Friday, August 29, 2008

New Shangri-La Resort To Offer Lunch On The Equator

The new Shangri-La Villingili Resort and Spa, Maldives, set to open late this year, will offer guests a chance to experience a gourmet lunch on the equator.

The hotel’s 21-meter (69-foot) luxury yacht will transport guests 75 kilometers (46 miles) north from the resort to the meeting place of the northern and southern hemispheres, where passengers can enjoy a gourmet lunch with fine wines. But first, guests will have breakfast on the ship’s deck and take part in a champagne toast upon reaching the equator, a truly unique lunch destination.

The full-day cruise also will offer guests the opportunity to relax in the sun, fish, snorkel and visit Fuvahmulah, the third-largest island in the country. The journey ends with sunset cocktails on deck as the yacht returns to the resort.


Final steps to recovery in the Maldives

Power is on its way to the island of Vilufushi as the final phase of work on the British Red Cross recovery programme in the Maldives begins.

Vilufushi was so devastated by the tsunami that a land reclamation project had to be carried out prior to reconstruction. In August 2007, the British Red Cross started building 250 houses. For the displaced households, the power project brings hope – by spring next year they will be able to move back to their island and into their new homes.

Zahid Jameel, the Maldivian consultant who designed the power system, is confident of its quality. “It has been challenging and has taken a lot of time looking into all the details and working with the Ministry for Energy and Water. We have done the best from what is available and now I am happy with the end result.”

Training scheme

Both the power station and the treatment plant for the sewage system will require maintenance once the British Red Cross leaves the island next year.

Local people are being trained in important technical positions and the community is being encouraged to take it on as a business enterprise. There will also be jobs in billing and collection of payments.

Russell Bryce, British Red Cross utilities manager, said: “There is a lot of opportunity and hopefully it will be run like a business, but will take into account people who can’t afford to pay much, such as the elderly. The idea is to generate enough funds to maintain the systems if they need any repairs and to pay a salary to those doing the work.”

New school

The British Red Cross is also building a new school on Vilufushi and on 7 August, a ceremony to mark the start of construction was attended by some of the children who come from the island.

“After three years and seven months I got to see my home island and I was so happy to be there. It looks so different from before,” said Aishath Naafia, studying in grade 10. “I am proud that we will have a bigger school, better facilities and I hope, good teachers too. I had the honor of participating in the ceremony and it felt so good. It’s the first time in my life that I had an opportunity like this.”

The displaced population from Vilufushi have been living on Buruni island, where currently 410 students attend a school that used to accommodate 90. Usman Afzah, studying in grade nine, said: “I feel so bad living in a tent like this for more than three years after the tsunami. We lost our freedom and our own space. But since I visited my home island again, all these bad feelings have disappeared because I have seen a completely different Vilufushi.”


Maldives the latest addition to Ceylinco FastCash Network

Dr Lalith Kotelawala accepting the first remittance

Ceylinco FastCash the international money transfer service added Maldives as the latest corridor to its network of countries The service initially launched in October 2006 linking Sri Lanka, Singapore and the UAE has expanded to 16 Countries within in a short period of one and a half years

The ability to effect cross border transactions within the network is also a unique factor which has given Ceylinco FastCash an edge.

The Main Agent for Ceylinco FastCash in the Maldives is Universal Travel Services Ltd one of the largest groups of companies in the Maldives.

The Ceylinco FastCash Remittance centre in Male was ceremonially opened by Deshamanya Dr. Lalith Kotelawala Chairman Ceylinco Consolidated and Mr. Mohammed Umar Maniku Chairman Universal Group Maldives.

The new Service will offer the large number of Sri Lankans, Bangladeshi's and the Nepali's working in the Maldives to send Money to their homeland fast, at a reasonable price and with a host of added benefits.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Govt. recognizes valuable work of VSO

Government has recognized the valuable contribution of Voluntary Service Organization (VSO) Maldives during a special function held at Youth Centre yesterday, according to foreign ministry.

The function was held to mark the end of 27 years of partnership between the Government of Maldives and VSO. The function also marked the closing of VSO Maldives program scheduled for early next year after its long and successful operations in the country.

Ambassador Abdul Azeez Yoosuf, speaking as the guest of honor noted the valuable contribution of VSO Maldives. Ambassador Azeez also highlighted VSO’s significant role in the development of the Maldives.

Also speaking at the function Minister of Education Zahiya Zareer expressed that her Ministry valued the hard work by VSO volunteers in the education sector. She also noted her personal experience when she worked with the volunteers.

A report celebrating the Partnership between the Government and VSO in the education sector was released at the function.

VSO is an international development charity organization that works through services of its volunteers. The first two volunteers arrived in the Maldives when VSO opened its program office in February 1981. Over the years, VSO’s activities expanded tremendously from teachers to lecturers, doctors and dentists, auditors, fisheries experts, architects and town planners.

Speaking at the function VSO Maldives Country Director Shiva Prasad Aryal recalled found memories of VSO’s time in the Maldives.VSO will end its program in the Maldives in February 2009.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Iru-Fushi Beach and Spa Resort opens in the Maldives

Sun Hotels & Resorts have announced that their new luxury resort in the Maldives is open for business. A haven of tranquil elegance, Iru Fushi Beach & Spa Resort is located in Noonu Atoll which, as a new atoll for tourism development, is virtually unspoilt, promising virgin landscapes and unexplored waters for guests to enjoy.

The perfect getaway for a honeymoon, family holiday or a scuba-diving experience of a lifetime, the resort is sprawled over 52 acres of stunning powdery white sand beach and abundant tropical vegetation and is accessed by a 45-minute seaplane from Malé airport. It offers 180 rooms, two large swimming pools, a selection of restaurants and bars, wine cellar, cigar lounge, PADI Gold Palm dive centre, spa and gym as well as a dedicated kids' club for the younger members.

The accommodation ranges from Jacuzzi Beach Villas with outdoor bathrooms, sala and an i-spa Jacuzzi bath to luxurious Water Suites with their own private pool and separate living room. All rooms are equipped with a comfortable divan which can double as a third bed – perfect for accompanying children.

While the focus of the resort is on taking it easy, there is plenty to do with two large swimming pools, floodlit tennis courts, badminton, volleyball, gym, a selection of watersports and a kids' club with child minders for younger guests where children can learn to build a traditional Maldivian Dhoni boat or simply play in the miniature village. Off island excursions are also available. The resort houses a PADI Gold Palm Sun International Diving School with an extensive range of PADI courses for beginners through to the more experienced.

Boasting a house reef that is rife with both coral and brightly coloured neon fish, the uncharted waters are a real treat for diving enthusiasts seeking new experiences to discover. For guests striving a little holistic pampering in paradise, the resort’s plush Sun Spa, designed to take the anxieties out of modern day living, is on hand to ease away tensions. 21 spa pavilions have been customised according to the treatment taken, be it aromatherapy or hydrotherapy. It has also developed a pioneering programme - the first Sleep Spa Concept in the Maldives.

