Yameen receives credentials of Thai and South Korean ambassadors

President Yameen has today received the credentials of both the Thai and South Korean ambassadors.

New Thai Ambassador ‎H.E. Nopporn Adchariyavanich discussed the furtherance of fisheries, agriculture, and trade ties between the two nations.

During his meeting with President Yameen, new South Korean Ambassador H. ‎E. Chang Won-sam was told of the importance of South Korean investment in the Maldives.

The South Korean ambassador discussed enhancing, tourism, trade, and training ties with the Maldives, sending the good wishes of President Park Geun-hye.


Maldivian cultural dances to be held at Expo 2012, South Korea

The Maldives will be represented through cultural dances on the big stage at Expo 2012 in South Korea.

An estimated 10 million people from around the world are expected to visit the three-month Expo held in South Korea’s coastal city of Yeosu.

The slogan for this year’s Expo is “The Living Ocean and Coast.” The Maldives’ slogan under this theme is “99% ocean, 1% sand, 100% Maldives”. The Maldives pavillion is designed depicting beautiful underwater scenery and Maldivian culture.

The main focus of the Expo 2012 is on the importance of preserving marine and coastal environments. The exhibition will offer a “golden opportunity for resolving imminent ocean-related problems facing developing countries,” according to the Expo 2012’s official website.

“The Maldives will use the opportunity to gain maximum exposure to potential tourists to the country, in line with the Government’s target of attracting one million tourists to Maldives this year,” said Senior Marketing Officer of the Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC), Fathmath Raheel.

Raheel said the MMPRC has invited local parties interested in selling Maldivian souveniers at the Korean Expo.

“Selling souveniers and authentic Maldivian products will be a very good way to inform people about the Maldives. We will provide assistance to any groups interested in doing this with their own funds at the expo,” Raheel told Minivan News.

The Maldives participation is sponsored by the government of South Korea.

In addition to the cultural dances performed at the Maldives pavillion as well as on the Expo stage, a one-day seminar on the travel trade will be held.

Each of the 104 participating countries will celebrate the National Day of their countries at the Expo. The Maldives’ National Day event will be held on June 4.

South Korea is among the top 10 countries in tourist arrivals to Maldives this year, with 6554 visitors arriving from January to April – growth of 20.9 percent on the same period last year.

“The South Korea market is expected to perform extremely well this year,” the MMPRC observed in its April report. “There is possibility of direct flights from South Korea to the Maldives which would further boost the market.”

Last year the country contributed 2.7 percent of tourist arrivals to Maldives.


Maldives rowing represented at Olympic regatta in South Korea

A renaissance of rowing in the Maldives continued this week as two students from Addu Atoll travelled to Chungju, South Korea, to compete in the Asian 2012 Olympic Qualification Regatta.

The pair, Ibrahim Sharu-u from Feydhoo School and Fathimath Hasna Hassan from Addu High School, are competing in the men’s and women’s singles sculls events which began on Thursday.

The team’s coach Natasha Howard, former Olympic rower for Great Britain and World Championship bronze medallist, hopes the event will enhance the competitor’s knowledge of their own sport as well as raising international recognition of the Maldives’ potential as a rowing nation.

“Both athletes are really enjoying themselves and getting the most out of being surrounded by professional sportsmen and women, asking lots of questions and building their knowledge of the sport,” said Natasha.

“I hope our invitation to participate in the 2012 Asian Olympic Qualification Regatta will raise awareness not only within Addu but also within National bodies such as the National Olympic Committee (NOC), that the Maldives has the potential to compete on an international level through rowing,” she continued.

The successful teams at the South Korean event will go on to compete in this summer’s London Olympics. Competition has been hard with Hasna and Sharu-u competing against teams able to train full-time using professional equipment.

Additionally, many of the athletes are 20-40 kilograms heavier than their Maldivian opponents as well as often being a few inches taller – a great advantage in the sport.

Natasha believes the event’s real importance lies in terms of the sport’s growth in the Maldives and the personal development of the athletes involved: “Experience and knowledge gathering is what this regatta is about for us so that we can begin to build a truly competitive Maldives team over the next four years.”

“The great thing about being here is that every country has started in a similar fashion to the Maldives – coming to take part in their first ever international event when facilities and knowledge were still in their infancy so they can remember what it was like and are incredibly supportive of our team,” said Natasha.

“We will get to race four times over the next four days which is a fantastic opportunity for both athletes to build on each race. Our aim is for them to come off the water and able to say that they had nothing left to give and that was their best race to date.”

Long term development

The re-birth of rowing in the Maldives was given initial impetus after the British Olympic silver medallist rower Guin Batten became the first person to cross the Maldives’ Equatorial Zero Degree Channel in March 2010.

Batten became the first person to cross the 60 kilometre channel between Huvadhoo Atoll and the island of Fuahmulah. She holds the record for the fastest crossing, completing the feat in 7 hours 16 minutes.

The world-first attempt at crossing was supported by British Airways, Coco Palm Resorts (Maldives) and Crew Room.

