President Dr Mohamed Waheed has abolished the Maldives Volunteers Corps (MVC) and its work has been reassigned to the Ministry of Human Resources, Youth and Sports.
“The Maldives Volunteers Corps was abolished because a number of its functions are performed by the Ministry of Human Resources, Youth and Sports,” the President’s Office said in a statement.
The Ministry is now overseen by Mohamed ‘Mundhu’ Shareef, spokesperson for former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
The Maldives Volunteer Corps was established in 2009 under the Ministry of Human Resources, to increase the participation of youth volunteers in various national and regional level social and economic programs.
Its international branch, the International Volunteers Programme (IVP), places international volunteers in positions within the health and education sectors in the country and was established in partnership with the Salisbury-based Friends of Maldives (FOM) NGO, and coordinated by the Maldives High Commission in London.
FOM recently announced a travel advisory concerning four resorts whose owners it alleged were involved in the ousting of the Maldives’ first democratically-elected President.
“Since the first free and fair presidential elections in the Maldives in October 2008, FOM has worked on promoting social issues and other development programs, primarily in Health and Education Sectors, with the International Volunteer Programme (IVP), the Maldives Volunteer Corps (MVC) and the Maldives High Commission (London),’ FOM said in a statement on its website.
“This activity has been jeopardised due to the violent removal of the democratically-elected government on February 7, 2012. Where health workers and teachers are able to stay, without danger to their safety, they will continue to work to benefit the Maldivian people.
“Unfortunately, this situation is becoming increasingly fragile as Maldivian people have been beaten, hospitalised and imprisoned across the country, and FOM’s focus is required to revert to protecting human rights and promoting social justice until safety and democracy is restored.”
There are 28 volunteers with the IVP program based across the Maldives for the current academic year.
MVC was the program’s local counterpart with the role of taking care of the volunteers, provide their induction and orientation, and liaise with the Ministry of Education throughout the academic cycle, explained former head of MVC, Mariyam Seena.
“The IVP was designed to meet the shortfall of skilled personnel in the academic sector and if the program is shut down, then it will be the children and the schools that will suffer,” she said.
“The schools that have IVP volunteers rely on them a lot – not only with teaching the students but running English programs for the local teachers as well.
“In late 2010 MVC received close to 100 requests for volunteers from schools all over the country which shows the urgent need for British volunteers.The program is into the third year and beginning to make a huge impact on the education system, so shutting it down would be a huge injustice for Maldivian students from the islands,” she concluded.
In an email to the IVP volunteers currently working in the Maldives, FOM founder David Hardingham advised them to register with the British High Commission in Colombo, “and please leave the country if you feel you are in any danger at all.”
“Friends of Maldives are now no longer official stakeholders in the program and following the events in Male and now in Addu, we are now resorting back to our former role as a human rights NGO,” he said.
Volunteers choosing to stay were advised to “follow their instincts”, “steer clear of gatherings”, and “don’t express an interest in one side or the other.”
“Things are unlikely to improve, at least in the short term,” Hardingham wrote. “The military coup and the subsequent crackdown on the huge Male demonstration has caused a lot of concern amongst progressive Maldivians who remember the heavy-handed former dictatorship. There is a lot of pain and anger out there and if demands are not met for elections then things could spiral for the worse.”
The Maldives Volunteer Corps was inaugurated in 2009 by Dr Waheed and then-President Mohamed Nasheed.
In a statement following the inauguration, Dr Waheed “noted the importance given by the President in establishing the Volunteers Corps.”
“Further, he said that Maldivians, in all walks of life, have been known for their helpfulness and kindness to each other. Speaking in this regard, the Vice President said that purpose of the Maldives Volunteers Corps included strengthening the spirit of cooperation and solidarity among the people and to increase interest in voluntary services.”