President to mark 47th Independence Day with Republic Square address

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan will deliver an address this evening from Republic Square in Male’ to commemorate 47 years since the country became an independent nation.

According to the President’s Office, Dr Waheed will host a special Independence Day function, organised by the Ministry of Home Affairs, that will include a ceremonial hoisting of the national flag at the square.

Maldivian Independence Day commemorates the nation obtaining the right to self determination on July 26, 1965. The country had previously been a British protectorate since the late 19th century.

As part of Independence Day festivities held in the country this week, President Waheed and First Lady Ilham Hussain also hosted an official reception yesterday evening at the National Museum.

Foreign dignitaries, former presidents, Parliamentary Speaker Abdulla Shahid and serving MPs and cabinet members were said to be among invitees to the function, according to the President’s Office website.


US to assist in restoration of damaged pre-Islamic artifacts

United States funding for cultural preservation will be used to restore pre-Islamic artifacts in the National Museum, which were destroyed by a mob that broke into the building amid February 7’s political turmoil.

US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Patricia Butenis, made the announcement yesterday evening during a event held in Traders Hotel to celebrate the 236th anniversary of US Independence.

“We had intended to help preserve the priceless fragile pre-Islamic artifacts in the National Museum, the very ones destroyed in February when some thugs broke into the museum,” said Ambassador Butenis. “We have received funding for this project, which will now be used to restore the damaged artifacts to the fullest extent possible, and maintain the museum’s early collection of textiles.”

According to a museum source, the destroyed artifacts included one the museum’s most significant pieces – a coral stone head of Lord Buddha, an 11th century piece recovered from Thoddoo in Alifu Atoll.

Other pieces vandalised included the Bohomala sculptures, monkey statues and a broken statue piece of the Hindu water god, Makara, while the two five faced statues discovered in Male’ were also damaged – the only remaining archaeological evidence proving the existence of a Buddhist era in the Maldives.

Speaking at the ceremony, Ambassador Butenis urged the Maldives to continue to develop its democracy, and emphasised that the US had itself experienced a difficult struggle to implement the concept.

“In the first decade of of our nation’s existence, questions of how to form our government persisted as we tried to address the concerns of 13 different states. Despite strong disagreements, each nonetheless sent representatives to the convention and formed a government acceptable to all,” she said.

The convention produced what is rightfully hailed as a landmark document, and one that established a strong foundation for the rule of law. Its counterpart, the bill of rights, enshrined many of our basic rights such as freedom of speech, assembly and religion,” she added.

“But the original Constitution was not without flaws. It failed to protect people of all genders and races. The struggle to improve our laws, and for a just democracy and society, continues even today.”

Butenis said the US “knows how tough and rough the road to democracy can be, and the path to improve it. It requires the involvement of all sectors of society, political leaders and an active free press. It requires political leaders to put the interests of the country ahead of their own personal interests. This is as true for your country as it is for mine,” she said.

The US supported the work of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), she said, initiated in agreement with the Commonwealth, and the political party talks facilitated by the UN.

“These two mechanisms, with the necessary participation of all political parties, can provide a way forward to resolve the issue of an election date and the political turmoil that continues to preoccupy many citizens of the Maldives,” she said.

She also expressed “alarm, frankly”, at the “reports of violence during protests, violence towards journalists, and accusations of police violence and brutality. In our training with Maldivian police, we stress the importance of maintaining human rights,” she said.

Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen spoke at the event on behalf of the Maldivian government, thanking the US for its continued assistance, particularly in terms of military training, tsunami recovery and reconstruction efforts.

“The US is a country for people to dream, and win their dream – the American Dream,” Deen said.

“Many people in the world, from all different countries, have achieved that dream, because the US has maintained its democracy and equality for all nationalities, religions and races.”


Democratisation of Maldives is irreversible: President Nasheed

The democratisation of the Maldives through the burgeoning multi-party system cannot be reversed, President Mohamed Nasheed asserted in his Independence Day address.

“No government can last in this country anymore except through clearly stated policies, pledges made to the people and [based on] the extent that the pledges are fulfilled,” Nasheed said. “No greater independence nor a happier state than this could be seen from an independent country. We have definitely changed to that state.”