Batten subsequently arranged for two four-person ‘quad’ rowboats and several coaches to be brought to Thinadhoo and Ghadadhoo in 2010 with the support of BA, British Rowing and Westminster School. The Maldives High Commission in London also held a fundraising event to raise funds for the purchase and shipment of the equipment.

The first local rowing association had been set up in Thinadhoo after the then Province Minister for the Upper South Province, Umar Jamaal, visited the World Coastal Championships in Plymouth in October in 2009.

The following year, after Batten’s record-setting, the Maldives was welcomed as the 131st member of the International Rowing Federation (FISA).

“My ambition is to see [rowing] take off again in the Maldives, and come back in 5-6 years and see islands having boat races with each other,” Batten said at the time.

Rowing was once the primary form of transportation between islands in the Maldives before the widespread introduction of diesel engines to the country during the 1980s.  Most Maldivians with practical rowing experience are now in their sixties.

In November 2011, the Maldives first ever inter-school rowing tournament was held in Hithadhoo, Addu Atoll, to coincide with the SAARC summit celebrations. Five local coaches were trained in order to facilitate the event which included all 12 schools in the atoll. Another inter-school competition is scheduled for this July.

The subsequent interest in the sport prompted the start of swimming classes for those wishing to begin rowing but who were unable to swim. Classes for around 100 people began in the months following the SAARC summit.

Swimming courses have also been held in Hulhumale’ in preparation for the sport’s introduction in North Male’ Atoll. Three boats arrived in 2011 and a boat house has been constructed. There are plans for a new coach to come out in 2012, according to the Maldives NOC.

In the long-term, it is hoped that local coaches will be able to continue to develop the sport. The International Rowing Federation (FISA) assists in such courses as part of its Olympic Solidarity programme which aids the global development of sport. It is hoped that courses to train 20 to 25 new coaches will take place in June or July of this year.

All expenses for the athletes competing in South Korea are being covered by the FISA and the South Korean government.

Secretary of the Maldives NOC Marzook said that Olympic Solidarity will provide $10,000 for the training. Marzook explained that rowing was a very expensive sport for a country like the Maldives: “Normally US$6000 is allocated for training in other sports.”

“Olympic Solidarity know we really need the money. They really want to develop rowing in the Maldives,” said Marzook.

Funding and equipment remain scarce while the sport continues to find its sea-legs in the Maldives. Natasha works on a volunteer basis and has her expenses are paid by Addu City Council. All the equipment used has been donated from clubs in the UK or bought with the proceeds from fund-raising events.

“We have four doubles (two man boats), one single and one quad (four man boat). We have no rowing machines. All the rowers are very aware of the need to treat what equipment we do have very well so that it lasts as long as possible. The quad we currently have we cannot use because it is too heavy to lift and requires a trolley to move it,” Natasha said.

The team are said to be taking full advantage of the equipment available in South Korea as well as learning from other athletes about how they train for competitive rowing.

Fortunately for the sport’s future, there has been no scarcity of enthusiasm for rowing in Addu. Training sessions are constantly oversubscribed with Natasha having to facilitate nearly 200 students with only nine operational seats.

The NOC’s rowing report described the plans to expand the sport from the student community to include greater sections of society.

“The future long-term sustainable success of rowing in the Maldives lies with having well trained enthusiastic coaches and involving all sections of the community within the sport,” said the report.


President Nasheed returns to the Maldives

President Mohamed Nasheed and First Lady Laila Ali have returned to the Maldives after their visit to South Korea for the B4E Business for Environment Summit.

They were greeted by members of the government and a large crowd of people who gathered at jetty number one to congratulate the president on the Champion of the Earth Award he received last week.

He said he was honoured to receive the prize and it was a testament to Maldivians’ efforts to bring the issue of climate change to the global stage.


President Nasheed informs South Korean industries on investment in the Maldives

As part of his visit to South Korea President Mohamed Nasheed met with executives of the country’s business sector, fisheries industry and the media.

In his meeting with representative from the business sector held at the Intercontinetal Hotel in Seoul on Friday, the president informed them of the business and investment opportunities in the Maldives.

President Nasheed spoke of the potential investment opportunities in green energy and housing projects in the Maldives.

He noted South Korea was a growing market for the Maldivian tourism industry and an important partner in the fisheries sector.

The president also met with the president of Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), Hwan-eik Cho at the KOTRA Centre to discuss investment in the Maldives, especially in the fisheries, energy and housing sectors.

According to the President’s Office, a number of South Korean companies expressed interest in investing in the Maldives.

He then met with the Director General of Distant Water Fisheries Bureau of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of South Korea, Lee Cheol Woo, and the Chariman of Korean Overseas Fisheries Association, Kyung-Nam Chang.

Present at the meeting were also representatives from Sajo Industries and Dongwon Industries, two South Korean companies working in the fisheries and business secotr.

President Nasheed spoke of the challenges faced by the Maldivian fishing industry, and said the government wanted to expand the overseas market for fish products so foreign companies could buy fish directly from Maldivian fishermen.

