Youth movement calls for change after Earth Hour axed

A movement representing Maldivian youth has raised the alarm over a lack of arts and creative opportunities after the government cancelled plans for Earth Hour celebrations.

“Without proper preventive measures, we would see a decline in creativity and expression, as well as freedom of assembly and celebration of global causes,” Dhi Youth Movement, a non-governmental organisation, said in a statement.

Young Maldivians had planned to mark Earth Hour, an annual environmental campaign, with a music show and other celebrations in Male’ on Saturday but the government banned the events on security grounds after a spate of stabbings in the capital.

“We would also like to express our disappointment with government’s decision to cancel the Earth Hour celebrations on perceived potential security concerns,” said DYM.

Despite the ban, a 29-year-old man died after being stabbed outside the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, one of the busiest hospitals in the city, on Saturday night, in the fourth murder so far this year. No one has so far been arrested over the crime.

“As witnessed by last night’s crime, we have reconfirmed that crime happens regardless of whether or not the lights are on, even in front of police stations and hospitals,”  DYM said.

People who had planned to attend the celebrations expressed their discontent online.

“Yesterday, government stopped a bunch of people from making a prayer for President Nasheed after the Friday congregational prayer. Today it prohibited holding Earth Hour events for ‘security reasons’. Tomorrow it’ll ban funerals,” one said.

Another commented: “Security concerns regarding violent crimes during the day time has led to the Home Ministry issuing a statement to enforce planetary laws to turn off the sun at 10am.”

A youth leader wrote: “This much crime in such a small place, is scary, but the only security threat I see is the fact that no proper proactive measures are being taken to combat them.”

Earth Hour is hosted by Earth Hour Maldives collaborating with Scouts Association of Maldives, who outsourced the event to Empire Events, a recently established event management company. Lights are traditionally turned off for Earth Hour, while those taking part celebrate by candlelight.

Despite the event’s official cancellation, some members of the public decided to celebrate anyway.

Concerned youth and artists turned up to enjoy the hour outdoors, while children drew in chalk in a co-ordinated event at the helipad.

Young people lit candles reading “60+”, which stands for the 60 minutes of the Earth Hour.

DYM said that a fall in numbers of students enrolling in the arts stream — students can choose between arts, business and science streams aged 13 or 14 — was a sign of the declining position of arts and creativity. They called for a community where expression and art can thrive, without it involving “knives and crime”.

The group called for the government and authorities to do their best to address the root causes of the current gang violence so that temporary curfews can be lifted.

However, Dhi Youth Movement also noted that they had not been consulted on policy level discussions about youth by government bodies, and said they hoped the government would consult civil society more in decision making.


India will back Maldives “through upheavals”

Two years after registration the Friendship Association of India-Maldives (FAIM) launched its website last night in honor of India’s Republic Day, pledging new opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue between the two nations.

Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed said the country would “continue to get aspirations and lessons from the Indian experience.”

In conjunction with the cultural classes and services available through the Indian Cultural Center (ICC), FAIM aims “to strengthen the relationship, create friendships and build mutual understanding between the peoples of India and Maldives through organizing social, cultural, academic and other activities of mutual interest.”

Highlighting India’s artistic traditions, FAIM staff expressed a strong interest in supporting arts in the Maldives.

“The Maldives has very little internal support for the arts,” said a FAIM secretary. “We would really like to see what we can provide,” he said, acknowledging that the Maldivian community has a lot of hidden talent.

India and the Maldives enjoy close partnerships in education, technology and transportation development; India recently passed a regulation allowing Maldivians visa-free entry for 30 days.

In addition to encouraging cultural exchange, FAIM encourages a greater understanding of the distinct cultures. “Although archaeological finds indicate that the Maldives was inhabited as early as 1500 BC, much of the country’s origin is lost in history – most of which is as much folklore and myth as fact,” states the FAIM website.

While welcoming guests for “a light evening”, Indian High Commissioner and FAIM patron Dynaneshwar Mulay addressed the ongoing political turbulence and judicial crisis in the Maldives by affirming the close ties shared between the two nations.

“A democracy will see upheavals,” he said. “The Maldives is perhaps one of India’s closest partners. The Indian High Commission will always be there to help the Maldives.”

Mulay recollected that the Indian public protested against corruption last year, upholding rights embedded in its 1950 constitution. The protests, triggered by Anna Hazare’s Ghanid-esque hunger strike in April, captured world audiences and was voted one of Time Magazine’s Top Ten Stories of 2011.

Affirming the importance of India’s warm relationship with the Maldives, President Mohamed Nasheed said consolidation of democracy, including establishing a rule of law and an independent judiciary, is “our biggest and most important project.”

Thanking the Indian “people, its government and its institutions for the very necessary and good assistance they continue to give to the Maldives in our work to become a democratic society,” the President assured those gathered that the government shares concerns raised about the nation’s judicial crisis but views them as part and parcel of the task at hand.

“We have heard many criticisms, and we will continue to hear them. Would the end justify the means?” he queried.

“What I am sure of is that the people of this country aspire for a free and fair judiciary. And they want the judiciary to look like them. They wanted the presidency to look like them. They wanted the Parliament to look like them. And therefore the new judiciary has to look like them. They have to look like the Maldives. That is what has been asked of me, and that is what I am going to do.”

“Very often we have to invent, and invent out of the box,” the President said, asking for other powers to understand the Maldives’ current situation as a necessary, if complex, path to a stronger democracy.

Emphasising the value of cross-cultural dialogue in diplomatic matters, the President expressed hope that the traditional Indian thabla music would “broaden our minds and give us means to understand what is happening around us.”