President Nasheed meets with President and PM of Iceland

President Mohamed Nasheed arrived in Iceland on Friday morning as part of his European tour, meeting the country’s President Ólafur Grímsson.

The presidents discussed issues of mutual concern like climate change, which President Nasheed said was a very real threat to the world and was an issue to be tackled urgently.

President Nasheed commended Iceland’s policy to make renewable energy their main source of energy. He said both developed and developing countries could learn from Iceland in this respect.

President Nasheed said cooperation between both countries could be strengthened in both the fisheries industry and in renewable energy. He sought Iceland’s assistance in these areas.

President Ólafur Grímsson expressed his wish to strengthen relations with the Maldives, and assured President Nasheed of his country’s support and assistance.

President Nasheed later met with Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir and discussed ways of strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries.


President Nasheed meets with German Minister of State

President Mohamed Nasheed met yesterday with German Minister of State Dr Wener Hoyer.

The meeting was held at the Federal Foreign Office on 9 March. The president and the minister discussed the importance of a binding global climate treaty.

President Nasheed said the Maldives is communicating with other countries, including members of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) to ensure a common understanding is reached before COP16 climate summit in Mexico later this year.

Dr Hoyer said Germany is also working with other EU members to reach an understanding on climate change.

President Nasheed discussed other areas of possible cooperation between the two nations, mainly the strengthening of the Maldivian legal and judicial sectors. He sought German assistance to improve the institutional capacity of these sectors.


President talks climate with German Minister for Environment

President Mohamed Nasheed met yesterday with German Minister for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Dr Norbert Röttgen, at the Federal Ministry for Environment.

President Nasheed thanked Minister Röttgen and Germany’s constructive role at COP15 last year. He asked the EU for support in implementing the Copenhagen Accord.

President Nasheed also sought German assistance for adaptation and mitigation projects. He also discussed the importance of reaching a legally binding treaty in COP16, the next international climate summit to be held in Mexico later this year.

Dr Röttgen praised the president for his role in the Copenhagen Summit and said Germany would continue to support the Maldives in its efforts to tackle climate change.


President receives red carpet treatment in Germany

President Mohamed Nasheed has received a red carpet welcome in Germany by Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel, including full military honours.

Speaking at a joint press conference yesterday, Merkel said she doubted any global agreement on climate change would be reached in 2010, and blamed China and India for their unwillingness “to enter any binding commitments.” This lack of cooperation from two major powers was, she said, a “structural problem” for any climate treaty.

For his part, Nasheed appealed to the German public to push for a climate change agreement, claiming that “we won’t survive as a country if there is no understanding or agreement.”

Nasheed said he expected a global treaty to emerge following the UN climate forum in Copenhagen, but agreed “it may not happen this year.” He said he hoped Germany “will continue to assist the Maldives in its efforts to strengthen and consolidate democracy.”

redcarpet3This is Nasheed’s first official visit to Germany, a country widely considered to be one of the more environmentally concious in Europe and a leader in the practical and economically-sensible application of renewable energy technology. Germany has also been very vocal on issues relating to climate change and generous with development funding.

Later this week the president is due to speak at the Freie Universitat Berlin, where he is expected to press for the world to “ignore the deniers and continue the fight to save the planet”, in the wake of the Copenhagen Summit and leaked emails alleging scientists at the University of East Anglia in the UK colluded to falsify climate data.

Minivan News understands the president will likely call on the EU to be bolder in its commitments to reducing climate change, and perhaps even encourage it to commit to carbon neutrality and set a new direction for investors and industry.

The climate change cause is suffering something of a ‘crisis of faith’ across many countries in Europe following the economic downturn. A similar trend has been noted in the US, where a Gallup poll recently reported that 41 per cent of the population considered claims about climate change to be exaggerated, “the highest since Gallup’s trend on this measure began in 1997.”

Nasheed is expected to take climate change sceptics to task in his address, and condemn “lazy conspiracy theories”.


President meets Chinese envoy

President Mohamed Nasheed met with with the Chinese Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hu Zhengyue yesterday afternoon.

The president’s office reported that both parties discussed climate change the strengthening of ties between the two countries.

