Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Aid efforts continue well after devastating 2004 tsunami

Almost three years after a tsunami wreaked havoc along the rim of the Indian Ocean, survivors in the hardest-hit countries -- Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand -- are still trying to put their lives back together.

A broad range of governments, nongovernmental aid groups and individuals continues to provide resources and expertise to help them in the process.

The tsunami, one of the worst natural disasters of modern times, was spawned by a massive ocean-based earthquake that struck on December 26, 2004, centered off the northwest coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. With a magnitude estimated between 9.1 and 9.3, the quake was among the largest ever recorded.

Waves created by the massive displacement of ocean water swept ashore. Before it was all over, an estimated 180,000 persons in eight countries had been killed, tens of thousands more had been injured and over a million others had been left homeless. Coastal communities, and especially fishermen throughout the region, particularly suffered.

The United States and other governments, as well as the International Red Cross and other humanitarian aid agencies, swiftly swung into action, starting by providing lifesaving food, water, medical care and shelter. That initial effort was mounted to head off a situation in which, the World Health Organization warned, deaths from diseases such as cholera, diphtheria, dysentery and typhoid could match the death toll from the tsunami itself.

Later efforts aimed at reconstruction swelled the total amount of assistance provided into the billions, as measured in U.S. dollars. As of October, the United Nations' Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported, total worldwide contributions and commitments have reached more than $6.2 billion, with another $575 million in nonbinding pledges. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other U.S. government agencies have provided a substantial share of that funding.


In May 2005, Congress and the president approved $656 million for a comprehensive reconstruction program via the Tsunami Relief and Reconstruction Fund. By the second anniversary of the disaster, USAID reported that, including funds spent by the Department of Defense on emergency recovery and relief assistance and food provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. government assistance totaled $841 million.

An October update issued by USAID showed that by far the largest portion of the U.S. government's $656 million contribution had been earmarked for the hardest hit areas -- Indonesia, at $405.7 million, and Sri Lanka, at $134.6 million.

The American people pitched in as well. By the two-year mark, the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University said, U.S. private tsunami donations -- both cash and in-kind -- had reached more than $1.8 billion.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) played their traditional and effective role.

The American Red Cross, for example, combined rebuilding housing and sanitation facilities with providing psychosocial support programs for women and children suffering from continued emotional trauma.

The agency has been working with Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies that have established local networks to identify and respond to community needs; it formed partnerships with NGOs like Mercy Corps and CHF International in Indonesia to restore markets and provide residents with small grants to promote economic opportunities.

Gerald Anderson, senior director of the Tsunami Recovery Program for the American Red Cross, termed engagement with -- and listening to -- local communities "one of the most important aspects to ensure a successful, long term recovery."

USAID reported that it had broken ground on the final element of the Sri Lanka Tsunami Reconstruction Program -- a water supply project for the town of Pottuvil, near Arugam Bay, expected to be finished by July 2008. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is co-funding the $4.7 million project, providing $1.5 million toward the $4.7 cost of constructing wells, a water line and a water treatment plant.

USAID also reported breaking ground on a project to install new water purification systems on two tsunami-damaged islands in Maldives. And USAID Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator Mark Ward came back from Sri Lanka with word of "good progress" on bridge and vocational school projects scheduled for mid-2008 completion.

In Indonesia, the USAID update noted, the agency has funded a $3.2 million program designed to better educate young women -- and broaden their employment opportunities -- to help combat trafficking.

In Thailand, the Post-Tsunami Sustainable Livelihoods Program completed its work in the Kamphuan area in September, but will continue to provide guidance to the new Kamphuan Community Learning Center through March 2008. Thanks to the USAID program, the update said, "Residents have adopted alternative livelihoods, better community governance, and disaster preparedness."

And in India, USAID has arranged exchange visits between officials of the cities of Nagapattinam and Cuddalore and city managers from coastal communities in Florida that have carried out successful recovery efforts after natural disasters struck.

A USAID statement termed the success of its efforts "a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, learning from experience and the power of partnerships between nations."

Source: Reliefweb

Monday, October 29, 2007

Favourites clear first hurdle

The heavyweights all cleared the first hurdle in Asia's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying section as brave challenges from a number of underdogs fell short at the weekend. The favourites showed no mercy as they cruised to one-sided victories, with China PR leading the way by putting four unanswered goals past Myanmar to complete an 11-0 aggregate success.

Joining China in qualifying for the next stage were Uzbekistan, who built on their 9-0 first leg win over Chinese Taipei with a 2-0 away win, and Hong Kong, who followed up a slender 3-2 defeat of Timor Leste with a convincing 8-1 triumph in front of their own fans.

Morale-boost for Petrovic
Having won 7-0 on home soil, China were all but assured of progressing ahead of Sunday's return leg. As a result, coach Vladimir Petrovic took the opportunity to test a selection of youngsters as he changed almost the entire starting line-up, with only Zhuang Shuai retaining his place in the side that swept to victory in Foshan.

The Serbian tactician would certainly have been pleased with the start made by his new-look team, who took the lead after only 12 minutes, Wu Weian heading home Hao Junmin's inch-perfect cross from close range. Only two minutes later, the advantage was doubled when Liu Jian fired a low drive into Myanmar's goal. Midfielder Zheng Bin made it 3-0 after 34 minutes before Zhang Yaokun sealed a 4-0 win with a spot-kick four minutes before the break.

Despite the outcome, the fact that his team failed to breach their opponent's rearguard for the entire second half left Petrovic worried about his task, which is guiding the Chinese through to just their second FIFA World Cup finals. "We played good football for only 20 minutes in this game," he said afterwards. "Such an attitude will cost us dear when we play against a stronger side because a football game will not be decided until after 90 minutes."

Dark horses disappoint
Most potential dark horses failed to produce an upset, including Vietnam, who saw their qualifying dreams shattered by a 5-0 loss at the hands of nemesis United Arab Emirates.

UAE managed only a 1-0 win in their first leg meeting but, cheered on by their home supporters in Abu Dhabi, Ismail Matar opened scoring after only 13 minutes for Bruno Metsu's side and Ahmad Al Mahri doubled their lead five minutes before the break. The west Asians continued to dominate in the second half and goals from Mohamed Al Shehhi, Nawaf Al Darmaki and Saeed Al Kass sealed an emphatic victory and a place in the next stage.

With the set of matches absent of an upset, it was two South Asia outsiders that gave the most impressive accounts of themselves. Despite playing with little hope of advancing following a 7-0 defeat by Iraq in their first leg, Pakistan claimed a 0-0 draw to earn the respect of their rivals.

For their part, Maldives, who lost their first leg 3-0 to Yemen, came close to pulling off a shock by beating Yemen 2-0 at home, although ultimately the result proved sufficient for the west Asians to advance.

Source: Fifa

The Maldives Photography Contest and Exhibition Winners

Maldives Tourism Promotion Board congratulates these winners of the Maldives photography Contest & Exhibition:

Best of the Show

Mohamed Shafraz Naeem
G. Rankoka Villa / Male'

Scenic Category

1st Prize

Mohamed (Muha)
M. Ajamee Pool / Male'

2nd Prize

Ahmed Rasheed
Waseemeege / Gn. Fuvahmulah

3rd Prize

Mohamed (Muha)
M. Ajamee Pool / Male'

Underwater Category

1st Prize

Mohamed Shafraz Naeem
G. Rankoka Villa / Male'

2nd Prize

Mohamed Shafraz Naeem
G. Rankoka Villa / Male'

3rd Prize

Ibrahim Adeeb
Ufaa / K. Thulusdhoop

Watersports Category

1st Prize

Ahmed Rasheed
H. Maafilaage / Male'

2nd Prize

Ahmed Rasheed
H. Maafilaage / Male'

3rd Prize

Mohamed Masaaidh
Ma. Sponge ge / Male'

Culture Category

1st Prize

Mohamed (Muha)
M. Ajamee Pool / Male'

2nd Prize

Mohamed Azmeel
H. Snowdrop(4th flr) / Male'

3rd Prize

Shazeen Abdul Samad
H. Huvadhoo / Male'

Source: MTPB

CIMA expands operations to the Maldives

CIMA announced yesterday the accreditation of the first CIMA Learning Partner in the Maldives. This is a landmark achievement for CIMA in the region and a turning point in their expansion outside the primary market of Colombo.

The naming of Villa College as a CIMA Learning Listed College is a significant achievement for the institute and brings with it opportunities for CIMA to contribute to the growing skills requirement in the Maldives.

