Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mega-tsunami hit southeast Asia 700 years ago

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A mega-tsunami struck southeast Asia 700 years ago rivalling the deadly one in 2004, two teams of geologists said after finding sedimentary evidence in coastal marshes.

Researchers in Thailand and Indonesia wrote in two articles in Nature magazine that the tsunami hit around 1400, long before historical records of earthquakes in the region began.

"Tsunamis are something we never experienced before and after 2004, people thought it was something we would never experience again," Kruawun Jankaew of Thailand's Chulalongkorn University told Reuters by telephone.

"But from this, we are able to identify that the place has been hit by a mega tsunami in the past. So even though it is infrequent for this part of the world, it still happens and there is a need to promote tsunami education for coastal peoples."

The 2004 tsunami left 230,000 people either dead or missing across Asia, from Sri Lanka and India to Thailand, the Maldives and Indonesia. More than 170,000 of these victims were in Aceh province in Indonesia.

Jankaew's team studied a grassy plain on Phra Thong, an island north of Phuket in Thailand, where the 2004 tsunami reached maximum wave heights of 20 metres above sea level.

A separate team led by Katrin Monecke from the University of Pittsburgh looked at the sedimentary records on coastal marshes in Aceh, where the waves reached 35 metres.

They explored low areas between beach ridges called "swales" -- which are known to trap tsunami sand between layers of peat and other organic matter -- and discovered a layer of sand beneath the most recent layer (2004), from 600 to 700 years ago.

"Depending on where the depression is, it (the layer of the 1400 sand) can be 10 cm. But on higher ground, it can be two to five cm. Organic materials like bark and leaves, which contain carbon, were used for dating," Jankaew said.

The scientists are now trying to find out the scale of that catastrophe 700 years ago.

"We will look at the thickness and grain size of the sediment and we can calculate how fast the tsumani was, how far inland it went, and the floor depth," she said.

Jankaew said there are two more layers of sand under the 1400 layer but more studies would need to be done to date these.

Some experts blame the massive loss of lives in 2004 on ignorance of the region's tsunami history.

Very few people living along the coasts recognised natural tsunami warnings, such as the strong shaking felt in Aceh and the rapid retreat of ocean water from the shoreline that was observed in Thailand.

But on an island just off the coast of Aceh, most people safely fled to higher ground in 2004 because the island's oral history includes information about a devastating tsunami in 1907.

Source: Reuters

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Maldives ruler falls to opposition

MALE (Reuters) - The president of the Maldives for the past 30 years conceded electoral defeat on Wednesday to a former dissident he had repeatedly jailed during years of crusading for democracy on the tropical Indian Ocean archipelago.

Mohamed "Anni" Nasheed, victorious with 54.2 percent of a runoff vote held on Tuesday, stood with President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in the office he inherits on November 11, with both praising the Maldives' first multiparty poll as a testament to democracy.

Asia's longest-serving ruler, 71, made good on his pledge to leave peacefully and join the opposition, after a campaign in which he and his nemesis traded sharp accusations.

Gayoom garnered just 45.8 percent of the vote after Nasheed lined up the entire opposition behind him in the second round.

"In the life of a democracy this is a great moment, a great example by Maldivians. I accepted the will of the people," Gayoom said. "My legacy is going to be introducing a modern, liberal form of democracy. That is the greatest legacy anyone can give."

Nasheed's victory caps a remarkable journey for an activist whose criticism of Gayoom and crusading for democracy saw him charged 27 times and jailed or banished to remote atolls for a total of six years.

"This is a happier day than ever in the history of the Maldives. The Maldives will change, it will have a peaceful government," said Nasheed, 41, who was just 11 years old when Gayoom took power in 1978.

He said he had no plans to pursue criminal charges against Gayoom, whom he had accused of corruption, but instead will arrange a pension and security for him.

"A test of our democracy will be how we treat Maumoon. I don't think we should be going for a witchhunt and digging up the past," Nasheed said.

The vote is the culmination of years of agitation for democratic reforms on the string of 1,192 mostly uninhabited coral atolls 800 km (500 miles) off the tip of India, peopled by 300,000 Sunni Muslims.


With the country's international reputation as a diving hotspot and luxury hideaway for Hollywood stars and others ready to pay thousands of dollars for a night's stay, Gayoom had been criticized for ruling like a personal sultanate.