The type of political system found in a country, said Nasheed, was the “true foundation” for sustaining independence.

Although multi-party constitutional democracy in the Maldives was in its infancy, Nasheed continued, the hopes fostered through the new system promised “a much brighter future.”

Maldivians have proven that “anyone could aspire to become President,” he added.

After emerging as a nascent democracy post-2008, President Nasheed said that the Maldives was punching above its weight in the international arena.

“Especially in the area of human rights and environmental advocacy, the Maldives is by God’s will among the front rank,” he said. “It is unlikely that we will see a better, smoother transition to democracy than the example shown by Maldivians.”

President Nasheed praised and congratulated Maldivians for being forerunners to the Arab revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt as well as democratic change in other parts of the world.

Meanwhile former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom issued a statement on Independence Day warning of “foreign influences” that could compromise economic independence, sovereignty and “independence of thought.”

Gayoom argued that while “enslavement of Maldivians” by foreign armies was unlikely given the vast changes that have taken place in the world, the undue influence of powerful external forces was a challenge to small states like the Maldives.

“In light of this reality, we have to renew efforts to strengthen and fortify the Maldives’ political and economic independence,” he said.

In his message to the nation, the former President said that preparations to celebrate 50 years of independence in 2015 as colourfully and joyfully as possible should begin now.


National service medals conferred to 14 individuals

National Exemplary Service medals and National Service Medals were conferred upon 14 individuals by President Mohamed Nasheed yesterday at a special ceremony to mark the country’s 46th Independence Day.

Among eight individuals awarded the National Exemplary Service [Insignia of the Honourable Nishan Izzudheen] were Special Envoy of the President Ibrahim Hussain Zaki, “Karankaa” Ibrahim Rasheed, Abdul Sattar Moosa Didi, Moomina Haleem, Mohamed Zuhair,  Naseema Mohamed, Mohamed Nooradheen and Mohamed Zahir Naseer.

The National Service Medals were meanwhile conferred to Dr. Abdulla Abdul Hakeem, Habeeba Hussain Habeeb, Ahmed Shafeeq, Maroshi Hussain Kaleyfaanu, Mohamed Umar Manik and “Sikkage” Mohamed Naseem.

Speaking on behalf of the recipients at the ceremony, Ibrahim Rasheed made note of the traditional decorations reminiscent of the ceremonies of kings and observed that “the Republic of the Maldives will never go back to a Sultanate again.”


President hosts reception to mark Independence Day

President Mohamed Nasheed and First Lady Madam Laila Ali hosted an official reception at Muleeaage last night to mark Maldives Independence Day.

Attendees included cabinet ministers, members of the parliament, state ministers, foreign dignitaries and heads of various independent agencies, the President’s Office stated.

Meanwhile, countries from around the world including Pakistan and Abu Dhabi have sent the Maldives congratulatory messages on the occasion.

Earlier in the day, the President and First Lady watched a parade by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), route march by school bands and cultural items at the Republic square.


Maldives to celebrate Independence Day

The Maldives celebrates the 46th anniversary of the country’s independence from Britain tomorrow, July 26.

At 6:30am a special flag hoisting ceremony at the Republic Square is scheduled to start the events of the day.

At 10:00am a special ceremony is to be held Dharubaaruge where the President will award National Exemplary Service Medals and National Service Medals in recognition of recipients who made important contributions to the state and the people of the Maldives.

The President has decided to award the National Exemplary Service Medal to eight individuals and the National Service Medal to six people, according to the President’s Office.


Comment: An identity for Maldivians

On the morning of the Maldives’ 45th Independence Day celebrations, President Mohamed Nasheed finally unveiled the new National Museum – a swanky, modern, grey building with high ceilings and polished interiors, that has been teasing the public for a few weeks now during the final stages of its construction.

The inauguration was greeted with much fanfare, and vows were made by both the President and the State Minister for Arts and Culture to preserve and promote Maldivian cultural heritage.

However, the reactions from commentators on many news websites to the opening were quite puzzling in their negativity and cynicism.

Or maybe not.