The Maldives is home to a population of 11,000 Cambridge O’ level students, of which 2,000 go onto take the London A’ level examinations.

The education available in the Maldives is however limited to primary and secondary education and thus students wishing to pursue higher education are required to travel abroad.

Despite this setback many Maldivian students pursue their higher education including professional qualifications, university degrees and college diplomas in Sri Lanka and neighbouring countries.

In accrediting Villa College, CIMA will now be directly servicing the demand for the Chartered Management Accounting qualification among businesses and students on the islands.

The launch of CIMA in the Maldives will also bring a multitude of benefits to the region as a whole.

The partnership with Villa College is an excellent facilitator for CIMA in Sri Lanka where the CIMA qualification has been well established for over 40 years.

CIMA tuition in the Maldives will further attract students to CIMA Learning Quality Partners and employers in Sri Lanka thus strengthening the talent pool available to the Sri Lankan business community.

The initiative also supports the aim of the Ministry of Education for the Republic of Maldives by widening opportunities for higher education and training, and endowing Maldivians with the necessary knowledge and skills to be productive, able and active participants both in the national and international arena.

2007 has witnessed CIMA Sri Lanka actively seeking involvement outside their main market of Colombo to support education in Sri Lanka and directly benefit the student population in smaller communities in aspects of professional development.

High quality tuition is critical to the successful delivery of the CIMA qualification. Sri Lanka has for some years provided some of the best CIMA tuition in the world for its students and is home to award winning lecturers with internationally acclaimed pass rates. CIMA lecturers in Sri Lanka will provide valuable support to Villa College to ensure the foundations of world class CIMA teaching are established in the Maldives.

Villa College was established in 2007 as part of the Villa Group of companies. Villa is one of the largest groups of companies in the Maldives and has established a reputation for excellence and sponsors hundreds of students annually to pursue higher education in overseas education institutes. Over the years however, it has become apparent that there is a requirement for the provision of higher education and training on the islands themselves. Recognizing this need Villa College was founded to provide opportunities for prospective students to study through a fully fledged tertiary education and training institute.

On a recent visit to the Maldives, Mr. Robert Jelly, CIMA’s Director of Education based in London, Ms. Tam Kam Peng, Head of CIMA Learning Partnerships and Mr. Bradley Emerson, CEO of CIMA Sri Lanka inspected the facilities available at Villa and made presentations to a number of enthusiastic students.

Mr. Robert Jelly commented that “Enabling the delivery of the CIMA qualification in the Maldives by harnessing the world class experience of CIMA Lecturers in Sri Lanka and the support of the CIMA Sri Lanka Division is an exciting new initiative for CIMA. Providing access for students, Government and employers in the Maldives to the premier and largest Management Accounting qualification in the world will enable that country to provide new talent and skills for the development of its economy.”

Source: Daily Mirror

Dollar's Demise Can Be Seen Even in the Maldives: William Pesek

Bargaining while buying some trinkets in the Maldivian capital, Male, recently, I heard most unexpected words: ``You can keep your dollars.''

This tiny nation of 1,200 islands has long accepted U.S. currency out of convenience for visitors and financial sobriety. The dollar tended to do better in global markets than the local monetary unit, the rufiyaa. That may be changing and it's a bad omen for the world's reserve currency.

``My dollars aren't as popular here as they've been in the past,'' says Moyez Mahfouz, 51, who has visited the Maldives from Bahrain with his family once or twice a year for a decade. ``More and more on this trip, I'm being asked for rufiyaa.''

Why does it matter what happens in the Maldives? Its $1 billion economy is worth 1/59th of Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates's wealth and 1/27th of Sri Lanka's output. While it's an amazingly beautiful place, the Maldives is a rounding error on the global economic pie chart. Yet it may be a microcosm of a tectonic shift in finance: the demise of the dollar.

These things start out slowly, and in recent months I have had similar experiences from Mexico to Vietnam. In markets, restaurants, taxis and tourist shops that long accepted dollars, many are opting for local currency. The reason: concerns the dollar plunge that analysts have predicted for years is afoot and that the U.S. is uninterested in halting it.

Transformational Event

There's also a nascent realization that something transformational may be happening in global markets. Some states that long pegged their currencies to the dollar are scrapping the policy -- like Kuwait -- while others are quietly considering it. A survey by HSBC Holdings Plc found that twice as many Gulf businesses see benefits from dropping currency pegs to the dollar as those that see negative consequences.

Following Kuwait's May 20 move to drop its dollar peg, Gulf states are under pressure to do the same. The catalyst isn't so much anger over the Bush administration's policies, but how the dollar's slump is raising the price of imported goods. Inflation has reached record levels in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman in the last 12 months.

President George W. Bush's handiwork doesn't help, of course. In December 2004, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad suggested Muslim countries should refuse to trade in dollars and use their economic influence to force a change in U.S. policies. The U.S. ``owes huge sums of money to the rest of the world,'' Mahathir said. ``If people do not keep giving money to the U.S., it will go bankrupt.''

`Rogue Nation'

For years now, Joseph Quinlan, chief market strategist at Bank of America Corp. in New York, has been warning that the U.S.'s image as a ``rogue nation'' is a key force behind the dollar's decline.

The subprime crisis doesn't help, and neither does the perception that U.S. officials -- who recently helped negotiate a bailout fund to calm credit markets -- are protecting reckless investors from losses.

``Bubbles are easier to inflate than to sustain,'' says Richard Duncan, a partner at Blackhorse Asset Management in Singapore, and author of the 2005 book ``The Dollar Crisis: Causes, Consequences, Cures.''

It also hasn't escaped Asians that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He supports a strong dollar while the U.S. stands to gain from its decline through more-competitive exports and repayment of international debts with cheaper dollars. That's the problem with beggar-thy- neighbor policies -- the neighbors realize what's going on.

Debased Dollar

Investors such as Jim Rogers, too. ``It's the official policy of the central bank and the U.S. to debase the currency,'' Rogers, a former partner of George Soros and chairman of Beeland Interests Inc., said in Amsterdam last week.

Not that the U.S. has enough currency reserves, $44 billion, to halt a dollar crash. The real stockpiles are in Asia. China has $1.4 trillion of reserves, followed by Japan with $923 billion, Taiwan with $263 billion, South Korea with $257 billion and India with $249 billion. Were Asians to dump dollars, the U.S.'s reserve-currency status would be in jeopardy.

The rise of sovereign wealth funds adds another wrinkle. There's much chatter in markets about whether these massive, politically connected funds will shift assets from dollars to euros or other currencies. Islamic finance also gives Gulf states an alternative to dollar-denominated markets.

View From Maldives

There are many arguments against dumping the dollar. The result of diversifying revenue for oil exporters and reserves held by central banks might be a dollar rout, says Larry Hatheway, a London-based analyst at UBS AG. The ensuing jump in U.S. risk premiums and the deflationary impact on the world economy could boomerang on OPEC and central banks via a collapse in oil prices and weaker exports.

With the euro coming into its own, the dollar looking wobbly and some nations miffed by U.S. policies, a slow and steady shift may nonetheless be under way.

Not that the Maldives can tip the balance. Yet the more nations, no matter how small, that begin eschewing the dollar, the bigger the challenges facing the U.S.

Source: Bloomberg

Kandooma - Maldives Launches Website

HPL Hotels & Resorts has announced that its newest property in the Maldives, Kandooma, has officially launched its new website on www.kandooma-maldives.com

In keeping in tune with the resort’s signature concept of using cool, clean lines with white washed timber amidst the great blue outdoors, the website is designed to be similarly clean-cut in fresh shades of blue and white. The functionality of the website is also such that it allows for ease of use and direct access to all web pages and a streamlined booking process.

Divided into ten easy-to-navigate sections, the intention is for the website to make the visitors’ online experience as informative and as effortless as possible. In addition, users will find a hassle-free booking engine conveniently located on every web page, which allows for a quick check on room rates and availability. Instant confirmation is also given for all online reservations.

Construction work on the resort is progressing according to schedule. The resort, owned and managed by HPL Hotels & Resorts, is the latest addition to the HPL group which has interests in 22 properties in eight countries. Due to open its doors in June 2008, the resort has 160 villas in four main categories of beach and garden villas, duplex villas, family villas and water villas.

Blessed with white sands, azure skies, lush tropical greenery and clear turquoise waters, Kandooma has created facilities and services that are intended to satisfy, engage, entertain, inform, educate and luxuriate … and www.kandooma-maldives.com is only a sneak preview into this new holiday experience!

