Three-hour play, skydiving among Independence day activities

A three-hour play with 2,000 students from across the country and a skydiving event are among activities planned to mark 50 years of independence.

The government is planning grand celebrations to mark the Maldives’ golden jubilee of independence from the British on July 26, including a parade by the army and school brass bands, reopening of public parks with water fountains, an official function at the Usfasgandu area with more than 100 foreign dignitaries, official games at the national stadium, and an atoll football tournament.

The government has not yet disclosed the full program for the day.

Deputy minister for home affairs Ahmed ‘Maaz’ Saleem, who is in charge of the ‘Minivan 50’ (Independence 50) office organising the celebratory activities, told the press that the three-hour drill will take place at the national stadium from 9pm to 12pm on the night of July 27.

The play will show different stages of Maldivian history from the Buddhist-era to the present and depict the sacrifices of national heroes to maintain the country’s independence, Saleem said.

The drill will also feature video projections. The Minivan 50 office has awarded a contract to a British company called The Projection Studio to manage sound, light and projection at the official celebrations.

Some 15 Maldivians have meanwhile undergone a 15-day training session in Addu City for a skydiving event on the night on June 27.

The skydivers will land at the national stadium using special parachutes manufactured with the national flag.

The second part of the skydiving training is due to start in Malé tomorrow with Malaysian trainers.

Several areas at Male’s waterfront have meanwhile been closed off as the government rushes to complete major renovation projects including a new official jetty and a musical water fountain at the Republic Square before July 26.

Meanwhile, president’s office minister Mohamed Hussain Shareef told the press earlier this week that more than a 1,000 people will attend the official function on July 26, including all Maldivian citizens born on July 26, 1965.

Shareef also dismissed allegations of corruption in the use of the independence day budget. The home ministry has received special permission from the finance ministry to award some projects without a bidding process due to lack of time.

The president’s office minister refused to disclose the total amount allocated for independence day, but finance minister Abdulla Jihad last week told Minivan News the budget was MVR150 million (US$9.7million).



Government appeals for cooperation with Independence Day celebrations

The government has appealed for public cooperation for planned events to celebrate the upcoming 50th Independence Day on July 26.

“The celebration of Independence Day should involve everyone. I call on every Maldivian to cooperate with the celebrations,” President’s Office Minister Abdulla Ameen said last week.

A special office was launched on Thursday (March 19) to oversee events planned by the government to mark the golden jubilee of independence.

“The Independence Day celebrations are supervised by the president. The celebrations are carried out with the president’s opinion and advice,” Ameen said at a ceremony after opening the office.

Scheduled events include sky diving, a swimming competition, a bicycle race and a water fountain laser show.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has meanwhile accused the government of using the celebrations as a cover to “rob civil liberty” and “empower gangs.”

“From every event we see the government-backed gangs getting more powerful. There is absolutely no freedom whatsoever for the opposition or its supporters. The government with their minority and the so-called peaceful youths are terrorising every other citizen,” MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz told Minivan News.

While the Maldives gained independence working alongside development partners and friendly nations, Shifaz contended that the Maldives was now isolated in the international area.

“We got independence by working together with the rest of the world. But 50 years later with President Yameen’s foreign policy Maldives has been isolated from the rest of the world now,” he said.


Artists protest exclusion of Nasheed paintings from Minivan50 exhibition

A group of local artists staged a protest at the national art gallery today over the exclusion of paintings depicting former President Mohamed Nasheed from an exhibition organised by the education ministry.

The exhibition, launched yesterday, featured artwork and handicraft by students from 32 schools as part of events planned by the government to mark the upcoming golden jubilee of the country’s independence.

“Nasheed is said to be the Mandela of the Indian Ocean and I personally have a lot of respect for him. That is why I chose to paint him,” 18-year-old Mohamed Raaif told Minivan News today.

The Maldives National University student explained that his painting was initially put up, but he later discovered that it had been removed.

Raif MDP painting
Mohamed Raaif

Raaif said a teacher told him that the organisers claimed his painting  was of “a terrorist” and could not be displayed.

The opposition leader was found guilty of terrorism on Friday night (March 13) and sentenced to 13 years in prison over the military’s detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

Education ministry officials in charge of organising the exhibition could not be reached at the time of publication.

A second painting by a student featuring the former president was also removed.

However, artwork featuring other politicians with blurred faces were displayed at the exhibition.

Raaif said he spent three days working on the painting and had stayed up all night to complete it. He said he was hoping to raise funds for his mother’s backbone surgery as the family was currently facing financial constraints.

He added that he did not have any intention of politicising the painting. However, Raaif said he associated the theme of the exhibition – freedom or independence – with former President Nasheed.

“Not free yet”

Online news outlet CNM reported that the second banned painting of Nasheed was from a grade ten student at the Addu20482_941120079255989_6670794182747816048_n City Feydhoo School.

“That photo is of a terrorist. Photos of terrorists cannot be promoted,” organisers allegedly said, according to an anonymous source.

Meanwhile, a group of about 30 people, including several artists, staged a silent protest inside the art gallery today, mingling with members of the public and holding up prints of the banned Nasheed paintings.

