honeymoon with her husband Nick Duval. The pair were married last year and together ran the Highwayman pub in Kidlington.

Duval’s parents John and Pauline Stockford told the Oxford Mail that they did not know if she died “because of some sort of crime or an accident, and we will wait to hear the results of the postmortem.”

The pair told the Oxford Mail that they had not spoken to their daughter, who has a 16-year-old son, for 10 years after a family row.

“You can’t turn the clock back. We were both in tears when we found out and sat down and tried to talk it through,” they told the paper.

“Sharon was a very strong swimmer when she was a pupil, so it is surprising to hear that she died in these circumstances.

“The whole of Kidlington will be shocked by this – people still call it a village and it’s very close-knit.”

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam today told Minivan News that Duval had been observed drinking at the resort’s bar until late in the evening prior to her death, in the company of another individual.

“There is no sign of physical abuse or injury to the body, and at this point there is no evidence of any suspicious activity,” Shiyam said, “however are still taking the investigation very seriously.”

The resort yesterday declined to issue a statement to the media regarding Duvel’s death, however three staff members told Minivan News that the 42-year-old’s body was found on the seashore just after midnight on Friday evening, at approximately 12:30am.

The BBC has meanwhile reported that the UK Foreign Office is “urgently investigating” the death.

Duval is the second British national to die recently in the Maldives while on holiday. In early September top transplant and vascular surgeon Ali Bakran was pulled from the water and pronounced dead at Adaaran Meedhupparu Resort in Raa Atoll.

Police said that while the cause of death was “most likely” drowning, “it is very difficult to confirm without a postmortem, and that is not something we can do here [in the Maldives].”

The 61 year-old surgeon at Liverpool Hospital was on holiday with his wife Diane and daughter Miriam.