Source: E Travel Black Board

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A brand new Maldives luxury Liveaboard to offer cruising experience with “Honors Touch”

Handy Cruise Maldives is a new brand luxury Liveaboard (safari boat) housing the facilities that would indulge you with choices such as the Spa, Sauna, Steam bath, Jacuzzi, new dive sites, surf breaks and coral gardens in the Maldives.

Handy Cruise expected to start its operations in December 2007 in Maldives, where it set the tours through waters of azure lagoons, coral gardens bustling with multi colored marine life, snow white sandy beaches circling lush green patches of islands, caressing cool breezes of the Indian Ocean, breath taking sun sets, moonlit silvery nights and the serenity as a whole that would re-awaken the mind and soul.

For the active and the adventurous travelers wishing to see the different holidaying experience in the Maldives, Handy Cruise will travel to some of the very famous dive sites in the Maldives, as well as the unfrequented and un-spoilt dive sites to be discovered on the quest through the islands in the atolls. Handy Cruise promises an unforgettable Maldivian Experience onboard Handy Cruise, from the beginning to the very end of the vacation holiday.

Handy Cruise is best recommend for those who love diving, surfing and relaxing in the Maldives and offers trips for charters and individuals.

Maldives is a tropical destination comprised of 1190 tiny coral islands, located in the Indian ocean with mixture of secluded serenity, thrilling water sports activities, soothing spas, relaxing white sandy beaches all wrapped in the luxurious comfort of modern amenities.

The Maldives is best known to most people as a dive destination. Spectacular dive sites within few fin kicks from quality accommodation and excellent service has placed Maldives among the best dive sites in the world.

Source: Open PR

A brand new Maldives luxury Liveaboard to offer cruising experience with “Honors Touch”

Handy Cruise Maldives is a new brand luxury Liveaboard (safari boat) housing the facilities that would indulge you with choices such as the Spa, Sauna, Steam bath, Jacuzzi, new dive sites, surf breaks and coral gardens in the Maldives.

Handy Cruise expected to start its operations in December 2007 in Maldives, where it set the tours through waters of azure lagoons, coral gardens bustling with multi colored marine life, snow white sandy beaches circling lush green patches of islands, caressing cool breezes of the Indian Ocean, breath taking sun sets, moonlit silvery nights and the serenity as a whole that would re-awaken the mind and soul.

For the active and the adventurous travelers wishing to see the different holidaying experience in the Maldives, Handy Cruise will travel to some of the very famous dive sites in the Maldives, as well as the unfrequented and un-spoilt dive sites to be discovered on the quest through the islands in the atolls. Handy Cruise promises an unforgettable Maldivian Experience onboard Handy Cruise, from the beginning to the very end of the vacation holiday.

Handy Cruise is best recommend for those who love diving, surfing and relaxing in the Maldives and offers trips for charters and individuals.

Maldives is a tropical destination comprised of 1190 tiny coral islands, located in the Indian ocean with mixture of secluded serenity, thrilling water sports activities, soothing spas, relaxing white sandy beaches all wrapped in the luxurious comfort of modern amenities.

The Maldives is best known to most people as a dive destination. Spectacular dive sites within few fin kicks from quality accommodation and excellent service has placed Maldives among the best dive sites in the world.

Source: Open PR

The longest-serving leader in Asia fights for a seventh term

The President of the Maldives is facing a mutiny, with the resignation of three key cabinet ministers in protest at his "autocratic" behaviour. One of them is preparing to stand against him in forthcoming elections.

The beautiful Indian Ocean islands, a luxury holiday destination for Britons and many other wealthy Westerners, has a less-publicised dark side with claims of repression, torture, censorship and, recently, terrorist bombings.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the longest-serving leader in Asia, deflected international criticism of his human rights record by agreeing to sweeping reforms, a new constitution and saying he would step down after 29 years in power.

The cabinet resignations came after the President, who is officially 60 but whose real age is said to be 76, changed his mind and said he would carry on in office for another five years.

The Justice minister, Hassan Saeed, the attorney general Mohammed Jameel and the Foreign minister Ahmed Shaheed, all in their late thirties and early forties, said other members of the government were likely to follow them by resigning before the election scheduled for next year.

The defection of the three ministers is a serious blow for Mr Gayoom as they have widespread contacts among politicians and the media in the West as well as neighbouring Sri Lanka and India. The President had brought them into the government proclaiming that this was concrete evidence that he was preparing to move forward and hand over power to a younger generation.

Mr Saeed has promised to stand against Mr Gayoom for the presidency and the three former ministers have established contact with other parties, including the main opposition, the Maldivian Democratic Party, with the aim of presenting an united front.

The three ministers are currently in London meeting parliamentarians and members of the small Maldivian community. They are due to meet Foreign Office officials today.

The Maldives was hit by a bomb attack last September which injured 12 tour-ists, including a British couple. The blast is thought to have been the work of a growing Islamist movement but President Gayoom also blamed reformists and pro-democracy activists for creating "instability".

Mr Saeed said yesterday: "The fact is it is in the repressive nature of this government that they are trying to use the attack to blame the pro-democratic forces. I know for a fact that the government was warned about the dangers of rising Islamic fundamentalism and we put together an action plan to combat it. This was presented to the President seven months before the attack and they failed to act on it."

The former ministers claimed they had been subjected to intimidation and threats since they announced their resignation. Mr Saeed said: "Our offices were broken into and documents removed. Our houses have had paint thrown at them and we have received threats."

There are said to be widespread feelings in the Maldives that the "Islamist" attacks were not as straightforward as the government had painted them. Critics claim that the security service may have had a part in organising the bombings.

Source: Independent Uk

Maldives goes down nine step in fifa world ranking

Full Fifa world rankings

Fifa world rankings (with rise or fall in position in parentheses)