After early returns showed Nasheed ahead, many of his supporters lined the seawall in the capital, Male, to celebrate in the early morning sun.

Nasheed was at the forefront of the campaign for democracy, including the 2004 protests that prompted a brutal crackdown by security forces and drew rare international criticism, and attention, to the hideaway islands.

Gayoom won the October 9-10 first-round election, but fell short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.

It was the first time Gayoom had faced opposition at the polls since first being elected in 1978. In each of his six previous votes, he stood alone for a yes-no nod from voters and said he was re-elected by more than 90 percent each time.

This time, 86 percent of the tiny nation's more than 209,000 registered voters cast their ballots.

Although there were complaints about registration and fraud as in the first round, poll observers praised the exercise.

Gayoom is widely credited with overseeing the Maldives' transformation from a fishing-based economy to a tourism powerhouse with South Asia's highest per-capita income.

But Nasheed argued that only a small clique around Gayoom grew rich amid corruption in his government, which Gayoom denies.

Nasheed will take over an economy that earns 28 percent of its GDP directly from tourism but which is under IMF pressure to ease debts and trim a huge government payroll. Tourism is expected to suffer from the global financial crisis.

The archipelago also faces high child malnutrition, growing Islamic extremism, a major heroin problem, and rising sea levels that could see much of its land mass underwater by 2100, if a U.N. climate change panel's predictions are right.

Nasheed will also inherit a presidency with far fewer powers, thanks to the very changes for which he campaigned.


Maldives president admits defeat

Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has conceded electoral victory to opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed.

Mr Gayoom, Asia's longest-serving leader, congratulated Mr Nasheed after final results were confirmed.

Mr Nasheed said his victory, in the nation's first democratic presidential poll, showed the people of the Maldives were embracing the future.

President Gayoom won the first round this month, but failed to secure the 50% needed for outright victory.

With all the votes counted in the second round, Mr Nasheed, a former political prisoner, won 54% to Mr Gayoom's 46%.

'Close race'

"I congratulate Anni [Mr Nasheed's popular name]," Mr Gayoom said in a radio address.

"I thank the people of the Maldives for allowing me to serve them for 30 years."

Mr Nasheed told the BBC he had spoken to Mr Gayoom and that the two men would meet later in the day.

The outgoing environment minister said the elections had been a "very close race".

Abdullah Mausoom said the country's first "multiparty elections have been held freely and fairly".

The election was the culmination of reforms in the Indian Ocean islands that followed pro-democracy street protests and international pressure.

Mr Gayoom, 71, has ruled the Maldives uncontested since 1978, elected back into office six times by referendums.

The BBC's Roland Buerk in the capital, Male, said Mr Gayoom's supporters had credited him with overseeing an economic expansion fuelled by tourism.

But Mr Gayoom's critics say he was a dictator who ruled like a sultan of old, says our correspondent.


Former political prisoner elected Maldivian president

A former political prisoner has been elected as the Maldives' new president, ending Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's record as one of Asia's longest-serving leaders, officials in Male said Wednesday. Gayoom, 71, was denied a seventh-consecutive term in Tuesday's run-off election and is to be succeeded by Mohamed "Anni" Nasheed, a 41-year-old activist who was once imprisoned by Gayoom's government.

Election Commission officials in Male said Nasheed received 54.21 per cent of the 174,250 votes cast against Gayoom's 45.7 per cent. Turnout was 83 per cent, they said.

Gayoom did nearly as well in the first round of voting held October 8 when he received 44 per cent while Nasheed got 25 per cent -both short of the required 50 per cent, prompting Tuesday's run-off.

Gayoom, who has ruled the Indian Ocean archipelago since 1978, has in recent years been under local and international pressure to introduce political reforms giving wider powers to parliament.

Nasheed, who represents the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), campaigned for democratic reforms.

After the declaration of the results, hundreds of MDP supporters took to the streets chanting slogans welcoming Nasheed.

During his campaign, Nasheed pledged to eradicate corruption, upgrade infrastructure and improve the educational system.

Tourism is the main source of income for the Maldives, a popular tourist destination with its diving locations being among its main attractions.

The defeat of Gayoom was likely to see the return of a large number of MDP supporters living outside the country. Some had expressed fears of being harassed by the Gayoom regime if they returned home.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Asia's Longest-Serving Leader In Maldives Run-off Poll

Asia's longest-serving leader faces a democracy activist he once held as a political prisoner in a run-off vote Tuesday in the Maldives' first democratic presidential election.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, 71, who has led the tiny Muslim state through three decades of economic expansion but is accused of suppressing human rights, is hoping to win a seventh term in office.