Until 31st October, Iru Fushi is offering seven nights’ accommodation in a Jacuzzi Beach Villa on a half-board basis including return transfer by seaplane for US$1580.00 per person. Package prices from a selection of UK tour operators are also available.

For further information or reservations log on to


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Iran volleyball team to face Maldives

Iran's volleyball squad will play against Maldives in the 14th Asian Junior Men's Volleyball Championship to be held in the capital Tehran.

Iran will compete with Qatar and Maldives in group A of the event. While group B consists of Japan, Australia, Kazakhstan, and the UAE.

Group C is made up of India, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia and group D brings together Taiwan, China, Pakistan, and Kuwait.

If successful, the Iranian squad could qualify for the 2009 World Junior Volleyball Championship.

Some 15 countries will attend the nine-day event which runs from August 23rd to 31st. The match will be held at the Azadi Sports Complex at 5:30 pm local time on Saturday.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Building disaster reduction initiatives locally

This document outlines the proceedings of a two-day workshop entitled ‘People, policy, and partnership for disaster resilient development’ held in 2007 in New Delhi. The workshop focused on sharing lessons and building partnerships to scale up community-led disaster reduction initiatives.

The workshop proceedings were centered on a wide range of community level risk reduction efforts that are effectively reducing vulnerabilities as well as influencing development processes and policies. Community leaders from drought, cyclone, earthquake and tsunami affected areas stressed the need for their efforts to be recognized, the importance of protecting their development gains and livelihoods, and halting of programs that leave the poor more vulnerable.

The key objectives of the workshop were to:
• create visibility and recognition for grassroots initiatives
• provide opportunities for community leaders to engage with government and other institutional actors
• identify strategies to strengthen and scale up community initiatives through partnerships

The workshop brought together over 150 participants representing disaster-affected communities, networks, international humanitarian organizations, academics, research and training institutions, policymakers, and civil society organizations including representatives from India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bangladesh.

Full text of document


Extend your Eid break with Emirates Holidays and enjoy extra nights for free

Emirates Holidays announced its Eid packages to some of the most sought after destinations in Europe, India, Malaysia, China and the Indian Ocean.

Emirates Holidays offers holidaymakers the chance to extend their Eid breaks with extra nights for free on all of this season's specials.

John Felix, Senior Vice President of Emirates Holidays commented:

'With Eid just around the corner, we are delighted to offer UAE residents a series of affordable, quality, tailor-made holiday packages to some of the world's most stunning and intriguing destinations. Whilst many travellers leave planning a holiday over Eid to the last minute, we recommend that people book early in order to get some of the best deals.'

Felix said, 'All accommodation offered by Emirates Holidays is inspected to ensure it meets our high standards. Many of our promotional offers are for rooms classified as deluxe, superior or luxury, giving Eid holidaymakers the opportunity to experience a higher level of luxury at a competitive cost.'

Pampering Retreats - Pamper yourself in five star luxury at the Banyan Tree Seychelles for four nights for the price of three staying in a picturesque Hillside Pool Villa. Valid until the end of October 2008.

Alternatively, mix relaxation with cultural discovery staying in a Deluxe Lagoon Room at the Radisson Plaza Resort & Spa Kumarakom in the Indian city of Kochi, where you pay for three nights and stay for four. The offer is valid until 15th October 2008.

City Escapes - Emirates Holidays is offering a varied selection of city destinations including Istanbul, Vienna and Kuala Lumpur.

Explore The Topkapi Palace from Ottoman times, historic mosques and art houses in Istanbul staying at the Conrad for four nights for the price of three. The offer is valid from 25th September until 5th October 2008. Guests can also stay at the Hyatt Regency for five nights for the price of four between 29th September and 5th October 2008.

Alternatively take a romantic break in Austria, staying at the Hilton Vienna for four nights for the price of three. The offer is valid from 1st until 10th October 2008.

For a dazzling capital city break, Eid holidaymakers can head to Kuala Lumpur, in the cultural heart of Malaysia, staying at the Shangri-La Hotel in a Horizon Executive Room for four nights for the price of three. The offer is valid from 25th September until 10th of October 2008.

Indian Ocean - In Mauritius, Emirates Holidays is offering travellers double the value for their money with a package at the luxurious Oberoi Mauritius in a Luxury Pavilion for six nights for the price of just three. Valid until 31st October 2008.

In the Maldives, holidaymakers can stay in a Lagoon Villa at the Taj Exotica Resort & Spa for five nights for the price of four. This package offers the perfect romantic holiday for couples looking to unwind. The offer is valid until 31st October 2008.

Oriental Immersion - For an introduction to oriental culture, Emirates Holidays is offering three nights for the price of two at the Grand Hyatt Shanghai, valid from 1st until 9th October, or four nights for the price of three at the InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong, valid from 29th September until 8th October 2008. These packages are the perfect way to discover Chinese heritage.

Skywards members will receive up to 20% bonus Miles when they book hotel accommodation for a minimum of three nights.

All prices are per person on twin-sharing basis and include: economy class return airfare from Dubai on award-winning Emirates Airline, accommodation, American breakfast, room taxes and service charges, as well as transfers between airport and hotel, with the exception of the Vienna package which does not include transfers.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Glory of Just Showing Up

Aishath Reesha, a 19-year-old 800-meter runner, had just finished practice at the Chaoyang Sports Center, a proletarian track sequestered from the Olympic mobs. She sat with her back to a recently whitewashed wall, an ice-pack on her neck, and watched as a French sprinter sped past.

"We can't compete with people from other worlds," she said in a whisper. "I'm not scared. My goal is to better my personal best."

Ms. Reesha is from Maldives, a group of atolls in the Indian Ocean with a population of 379,000, per capita income of $4,600, and a serious worry about being washed away. Her personal best in the 800-meter race is 2:32.97; the Olympic record is more than 38 seconds faster.

"We are not qualified for the Olympics," said her coach, whose name is Ahmed Faail. He was standing over Ali Shareef, his 100-meter runner, who was on flat on his back with a leg in the air. Mr. Faail was helping him work out a kink. "In the heats there are people with a lot of experience," he said. "We will not be winning heats."

For the richest, brawniest countries here, the medal count is all that counts. China, Russia and the U.S. are in Beijing to "win" the Olympics. But among the 222 countries that have sent athletes to the modern Games since 1896, only 130 have brought a medal home. The rest, like Maldives, march in the opening parade and then, after a few minutes -- or seconds -- in the pool or on the track, they're out.

The International Olympic Committee seems to commiserate with its medal-deprived delegations. For decades, it clung to the ideal that nations didn't play in its contests at all; people did. It began listing medals by country less than 20 years ago. Yet the IOC, in its own way, is also intent on counting countries: It wants every one on Earth to play its Games, whether they're good or not.