1 Argentina (+1)

2 Brazil (+1)

3 Italy (-2)

4 France (+2)

5 Germany (-1)

6 Spain (+1)

7 Netherlands (-2)

8 Portugal (-)

9 Czech Republic (+2)

10 Croatia (-)

11 England (-2)

12 Romania (-)

13 Scotland (+1)

14 Greece (+1)

15 Mexico (-2)

16 Russia (+10)

17 Uruguay (+2)

18 USA (-)

19 Nigeria (+4)

20 Poland (-4)

21 Norway (+8)

22 Ukraine (-5)

23 Cameroon (+2)

24 Sweden (-4)

25 Colombia (-1)

26 Paraguay (+5)

27 Serbia (-5)

28 Turkey (-7)

29 Denmark (-1)

30 Japan (+4)

31 Guinea (-1)

32 Republic of Ireland (-)

32 Côte d'Ivoire (-5)

34 Bulgaria (+1)

34 Senegal (+6)

36 Northern Ireland (-)

37 Israel (-4)

38 Iran (+2)

39 Egypt (+4)

40 Mali (+9)

41 Switzerland (+1)

42 Morocco (-4)

43 Tunisia (-6)

44 Finland (0)

45 Chile (+2)

46 Korea Republic (+4)

47 Ghana (-2)

48 Hungary (7)

48 Bosnia-Herzegovina (-9)

50 Slovakia (-4)

51 Canada (+3)

52 Saudi Arabia (-1)

52 Australia (-4)

54 Belgium (+6)

55 Honduras (+4)

56 Venezuela (+2)

57 Cyprus (+11)

58 Wales (-5)

59 Ecuador (-2)

60 Zambia (+1)

61 Peru (-9)

61 Moldova (+20)

63 Uzbekistan (-1)

64 Cuba (+7)

65 Panama (+1)

66 Costa Rica (-10)

67 Togo (-4)

68 Haiti (+15)

69 Iraq (-4)

70 Albania (+8)

71 Georgia (+33)

72 Equatorial Guinea (-)

73 Angola (-4)

73 St. Vincent and the Grenadines (+24)

75 FYR Macedonia (-8)

76 Slovenia (-1)

77 Mozambique (-3)

78 Trinidad and Tobago (-14)

79 Congo DR (-2)

79 Iceland (+1)

81 Oman (-2)

82 Armenia (+5)

83 South Africa (-10)

84 Qatar (+7)

84 Benin (-2)

86 Latvia (+8)

87 Zimbabwe (+6)

88 Austria (-3)

89 Algeria (-4)

90 Lithuania (-6)

91 China PR (-2)

92 Guyana (+11)

93 Barbados (+16)

94 Belarus (-24)

95 Uganda (+5)

96 Bahrain (+2)

97 United Arab Emirates (+5)

97 Kenya (+18)

99 Congo (+2)

100 Guatemala (-12)

101 Botswana (-6)

101 Namibia (+7)

103 Jamaica (-7)

104 Libya (-12)

105 Sudan (+7)

106 Tanzania (-)

107 Bolivia (-17)

108 Ethiopia (+5)

109 Gabon (+1)

110 Burkina Faso (-4)

111 Jordan (-12)

112 Gambia (+2)

112 Cape Verde Islands (-36)

114 Thailand (+3)

115 Kuwait (-10)

116 Azerbaijan (-1)

117 Burundi (-7)

118 Rwanda (-)

119 Liechtenstein (+23)

120 Solomon Islands (1)

120 New Caledonia (+4)

122 Kazakhstan (-2)

123 Eritrea (+5)

124 Mauritania (+16)

125 Indonesia (+1)

126 Syria (-3)

127 Fiji (-8)

128 New Zealand (+28)

129 Korea DPR (+2)

130 Estonia (-3)

131 Vanuatu (+2)

132 Malawi (-11)

133 Kyrgyzstan (+16)

134 Bermuda (+1)

135 Hong Kong (-1)

136 Yemen (+5)

137 Malta (-13)

138 Lebanon (+6)

139 Vietnam (-9)

140 Singapore (-2)

141 El Salvador (-4)

142 Chad (-6)

143 Liberia (-14)

144 Suriname (-1)

145 India (-)

145 Antigua and Barbuda (-14)

147 Myanmar (+1)

148 Dominican Republic (-9)

149 Samoa (-2)

150 Luxembourg (+26)

151 Swaziland (-2)

152 Tajikistan (-1)

153 Mauritius (+2)

154 Lesotho (-1)

155 Sierra Leone (+17)

156 St. Kitts and Nevis (-10)

157 Niger (-5)

158 Madagascar (+6)

158 Turkmenistan (+16)

160 Seychelles (-6)

161 Nicaragua (-3)

162 Tahiti (-1)

163 Chinese Taipei (-4)

163 St. Lucia (-)

165 Grenada (-3)

166 Malaysia (-7)

167 Palestine (-10)

168 Tonga (-1)

169 Sri Lanka (-3)

170 Bahamas (-2)

171 Montenegro (+15)

172 Bangladesh (+3)

173 Andorra (-4)

174 Maldives (-9)

175 Laos (-5)

175 Philippines (-5)

177 Brunei Darussalam (-5)

178 Mongolia (-2)

179 Cambodia (-1)

180 British Virgin Islands (-1)

181 Pakistan (-2)

181 Turks and Caicos Islands (-)

183 Papua New Guinea (-1)

183 Netherlands Antilles (-1)

185 Comoros (-1)

186 Nepal (-1)

187 Dominica (-1)

188 Central African Republic 20 0 0

188 Cayman Islands 20 0 0

190 Macau (-2)

190 Afghanistan (+1)

190 Guinea-Bissau (+1)

193 Somalia (+1)

194 Faroe Islands (-1)

195 Puerto Rico (-)

196 San Marino (-)

197 Bhutan (-)

197 Anguilla (-)

199 Cook Islands (-)

200 Djibouti (-)

200 American Samoa (-)

200 Timor-Leste (-)

200 Guam (-)

200 Belize (-)

200 São Tomé e Príncipe (-)

200 Aruba (-)

200 US Virgin Islands (-)

200 Montserrat (-)

Soaring oil prices threatening poor: UNDP report

Soaring oil prices are threatening the prospects of millions of the region's poor and forcing them further into poverty, says a report issued Thursday from Bangkok by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

As oil prices climb, the impact on the poor may presage worse to come, warns the publication �Overcoming Vulnerability to Rising Prices: Options for Asia and the Pacific.'

�Oil prices have tripled over the past four years. Today the price is approaching US $ 90 a barrel. This has meant that the Asia and Pacific region has had to pay an additional bill almost US $ 400 billion for imports compared to the amount spent in 2003. This is 20 times the annual aid flow to the region," said Hafiz Pasha, UNDP Regional Director for Asia and Pacific, at the launch of the report in Bangkok.

�It has been a real issue for an otherwise fast-growing region to absorb the staggeringly large bill," a UNDP press release quoted Pasha as saying.

An alternative perspective was presented by Piyasvasti Amranand, Minister for Energy of the Royal Thai Government at the launch. �This time around the price of oil has gone up so much that we are seeing renewable technologies developing and materialising. These new technologies will be beneficial to everyone," he said.

Interviews conducted for the report among poor rural and urban households in China, India, Indonesia and Lao PDR reveal that rising oil prices are starting to put a brake on human development and in some cases, shifting it into reverse. Between 2002-2005, the household interviewed suffered dramatic price increases- paying on average 74 per cent more for their energy needs. This included 171 per cent more for cooking fuels; 120 per cent more for transportation, 87 per cent more for electricity, and 55 per cent more for lighting fuels.

This has provoked huge public outcries- and incredible hardships for the poor � who are being literally, pushed into the dark. Millions are being forced to �climb down the energy ladder," reverting to traditional fuels that are unhealthy and inefficient, says the report. The poor are cutting back even on bare essentials of travel and services which are increasingly beyond their reach.

The Oil Price Vulnerability Index (OPVI) developed in the report ranks countries in terms of their economic strength and performance, and the extent to which the growth depends upon imported oil. The OPVI is a composite index, which brings together 18 indicators which tracks the level of dependence of economies to imported oil, and thereby, their vulnerability to fluctuations in global oil prices.

The countries that are ranked most vulnerable are Maldives, Cambodia and Sri Lanka, whose low economic strength, lower economic performance and high oil dependence are immediately evident, the press release has stated.

Countries that seemingly appear less vulnerable are also not immune to the effects of these oil hikes: Malaysia and Thailand, for example, their rapidly growing oil consumption, could become more vulnerable in the future. China and India, on the other hand, at present do not seem to be as immediately impacted, since their reliance is greater on other energy sources like coal, and their stronger performing economies and larger reserves enable them to ride through this period.

From the point of view of countries that are vulnerable to the oil price fluctuations, particularly the LDCs, the report proposes a new mechanism that will enable countries to cope with sudden downturns � the Asia-Pacific Compensatory Oil Finance Facility, AP-COIL will help countries cope with their prolonged liquidity problems.

Source: The Rising Napal

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

President Nathan in Maldives for state visit

President S R Nathan is in Maldives on a four-day state visit, the first by a Singaporean Head of State.

President Nathan is accompanied by Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan, senior government officials and a 14-member business delegation.

Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom welcomed Mr Nathan and the Singapore entourage at a formal ceremony.

President Nathan's visit is significant as it comes just nine months after President Gayoom's state visit to Singapore.

Mr Nathan's visit from 23-26 October is timely as he will officiate at the inauguration of an integrated primary and secondary school on Hulhumale Island.

The project is a symbol of Singapore's reconstruction assistance package for the Maldives following the December 2004 tsunami.

Among the key themes to be discussed during Mr Nathan's visit are energy, sustainable development and climate change.

Tourism, a key driver of the Maldives economy of just under a billion US dollars, is also expected to figure prominently during the meetings

Source: CNA

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Maldives: building a community in the middle of the ocean

In the middle of the Indian Ocean, far away from highways that could transport building and construction materials for 600 houses and all the infrastructure that goes with it… the Red Cross is taking on the challenge of redeveloping a community from scratch.

Janine Gray from Australian Red Cross takes a look at the progress 14 months after construction began.

It's a muggy 31 degrees in the Maldives and time for lunch. We are invited by Solih, the island chief of Kandholhudhoo to join him for an impressive spread of tuna steak, reef fish, potato curry, roti, another type of tuna curry and coca cola. Despite the uncomfortable heat, everyone is hungry so the line is long at the buffet table. The tuna steak is typically overcooked but the reef fish is deserving of seconds.

Solih was island chief of Kandholhudhoo for six years before it was completely destroyed by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. Three people lost their lives and everyone had to abandon their densely populated homes to seek temporary shelter on five neighbouring islands in the Raa Atoll. That was three years ago, and the citizens from Kandholhudhoo are still living in IDP camps while they wait for their new homes to be built on Dhuvafaaru.

At times it feels like a long wait, especially in the IDP camps which are hot, cramped and uncomfortable. But as Michael Wardick of the Federation explains, the logistical challenges of building a community in the middle of the ocean are immense. 'Absolutely everything has to be imported and run through customs in Male before being transported by dhoni (boat) to Dhuvafaaru. The blocks for the housing foundations, the cement, sand, steel, all the building equipment, the dump trucks, fork lifts, the light fixtures… all the food for the workers, even the workers themselves have to be imported and the consultants too,' he adds with a laugh. It's a logistical challenge to say the least and from an engineering perspective it's 'pretty amazing.'