The exhibition was open to the public with free entrance.

The protesters also carried placards calling for freedom of expression and assembly as guaranteed by the constitution and stuck posters on the gallery walls that read, “Not free yet!” and “Minimum 50 years in prison.”

“The function of freedom is to free someone else,” read one of the posters, quoting Chinese dissident and Nobel laureate, Ai Weiwei.

“The work of art was a scream for freedom. Minivan [independent] 50 has not reached us yet!” read one of the placards held up by a protester.

An artist at today’s protest, Kareen Adam, told Minivan News: “The state cannot dictate to us what we can paint, draw, write or think etc. They should have called this exhibition ‘freedom within boundaries’ instead.”

Others artists said the organisers were sending a negative message to youth by banning the paintings of Nasheed, stating that former President Nasheed was an ineradicable part of recent Maldivian history.

Around 4:30pm – half an hour after the exhibition opened for the day – protesters told Minivan News that police asked them to leave as organisers had said the art gallery was closing.

A group led by Youth Ministry Coordinator Ali ‘Steps Ayya’ Shahid meanwhile arrived and began tearing down the material pasted on the walls.

“We will not keep paintings of terrorists,” one of the men allegedly said.

Protesters said the men tore down the paintings and ripped up the posters as police officers watched impassively.

A police officer was also photographed ripping a poster.

Steps Ayya Art Gallery protest
Youth Ministry Coordinator Steps Ayya. Photo by: Munshid Mohamed


Police told the protesters that the men had clearance to enter the gallery as they had passes of government coordinators.

One of the protesters took a photograph of the men and was allegedly pushed away.

The men also pushed out the protesters from the gallery. Protesters who spoke to Minivan News asked not to be named as they feared becoming targeted and said they did not have confidence that police would provide protection.


Related to this story

Former President Nasheed found guilty of terrorism, sentenced to 13 years in prison

Government will ensure Nasheed’s right to appeal conviction, says spokesperson

Respect Criminal Court verdict, says President Yameen


President Yameen launches independence golden jubilee celebrations with music show


President Abdulla Yameen launched independence golden jubilee celebrations on Thursday night (March 12) with the ‘Sarindha’ music show.

According to the President’s Office, President Yameen inaugurated the show “by releasing 50 helium balloons tied to the Maldivian national flag and the Independent 50 banner.”

The show was organised by the home ministry and took place at the Henveiru stadium in Malé with free entrance.

The home ministry is planning numerous activities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of independence on July 26.



Indian High Commission holds cancer screening camps

The Indian High Commission to the Maldives will be hold free cancer screenings at ADK Hospital on February 4 and 5, and in Ghaafu Dhaalu Thinadhoo on February 6, as part of its health and wellness month.

In addition to the screenings, the high commission is organising a cancer awareness walk in Malé on February 4 at 4pm, in partnership with Basavatarakm Indo American Cancer Hospital (BIACH) in Hyderabad, ADK hospital, and the Cancer Society of Maldives.

The walk will be followed by yoga instruction at the artificial beach, while similar yoga workshops are to be organised in Himmafushi, Villingili, and Bandos during the month.

Last month the high commission held a number of Bollywood themed events, including a dance show, quiz, and a film festival as part of year-long celebrations of diplomatic relations with the Maldives.

“In celebration of the 50th anniversary of relations and Maldivian Independence, every month will include thematic activities as part of a year-long celebration,” said Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives Rajeev Shahare.

Other events for the wellness month include a blood donation camp held on February 27. The high commission requests everyone to register in advance for these camps by calling 763 8246.


Vice President celebrates 50 years of broadcasting, CPJ condemns “backslides” on press freedom

The Maldives this week launched official celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of broadcasting within the nation, as one international press freedom association raised concerns over national commitments to independent media.

Vice President Waheed Deen on Monday (July 9) launched what is expected to be a series of “golden jubilee” celebratory events to commemorate the beginning of national broadcasting on December 29, 1962, according to the President’s Office website.

Speaking at a ceremony to unveil a new logo and song that will be used to publicise a half century of state radio broadcasts under the Voice of Maldives (VOM) service, the vice president played up the importance of providing factual information to the public and giving “both sides of a story”.

Deen – owner of the Bandos Island Resort and Spa – also used his speech to play up that the Maldives must keep in mind that it remained as Islamic nation when addressing issues of development and advancement, the President’s Office added.

The Vice President’s comments were made as international non-profit organisation, the committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), alleged concerns that press freedom was “deteriorating” under the present government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

“Reports of police brutality against journalists amid political chaos, and a vicious attack for writing about religious tolerance, are disturbing signs that the Maldives is backsliding on press freedom,” CPJ Senior Researcher Madeline Earp wrote on the organisation’s blog.

“[The president] must ensure that journalists are free to report if he wishes to distance himself from [Maumoon Abdul] Gayoom’s legacy and stabilise the nation for elections.”

Just yesterday, the Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) condemned the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) for “obstructing” reporters and appealed for media representatives to refrain from taking part in protests.