What's billed as a meet for the fittest in truth has a second division of schlumps. Every nation is encouraged with money and training programs to send one man and one woman, even if they don't have a soul who qualifies. The IOC doesn't tally how many of the 10,500 athletes here get in that way, but they appear to number at least in the hundreds. Most end up swimming or running, activities where being inept doesn't automatically result in broken necks.

Olympic universality has bred a line of famous bunglers, from Wym Essajas of Suriname, who missed his 800-meter heat in 1960, to Eric Moussambani of Equatorial Guinea, who took nearly two minutes to swim 100 meters in 2000. Yet for all its promotion of participation, the IOC gives its losers no glory: Its history-packed Web site displays only winning countries and their medal counts.

Asked where to find lists of also-rans, an IOC press officer suggests sending an email to its information center. It's the sort of reply that's long griped a small international club of amateur statistics nuts calling themselves the Oly Madmen. Led by Bill Mallon, a shoulder surgeon in Durham, N.C., the Madmen have spent five years building an easy-to-manipulate database that comprises every run, jump, throw, dive and somersault in Olympic history. It folds in Hector Hatch's ninth-place welterweight boxing tie for Fiji in 1956, and the 51st-place mixed-free-pistol finish Aferdita Tusha racked up for Albania in 1972. The Madmen have compiled the records of 110,000 Olympic athletes and are at work on thumbnail biographies for each one; so far, they've done 24,000.

"It's one of those hobbies that becomes an obsession," Dr. Mallon says. He adds: "We tried for years to get the IOC to do this. They told me in 2006 that they'd look at it again in 2009. They're not going to look at it in 2009."

The IOC wouldn't say why. Dr. Mallon surmises that it's worried about accuracy. He says the Madmen are fact-checking nonstop to get their labors "as close to perfect as we can." In late July, they took their data public: Now anyone can play with it on the Web, free, at a commercial site:

A statistical juggle even the Madmen don't attempt is a medal count by wealth and population. At least one Web site tries it: Simon Forsyth, a researcher in Brisbane, Australia, began doing his medal math that way because he was sick of hearing that "the Americans won the Olympics."

By gross domestic product, his winner in 2004 was Eritrea; by population, it was the Bahamas. In the Beijing 2008 count for total medals by population, as of Friday the U.S. was 31st; China was a distant 44th. Armenia recently took the lead from Mr. Forsyth's own country, Australia. "Should you be proud that your country won more medals than anyone else?" he asks in an e-mail. "Sure, why not? Should you be proud that your country won more medals per population than any other country? Yes -- at least equally so."

Togo (per capita gross domestic product: $800) is certainly proud, too. Its slalom-canoe champ, Benjamin Boupeti, won a bronze medal Wednesday, the country's first medal ever. But by one essential measure, Maldives isn't pulling up the rear, either.

True, its one running track is made of soft sand, so it's no wonder Ms. Reesha and Mr. Shareef had modest hopes for their Friday morning heats. And in Maldives, the swimming pools are all for tourists. Its two 50-meter swimmers -- Ibrahim Shameel and Aminath Rouya Hussain -- couldn't have been anything but long shots in their heats Thursday and Friday evenings. At home, they've nowhere to train but the sea.

"I'm being a little political here," said their coach, Adam Mohamed, dropping by the practice track for a visit, "but there has been land allocated for a pool since 1988. It's drawings, drawings, drawings." Not that Mr. Mohamed expects much investment in an Olympic team from a country still in post-tsunami recovery. "The priority is to attend ceremonies," he said. "We are an unqualified country. The most important thing is to hoist the flag."

As things turned out, Ms. Hussain came in next-to-last in her 50-meter swim Friday evening, and didn't succeed in bettering her best. On Thursday, Mr. Ibrahim placed next-to-last in his heat, too, with a time of 29:28. But it was the very first time he'd ever raced in a 50-meter pool, so he can say that he did achieve his personal best.

On a sunny Friday morning at Beijing's Bird's Nest, Ms. Reesha trailed 30 seconds behind the field in her 800-meter run, and came in last against all 40 runners. But she still met her own goal, beating her personal best by more than two seconds. And Ali Shareef, running the 100 meters in 11:11 and finishing 69th in a field of 80, not only set his personal best -- he set the Maldives' national record as well.

But it's in flag-hoisting that this little country has scored its own personal best in Beijing. Anyone who sweated through the opening ceremony here knows how the fun faded as the parade of nations crept toward the two hundreds. Ms. Hussain was there, carrying Maldives' white-crescent flag and trailing a small, smiling contingent in long sarongs.

This time, though, they weren't in their usual place, way back among the M's. The Chinese-character equivalent of alphabetical order produced an upset: At these Olympics, Maldives marched seventh.


Write to Barry Newman at

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Inner Maldives Holidays selected as Host buyer for PATA Travel Mart 2008

Inner Maldives Holidays is pleased to announce that the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) has selected Inner Maldives Holidays as a Host Buyer for PATA Travel Mart 2008. PATA - a non-profit travel trade association serving government tourist offices, airlines, hotels and other travel-related companies throughout the Pacific Asia region, and it is one of the most vital travel associations in the world.

PATA Travel Mart 2008 is hosted this year in Hyderabad, India and this event is gearing up to be a spectacular show. PATA Travel Mart 2008 has received a total of 374 registered buyer delegates from 329 buyer organisations, from 57 countries.

It is said to be the first time a Maldivian travel company has been selected as a host buyer at a PATA Travel Mart or any trade fair. This distinguished endorsement of the Maldivian tourism industry by PATA is a nation triumph and achievement.

Inner Maldives Holidays has been nominated by SriLankan Holidays, therefore, we take this opportunity to thank SriLankan Airlines and SriLankan Holidays for this opportunity and also thank PATA for making this possible.

Source: MTPB

WFP and American Red Cross Wrap Up Partnership in Tsunami-affected Countries

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has handed over its food and logistics support to the provincial government in Aceh, Indonesia, thus ending its three year close partnership with the American Red Cross.

"Following the 2004 tsunami, there was a critical need to provide food to thousands of survivors in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives," says Gerald Anderson, senior director of the Tsunami Recovery Program of the American Red Cross. "Our partnership with WFP met this immediate need after the tsunami and has continued to provide food and nutrition education for vulnerable tsunami-affected families and schools in Indonesia for the past year and a half."

The American Red Cross provided a $50 million grant to WFP to provide food to more than 2 million survivors in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Maldives, immediately following the tsunami. After the relief phase, a $15 million grant was given to WFP from the American Red Cross to continue assistance in Indonesia; an additional 500,000 vulnerable people were reached.

Recovery activities included providing fortified biscuits and deworming medication to elementary school children and fortified biscuits and noodles to mothers, expecting mothers and children under five at local health clinics. WFP's nutritional rehabilitation program focused on nutrition education and increasing the knowledge of best hygiene and dietary practices.

"These activities helped reduce anemia rates by up to 20% among young children in Aceh and also improved attendance and learning behaviors of students, says Ms. Angela Van Rynbach, Representative and Country Director of WFP."