The election, the first with more than one candidate on the ballot since the country gained independence from Britain in 1965, is seen as a referendum on Gayoom's policies and a test of the country's desire for change.

His challenger is Maldivian Democratic Party leader Mohamed Nasheed, who finished second in the first round of voting earlier this month in which no candidate received the required majority.

Under Gayoom, the Maldives' breathtaking beaches, crystal-clear waters and coral reefs are among the region's most popular diving spots and tourism is the most important source of income, followed by fishing.

Tuesday's winner will inherit the low-lying island nation's tough challenges - a looming global recession that will hit visitor numbers, rising sea levels caused by climate change, a growing heroin problem and a threat of Islamic fundamentalism.

Gayoom's allies have accused Nasheed of seeking to spread Christianity in the increasingly conservative Muslim country of 370,000.

Nasheed denies he has a secret Christian agenda. Like most Maldivians, he is a Sunni Muslim, a requirement for all presidential candidates.

The challengers both spoke confidently of victory at late-night rallies Sunday attended by thousands of supporters who came out despite tropical monsoon downpours.

"We want to bring reform to the Maldives, reform that leaves no room for other religions," Gayoom told a cheering crowd of around 4,000 wearing white headbands. "Maldivians want change, but good change."


Maldives set for presidential run-off today

The first-ever democratic presidential battle in the Maldives goes to a second round Tuesday, with Asia’s longest serving leader facing his most outspoken critic, a former political prisoner.

Elections three weeks ago produced no clear winner after Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who has run the Indian Ocean archipelago unchallenged for 30 years, failed to deliver a knockout blow to second-placed Mohamed “Anni” Nasheed. The two rivals held final campaign rallies on Sunday night in the capital Male where more than a quarter of the 208,000 electorate is concentrated.

“What we really need is another 10,000 votes and Gayoom is comfortably home. But for the opposition, they need to get much, much more than that,” spokesman Mohammed Shareef said. In the October 8 vote, Gayoom won 41 percent - short of the 50 percent required to avoid a run-off - while Nasheed collected 25 percent. Many Maldivians say they are eager to see a fresh face in charge of their atoll nation, which, despite its image as a beach paradise, is beset by a critical housing shortage, rising crime and drug abuse.

“Lots of young people support Anni,” a party worker at Gayoom’s rally said. “But we feel he will pull through with support from the older voters and especially women. ” said the worker, who asked not to be named. The polling earlier this month struggled with various irregularities, which Ibrahim said included glitches with voter lists, identity cards and indelible ink washing off voters’ hands.However, European Union observers declared that the voting was fair.

Source: afp

Monday, October 27, 2008

‘Winner’ of ‘World Luxury Hotel Award 2008’ conferred on Hulhule Island Hotel, Maldives

It was a historical moment when the winners of ‘World Luxury Hotel Awards 2008’ were announced at Cape Town on October 18, 2008. Top Luxury Hotels and Resorts from 30 countries participated in the prestigious event. Apart from the Republic of Maldives, it included Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Germany, India, Latvia, Mauritius, South Africa, Singapore, Bulgaria, USA, China, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, North America, France, Italy, Paraiso de la Bonita, Argentina, Zambia, New Zealand, Mexico, Fiji islands, Cook Islands, Malta, Spain, Indonesia and Mozambique.

The gala ceremony was opened by the Provincial Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism in the Western Cape, MEC Garth Strachan with a key note address to the distinguished gathering from all across the globe. “The sheer number of participants in my humble view shows that there is indeed a demand internationally for an award system for Luxury Hotels, Lodges and Resorts”, said Brandon Lournes, CEO and Founder of World Luxury Hotel Awards.

The ‘World Luxury Hotel Awards’ are accepted as the pinnacle of achievement for Luxury Hotels worldwide. This Award was established as a celebration of ultimate achievement in hoteliering. It is about congratulating hotels that have taken the extra step and have as such differentiated themselves from “good hotels” to “exceptional hotels”. The World Luxury Hotel Awards accounts for all categories in the Luxury Hotel industry. Award winners set the benchmark for luxury hotels in achieving recognition for their world class facilities and service excellence.