Mr Zhengyue, who is part of the of a special envoy from the Chinese government, said that he understood the concerns of small island nations about climate change. He also said the Chinese government would continue to offer assistance to the Maldives.


‘Survival is not negotiable’: youth climate ambassador

The youth climate ambassador to the Maldives is not happy with the Copenhagen accord.

“World leaders should be role models and should have worked harder to reach a legally binding accord,” says 15 year-old Mohamed Axam Maumoon, who returned to the Maldives last week after meeting world leaders at the COP 15, including Danish Prime Minister Lars Loeke Rasmussen.

“I stressed the point about finance,” Axam recalls. “Money should not be considered an important factor when talking about survival, because survival is not negotiable; everyone has a right to live.”

Selected from the international ranks of the youth climate ambassadors, Axam was given the opportunity to ascend the podium and present the Maldives’ case to the world during the early days of the COP15 last week.

“I had given speeches before and I was trying to feel same way as before so I’d be comfortable, blocking out the media and looking at people directly,” he says. “Afterwards, I was thrilled when everyone stood up to clap, and I handed our declaration to the Danish Prime Minister.”

“I hope I moved people in some way by what I had to say about the sad state of the Maldives,” he says. “When people hear these things from children it makes a big difference because it is more emotional – I don’t believe I spoke to enough people.”

Children, he argued at the summit, have “not been considered” in the climate change debate.

“Youth were mentioned once in Kyoto,” he says. “I said: ‘How old are you going to be in 2050? You might not still be here, but it’s your children who are going to suffer because of your actions now.'”

World leaders were unwilling to take political risks regarding the environment, Axam speculates, because the populations they represented were not yet aware enough of the issues at stake.

“Like a CEO accountable to shareholders, a democratically-elected politician has to care what people think of them. But taking risks isn’t fashionable, and people don’t like to sacrifice for the greater good.”

If politicians were accountable to their populace, then one solution was to “create awareness in citizens.”

“When I was interviewing people [in the Maldives] 90% didn’t know what carbon neutrality means,” he says.

“The Maldives has pledged to become carbon neutral in the next 10 years – people need to understand what it means when their energy switches over to wind power.”

As a small nation of only 360,000 people, the Maldives is ideally placed to become “a showcase country” for the rest of the world, Axam argues.

“We can effectively work together in a way we couldn’t if we were four million,” he says.

The youth climate ambassadors can help keep up the momentum, he proposed, by setting up “a chain” of ambassadors across the islands and atolls who could increase people’s awareness of environmental issues and interest in the natural world.

As for his own plans, Axam says he is now reviewing his original plan to become a pilot.

“I was studying physics and science and all of that, but since the issue of climate change has popped into my life I’ve started studying biology and now it’s my favourite subject of all.”


Tepid response to Copenhagen accord, but a win for the Maldives

The Danish Prime Minister has called Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed “the real hero of Copenhagen” following a marathon 30 hour negotiation session, however global response to the final accord is proving underwhelming.

Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen told a press conference that intense pressure from the Maldives reignited the debate when it threatened to stall. When talks broke down, Nasheed appealed to argumentative nations “to leave pride aside and adopt this accord for the sake of our grandchildren.”

The Maldivian president joined world leaders including Barack Obama (US), Gordon Brown (UK), Nicholas Sarkozy (France) and Angela Merkel (Germany) in drawing up the Copenhagen Accord, which was then adopted by more than 150 countries following fiery debate.

The accord recognises that global temperatures should rise no higher than two degrees Celcius above pre-industrial levels, but does not commit developed countries to legally-binding emission reduction targets.

The flavour of the talks revealed that sovergnity and development remain a higher priority than climate change for many large growing economies. China was particularly irritable on the subject: Prime Minister Wen Jiabao stormed out of the conference after disagreements with the US over international monitoring.

“This was our sovereignty and our national interest [at stake],” said the head of China’s delegation, Xie Zhenhua, before sending a low-ranking protocol officer to resume negotiations with Obama.

China’s revised agreement, which was backed by many large developing nations including Brazil and India, commits to a two degree limit but does not force cuts on any country.