Over the last four months and in close coordination with the American Red Cross and Government partners, more than 7,000 counterparts from the Ministries of Health and Education were trained at district and sub district level to enable them to continue implementing the program after the handover.

The American Red Cross will continue its recovery efforts in tsunami-affected communities through June 2010. The American Red Cross remains committed to helping tsunami survivors fully recover by providing permanent water supply and sanitation systems, conducting disaster preparedness trainings, helping survivors cope with emotional trauma, supporting disease prevention campaigns, rebuilding transitional and permanent shelter, and restoring livelihoods.

WFP is proud to have been a key partner with the American Red Cross and a part of the recovery efforts in Aceh led by the Aceh Reconstruction Agency (BRR) and the UN Office of the Recovery Coordinator. WFP will continue its food assistance in Indonesia, mostly in the eastern part of the country where poverty rates are highest. WFP also stands ready to respond to any future natural disasters.

About WFP:
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency and the UN's frontline agency for hunger solutions. This year, WFP plans to feed around 90 million people in 80 countries. Visit our website:

About the American Red Cross:
As part of the world's largest humanitarian network, the American Red Cross alleviates the suffering of victims of war, disaster and other international crises, and works with other Red Cross and Red Crescent societies to improve chronic, life-threatening conditions in developing nations. We reconnect families separated by emergencies and educate the American public about international humanitarian law. This assistance is made possible through the generosity of the American public. For more information, please visit or join our blog at


Regional food bank gets go-ahead (SAARC)

"The concept had been on the table for some years. Now all countries have finally agreed on the formation and implementation of the SAARC Food Bank," Wais Kabir, director of the SAARC Agriculture Centre in the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, told IRIN.

"Properly [realised], it would serve as a milestone in strengthening the existing cooperation among the nations of South Asia," he said.

His comments follow last weekend's announcement at the 15th SAARC summit in Colombo, Sri Lanka, confirming the bank's establishment as part of the organisation's long-term food security and agricultural development plans for a region of more than 1.5 billion people.

The joint projects would augment food production, invest in agriculture and related industries, conduct agricultural research, share technology, assist in procurement and distribution, as well as manage climatic and disease-related risks.

Conference leaders also called for members to forge greater cooperation with the international community in ensuring food availability and nutritional security in the region.

Food reserves

Under the terms of the agreement, the bank would act as a regional food security reserve for SAARC member countries during food shortages and emergencies, as well as provide regional support to national food security efforts, foster inter-country partnerships and regional integration, and solve regional food shortages through collective action.

The bank would hold 241,580 metric tonnes (MT) in rice and wheat reserves, contributed by each SAARC member, including Bangladesh (40,000MT), Bhutan (180MT), India (153,200MT), the Maldives (200MT), Nepal (4,000MT), Pakistan (40,000MT), and Sri Lanka (4,000MT). Afghanistan's share would be decided later.

The reserves would remain the property of the individual member country and would be in addition to any national reserves.

And while no start date for the bank's opening has been announced, officials say the process will begin in a couple of months, with Sri Lanka proposing the bank's headquarters to be in Dhaka.

"This involves the construction of new food warehouses in member countries, local procurement and [the] international purchase of extra food grains, and developing an administrative system and a distribution network. So it is likely that it will take some time before operationalising the SAARC Food Bank," said Mohammad Panaullah, a senior agro-consultant to the Bangladesh government.

Initial discussions about such a bank took place 20 years ago and the plan is not without its critics. On 2 August, two civil rights organisations warned that the adoption of any unified policy on agriculture for the region on the basis of food security would ruin Bangladesh's agriculture and food production system.

"Farm sectors of South Asian countries will be hostage to multinational companies engaged in the seed business if a unified policy on agriculture is adopted for the region on the grounds of food security," Odhikar and Ubinig (Policy Research for Development Alternatives) said in a statement.

Source: IRIN

Maldives 'Has World-Class Diving and Snorkelling Facilities'

Diving fans have been advised to head to the Indian Ocean.

According to Kerri Jackson, who writes for The New Zealand Herald,
the Maldives is a nation which is renowned for its diving and snorkelling facilities.

She adds that the nation, which is a collection of small atolls located off the coast of India, is also famous for its "spectacular beauty".

Maldives has long held a comfortable position on any list of the world's top holiday spots: most beautiful... most romantic... you name it. And it's hard to argue," commented Ms Jackson.

Holidaymakers taking trips to the Maldives are advised by the New Zealand publication to remember that it is a Muslim country and therefore alcohol is not permitted outside resorts.

The Lonely Planet Travel guide describes the Maldives as delivering the "promise of Eden" to holidaymakers and notes that its white sandy beaches, tropical trees and turquoise lagoons all ensure that the nation does not fail to deliver on this.


Bangladesh to import petroleum from Maldives

Bangladesh has decided to import 150,000 tons of refined oil from the Maldives by December to meet the demand in local market, Bangladesh's energy secretary Mohammad Mohsin told reporters on Monday.

He said the state owned Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) will purchase the fuel from the Maldives National Oil Company Ltd (MNOC) between October to December this year at a cost of 183.44 million U.S. dollars.

Out of the quantity, the MNOC will supply 90,000 tons of diesel,30,000 tons of octane and 30,000 tons of Jet A-1 fuel (or Aviation Turbine Fuel) to Bangladesh.

Bangladesh, a net oil importing country, has a demand for nearly 3.8 million tons of petroleum per year, including 2.8 million tons diesel.

Out of the demand, some 1.2 to 1.45 million tons are imported in crude form while the rest in refined from.

Bangladesh's main oil supplier is the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC), a state-owned company of the Kuwait government. Some other Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, also export oil to Bangladesh.


Diving delights at Iru Fushi Beach & Spa Resort, Maldives

The Maldives offers some of the best diving in the world and there is now a new atoll to pull on the fins and explore. Surrounding the soon-to-open Iru Fushi Beach & Spa Resort on the pristine Noonu Atoll are thirty dive sites with an abundance of marine life ranging from magnificent manta rays and rare humpback turtles to regal reef sharks and a rich variety of colourful corals.

What’s more, divers at Iru Fushi can also visit Snow White and Christmas Tree – not quite what visitors would expect from the Maldives!

Iru Fushi, with its unspoilt landscape and virgin waters, offers fabulous diving for both beginners and the more experienced. Diving here is relatively easy compared to other atolls because of the wide channels, shallow depths and gentle currents. The sites range from 10 minutes to an hour’s journey by the diving boat, called a dhoni. It’s also easy to pick up a few memorable souvenirs as most of the sites are ideal for videographers and photographers thanks to the shallow reefs.

The house reef is located near the diving school and gently slopes down 18 metres to a sandy bottom. Covered with sponges and corals and teeming with neon coloured reef fish, it provides the perfect setting for beginners to experience a breathtaking first dive and a free trial dive in the lagoon is offered to all guests.