Pretty amazing indeed when you consider just what's involved in building 600 houses, four schools, a community centre, administrative complex, multipurpose hall, sports ground and a hospital. The 300 or so workers who 'haven't seen their wives for the last year' are from all parts of the Southern Hemisphere. They look tired, hot and grubby, but determined to get the job finished.

For the beneficiaries who get monthly tours of Dhuvafaaru to see the progress on their new island to be, the reactions are overwhelmingly positive. Grandma Ameena, as she likes to be called, recently visited Dhuvafaaru for the first time and was in awe of what she saw. 'I came here to see for myself what the others have been talking about. I wanted to see with my own eyes, and now I am speechless. I am in awe. By god's will I will bring my husband here one day to show him this place.'

It's a strange concept to get one's head around, but for the Maldivian people it's quite common to move to other islands. Many of the islands are barely above sea level and prone to being washed away – literally.

Kandholhudhoo was a very small overpopulated island, so there were already plans to move before the tsunami, says Solih. It had a population of 3,600 with the majority of the population under the age of 20. The island was very low to the sea, with an average elevation of 1.2 metres.

The Kandholhudhoo community was doing relatively well economically due to the healthy fishing industry off its shores. In fact, explains Solih, the fishermen continue to fish from their former island home. 'It is very rich for fishing which is why it was a popular community. They fish from Saturday to Thursday and then come back to their families for a few days before repeating the cycle. In a good week they could earn 3000 rufiyaa (around 265 US$ or 188 Euros or 315 Swiss Francs).'

It is likely they will continue that pattern once they move to Dhuvafaaru, says Solih. 'This is a good place. There are so many advantages to this island compared to our previous island. This one is big and there are opportunities to extend this island by reclaiming.'

Dhuvaafaru was chosen as the island for redevelopment because it's one of the 'safer' islands – at least it's on higher ground, says Michael. 'I think in time, due to the size of the population and the facilities that will be here it may become the Atoll capital.'

In addition to the usual infrastructure plans such as a sewage system and waste management centre, there are also plans to provide a renewable energy system for Dhuvaafaru. The Maldives were the first country to sign the Kyoto Protocol and ratify it in 1998. In a report put out by the Maldivian Government, the main goal of the national energy policy was to 'enhance national energy security by promoting indigenously available renewable sources of energy.'

The community expressed overwhelming support for wind and solar technology to be introduced on Dhuvaafaru so as to supplement the fossil fuel driven power system.

It is expected that the Kandholhudhoo community will be able to move to Dhuvaafaru in 2008.

In the meantime, Grandma Ameena will be telling her people to be patient. 'Everyone knows me in the village because I have a big mouth. I'll be talking about this for weeks. I think I can justify myself a bit more, now that I know I'm right. I am so happy I cannot say anything more.'

Source: Relief Web

Scientists Protect Corals from Warming Oceans

Global warming is a matter of life and death for the world's coral reefs. Even a small rise in ocean temperature can kill the tiny animals whose skeletons form the reefs.

That is a grim prospect for The Maldives — a nation of 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean. Coral supports the country's two main industries: tourism and fishing. A Maldivian scientist, Abdul Azeez Abdul Hakeem, is on a mission to help corals survive climate change.

Azeez is the director of conservation for an eco-friendly resort called the Banyan Tree Maldives. The resort is located on the tiny island of Vabbinfaru. It's a five-star destination, popular with newlyweds and divers. There's an elegant spa, intimate cabanas nestled among the palm trees, and white sand beaches. But there's also a world-class marine laboratory, overseen by Azeez.

Coral Gardens

Azeez and his staff spend much of their time studying and maintaining coral. That is partly because the reefs themselves are beautiful — and an important attraction for the resort. But more importantly, the reefs provide a home for the sort of exotic fish that divers travel halfway around world to see.

"These are coral gardens," Azeez says, pointing to a burst of color beneath the water. "We have about ten of them around the island, in the lagoon."

Azeez spent 20 years running the Maldives' agricultural programs before coming to Banyan Tree. Now he takes every opportunity to pull a diving mask over his silver hair and glide through his underwater gardens.

Standing on the jetty, Azeez watches several large tuna hunt smaller prey. He does not care much for luminous parrot fish.

"They munch on corals," Azeez says. "I hate them."

Azeez protects his corals the way a parent protects a child.

"They are the children, you know," Azaaz says. "If they die, we die. It is simple as that. If the reef dies then we are gone. It is because the reef is here that we are alive. So we have to do everything we can to protect the reef."

The Vulnerability of Coral

Azeez didn't use to worry about his corals so much. But in 1998 when a strong El Nino arrived and made a warm ocean dangerously hot, he learned just how vulnerable they are.

"It rose to about 33 degrees Celsius," Azeez says. "Normally it's about 27, 28 degrees Celsius, so 33 was boiling hell, and about 80 to 90 percent of the corals in The Maldives died. I never believed that an entire region could be wiped out. No one believed that this could happen until it hit us. Then only I also realized yes we are in danger because of global warming and this can happen again and again."

So Azeez started looking for ways to protect the coral. He and his staff began doing experiments to see which varieties could tolerate or adapt to extreme heat.

And Azeez took a more radical step.

He knew that corals on an artificial reef nearby had survived the 1998 El Nino. The reef was an experimental design that used electricity. No one knew how it had protected the coral from extreme heat. But Azeez knew he wanted a similar reef for Vabbinfaru.

Electric Reef Proves Hardy

The Banyan Tree staff built the electric reef from steel bars and wired it to a power source on the beach. The small current causes minerals from ocean water to build up on the steel, forming a thick limestone crust that is perfect for coral.

The electric reef is on the far side of the island in about 15 feet of water.

Rob Tomasetti, who manages the marine lab, says the reef is one of the best places to go snorkeling.

From a distance the reef looks like underwater topiary — corals of every color growing in the unmistakable shape of a lotus flower 35 feet across. Swim down to one of the lotus petals and one can see the delicate structure and color of individual corals.

Back on shore, Azeez lists some of the varieties living on the Lotus reef.

"Finger corals, Hard corals, Massive corals," Azeez says. "We have tried to plant as many species as we can."

The reef also has plenty of sharks, grouper, butterfly fish, and clownfish. They're all there because coral reefs attract both predators and prey.

Azeez sees the electric reef as a kind of greenhouse for corals. He's counting on it to keep a critical mass alive when the next El Nino strikes.

"You can take pieces from the corals on this structure to that one and make your own garden again," Azeez says.

Azeez used a similar technique to help his gardens recover from the devastating El Nino in 1998. Divers transplanted tiny bits of coral that were still alive to reefs that had died.

Reviving the Coral Forests

The corals are coming back, but it's a long process. So Tomasetti gets help maintaining the reefs from guests at the resort.

Guests gather to take part in the monthly reef cleaning. Led by staff divers, they swim around the island, picking up garbage and removing predators.

"This is a crown-of-thorns starfish," Tomasetti says.

He holds up a spiny purple creature. It's very poisonous and devours coral.

The cleaning team heads into the water and before long a guest finds a crown-of-thorns. Azeez swims over and lifts it from the water with a steel hook.

"That's our enemy," Azeez says.

Then he adds that it's only the most immediate enemy. The real threat, he says, is global warming.


Source: NPR

Maldives fears foreign terror cells as religious tensions rise

The Maldives has begun a crackdown on Islamic militant groups in an effort to prevent international terror networks from setting up cells here, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom told AFP.

The president said a small minority of the Indian Ocean archipelago's 330,000 Sunni Muslims had begun preaching an extremist form of Islam that could affect the peaceful image of the popular tourist destination.

A bomb attack targeting foreign tourists here last month followed by violent clashes with police and security forces had alerted the country to the "very serious threat of extremism," he said in an interview at his seafront office at the weekend.

"Maldivians are influenced by what is happening in the world. They go to Pakistan, study in madrassas and come back with extreme religious ideas," said Gayoom, who is an Islamic scholar from Egypt's Cairo University.

Asked whether foreign groups could be funding Maldivian extremists, Gayoom said: "It is very plausible... We have taken enough measures to deal with the problem. We take it very seriously."

He said there was evidence that extremists may be receiving funding from abroad and the unrest could allow international terror groups to capitalise and set up cells in the country unless authorities applied pressure.

Maldivian police said there was no hard evidence of Al-Qaeda operating here, but that the possibility could not be discounted.