After his meetings, the president met with South Korean press and spoke mostly on the environmental challenges faced by the Maldives and his commitment to bring the issues of climate change to the international stage.

President Nasheed concluded his visit to South Korea on Friday.


President Nasheed speaks at South Korean university

President Mohamed Nasheed spoke at the Hanseo University of South Korea last Friday, where he said no attempt by climate deniers had altered the evidence that climate change is real.

The president called for climate deniers to visit the Maldives and see the effects of climate change, noting that in the Maldives, climate change was not an abstract or distant phenomenon.

President Nasheed noted the importance of bridging the divide between developed and developing countries in order to assure a stronger commitment to fight climate change at the next UN summit due to take place in Mexico later this year.

He also spoke of the Maldives efforts to become carbon neutral by 2020.


President Nasheed meets his South Korean counterpart

President Mohamed Nasheed met with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak last Thursday as part of his visit to Seoul for the B4E Summit.

President Nasheed and President Lee discussed bilateral relations between the two countries and spoke of ways to strengthen mutual cooperation.

President Nasheed said South Korea and the Maldives could work together especially in the areas of fisheries and the environment.

He also spoke of business and investment opportunities in the Maldives.

President Lee commended the Maldivian president for his efforts to bring the issue of climate change to a global platform and for his role in bringing democracy to the Maldives.


UN makes President Mohamed Nasheed ‘Champion of the Earth’

President Mohamed Nasheed has been awarded the UN Champion of the Earth Award by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in Seoul, Republic of South Korea.

The awards were held in conjunction with the Business for Environment Summit (B4E), which is being attended by representatives of business, government and civil society who are working to promote a greener economy.

The award celebrates those who are encouraging a low carbon, resource efficient 21st century. The UN awards individuals “who embody commitment and vision towards environmental leadership through their action and their influence.”

One senior government official described Nasheed’s award as “quite a big deal – basically, the only thing that trumps this as an environment prize is a Nobel Peace prize, which they occasionally give for environmental causes.”

UN Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UNEP, Achim Steiner, said “President Nasheed is not only an articulate voice for the vulnerable and the poor facing the challenges of global warming, but a politician who is showcasing to the rest of the world how a transition to climate neutrality can be achieved and how all nations, no matter how big or how small, can contribute.”

President Nasheed said he was “delighted to accept this prize on behalf of the whole of Maldives. It goes to show that by doing the right thing, a small country can make a big impact on the world stage.”

President Nasheed also spoke of the damage industrialised countries have done to the environment, but said “given the opportunity, I believe that we would have done exactly the same.”

“We’re no better humans than the industrialised world. We’ve not been able to destroy as much as them…because we did not get the opportunity to destroy as much,” he said.

“We’ve destroyed whatever we can, and they destroyed whatever they can. Of course the magnitude of destruction by us is far less than the magnitude of destruction by others.”

He said the fact other countries had created more pollution than the Maldives did not mean they carry the burden of fixing the problem, and said that is why he is aiming to make the Maldives carbon neutral by 2020.

President Nasheed assured carbon neutrality is not only possible, but “it’s economically viable, financially feasible and there is no reason why we shouldn’t do it.”

He said the idea to be carbon neutral was “based very much on solid economic arguments.”

The president noted he doesn’t think it’s “humanly possible to do nothing about the environmental impacts” and was hopeful people could “bring the earth to it’s natural balance.”

“We still have time and we should act as quickly as possible,” he said.

He was awarded in the category of Policy and Leadership for his role in promoting the fight against climate change in forums such as last year’s Copenhagen COP15 Climate Change Summit, and for his efforts to raise awareness on climate change at a global level.

The UN commended him for his campaign to protect the coral reefs of the Maldives and for urging other countries to follow his initiative to turn the Maldives into the first carbon-neutral country by 2020.

President Nasheed ended his speech by saying “the climate crisis threatens us all. What happens to the Maldives today, happens to the rest of the world tomorrow. We are all Maldivians now.”

Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair said “the president is delighted and is saying he is humbled. He thinks the award gives a very good name to the country.”

President Nasheed will receive his trophy at a gala dinner tonight in Seoul.

President Nasheed was one of the six winners of the prestigious awards, chosen from the worlds of government, science, business and entertainment. The other five winners were Bharrat Jagdeo, President of Guyana; Prince Mostapha Zaher, Afghanistan’s Director General of the National Environmental Protection Agency; Taro Takahashi, Japanese earth scientist; Zhou Xun, Chinese actress; and Vinod Khosala, a green energy entrepreneur and co-founder of Sun Microsystems from the USA.


President and First Lady depart for South Korea

President Mohamed Nasheed and First Lady Laila Ali departed for South Korea last night.

They will be participating in the Business for Environment Global Summit (B4E Summit) which will take place in Seoul from 21-23 April.

The summit allows for dialogue and business-driven action for the environment, with some of the topics on the agenda being resource efficiency, renewable energy and climate change policies and strategies.

During their visit, President Nasheed will also meet with the President of South Korea, Lee Myung-Bak, to discuss ways of strengthening diplomatic relations between the two countries.