Despite the buzz surrounding the newly-inaugurated building, Maldivians have already had a National Museum since the middle of the last century; a tiny, old section of the former palace that former President Nasir had benevolently left standing.

Dusty, crumbling, and largely ignored by the general Maldivian public, the old museum had harbored the last surviving treasures of the long, unbroken chain of ancient Dhivehi civilization; the swords of the Sultans, ancient loamaafaanu copperplate grants, exquisite medieval lacquer-work, extinct scripts, and beautifully carved coral-stone sculptures of the Buddha that triumphantly showcased the skilled craftsmanship of our ancestors from centuries ago.

Yet somehow, the President had to remind the gathered citizens at the inauguration that Dhivehin have inhabited these ancient islands since 2000BC.

It seems ironic that despite being one of the very few countries in the world with such an ancient recorded history, we Maldivians show a strange disconnect from our cultural roots, and a feigned ignorance of our past.

Many Maldivians seek to satisfy themselves that their language, customs and cultural traits are of recent origin and, intriguingly enough, choose to whitewash whole portions of their history.

For instance, there are Maldivians who display a marked hostility for – and seek to disown – the entire culturally-vibrant Buddhist era of our past!

These attempts to sever the umbilical cord with the past have left Maldivians a culturally restless people, uncertain of their place in history.

It is hardly surprising then, that the swanky new museum has been built, not by Dhivehin as a monument to their proud heritage – but by enterprising foreigners.

It is perhaps befitting such a culturally aloof people that the new botanical gardens, being built on the very site where the former Sultan’s palace once stood, is also the product of foreign labor and initiative.

Interestingly, some of the most enlightening anthropological studies of the Maldivian people, our history, arts, poetry, folktales and traditions have also been carried out by foreign chroniclers like Pyrard, Bell and Maloney.

It would hardly matter to most Maldivians that the plaque outside the gate to the newest monument to Dhivehi culture reads, in bright red letters, ‘China Aid’.

Today, more than ever, there is a greater need to overcome this historical apathy of Dhivehin towards history itself.

The Maldives stands at a unique crossroads as a young, budding democracy about to seek its destiny and carve a niche for itself.

Maldivians have long been plagued by an identity crisis after decades of unfettered Westernization followed by rapid Arabisation. The moment is ripe for the newly assertive Maldivian public to permanently erase this.

If we take this moment to infuse ourselves with a strong national identity and cultural pride, we could overcome some of the most divisive issues burning our society today – the drugs epidemic and religious fundamentalism.

The opening of the new National Museum should hopefully provide the required spark to ignite a long overdue cultural revival in the Maldives, and a reawakening of Maldivians to embrace the Dhivehi identity that unites all mahl people.

If Dhivehin do not jump at this opportunity to rediscover our culture, and revel in our sense of common identity and inherited values (in much the same way our neighbors like India, Sri Lanka and Bhutan do) – then it would seem a rather wasteful expenditure by the Chinese government for an ancient people who have willingly betrayed their own culture!

In the words of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi:

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

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Major housing and infrastructure projects announced by President Nasheed

New housing projects would begin in Thinadhoo and Kolamaafushi on Monday, President Nasheed announced during his weekly radio address. Similar projects would soon be launched in four other islands including Kulhudhuffushi, Manadhoo, Naifaru, and Feydhoo on Addu atoll.

The government was “extremely pleased” that housing projects could start outside the capital, he said. A road project would begin in Kulhudhuffushi, and several harbour projects would also be started on Monday. Road projects in Thinadhoo, Addu atoll, Fuahmulah and Laamu atoll would also begin soon.

On the Independence Day, the New National Museum, the Velaanaage complex, a new building for the Defence Ministry, and a new building for the Police would be officially opened.

President Nasheed paid tribute to former President Nasir (1968-1978) for his efforts to secure full independence for the country from Britain. The Maldives was a British protectorate from 1887 until 25 July 1965.

Maldives gained full independence on 26 July 1965.


US hosts Independence Day celebration in Male’

An event to celebrate 234th anniversary of the signing of the American Declaration of Independence was hosted by the American Embassy yesterday.

Speaking at the function, the new US Ambassador to the Maldives and Sri Lanka, Patricia Butenis, said the event marked a special occasion not just because it was America’s national day “but also because today marks the first time in recent memory that our embassy has hosted a July 4th celebration here in Maldives.”