Meanwhile Sudanese delegate Lumumba Di-Aping caused carnage when he stood up and described the final accord as “a solution based on the same very values that piled six million people into furnaces in Europe”.

The most tangible success was an agreement to deliver US$30 billion in short-term funding to developing countries over a three year period, in an effort to help them adapt to climate change and adopt clean energy technologies.

“Small island developing states” were highlighted in the agreement as potential beneficiaries of this money, which included US$10.6 billion pledged by the European Union, US$11 billion from Japan, and US$3.6 billion from the United States.

It appeared there would also be more to come: the accord promised the developing world an annual US$100 billion by 2020 to aid ‘clean’ development, drawn from public and private sources.

“The world stood at the abyss last night but this morning we took a step back,” President Nasheed said, following yesterday’s negotiations.

“The Copenhagen Accord is a long way from perfect. But it is a step in the right direction. We did our best to accommodate all parties, we tried to bridge the wide gulf between different countries, and in the end we were able to reach a compromise,” he said.

However the two degree temperature limit fell short of his expectations: “To save our country from climate change, we need an agreement that limits temperature rises to 1.5 degrees and reduces atmospheric carbon concentrations to 350 parts per million,” Nasheed said.

“While this accord does not deliver these targets there is room within the agreement to migrate toward 1.5 degrees and 350 parts per million, pending scientific assessments.”


Media response to the accord was rather tepid, while some campaigners have called it “a disaster.”

In the UK, the Guardian described the final two page agreement as “vaguely worded, short on detail and not legally binding,” while the Times blasted it as “lukewarm” and “meaningless”.

Al Jazeera reported that the deal had left “only bitterness and anger at the deal done between the US and the world’s emerging economies”, while the Wall Street Journal observed that the final wording of the accord and a lack of formal approval “means countries are left with the choice of associating with the agreement or not.”


Comment: To be saved or to let drown, that is the question

President Nasheed is away fighting valiantly to save the country from drowning, lobbying hard for aid and assistance from the developed West at Copenhagen.

At the time of writing, there is talk that Britain should open its borders to climate refugees from Bangladesh. Surely the Maldivians, too, would be glad to find some space in a UK asylum centre or two once the islands go under? Or would they?

The problem is, we are talking about Britain here – the great colonizer, who – according to Adhaalath – ‘enslaved’ the Maldivians for so long. And, as if 78 years of slavery was not enough, once it had granted the Maldives a ‘bogus’ form of independence in 1965, Britain and ‘they in the West’ have been waging a covert war to corrupt the hearts and minds of Maldivian youth with Western decadence and hedonism.

Surely Maldivians would not be accepting any assistance from these people of ‘the West’? I wonder how Adhaalath feels about the manner in which President Nasheed is back-stabbing his valuable political ally, making Faustian pacts with those evildoers. How ungrateful.

One wonders, too, what ‘the West’ would think if they knew what one part of the government, represented by the genial President Nasheed with his charm and show-stealing ideas for saving the world, really thinks of ‘them’.

Maldivian history, á lá Adhaalath

According to Adhaalath, the Maldives was a British colony from 1887 to 1965. The difference between being a colony and a protectorate may have been lost at sea.

The numerous countries that were colonised, whose identities were robbed, languages stolen, who were forcibly ‘civilised’, made victims of rape and pillage, who fought centuries-long wars of independence, against whom genocides were committed, and whose lands have been forcibly occupied by the ‘civilised settlers’ – they may feel a wee bit peeved at the loss of distinction between colony and protectorate.

But, let’s not be pedantic. Adhaalath says the Maldives was colonised, and not just by the British, but also ‘others’.

History has always been a bit murky in the Maldives. Take for instance the official narrative of how the Maldives converted to Islam in 1153 – the Infidel genie was (literally) put into a bottle by a visiting Moroccan Muslim scholar pretending to be a sacrificial virgin girl (don’t ask), and, voila! All Maldivians became 100 per cent Muslim overnight with no force, no blood shed, nothing.