Nearby, the aptly named Snow White site offers a kaleidoscope of colourful and beautiful reefs with red berry sponges and green, blue and light brown finger corals - all framed by a snow white sandy bottom where hermit crabs and sea stars can be discovered. At rush hour, passing traffic includes large Jack fish, turtles, eagle rays, tuna, barracuda and schooling red snappers.

In keeping with the pantomime theme, Christmas Tree is located north-west of the island and so-called because, from a distance, the profile of the reef looks like a Christmas tree. As one of the most precious thilas in the Noonu Atoll, it’s home to an astounding array of soft and hard corals with deep and shallow overhangs where nurse, guitar and leopard sharks rest and green and hawksbill turtles feed. Furthermore, clouds of golden and jewel fairy basslets create a glowing effect at the top of the thila which makes Christmas Tree a photographer’s dream.

Another vision is Koen’s Dream, a heavenly thila where large barracuda hang motionless in the current and where majestic manta rays, small white tip and grey reef sharks are also common. Manta rays, on many a diver’s wish list, can actually be found at almost all dive sites and everyone can view grey reef sharks at an easily accessible location. The rarer humpback turtle is also frequently spotted among the large green and hawksbill turtles.

The PADI Gold Palm Sun International Diving School at Iru Fushi, which is conveniently located within the lagoon, has a broad spectrum of diving packages and excellent facilities, allowing all visitors to explore the deep delights of the Noonu Atoll. Other facilities and packages include Discover Scuba Diving, Open Water license, Assistant Instructor and a variety of specialities including Nitrox, digital underwater photography, videography, underwater scooter and Rebreather, giving the beginner and the experienced diver the opportunity to enrich their knowledge and work on their diving skills.

Seven nights at Iru Fushi Beach & Spa Resort in January starts from £1,485 per person on a half-board basis with Thomson. The price includes flights from Manchester Airport, seaplane transfers and accommodation. To book visit


Friday, August 15, 2008

Maldives' Reesha happy as a sand girl

Aishath Reesha of the Maldives, who trains on a sand track in her tiny island nation, does not care that she was beaten by nearly a half lap on her Olympic debut in the women's 800 metres heats on Friday.

"I ran a personal best? Really? I am so happy," Reesha told reporters, wearing a huge smile.
Her time of 2:30.14, an improvement of almost three seconds, still left her the slowest in the heats by almost 10 seconds and she was nearly half a minute off the pace needed to reach the semi-finals.
"How can I compete with these professionals? I'm just a young girl," said the 19-year-old.
Her only complaint about the Beijing Olympics is that the track is hurting her.

"This track is so hard on my feet. I run on sand, we only have a sand track," Reesha said.

Source: Reuters

Lunch on The Equator: Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa, Maldives

The opening of Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa, Maldives in the fourth quarter of 2008 will herald a first-of-its-kind seaborne adventure – dining on the equator.

Guests will cruise aboard Shangri-La’s luxury yacht 75 kilometres north from the resort to the meeting place of northern and southern hemispheres, drop anchor and savour a gourmet lunch with fine wines on the equator line.

In addition, guests will be able to fish, snorkel and visit Fuvahmulah, the third largest island in the country, on the full-day cruise aboard the 21-metre sailing yacht. The yacht features two luxury cabins with en-suite bathroom, an indoor lounge area, spacious timber decks with sun loungers, and an on-deck dining area.

The Indian Ocean day-journey will begin with breakfast on deck, where passengers can keep a lookout for the many spinner dolphins swimming in the area. Champagne corks will fly upon reaching the equator line, celebrating arrival at one of the world’s most unusual lunch venues.

Later the captain will anchor the yacht by Fuvahmulah, an island famous for Thundi beach, located at the northern-most tip and formed by small, white, unusually smooth and shiny round pebbles. Guests will be able to snorkel or stroll along the picturesque shore. The cruise ends with sunset cocktails on deck as the yacht sails back to the resort.

Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa, Maldives will be the first luxury resort in the southern Maldives, on Addu Atoll. The resort will feature 142 villas with views of the ocean or the island’s natural lush vegetation. The Maldives’ second international airport, Gan International Airport, is an eight-minute boat ride away from the resort and Male International Airport is 70 minutes by domestic flights operating around the clock.

Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts currently owns and manages 55 hotels under the Shangri-La and Traders brands with a rooms inventory of over 28,000. Shangri-La hotels are five-star deluxe properties featuring extensive luxury facilities and services. Shangri-La hotels are located in Australia, mainland China, Fiji, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Sultanate of Oman, Taiwan, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates. The group has over 50 projects under development in Austria, Canada, mainland China, France, India, Japan, Macau, Maldives, Philippines, Qatar, Seychelles, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States. For more information or reservations, please contact a travel professional or access the website at


Maldives constitutional changes

After four years of debate, the Republic of Maldives has ratified their constitution. This event is receiving praise from some and criticism from others.

The changes are said to have put the tourism-heavy country into the ranks of other world democracies. The Maldives is under the leadership of Asia's longest-serving president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Behind the beautiful sights that draw vacationers is a history of a repressive government, according to World Evangelical Alliance. WEA believes the changes are just as discriminatory as they have been in the past, despite hopes of true liberty. They report that "clearly the Western media still regard religious liberty as a dispensable human right, for the new constitution discriminates and marginalizes non-Muslims." Nowhere in the new constitution were religious freedoms outlined.

Article 2 states clearly that the Republic of Maldives is "based on the principles of Islam." In the past, one official of the country wrote on his personal blog that Maldivians who marry non-Muslims or convert away from Islam risk losing their citizenship. Now, it is written in Article 9 that "a non-Muslim may not become a citizen of the Maldives." Article 16 continues, saying that parliament may restrict freedoms in order to uphold the tenets of Islam. The courts are allowed to decide whether the restrictions are "demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society".

Interestingly, Article 20 is in contradiction to the Islamic law it is trying to uphold when it says that all people shall be held equal before the law.

Article after Article has stipulations regarding religious affiliation and the inculcation of Sharia law. Article 72a3 says all members of parliament must be Muslims.

Considering all this, WEA says it "may be understood that proselytism and apostasy are banned." In the past, Christians have been arrested and physically harmed for missionary activity.

The new law is due to be in place by October 2008. Pray that persecution will not increase for Chrsitians there. Pray that they will carry-on with strength and take bold steps of witness.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Inner Maldives Holidays Selected as Host Buyer for PATA Travel Mart 2008

Inner Maldives Holidays is pleased to announce that the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) has selected Inner Maldives Holidays as a Host Buyer for PATA Travel Mart 2008. PATA - a non-profit travel trade association serving government tourist offices, airlines, hotels and other travel-related companies throughout the Pacific Asia region, and it is one of the most vital travel associations in the world.

PATA Travel Mart 2008 is hosted this year in Hyderabad, India and this event is gearing up to be a spectacular show. PATA Travel Mart 2008 has received a total of 374 registered buyer delegates from 329 buyer organisations, from 57 countries.