Gayoom, 69, said the Maldives was sharing intelligence with neighbouring India and Sri Lanka as well as Britain and the United States to tackle Islamic militants.

More than 50 people, all Maldivians, are already in custody, according to officials.

The president said Islamic extremism had begun to affect the peaceful coral islands, better known as an up-market destination for honeymooners and well-heeled tourists than a hotbed of militancy.

"They want to lead a very primitive life. They want women to cover their faces," Gayoom said, referring to those already in custody.

"It is not good for the image of the country. We have been a liberal country for centuries."

Last week, the president ordered a ban on bearded mullahs, or clerics, entering his country unless invited by the authorities.

On Sunday he went a step further, announcing plans to bar Maldivians from travelling to extremist religious schools in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia that advocate Taliban-style practices.

"Some of these extremist people have said that it is against Islam to sing," Gayoom said. "This is not proper religious teaching. Uneducated people are falling for it."

On Sunday, he also ordered an investigation into whether religious schools here were sticking to official texts.

Gayoom came to power in 1978 and under his rule the Maldives, a nation of 1,191 tiny coral islands scattered some 850 kilometres (550 miles) across the equator, has become South Asia's most prosperous economy.

He is worried that any sign of trouble could tarnish the peaceful image of the country, where some resorts charge as much as 14,500 dollars a night for the super-rich to stay at exclusive resorts on small, palm-fringed islands.

"We want to be known as very peaceful country with political and social stability. We are determined to preserve that image," he said.

He said the September 29 bombing that wounded 12 foreign nationals had led to cancellations of holidays here, but the industry had since recovered.

Resorts are reporting near full occupancy.

Reforms unveiled by Gayoom two years ago to allow political parties to function for the first time in living memory may have also led to open defiance of authority, according to officials here.

Gayoom said he hoped to complete the democratic reforms within a few months and contest elections due within a year "to complete the work I started."

Source: AFP

Elephant House Ice Cream clinches market leadership in the Maldives

Creating yet another milestone in Sri Lanka’s ice cream industry, Ceylon Cold Stores, the makers of the popular ‘Elephant House Ice Cream,’ introduced its latest variant ‘Vanilla Lite’, to consumers in the Maldives thus further consolidating its market leadership position in the island nation.

Vice President JKH and Head of Frozen Confectionary of JHK Consumer Foods Sector Neil Samarasinghe said that Elephant House ice creams expanded its regional presence by entering the Maldives market in 2002. This was in keeping with the company’s vision of being a regional player in its sphere of business activity. “Today five years later, it enjoys the enviable top slot as market leader in the Maldives with over 50% share, amid competition from various international brands”, he added.

With its say-it-all tag line, “Guiltless Pleasure”, Vanilla Lite becomes the first such sugar-free, low-calorie ice cream of its kind to cater to a health conscious and rapidly expanding consumer base in the Maldives. It is geared to revolutionize the local market there by being a ‘must have’ dessert for all Maldivians who seek products of this nature. This also follows international trends with a growing consumer demand for low fat diet ice creams.

Samarasinghe went on to say that the Maldives with its fast developing economy and the sophistication of consumer tastes acquired through exposure from the growing tourism industry has been a fascinating yet, a tough competitive market to play. “There are loads of internationally renowned brands of ice cream and a variety of flavours available in Male. Our consistent quality and product innovations being on par with international standards have enabled Elephant House to position its products well above its global counterparts”.

Export Manager JKH Consumer Foods Sector Ranjith Galagoda said, “Our aim is also to drive our business to continuously retain the category leadership as well as strengthen the Maldivian consumer loyalty together with those of the thousands of tourists in the country who form a substantial portion of our consumer base”.

The distribution of Elephant House Ice Creams in Male is handled by Lily International, a well known establishment engaged in the trading, shipping and tourism businesses. It also represents a host of international brands in Male and possesses state-of-the-art storage and refrigerated transport systems. The success of Elephant House Ice Creams in Male has also been due to the fine blend of committed support and sound distributorship of Lily International and the marketing expertise of Ceylon Cold Stores.

Source: Asian Tribune

Maldives tourism under threat

MALE - A rise in Islamic militancy poses an unprecedented threat to the Maldives’ status as South Asia’s most upmarket holiday destination, but the government is determined to beat the extremists.

The first concrete sign of trouble in the archipelago traditionally seen as the holiday-maker’s paradise came last month, when 12 foreign tourists including a honeymooning British couple were wounded in a bomb attack.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, an Islamic scholar, responded quickly, ordering a major crackdown in the moderate Sunni Muslim nation of 330,000.

While well-heeled tourists are welcome, Gayoom has made it clear Muslim clerics eager to bring Taliban-style extremism to the turquoise blue lagoons and secluded tiny coral islands are not.

Gayoom decreed foreign clerics should not be allowed entry without special permission, barred women from covering themselves from head to toe, and ordered that educational qualifications from foreign madrassas, or Islamic seminaries, will not be recognised.

Former education minister Mohamed Zahir Hussain said a minority of people believed that tourism was against Islam and were keen to disrupt the mainstay of the economy.

Extremist elements oppose revenues from tourism, including the sale of liquor, which is prohibited by Islam.

“I am sure we can manage,” Hussain said. “People are shocked, but we can deal with the problem because of the geography of the Maldives."

Only 200 of the 1,192 islands are inhabited, and tourist resorts are kept separate, with foreigners not allowed to spend the night on any inhabited island except the capital Male.

Maldivians are employed in resorts, but cannot work as bar tenders.

Tourism Minister Mahamood Shougee said he believed extremism would simply fizzle out.

“There is no popular support for them and the extremists had reached the maximum level they could,” Shougee told AFP, adding the problem could also be tackled without undermining growth in tourism, the mainstay of the islands’ economy.

The Maldives hopes to welcome 650,000 holiday-makers this year, around 10% up on 2006, he said, adding that the industry earned the country about 200 to 300 million dollars annually.

However, the September 29 bombing at the Sultan Park in Male, a popular stop for tourists visiting this highly congested, one-square-mile capital, has tarnished the country’s image as a peaceful destination.

Former attorney general Hassan Saeed warned the problem could escalate unless the government took immediate action to address the underlying economic and social problems.

“If the situation is left unattended, there will be more serious trouble,” Saeed said. “It can be stopped. The good thing is that Maldivians are traditionally moderate."

Earlier this month, the government raided the epicentre of radical extremism on an island some 100 kilometres south of Male and detained over 50 people who clashed with police and security forces.

Saeed said Maldivian extremists may be inspired by events in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the troubles in the atoll nation were essentially due to underlying domestic issues.

“I believe it is home grown,” said Saeed, who quit as attorney general in August saying the government was not taking adequate measures to deal with the problem.

Asian diplomats believe the government may even be trying to play up religious extremism to allow it to crack down on dissent in a country that recognised political parties only two years ago.

Source: AFP

Sunday, October 21, 2007

SAFF football championship put off to May 2008

New Delhi, Oct 20 - The South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship, scheduled to be held in December this year, has been postponed to May 2008 following a decision taken by the SAFF executive committee which met in Colombo last week.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) had requested for the postponement as the 2010 World Cup qualifiers as well as the professional and national football leagues in India would clash with the SAFF football event.

The eight-team event for the South Asian countries was scheduled to be hosted jointly by Maldives and Sri Lanka. The two countries will continue to be the hosts. The draw for the event will now be held in Maldives on Feb 26, 2008.

The executive committee has also cleared one under-16 tournament for SAFF member countries in India and one under-16 girls event in Sri Lanka.

The meeting was chaired by SAFF president Ganesh Thapa, with representatives from Bangladesh, Maldives, Pakistan, India, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka present.

Source: Earth Time

Ukulhas on verge of becoming another extremist den

North Ari atoll, October 20, 2007 (Haveeru News Service) - After landing on Ukulhas island in North Ari atoll, one of Maldives\' top tourism zones, Haveeru Daily reporters found that like neighboring Himandhoo, this island may be on the verge of becoming another den for Islamic extremists.

As we came on to the island, we passed a woman and asked her where the island\'s mosque was.

\"There is no mosque,\" she replied. \"We have only one mosque built by the government but that has been closed because we found out that the mosque was constructed on top of a graveyard.”

The mosque called Masjid Al-Thaqwa has been closed down for almost three years now. Ever since the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs shut down the mosque on 3 November 2005, the issue has been hotly contested among the 700 residents in this island. [Read more on haveeru online]

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Maldives Participates in TTG INCONTRI 2007

The Maldives Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) and representatives from tourism related companies in Maldives participated in TTG Trade Fair 2007. TTG Incontri which is held in Rimini from 12 to 14 October is one of the annual key travel trade fair in Italy.