Anyway, the other ‘colonisers’ that Adhaalath says enslaved the Maldives were individuals – an Andre Andre and a Raja with a double-barrel name. According to the dictionary, a colony is a country that is under the control of another country, not a wayward traveler (even if a Raja) or possibly the captain of a pirate ship (even if he sounds as good as Captain Jack Sparrow). But, never mind. Gratuitous pedantry can be unbecoming, and should be avoided.

The West, according to Adhaalath, once its colonies were lost, remained determined to infiltrate the beautiful Muslim world, with its strong community spirit, always living in peace bound by their strong faith in the Ummah.

You have to admit, you would be hard put to find a Muslim community in conflict in the twenty-first century.

This beautific Muslim world would have remained forever happy, if not for the stealthy shenanigans of the pseudo-intellectuals of the West. ‘They’, according to Adhaalath, have infiltrated Muslim societies such as the Maldives, luring the youth into materialism and philosophies of individualism through promises of education and progress.

Masking their jealousy and anger under benevolence, they have seduced Muslim youth with atheist and agnostic theories. This has been the ultimate goal of the West, their hidden agenda – the undermining of the firm religious belief that has been at the very core of the Muslim identity. This is the ‘neo-colonialism’ that the West now pursues, and it is aimed at Muslim youth.

Alas, the Maldivians have become easy victims, forgetting the beautiful ‘Islamic culture’ that made them Maldivians, forgetting centuries of tradition and culture.

Lost culture, or lost mind?

What is this ‘Islamic culture’ that Adhaalath accuses the West of stealing from the Maldives? Are they referring to the custom among Maldivian women that dictated they go topless until their first periods, no matter how old or how well endowed they became in the meantime?

According to the writings of the 14th Century Muslim explorer, Ibn Batuta, Maldivian women chose to ignore his criticism of the said custom when he came across it in his travels, and continued to practise it for many years after.

Dare it be said that in the ‘shameless’ West, women were literally swallowed up by cloth around the same time?

Perhaps Adhaalath is referring to the ‘Islamic culture’ of the free and fiery nature of Maldivian women much admired by Marco Polo in his travels? Or is it the ‘Islamic culture’ in which women reigned as queens for many years?

When Adhaalath says that the West has taught the Maldivian women – through the media – to sing and dance and expose themselves, are they referring to the women of the Thoddoo Badiyaa group and their ilk? Surely these pretty girls in their little pleated frocks and frizz-bomb hair did not learn how to powder their faces with white Cuticura and paint their lips with crepe paper from the West?

Hands up anyone who thinks that the dance moves of these women were learned from the West. Even the best of Top of the Pops did not figure a single move similar to the ones these ladies specialised in, waving their hair to the right and left so vigorously that one was afraid a head or two might fly lose at any time.

Or is the ‘Islamic culture’ that Adhaalath talks about the one that is reflected in the Maldivian women’s traditional clothing? You know, the dress with a neckline that plunges so deep that even Dolly Parton would blush, or the accompanying skirt that cannot even be bothered with stitching but wraps around the waist with a slit that goes up to the waistline itself?

Or is the ‘Islamic culture’ they want to protect the one where the Maldives once held the highest divorce rate in the world? Or the one where women ran after men going ‘Eid bolah gon’, accosting men from behind in a move that would have shocked even their ‘shameless’ Western contemporaries for its forwardness in pursuing potential husband material? Mr Darcy would never have been won with such unladylike displays.

Again, what ‘centuries of Islamic culture’, exactly, is it that the Maldives is losing because of the West?

Adhaalath is painting a false picture of a particular kind of ‘Islamic Maldives,’ that has never existed, then accuses the West of stealing it. The Maldives has been an Islamic nation for centuries, yes, but it has never had the culture that Adhaalath laments the loss of.

Rewriting history

Maldivians have practised and believed in the religion undisturbed, in their own way. Adhaalath wants the Maldives to forget whatever history that has been recorded, and pretend that Maldivians have been living the lives of some other people, following rules of a society and tradition these unassuming islanders have never before been familiar with.

Is the idea to get the Maldivian women to follow the ‘natural order’ of submissiveness while getting the men worked up about having a false identity stolen from them, and pitch them against ‘the West’ in an imaginary battle of civilizations that does not exist? These writings of Adhaalath are familiar and can be heard in the voices of those very same radical preachers who are recruiting vulnerable young people into a ‘war’ against an imagined enemy in the name of the ‘West’.