Inner Maldives Holidays Pvt Ltd., a company that was founded in the year 1998 with the dedicated objective of providing travel and tourism services to the booming tourism industry in the Maldives. In the years Inner Maldives Holidays has grown to become one of the market leaders in the industry with annual turnover of over USD$ 6 million in 2006, and presently represent over 500 global travel brands in the Maldives.

It is said to be the first time a Maldivian travel company has been selected as a host buyer at a PATA Travel Mart or any trade fair. This distinguished endorsement of the Maldivian tourism industry by PATA is a nation triumph and achievement.

Inner Maldives Holidays has been nominated by SriLankan Holidays, therefore, they take this opportunity to thank SriLankan Airlines and SriLankan Holidays for this opportunity and also thank PATA for making this possible.


Indian Cabinet approves freer trade with SAARC LDCs

The Cabinet on Friday gave approval for reducing India’s existing Sensitive List of 744 items for least developed countries (LDCs) under South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) to 480 by deleting 264 items. This is in pursuance with India’s announcement during the 14th SAARC summit regarding its readiness to accept asymmetrical responsibilities, including opening its markets to South Asian neighbours insisting on reciprocity.

Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Maldives are regarded as LDCs in the SAARC.

The announcement about pruning the negative list for LDCs from January 1, 2008, which was one year ahead of the target, was made by India at the third meeting of the SAFTA Ministerial Council held here on March 3 this year.

India has also decided to give national treatment to SAARC countries for participation in its national trade fairs.


Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts named 'Favorite Business Hotel Chain in Southeast Asia

Asia Pacific’s leading luxury hotel group, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, was named
“Favorite Business Hotel Chain in Southeast Asia” in the second annual Alpha South
East Asia Business Travel Poll. Shangri-La Hotel, Jakarta; Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok;
and Makati Shangri-La, Manila were named “Favorite Business Hotel” in their respective

The readers’ poll was conducted from February to June 2008, with poll results published in the July/August issue.

Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, Asia Pacific’s leading luxury hotel
group, currently owns and/or manages 55 hotels under the deluxe Shangri-La and mid-
market Traders brands, with a rooms inventory of over 28,000. The group has over 50
projects under development in Austria, Canada, mainland China, France, India, Japan,
Macau, Maldives, Philippines, Qatar, Seychelles, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates,
United Kingdom and the United States.


Ishmeet died of drowning, says report

Putting speculations of foul play in singing sensation Ishmeet Singh's death to rest, the four-member board of doctors of Government Medical College, Patiala, has concluded that he died of drowning and not due to head injury.

The viscera report after thorough investigations has been sent to the Ludhiana Civil Hospital for further action.

Ishmeet had drowned in a swimming pool in a hotel in Maldives on July 29 when he had gone there for an international event. After a post mortem by a panel of doctors, the viscera had been sent to Patiala to find the cause of death. His family had demanded a probe into Ishmeet's death.

After receiving the report, the Government Medical College authorities had constituted the board under Manjit Singh Bal, head of pathology department.

"During our investigations, we found fluid in his lungs and there was a minor external head injury, which couldn't have caused death," Bal told TOI.

The demand for a high-level probe had been gaining momentum and even chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to inquire into the matter.


Ishmeet died of drowning, says report

Putting speculations of foul play in singing sensation Ishmeet Singh's death to rest, the four-member board of doctors of Government Medical College, Patiala, has concluded that he died of drowning and not due to head injury.

The viscera report after thorough investigations has been sent to the Ludhiana Civil Hospital for further action.

Ishmeet had drowned in a swimming pool in a hotel in Maldives on July 29 when he had gone there for an international event. After a post mortem by a panel of doctors, the viscera had been sent to Patiala to find the cause of death. His family had demanded a probe into Ishmeet's death.

After receiving the report, the Government Medical College authorities had constituted the board under Manjit Singh Bal, head of pathology department.

"During our investigations, we found fluid in his lungs and there was a minor external head injury, which couldn't have caused death," Bal told TOI.

The demand for a high-level probe had been gaining momentum and even chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to inquire into the matter.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Maldives president ratifies new constitution

The Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom ratified the country's new constitution on Thursday, aiming to pursue a "modern, multi-party, democratic system" and giving more powers to the judiciary and legislature.

Opposition parties welcomed the new constitution, but worried about the implementation stage, while some members of the public hoped the document would bring change.

The new constitution, developed over the past four years, includes a judiciary run by an independent commission, and independent commissions to oversee elections and fight corruption.

The new constitution reduces the executive powers vested under the president and strengthens the parliament, which would be chosen through an electoral system giving each 5,000 people one member, replacing a less representative system that included some seats appointed by the president.

"We are not doing this as an illusion ... but for the benefit of the country," President Gayoom said soon after announcing official ratification of the new constitution.

"The real work is bringing the constitution into effect. Democracy can bind everyone together even if we are different from one another."

Gayoom, Asia's longest-serving leader, has held the reins of the archipelago -- a major tourist destination -- since 1978.

He first pledged the reforms to the earlier constitution following a crackdown on mass protests in 2003, and criticism over his government's human rights record.

The country's constitution was last revised in 1998, putting the president at the head of all government bodies.


"It might bring some good changes. I have seen this man (Gayoom) ever since I was born. It's time to bring a change," said 27-year-old housewife Mizna, who like others interviewed gave only one name.

"The new constitution says we can get freedoms, but we don't feel it now. Maybe electing a new president will give us the freedoms in reality," said Ibrahim, a store cashier.

Tourist resort worker Aram, 18, said he didn't believe the new constitution could make a difference and thought Gayoom would retain his power.

Gayoom is expected to contest in the country's first multi-party presidential elections, due to be held by Oct. 10, after six terms in which he was nominated by parliament with the public given the chance to approve or disapprove him.

"It lays the groundwork for a new era providing, of course, the constitution is implemented in the spirit it (is) intended to be," Ahamed Shaheed, former foreign minister of Gayoom's government last year on slow pace of constitutional reforms and now a member of opposition New Maldives Movement, told Reuters.

"But we still want to see how it is implemented, because we do need to see the composition of the election commission and supreme court."

The opposition Republican party said true independence for the new bodies is critical.

The Home Ministry said Gayoom had pardoned 13 prisoners on Wednesday night, a day before he lost his pardoning powers under the new constitution, including a pardon for relative jailed on terror charges in the 2003 unrest.


Brokers exploit Bangladeshi workers in Maldives

Heavenly turquoise blue waters, lush tropical islands and an air of isolation like that of Robinson Crusoe--these are just a few images that come to one's mind while thinking of the Maldives, a group of tiny islands in the Indian Ocean.

But for at least 15,000 Bangladeshis who went there for work, the Maldives is the name of a nightmarish place where they went to make fortune but are now barely living from hand to mouth because of unscrupulous middlemen.