TTG 2007 attracted 31,807 visitors, which is an increase of 7% compare to TTG 2006. One thousand executives representing 2300 companies including 550 international companies took part in the fair. Eight tourism related companies from the Maldives participated in the fair together with MTPB.

Interviews were given to the main Italian travel trade magazines, which include: L'Agenzia di Viaggi, Guida Viaggi, TTG, Travel Quotidiano, Il Giornale del Turismo. During the fair general information on Maldives and specific product information by the respective co – exhibitors were disseminated.

During the fair the Director General of ASTOI (Associazione Tour Operator Italiani) Mr. Alberto Corti visited the Maldives stand. He assured the support of ASTOI in promoting Maldives. Dr. Abdulla Mausoom briefed Mr. Alberto on the tourism developments in Maldives.

Italy is the leading generating market for Maldives. During the first eight month of 2007 Maldives welcomed 84,381 Italian visitors. This represents 18% of the total arrivals to Maldives. A total of 118,929 visitors from Italy visited Maldives last year.

Source: MTPB

"Shui" at The Beach House at Manafaru Maldives

You are cordially invited to embark on a journey……

A journey that will touch every sense of your being, will warm, soothe and balance the mind, and provide a calming sanctuary, far away from your everyday hectic life.

‘Shui’, the new oasis of pure indulgence to be managed by ‘Sun Spa Resorts Pvt. Ltd.’ – is due to open shortly at ‘The Beach House at Manafaru Maldives’. ‘Shui’ is South-East Asian for ‘water’ or ‘running water’, embodying our philosophy which is centred on the eternal cycle of water that is all around us – the essence of life itself and the element that links the human body with the natural world.

‘Sun Spa Resorts Pvt. Ltd.’ is a spa management company incorporated in the Maldives with the primary aim of developing and managing spa and wellness facilities. The company’s first
spa was opened in December 2005 at Olhuveli Beach & Spa Resort and the second at Vilu Reef Beach & Spa Resort in February 2006.

Download Full Press Release

Source: MTPB

Sun Spa Resorts will introduce its new brand "Shui" at this years Spa Show UK

Sun Spa Resorts Pvt Ltd is proud to announce that it will exhibit at this year's Spa Show in London from November 2 until November 4.

We will take this opportunity to introduce our new luxury brand "Shui" to the UK market. Many of our highly valued clients come from the UK to spend their vacation on one of the paradisiacal Maldivian Island Resorts.

Download Full Press Release

Source: MTPB

Maldives militant move condemned

A Maldives opposition group has strongly condemned moves announced earlier this week by the president to curb Islamic militancy in the country.

A spokesman for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said the move was would "exacerbate extremism". They argue that innocent people are being affected by the crackdown. President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said that measures to combat Islamic extremism were necessary to protect the country's lucrative tourism industry.

Special permission

Last month the country was hit by a bomb attack in a park near the main mosque in the capital, Male. Two Britons, two Japanese and eight Chinese tourists were hurt by the bomb - reported to have been homemade.

In an order made on Tuesday, President Gayoom said extremist elements should not be allowed to operate in the country, and that foreign clerics would not be able to enter the country without special permission.

In a wide ranging decree, the president ordered:

  • A new dress code which outlaws women from being covered from head-to-toe
  • Moderate Islamic views to be promoted in schools and colleges
  • Action against anyone suspected of being a religious extremist
  • Research into why some Muslims have become more radical
  • A new law that bans words or actions likely to encourage extremism

  • A new dress code which outlaws women from being covered from head-to-toeModerate Islamic views to be promoted in schools and collegesAction against anyone suspected of being a religious extremistResearch into why some Muslims have become more radical

Ahmad Moosa, a spokesman for the MDP in London, accused the president of "using a sledgehammer to crack a nut".

In an interview with the BBC, he said that the president himself must bear some responsibility for the rise of militant Islam in the islands.

"As early as 1980 he was inviting radicals from abroad to visit our country in addition to setting up Islamic schools. He has only himself to blame."

Correspondents say that September's bombing has unsettled the Maldives, a nation of over 1,000 islands scattered across some 850k (550 miles) off the southern coast of India.

Officials say that President Gayoom is eager to stem militant violence, which many fear could detract from the country's position as a top destination for tourists.

Police arrested nearly 50 people last week on a remote island in connection with the Male blast.

Those detained were all Maldivians belonging to an Islamic militant group, according to a government spokesman.

Source: BBC World

Friday, October 19, 2007

Maldives cracks down on extremism

The Maldives Wednesday unveiled tough measures to combat extremism and protect its vital luxury tourism industry after an unprecedented bombing wounded British, Japanese and Chinese holiday makers.

An order from President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said fundamentalists should not be allowed to conduct religious services and that foreign clerics should not be able to enter the country without special permission.

Ban on women’s covering: The decree, which also outlaws head-to-toe covering for women, comes in the wake of a bombing on September 29 which wounded two Britons, two Japanese and eight Chinese tourists visiting a park in the island capital of Male.

Officials said Gayoom’s order underlined a desire to stem fundamentalism that could undermine the tiny atoll nation’s status as one of the world’s top destinations for well-heeled tourists. “The president addressed letters to the ministries of education and higher education and the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs outlining the measures to curb religious extremism,” the government said in a statement.

Under the tough new measures, the government will also not recognise educational qualifications obtained from madrassas, or Islamic seminaries. afp

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Vista Co & Travel Services adds a new Luxury Safari Boat to its ‘Island Safari’ fleet

Given the huge success of Island Safari I – one of the very few Deluxe Safari Boats operating within the Maldives, Vista Co & Travel Services have launched their second Luxury Safari Boat – Island Safari II (Royal).

Island Safari I operates on a fixed itinerary (Sunday to Sunday) and the boat has now become extremely popular for its consistent delivery of service, time keeping and for the overall quality of the product.

Vista Company management strongly believes in ensuring that the Island Safari fleet of Luxury Safari boats, always maintain its standards vis a vis its personnel, quality of food and other services onboard, along with the quality of dive equipments used.

Island Safari II (Royal) has a total 10 air-conditioned, spacious and beautifully designed cabins with en-suit attached toilets, hot and fresh water shower, two sun decks, bar and restaurant , a boutique shop, television, video/cd facilities and a library with a wide collections of books, international direct dialing facility. A fully equipped dive center with PADI International Certified Dive instructor and Dive master. All the necessary equipments can be rented.

This luxury safari will follow a Saturday to Saturday schedule and will usually cover the Male` and Ari Atoll. If an operation is chartered, the itinerary can be made flexible as per customer requirements.

Additionally, Island Safari dive fleet has some of the finest and knowledgeable diving instructors and captain onboard, whereby the customers stand to enjoy this unique and wonderful experience of exploring the islands of Maldives!

Source: MTPB

Friday, October 12, 2007

C4 Watermen spread stand up paddle skills in Maldives

On a recent boat trip to a secluded corner of the Maldives world-renowned watermen Brian Keaulana and Todd Bradley teamed up with Tropicsurf ‘s Ross Phillips to experiment with the latest developments in ocean technology. Their goal was to brainstorm future plans for a series of waterman courses in Australia in 2008.

The Waterman Experience Weeks will be the very first of their kind open to the public and will commence early next year in Noosa, with the Maldives and Hawaii on the itinerary for late 2008. Designed for the regular surfer, the courses will focus on developing waterman skills and increasing overall ocean confidence so participants will not just be able to ride a wave, but really understand it.

The program will be action packed with stand up paddle, tow-in, jet ski rescue, hydrofoil, underwater relaxation techniques, ocean swimming in challenging conditions and more.

With a Diploma of Teaching in Physical Education, a Graduate Diploma in Outdoor Education and twenty years experience as a surf educator Ross Phillips has earned himself a solid reputation in the industry. Coupled with Brian Keaulana who was once described by surf journalist Dave Parmenter as ”without a doubt the greatest all-around waterman alive”, they make a formidable team.

On their recent Maldives trip they road tested a variety of equipment from the latest hydrofoil fins to stand up paddleboards ranging from 9’6 to 11’0. Body surfing, breath holding, jet ski driving training, towing and rescue techniques were also a major focus.

“Professional water safety is an important service that Tropicsurf offers to our guests. So it’s been awesome to have Brian here with us fine-tuning our risk management processes. He’s undoubtedly the best in the business and his wealth of real life experience has proven invaluable in polishing our systems and training our guides” Ross Phillips, Tropicsurf CEO.