American embassy staff and dignitaries played host to members of Maldivian government, the
opposition, Majlis speaker, diplomats, Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and police personnel, representatives of NGOs and other invitees at the Holiday Inn in Male’.

The function began with the arrival of President Mohamed Nasheed and Vice President Dr
Mohamed Waheed, followed in quick succession by a hurried Ambassador Butenis.

A beautiful rendition of both the Maldivian National Anthem and the American National Anthem
was sung by a little girl called Medison, to kick start the event

“Medison is uniquely placed to sing it, as she is American and turned six years old on
July 26th – Maldives independence day,” said Glenn Davis, Cultural Affairs Officer at the US High Commission in Colombo.

Medison did perfect justice to the Maldivian anthem, pronouncing every word correctly, followed
by an equally beautifully-sung American anthem.

Complimented by President Nasheed on her singing, she said she had learned the Maldivian
anthem “from soccer practice”.

Ambassodor Butenis took the stage next, thanking President Nasheed for delaying his arrival to
coincide with hers.

Noting that Embassies across the world mark this event she said she could think of no better
place to celebrate July 4 than the Maldives.

“In many ways your own path to democracy resembles ours. Although you were never a colony
like us, you too achieved your full independence after a period of British influence in your affairs.”

She highlighted that this month, the Maldives marks the 45th anniversary of that event and that
looking back at America’s experience over the past 234 years, “I can tell you, the road to an
even more perfect democracy is both long and full of twists and turns.”

Noting the many obstacles faced along the way, she noted the civil war, racial and gender
inequalities, to the more recent bitterly-contested presidential election that had to be taken to the
Supreme Court to resolve.

Ambassodor Butenis said “overcoming each challenge required leadership, compromise and a
shared commitment to strive towards a strengthening of democracy.”

Noting that Maldives has undergone tremendous transition on multiple fronts, she said such
transitions always face difficulties.

“I wish I had the secret to make this work, but in the US partisan disagreements also impede
progress on some of the issues most important to Americans. I think the message from citizens
of both our countries to our political leadership is the same: seek compromise, dialogue and
civility and never lose sight of your charge to strengthen democracy and promote the common

President Nasheed was invited to the podium next and started by addressing the
Ambassodor Butenis, Speaker of Majlis, the Vice President and adding, “I’m sad to say I cannot introduce any

Ambassodor Butenis, standing nearby, interjected that “they were all invited,” evoking laughter
from the assembled dignitaries.

President Nasheed said that it was difficult days for Maldives, that there were things that could
be learned from Americans, and that despite the help and advice from many sides it was a big
challenge the country was facing.

“This is the biggest challenge the nation has faced – we are having a constitutional crisis.”

Hoping that the worst of it was over, the President said “there is no better course of action than

He went on to assure all those present, “including the good people of America and all citizens of the
Maldives, we will not do anything illegal, anything which is not prescribed by law.”

Alluding to the controversial tapes released today, he said voting in the Majlis was based on
corruption and bribery and not based on merit.

“When a cabinet resigns and accuses a whole institution,” things are gravely wrong, he said.

Nasheed added that he had been informed that MPs had been approached to sell their votes and telephone
conversations had come to light in a manner that “clearly implicates MPs in the act of buying and selling

President Nasheed said “this is not the kind of government, nor the kind of country we want to

Stressing the importance of dialogue and reaching agreement with those involved, President
Nasheed thanked the Speaker of the Majlis.

“The Speaker of the Majlis is an honest man. We may have issues but I would like to work with him,” Nasheed said, adding the way through the impasse now was to find amicable solutions.

He said Maldivians had not just elected him to be in the government, “but Maldivians have asked
us to implement democracy in Maldives.”

President Nasheed thanked the United States for “being a strong partner of the Maldives in
democracy – we have the same ideology and share the same beliefs.”

Afterwards Ambassodor Butenis and President Nasheed mingled with the invitees. The
Americans played perfect hosts, and along with the live music and delicious buffet, the first
Fourth of July celebrations in Maldives would have made even the Founding Fathers proud.