Al-Amin, an 18-year-old boy who went to the Maldives in quest of fortune, finally found his destination in killing himself on July 25 out of frustration as he was not given the job assured by his middleman.

Murad, who went to the island country along with Al-Amin, somehow managed a ticket on the Dhaka-bound Best Air flight three days later. He also did not get the promised job.

Murad said, "Thousands of Bangladeshi workers in the Maldives are passing days in deep frustration as they are yet to get any job."

These workers, who are among those that keep running the wheel of economy back home by sending hard-earned dollars, blamed their inhuman suffering on the lack of government monitoring.

The Maldives, a Saarc member country with a native population of over 3,00,000, is home to about 30,000 Bangladeshis, almost half of whom work in the construction industry.

A high official of Bangladesh High Commission in the Maldives said, "There was nothing in the service contact of Al-Amin when he came here five months ago--where he will work, who will take back his dead body if he dies."

Neither the Bangladesh High Commission nor the company that took Al-Amin to the Maldives could yet manage to send his dead body back home.

The high commission has sent letters to the labour ministry to make arrangements to bring back the dead body, the high commission official told The Daily Star.

“In most cases, workers come here on tourist visas and therefore they cannot manage any job as promised by their middlemen," he said.

It is the labour ministry and the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training that should play the role of a watchdog in this regard and no worker should be allowed to leave the airport for the Maldives on tourist visa, he said.

"I do not understand how the authorities allow a worker wearing sandal and torn cloths to leave the airport on tourist visa," said the high commission official, seeking anonymity. Those who come through proper ways with full knowledge about their jobs can earn a handsome amount of money, he added.

"There is a nexus between the middlemen in Bangladesh and the Maldives. These people bring workers showing false job assurance," said Kawser, another Bangladeshi worker who also left the Maldives for Dhaka after five months of inhuman life on an island of the Maldives.

"I spent about Tk 1.6 lakh and the middleman assured me of a nice job with a salary of Tk 30,000 a month but after waiting for several months I got a construction related job with only Tk 5,000 salary," he said.

"Nothing attracted us in the Maldives--the deep blue sea or anything...Every Friday we would gather in a park and share our sorrows," said another victim named Ilias who along with Kawser and nine others managed to come back home.

There are some Bangalee guesthouses in the Maldives where they were accommodated in small rooms with small amount of food, Murad and Kawser said.

"I used to earn Tk 7-8 thousand per month in the Maldives working at least 16 hours a day with a one-hour lunch break," said Murad.

Sri Lanka and India have set a minimum wage of $130 for their workers in the Maldives while the minimum wage for a Bangladeshi worker is about $80-100.

"We could not ensure our workers their rights and interests due to the lack of attention of the government authorities concerned. Dishonest recruiting agencies and middlemen just take this opportunity," he said.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Scouts fall-in online to do their virtual best

Many Scouts may still meet in damp draughty village halls, but those wanting to widen their circle of friends have also joined up in the virtual world on social networking Web site Facebook.

"First Facebook" Scout troop has only been up and running for a year but can already lay claim to being the largest Scout group in the world, boasting almost 10,000 members, most of whom belong to "real" groups as well.

"It just occurred to me there should be a scout group on Facebook. It was a bit tongue in cheek to start with, it was never meant to have the impact it has," founder and leader of the group Mark Foster told Reuters.

Members of First Facebook are not limited to traditional catchment areas, with Scouts joining from countries as far afield as Hong Kong, Chile and the Maldives. The group's message boards allow friends to talk as well as arrange get-togethers in the real world.

"It's like a comfort thing, I'm going to university in October and it will be difficult to stay in touch so it will allow me to keep up with scouting. I don't want travel and time restraints to be a problem" said 18-year old Andrew Duke, a member of First Facebook, as well as First Weeley/Little Clacton in Essex.

But traditional scouting continues.

Scouts still flock to large camps. Over 12,000 Scouts and Guides camped last week in Kirby-le-Soken at the Essex International Jamboreee and members of First Facebook have been meeting up, sometimes for the first time, recognizing each other from their distinctive navy blue and white scarves.

"If I see anyone wearing the necker (scarf) then we stop and talk. It's a chance to meet people from all over the country as well as other countries and learn about their culture," said 18-year old Oliver Clews from Stoke-on-Trent, a regular visitor to the group's Web site.

The Jamboree took place a year after the Scouts celebrated their 100th anniversary when over 28 million scouts in more than 216 countries renewed a vow to do their best and emphasized the environmental and friendship message of the world's largest co-educational youth movement.

"If I didn't come to scouts, I wouldn't have met all the people I have, I've met different people, Americans, Swedish, Nigerians and Germans," said 15-year old scout Hannah Everard from Thurrock in Essex.

"We are all Scouts, we're all the same, we're equal," she said from the shade of a dining tent.

The movement, which includes England soccer star David Beckham and ex-Beatle Paul McCartney as previous members, was founded by the far-sighted Boer War hero Robert Baden-Powell in 1907 following an experimental camp on Brownsea Island off the south coast of England.

"I'm sure Baden-Powell would have loved the idea. It's all about what he started the movement for, it's just what scouting is about -- it's about making friends" Foster said.

"Scouting for Boys" written in 1908 by Baden-Powell, who last year was voted the 13th most influential person in the UK in the 20th century, is the fourth biggest selling book in the world after the Bible, the Koran and Mao's Little Red Book.

Facebook, which boasts 90 million active users worldwide, has exploded in popularity over the past year as a convenient way for Web users to communicate and share personal details with selected groups of friends or acquaintances and terms such as "Facebook me" are now heard from business meetings to playgrounds around the world.

Source: Rauters

India alleges serious security lapse at Saarc

India said on Wednesday there had been serious security lapses during a visit to Sri Lanka by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh despite the island nation’s promise of “ultimate security.”

The Sri Lankan bodyguard assigned to protect Singh did not turn up during a regional summit last weekend, while the motorcade for India’s National Security Advisor MK Narayanan failed to appear.

There was a “serious lapse in that some of the arrangements discussed and agreed to in advance, did not get implemented on the ground,” the Indian High Commission (embassy) here said in a statement.

Sri Lanka is in the grip of a long-running ethnic war between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels. The Tigers are blamed for the 1991 murder of former Indian premier Rajiv Gandhi.

The security lapse “was immediately discussed with Sri Lankan security authorities and remedial measures taken jointly.... Sri Lankan security authorities have apologised to Mr Narayanan,” the Indian statement said.

Local press reports said Narayanan wound up returning to his hotel from the conference site in a taxi.

He was stopped at two road blocks and asked to walk since his taxi did not have security clearance to get to the hotel.

The lapses came despite the Sri Lankan government promising “ultimate security” to the visiting dignitaries from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, The Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan.

Indian diplomats had voiced concerns over security ahead of the two-day summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, and they had brought in their own guards, helicopters and ships to minimise any risk.


A decade of deeds, say SAARC leaders

SAARC leaders called upon themselves to shed the “talk shop” tag from SAARC summits and vowed to make the next ten years a “decade of actions and implementations”.