Brian Keaulana and Todd Bradley from C4 Waterman were in the Maldives to film a stand up paddle instructional video but they got a lot more than they bargained for with solid 6 to 8 foot surf and not another single surfer for the entire trip. Brain Keaulana said, “This was probably the best surfing trip I have ever taken in my whole life. And I’ve been everywhere.

It was not just the surf; it was the whole ambience, the culture the customer service. We’ve been treated way beyond what I’d expected like we were part of the family.”

This is what Tropicsurf does best and this service will be a major focus of the Waterman Experience Weeks. And for those with outstanding talent and enthusiasm the courses will also be part of a Tropicsurf recruiting drive – with Ross and his team keen to add coaches who will become part of this exciting new venture with the opportunity to travel the world.

Established in 2002 Tropicsurf provides guided luxury surfing holidays for all abilities. Tropicsurf pioneered surf travel in the outer atolls of the Maldives, with Ross the first to surf many of its breaks and constantly discovering new and remote locations.

Source: Global Surf News

Wataniya Telecom Maldives appoints CEO

Yasser Abdel Hakim has successfully completed his tenure as Interim Chief Executive Officer of Wataniya Telecom Maldives, the company announced today. Under his leadership, Wataniya Telecom Maldives revolutionized the market by introducing a unique customer oriented approach and specifically, propelled the International pricing rates to the desired levels of today’s discerning customers.
Mr. Yasser leaves Wataniya to join the Qtel head office in Doha and to spearhead the Revenue function for the entire group of 15 operations including Maldives.

Yasser Abdel Hakim joined Wataniya Telecom Maldives at the very beginning and maintained the head of financial responsibilities through out the company’s successful launch in August 2005.
Under his guidance Wataniya completed the latter stages of the WARF submarine cable project which was successfully brought to completion in March 2007.
Backed with strong business and financial managerial skills and immense experience in GSM operations Yasser has lead Wataniya through to two successful years of operations. Today, Wataniya provides the best quality calls at the most competitive rates the Maldives has ever seen, whether it is calls made locally or calls made abroad.

Yasser Abdel Hakim commented saying, “The success we see today is due to the strength inside the Wataniya family. I thank my team for the dedication and commitment they have shown in these last two years. Now with the recent acquisition of the Wataniya group by Qatar Telecom group, Wataniya Telecom Maldives, its employees and the people of the Maldives are looking at a new dawn of innovation, quality and service. The role of Wataniya will become more and more important and I am proud to have led the team towards the success we see today”.

To further strengthen the operations management and to lead Wataniya Telecom Maldives in to the future of a limitless horizon in the Maldives Mr. Abraham Smith has been appointed as Chief Operating Officer effective October 1st, 2007.
Mr. Abraham brings to Wataniya Maldives a rich recognized business management experience in addition to an international executive experience in mobile operations.

Mr. Abraham Smith, Chief Operating Officer of Wataniya said today, “It is an honor for me to take the helm of the company that has given so much to the people of the Maldives in such a short time. We are also sad to see Yasser leave Wataniya Maldives after three years of deep commitment and we wish him luck in his new position in the headquarters in Doha”

Effective 11th October 2007, Mr. Abraham Smith will assume the full responsibility and leadership of Wataniya Telecom Maldives.

Source: Wataniya

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Maldives Participates in Top Resa 2007

The Maldives Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) and representatives from tourism related companies in Maldives participated in Top Resa Travel Fair 2007. Top Resa which is held in Deauville from 26 to 28 September is the annual key travel trade fair in France. Top Resa brings together approximately 16,500 representatives of the travel and trade during the show.

Ten tourism related companies from the Maldives participated in the fair together with MTPB. The three day long fair attracted more than 16,000 people. This includes travel trade and press & media visitors

During the fair General information on destination Maldives and specific product information by the co – exhibitors were disseminated. The fair also facilitated networking among members of Maldivian delegations and French operators. In addition MTPB officials gave media interviews on new product developments.

France is the fourth largest generating market for Maldives. During the first half of 2007 Maldives welcomed 28,800 French visitors. This is an increase of 1.7% compared to the same period last year. A total of 43,627 visitors from France visited Maldives last year.

Source: MTPB

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Bomb couple 'caught out' by travel policy

The honeymoon couple injured in the Maldives bombing last weekend face at least two months in hospital while their acute burns are treated.

Christian and Jenny Donelan, both 32, were flown to Britain last week in an air ambulance and are being treated in the burns unit of South Manchester Hospital.

Family and friends have been horrified by the extent of their injuries. Mr Donelan and his wife are both wrapped in cotton wool to ease their discomfort, but they remain in great pain.

Mr Donelan has 27 per cent first- and second-degree burns; his wife of three weeks is more seriously injured with 40 per cent burns.

On Friday, the couple had their wounds bathed for the first time. They are expected to require skin grafts.

The couple, who honeymooned in the Maldives after marrying in Italy, are critical of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and say the Government refused to contribute towards the £106,000 cost of their air ambulance.

Their families said in a joint statement: "When British citizens are seriously injured in a terrorist attack in a benign country, we believe the Government has a duty to support their evacuation to the UK where they can receive the medical attention they need. We will be approaching our MP in order for this complete disregard for the well-being of British citizens to be questioned in the House of Commons."

The couple's holiday insurance also failed to cover the cost of the air ambulance. "We would like to draw everyone's attention to the importance of reading the small print in travel insurance policies – don't be caught out like Christian and Jenny," the statement said.

The families did, however, issue a list of "thank-yous" to the Maldives people, the ADK Hospital in Male where they were first treated and Mr Donelan's employer, Boartes.

Mr Donelan, from Rotherham, and his wife, from Manchester, both work in the Gulf state of Qatar as sports events organisers.

Tim Bulleyment, a friend of the couple, said: "Christian is in a lot of pain – and Jenny is worse. They now face a long recovery period."

The couple were among 12 tourists injured when a nail bomb exploded in Male, the capital of the Maldives. Islamist terrorists are suspected of carrying out the attack.

Source: Telegraph

Friday, October 5, 2007

Police release details of two plotters, more CCTV footage

The Maldives Police Service has yesterday released details of two of the plotters who detonated the home-made bomb inside Sultan Park on Saturday, along with CCTV footage showing their activities during the execution of their plan.

At a press meeting held at the Police Headquarters the Assistant Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz identified the two who had carried out the bombing as Ahmed Naseer, 20, of Saadhunaa Manzil in Gaafu Alifu atoll Kanduhulhudhoo and Moosa Inas, 21, of Finihiyaage in Laamu atoll Kalhaidhoo.

Previously unseen footage showing the activities of the two perpetrators before and after the explosion near Sultan Park was also shown at the press meeting. The footage showed Inas and Naseer walking together into the Sultan Park and coming out one after the other 7 minutes later. They had then met each other around 80 feet away from the main gate of Sultan Park before parting ways and going off in different directions. Sometime later Inas is seen, wearing a black T-Shirt with ‘CIA’ written in white letters on the back, riding on a motorcycle and stopping just past the Sultan Park main gate. A minute later the bomb explodes and Inas is seen speeding away on the motorcycle.

Riyaz said that both Inas and Naseer had now confessed to their parts in the bombing and that both of them had been arrested while in another country where they had fled following the bombing. Riyaz did not reveal which country that they had both fled to.

Riyaz also said that the cycle that Inas had used to get away after detonating the bomb had also been located parked in front of Zikuraa Mosque and had been impounded by the Police.

Riyaz went on to say that they had received information that a SIM card and a mobile phone used in the bombing had been dumped into the sea near Hulhule and had sent a Police team to locate it. A video detailing the search and collection of the SIM card from the Hulhule lagoon was also shown at the press meeting.

Riyaz also named Mohamed Sobah, 19, of V. Landhooge Aage, as having confessed to being part of the plot and showed a picture of him. He also said that 14 people had been arrested so far in connection to the attack that had injured 12 tourists, and that four of them were foreigners. He said that they were also searching for two others and showed their mugshots and revealed their details. The two people that are currently wanted by the Police are Abdul Latheef Ibrahim, 24, of Green Villa in Laamu atoll Kalhaidhoo, and Ali Shameem, 25, of Dhoores in Shaviyani atoll Komandoo.

The Assistant Commissioner also said that no one that had been arrested during the investigation had been released so far and said that every one of those that had been arrested had been brought into custody for their connection with the bombing.

When asked what the motive behind the attack had been Riyaz said that since there were still some people who they needed to interrogate it was difficult to reveal a motive at the moment.

Source: Haveeru Online