A Faustian Pact

Now, in the unlikely event that President Nasheed does manage to secure aid and other assistance from ‘the West’ to help save the Maldives from climate calamity, would Adhaalath be in favour of accepting the help?

Surely that would be hypocritical? Would it not be better to find a way to decamp to a burning hot desert somewhere where the women could keep their natural timidity and shyness intact under 500 yards of cloth, walk five steps behind her boss/husband, and breed in the safety of their tent while the man milks the camel while bravely battling the elements?

The children reared by the docile women and uncorrupted by the West can then go sacrifice themselves for the greater good in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.

The true Maldivian culture, the one that Maldivians did not know was theirs until it was revealed by Adhaalath, will then be able to blossom and bloom – finally letting Maldivians be independent, and free to be real Dhivehin.

It is becoming more and more clear that, yes, the chances are that the Maldives is destined to drown if it is not saved. What is harder to predict is which waters will sink it – the rising sea levels, or the ‘holy’ muck being used to brainwash its people.

Munirah Moosa is a journalism and international relations graduate. She is currently engaged in research into the ‘radicalisation’ of Muslim communities and its impact on international security.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Letter on Copenhagen summit

Dear Editor,

A political agreement to prevent dangerous climate change is critical and achievable.

The world is five days into one of the most important global conferences of our time: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen (COP15). Negotiators currently getting down to work are tasked with coming up with a replacement to the Kyoto Protocol that will prevent the nightmare scenarios that many climate scientists have predicted becoming a reality. A formidable challenge.

Overwhelming scientific evidence – endorsed by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – shows that human activity is the primary force driving climate change. The UK recognises that the developed world has historic responsibility for climate change and must make ambitious commitments to tackle its effects, including through making funds available to developing countries.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown proposed, at last month’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, the establishment of an annual fund which would make available $10bn to assist developing countries in tacking climate climate immediately after an ambitious agreement at Copenhagen.

COP15 is a crucial engagement in the battle against dangerous climate change and the UK has taken an increasingly proactive position on pressing for an ambitious political agreement at Copenhagen. This year we became the world’s first country to have a legally binding long-term framework to cut emissions, adapt to climate change and commit to a low carbon economy: the UK Climate Change Act. And we have played a leading role in the European Union and the Commonwealth to encourage commitment to higher emission cuts and greater availability of resources to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

Collectively we need to agree an ambitious deal at Copenhagen to rise to this challenge. The UK believes that this should include:

  • A global recognition to reduce carbon emissions to 50% below 1990 levels by 2050
  • Global temperature rise limited to 2 Degrees above pre-industrial levels.
  • Developed Country reduction targets that add up to least 25% below 1990 levels by 2020
  • Developing country actions that add up to at least 15% below business as usual for 2020.
  • Low carbon growth plans to prepare for transition to a global low carbon economy.

The above ambitions are a reflection of the importance the UK gives to recognising the developed world’s historic responsibility for global CO2 emissions, and the priority we have given to limiting the impact of dangerous climate change.

The UK has worked with Sri Lanka and Maldives as partners in tackling this critical global issue, over the past the year. In Sri Lanka, we funded a conference bringing together local environmental NGOs and the government to discuss critical issues that would be on the negotiating table in Copenhagen. In Maldives, we regularly discuss climate issues with the government and have welcomed their immense efforts to highlight the importance of acting against climate change. In particular, President Nasheed’s announcement to go carbon neutral by 2020 and the way Maldivian civil society have taken the initiative to support global climate change campaigns such as’s international day of action on 24 October 2009 have helped Maldives to lead the way in international debates on climate change.

Developing country commitments and actions have shifted the terms of negotiation in the path to Copenhagen but to achieve our global ambitions against climate change a sustained effort is needed. We look forward to continuing to work with Sri Lanka and Maldives to keep up the pressure through COP15 and beyond so that we do not leave climate change as a problem for the next generation.

Dr Peter Hayes is the British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka/Maldives