The SAARC summits are criticised as a regional forum where more is said than done and a political exercise to boost egos.

In the declaration made during the 15th SAARC summit, leaders recognised the need for SAARC to further focus on developing and implementing regional and sub regional projects in agreed areas of priority.

Bhutanese prime minister, Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley, told Kuensel that all member states have agreed that two decades have gone by without much significant, substantive, meaningful and practical achievements.

“We have now agreed that we are in the first half of the third decade of SAARC and that the third must be the decade of implementation, decade of business and decade of productivity in terms of regional cooperation,” he said.

“This spirit of cooperation, understanding and, certainly, the growing realisation that we must work together, that SAARC must succeed, has prevailed throughout,” he said.

Four agreements were signed during the Summit. They were the Charter on SAARC development fund, Agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, Agreement on establishment of South Asian regional standards organization and Protocol on the accession of Afghanistan to SAFTA.

Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley said that a far greater degree of enthusiasm was seen on the part of the larger countries.

“India is deeply committed to this process, Pakistan is clearly interested in seeing SAARC succeed, Bangladesh has so much to gain from this and Sri Lanka’s interest in the success of SAARC is evident in the way they have hosted this event. Afghanistan, who is interested and just joined, has great expectations in terms of what SAARC could offer. And we are committed,” he said.

Meanwhile, the summit focussed on, among others, terrorism, food crises and the energy crisis and their implication on impoverished countries in the region.

“Terrorism is on the top of the agenda mainly because there was no country in our sub region which does not suffer from the problem of terrorism. Bhutan is the most peaceful country but even in Bhutan we had fourteen bomb explosions in recent times,” said the prime minister.

It was agreed that there was need to activate and implement the agreements within the framework of the SAARC agreement on the control and elimination of terrorism. The new agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters was expected to bolster the one that already existed.

It was also declared that the next SAARC summit would be held in the Maldives.


Badal writes to PM and seeks inquiry into Ishmeet's death

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Wednesday urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to order an inquiry from an appropriate authority into the cause of death of the Ludhiana based budding singer Ishmeet Singh who died by drowning in the swimming pool of a resort in Maldives where he had gone to attend a function.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Badal mentioned that it had been reported in the media that many sections of public had raised apprehensions about the cause of death.

The Chief Minister also pointed out that he also attended Ishmeet's Bhog ceremony, where the mammoth gathering and his parents had requested him to get an inquiry conducted into the cause of death as they feared a foul play because of professional rivalry.

Badal reiterated that an inquiry into the cause of death by an appropriate authority should be got conducted so that the apprehensions and cobwebs are cleared in the minds of the public and the parents of the deceased.

It may be mentioned that Ishmeet Singh had won the Voice of India , a popular competition held by one of the television channels a few months back.

The entire nation was plunged into deep shock and grief over the death of young icon's passing away in the prime of his youth, an official release said here.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Maldives to host 16th SAARC Summit

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Sunday decided to hold the 16th SAARC summit in the Maldives.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced at the conclusion of the 15th SAARC summit that the Maldives would host the 16th Summit.

The Maldives was originally selected as the venue for the 15th SAARC summit. However, its officials said they would not be able to host the summit and Sri Lanka volunteered to take over.

Initially the Sri Lankan authorities chose Kandy an ancient hillside town as the site for the summit. Due to lack of infrastructure and security concerns, Sri Lanka decided to move it to Colombo.

The eight heads of state or government from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan meet annually to discuss problems facing the region in a bid to promote economic and political cooperation.

The 14th SAARC summit was held in Indian capital New Delhi in April last year.


The 15th SAARC Summit draws to a close with a firm pledge to redouble efforts to counter regional terrorism.

The closing session was held at the BMICH this afternoon. Before the arrival of the leaders at the premises, Foreign Ministers and other representatives gathered for a meeting. Minister Rohitha Bogollagama welcomed President Rajapakse who has assumed Chairmanship of the eight member grouping. He was followed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Special Advisor of Bangladesh Fakhruddin Ahmed, Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Prime Minister of the Caretaker Government of Nepal Girija Prasad Koirala,

Prime Minister of Bhutan Jigmi Thinley and Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousuf Raza Gilani Thereafter the concluding sessions got off the grounds in the afternoon. After warmly greeting the leaders, President Rajapakse, the SAARC Chairman announced that it was pertinent to ink agreements that have been reached. Foreign Ministers representing Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka and Minister in Charge of Financial Activities of Nepal signed the agreements. Current SAARC Chairman President Rajapakse then declared that the 16th SAARC Summit will be held in the Maldives. After a brief review on matters which are most vital to achieve peace and prosperity in the region, President Rajapakse declared that the 15th SAARC Summit has concluded. The President then invited his Maldivian counterpart Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to make a special address. As SAARC Chairman, the President expressed his gratitude to the leaders for attending the Conference.


Terrorism Talks Overshadow South Asian Summit

South Asian leaders have agreed to work jointly to combat terrorism, eradicate poverty, ensure regional food security and enhance trade ties. The declaration was affirmed in Sri lanka at the 15th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation . VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Colombo reports the conference was overshadowed by tense meetings on the sidelines involving several of the leaders.

As the SAARC summit concluded, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to devise a "common strategy" to deal with terrorism, including reducing the movement of extremists across their common border.

In a joint statement following a meeting between Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai and Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the neighbors agreed to coordinate efforts to halt cross-border terrorism.

Not mentioned in the statement was the July 7 bombing of the Indian Embassy in the Afghan capital, in which about 60 people died. Afghanistan and India have accused Pakistan's intelligence agency of masterminding the attack.

Mr. Gilani met Saturday with Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh. The Pakistani leader promised to conduct an independent investigation into the embassy blast and possible links to his country's intelligence service.

The sideline meetings - and the presence of high-profile observers, including Iran's foreign minister - took the spotlight off the actual summit.

The leaders of the association's eight nations pledged a joint fight against terrorism through a convention on trading information in criminal matters, the establishment of a $300-million fund to fight poverty, and the expedited opening of a regional food bank. They also pledged to improve cross-border trading by harmonizing quality standards.

The U.S. assistant secretary of state for the region, Richard Boucher, says such moves demonstrate the regional group is moving beyond the talking stage.

"I do not think any single organization or any single meeting is going to solve all these problems," said Boucher. "But I think every organization and every meeting should try to make a direct contribution and that is what the SAARC leaders have pledged themselves to do together. And that is what we as observers are trying to work with them to do."

In remarks at the summit, the chief of Bangladesh's caretaker government, Fakhruddin Ahmed, said SAARC is finally living up to the ideals it proposed when it was initiated.

"This summit has rekindled the hope and belief among our peoples regarding the delivery and prosperity that we collectively promised 23 years ago," said Fakhruddin Ahmed.

The SAARC leaders represent more than one of every five people on the planet, but 40 percent of the world's poor. The association is composed of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.