PPM congress postponed for third time

The government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has postponed its national congress for a third time, scheduling the party’s first congress for January 2013.

Local daily Haveeru reported today that that the party cited “political turmoil” as the reason for the delay. The newspaper noted that the party’s charter stipulates that a congress should be held in the first six months after official registration.

The party held its inaugural convention in October 2011.

PPM Interim Secretary General Yumna Maumoon – daughter of the party’s figurehead and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – explained that the decision was made by the interim council after the party failed to secure an appropriate venue to host the congress.

PPM opens opportunity to register delegates for party’s congress

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) this Thursday announced its decision to open the opportunity to register delegates for first congress in the coming month of November.

PPM Secretary General Yumna Maumoon, who is also the daughter of the party’s interim leader former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom told the press that the party intends to allow two types of delegates.

The two types Yumna Maumoon said were elected delegates from all the party branches and invited delegates. Invited delegates would include its members who are currently filling top government positions and party’s parliamentarians.

The party also stated that it will hold its presidential primaries after the party congress.


US funds digital preservation of traditional Maldivian love ballad

The United States Embassy in Sri Lanka has awarded Maldives’ Hulhevi Media US$25,000 towards their project, “Research, Documentation and Preservation of the Buruni Ballad.” Over the next five months, the team will produce the first digital recording, transcription and documentary video of the traditional love epic, “Buruni Kamana Raivaru.”

The 6-hour oral history has never been transcribed. It has generally been considered the Maldives’ version of “Romeo and Juliet.”

The tragic love story of Dhon Hiyala and Alifulhu is set against a background of magic, jealousy and revenge. After rejecting the king’s advances, the heroine Dhon Hiyala and her lower-class lover Alifulhu are forced to commit suicide by jumping onto a giant, poisonous jelly fish.

Experts view the epic as more than a literary treasure; it is also a guide to cultural history. Told in great detail, the epic describes ancient Maldivian customs such as feasting, marriage, fishing, and arts.

The US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation has supported over 640 cultural heritage preservation projects in over 100 countries for the past 11 years, donating approximately US$26 million to these endeavors.

“Heritage is a reminder of the historical experiences and achievements of humanity,” said US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Patricia  Butenis at today’s ceremony. “The more we know about each others’ traditions, the more common ground we share.”

The ambassador noted that this is the first time the fund has supported intangible heritage. “This project in the Maldives is about culture in its most basic form – the spoken word,” said Butenis.

This year, the Fund for Cultural Preservation awarded funding to three projects, two in Sri Lanka to preserve historic sites and one in the Maldives. Director of the American Center in Colombo Christopher Teal called the Buruni Ballad project an original and exciting first for the fund.

“We believe this is important, and we strive to provide funding to support the desire and expertise that is already there,” said Teal.

Hulhevi Media is an independent film group which produces documentaries on a wide range of issues including domestic violence, sexual abuse, and disabilities. The group has worked with NGOs including the Red Cross and the United Nations, and has been selected at several international film festivals. The team of four will travel to islands related to the oral history to record it in digital format, along with interviews.

Sharif Ali, Ibrahim Yassir, Ahmed Shafeeu, and Yumna Maumoon will be working on the project, which they described as “urgent.”

“There are only a handful of people who can tell the story today, and many of them are quite old, so time is critical here,” said Ali. “Working on a cultural preservation project, we will be going back to see what we have lost.”

The team aims to produce an audio CD and a transcription of the epic. “We do hope the book will be used extensively for literary analysis, and can be integrated into the education system,” said Shafeeu.

The epic has been used in secondary schools, but the team hopes it will be used more broadly in the education system.

The story was published as prose in 1976 by the renowned Dhivehi language scholar Abdullah Sodiq.

“I heard this same ballad (raivaru) being sung by the famous Kafa Kuda Thakkaan in a house in the Galolhu ward of Male’. As I listened my heart went through inexplicable feelings. This was no longer just a ballad, it was a fascinatingly beautiful romantic story told in a special raivaru form of rhyme and rhythm,” Sadiq said in a press statement.

Sadiq will advise the Hulhevi team on the Buruni Ballad project. “I never thought it would get this kind of help, I am very excited about this,” said Sadiq after today’s ceremony.

The Hulhuvi team said they were “elated” to receive the award after submitting their proposal a year ago. “It came out of the blue. And it’s great because it’s different from what we normally do. We are essentially a video production group, but with this project we’ll also be collaborating on linguistics and audio,” they said.

In September, the Maldives signed the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. It is already a participant in the World Heritage Convention and the Cultural Diversity Convention.

At the time, Minister of State for Tourism, Arts and Culture Ahmed Naseer said no efforts had been made in this department. “It is very easy to see things like poetry, music, language, and dance disappear if they are not practiced. We need to have a law enacted to outline these practices.”

A draft of new legislation promoting the preservation of intangible cultural heritage is currently before parliament, Naseer said previously.


Gayoom reprimands DRP council for decision to discipline Mahlouf, Illham and Waheed

Honorary Leader of the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom called on party’s council last night to take back its decision to recommend MPs Ahmed Mahlouf, Ahmed Ilham and Gayoom’s lawyer Mohamed Waheed for disciplinary action.

In a statement read out by daughter Yumna Maumoon at the ‘Gayoom faction’ rally at artificial beach, Gayoom warned that taking disciplinary action against the three council members would lead to further weakening of a party already riven by internal conflict.

“At such a critical moment, with party unity severely shaken and members despairing as a result of the decisions taken by the party’s council and the disciplinary committee, in violation of the party’s charter and democratic principles and with total disregard to the feelings of the party’s members, ever since Ahmed Thasmeen Ali assumed leadership, I deeply regret [the council’s decision] as it goes completely against the wishes of most common members and would only split the party even further,” Gayoom’s statement read.

Advising the council to retract the decision, Gayoom noted that “taking action against those you disagree with is not done anywhere that is run along democratic principles.”

“And [disciplinary action] is not allowed either by the Maldivian constitution or Islamic principles,” he said.

Deputy Leader Ilham and MP Mahlouf stands accused by the council of misleading the public about Thasmeen, disregarding the best interests of the party and violating the party’s charter.

Ilham however told Minivan News last week that “a Deputy Leader can be dismissed only if a third of the party’s congress votes to dismiss him.”

The DRP MP for Gemanafushi argued that any decision by the disciplinary committee to dismiss him would therefore be invalid.

Beginning with rumblings of discontent at the third DRP congress in March 2010 over disagreement regarding a presidential primary, the worsening factional split within the main opposition erupted in December that year following the dismissal of Deputy Leader Umar Naseer.

After condemning Thasmeen of “running the party dictatorially”, Gayoom has since withdrawn his support for Thasmeen as DRP’s presidential candidate for 2013.