Hulhule Island Hotel was one of the three finalists under the ‘Luxury Airport Hotel’ category of ‘World Luxury Hotel Awards 2008’ - the other two finalists being, the newly opened Crowne Plaza Hotel, Singapore and Emperor’s Palace, South Africa – each with more than 300 rooms. During the award ceremony, Hulhule Island Hotel was officially declared the ‘Winner’ under the ‘Luxury Airport Hotel’ category.

Hulhule Island Hotel was officially inaugurated by His Excellency Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, President of Republic of Maldives in 2001. Since then, the Hotel has been a key member of the travel and trade business in the Maldives. The Hotel has become well-known for its excellent services and the hospitality offered to tourists.

Hulhule Island Hotel has 136 rooms in all inclusive of various categories of rooms on offer including Superior, Deluxe, Super Deluxe, Super Deluxe with Jacuzzi and the Suites. The facilities for the guests at the hotel include the Spa, Gymnasium, Swimming Pool, Beach area,Landscaping, Tennis court, Golf putting green and extensive Food & Beverage options. The diverse dining selections include a rooftop restaurant ‘Uduvilaa’ with a panoramic view of both Male and the Indian Ocean catering to the multi-cuisine creations for the International clientele.

It is worth mentioning that Hulhule Island Hotel was adjudged as the ‘Best Culinary Establishment’ at Maldives in the Hotel Asia Exhibition & Culinary Challenge successively twice i.e. in 2006 and 2008. Hulhule Island Hotel is an ISO 9001-2000 certified hotel and has also been certified for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) which is unarguably the ultimate food safety certification worldwide, with a reputation of covering A-Z of the food processing cycle, right from purchase and selection of suppliers, to the storage, preparation and service of the food products.

On receiving this coveted award, Mr. Utkarsh Faujdar, General Manager - Hulhule Island Hotel stated ecstatically, “This is indeed recognition of the par excellence Hulhule Island Hotel has attained by achieving the highest standards in the hospitality industry”. He further added “The relentless efforts of the team have been instrumental in bringing this International award of repute to the Republic of Maldives.”


Friday, October 24, 2008

Sheraton To Debut In Maldives

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE: HOT) today announced a joint venture agreement with Full Moon Private Limited to rebrand the Full Moon Resort to Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa. Starwood is extensively refurbishing the 156-room resort, which is located on its own private island in the Republic of Maldives, and targets to officially open the resort as a Sheraton on December 1.

The addition of Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa heralds the aggressive growth of the brand’s portfolio of world-class resorts in desirable destinations across the globe. Sheraton currently offers more than 16 resorts in Asia Pacific, in locations such as Fiji, Japan, China, Indonesia, Guam and Australia. And there are Sheraton resorts under development in markets like Taiwan, India and Spain. “The Sheraton brand is familiar and well-known to travelers, and the addition of this spectacular hotel to our beautiful collection of upper upscale resorts located throughout the world gives leisure travelers more reasons to love us,” said Miguel Ko, President, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Asia Pacific.

“The Maldives woos tourists with promises of 'the last paradise on earth', with its pure white beaches, pristine turquoise lagoons and spectacular and diving resorts. Together with W Retreat & Spa, Maldives, we are thrilled to be able to offer travelers different resort experiences that reflect their preferences and personalities, and ultimately create a truly memorable travel experience for them, “added Ko. W Retreat & Spa, Maldives is the first W resort in the world and has been making waves since September 2006. The W resort is owned by a joint venture between an affiliate of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. and Universal Enterprises Private Limited, the parent company of Full Moon Private Limited.

Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa is located on its own private island, Furana Fushi, in the North Male Atoll and a 20 minute boat ride from Male International Airport. In addition to the 156 rooms, Sheraton also welcomes guests with 7 restaurants and bars, a spa, and various indoor and outdoor recreational activities.


Maldives Wants Vision Asia Project

To boost its football craze in the tiny island, Maldives FA has requested Asian Football Confederation to grant the AFC Vision Asia programme.

The official website of AFC has confirmed the request from Maldives FA, which will be discussed at a Vision Asia Technical Committee meeting next month in Shanghai.

AFC President Mohamed Bin Hammam is also expected to invite a Maldives delegation to Kuala Lumpur for discussions. Vision Asia is the project that helps the country with monetary assistance to lift the standard of football at all levels.

Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, India, Iran, Oman, Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Northern Mariana Islands are doing their project under Vision Asia. Kyrgyzstan and Sri Lanka are also in the offing to join Vision Asia project.

Maldives had defeated India 1-0 to become the Champions of SAARC region.


Change in the Maldives?

In what may be the world's most picturesque election, ballot boxes are being distributed across the 1,200 island nation of The Maldives ready for voting next week.

Some 250 of the islands are inhabited, home to 370,000 people and some of the world's best hotels. Two presidential hopefuls have been travelling between them, meeting and greeting voters. The current president Mamoun Abdul Gayoom, 71 years old,has led the country for three decades and is finally seeking a democratic mandate. He is being challenged by Mohammed Nasheed, a former political prisoner.

Gayoom is credited with overseeing The Maldives' rise to prosperity and viable nationhood, based on the tourist trade. Yet, in the first round of the presidential poll he was opposed on grounds of cronyism, with challengers arguing that his personal connections have prosered unfairly. There is also mounting discontent as a result of drug abuse and widening wealth disparities. Many citizens feel it is time for a change, and Gayoom - Asia's longest serving ruler - could be t out.

If so, expect some trouble, as vested interests come to terms with losing privileged access to the state. It might not have been this way. Gayoom faced a fragmented opposition in the first round, with votes split between many different parties. He hoped to be able to carry the poll on the first attempt. But by failing to win the requisite 50% of votes, the opposition has been able to rally around his new opponent, who must now be the clear favourite.


Maldives FA Not To Discipline Players For Political Activity

Football Association of Maldives (FAM) has decided not to take any action against national team players who participated in the political rally of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP)'s campaign launch ceremony last month at the Alimas Carnival. reports that FAM did not send any reports regarding the players' participation in the campaign ceremony to its disciplinary committee.

FAM organized a press conference in Male to say that the players represented themselves and not the national team.

The body has changed its mind. Following the incident, a press release from FAM read: " The Football Association of Maldives does not entertain any kind of discrimination in football whether it is racism, political or religious. However, in a campaign launching ceremony of a political party, some players announced the support of the national team to the party.

"Hence, FAM will take action under the regulations set by FAM, against anyone who uses the name of the national team in political, racism or religious activity".

The players involved in the incident are from New Radiant and Valencia Sports Club.


Maldives Tourism Promotion Board visits Singapore on Asian Road Show

The Maldives Tourism Promotion Board, together with the Maldives tourism industry, is conducting a road show in Asia. The show visited Kuala Lumpur on Friday, followed by Bangkok on Monday, and will today be in Singapore.

It is the first time that MTPB has organized a road show targeting the South East Asian market. The main objectives of these road shows are to diversify further into the South East Asian market and also try new ways of promoting the Maldives as a destination for visitors from this region.

The Maldives won the title of the World’s Most Romantic Destination at the World Travel Awards 2007.

Luxury resorts, award winning spa’s and some of the best snorkeling, fishing and scuba diving in the world, the Maldives offers a unique holiday experience to visitors.

Last year Maldives welcomed a total of 675,889 visitors. The Asian market represents 144,363 visitors a market share of 23.3%.

In Singapore, booth exhibitions and presentations will be set up at the Singapore Art Museum - The Glass Hall, to update industry guests on the latest development about this unique tropical holiday destination. Participating partners include the Adaaran Group, The Regent Maldives, and Dhoni Stella Private Yachts.


Ministry unaware when construction of 5 star hotel will begin

Tourism ministry has revealed that the ministry is unaware when the construction of the 5 star hotel to be constructed on the north eastern side of Male’ will commence.

Assistant Director General of Ministry of Tourism Mohamed Waheed speaking to Miadhu Daily expressed that the ministry is unaware when the actual construction will begin. He said although some studies has been carried out people will only realize that something is happening only when the actual construction commence.

Two parties submitted proposals for developing the new five-star hotel to be built on vacant land east of Dharubaaruge when the bid was opened. The two parties were Handy Work Investment Ltd and Shangri-La Maldives Ltd. Although Handy Work won the bidding, the company later decided to forgo and eventually Shangri la Maldives was awarded the contract.

The government has leased 40,000 square feet of land east of Dharubaaruge for the development of the hotel. Under the terms agreement made with the government for the development of the hotel, 30 percent of the hotel is to be sold to the public within three years after completion of the hotel. The hotel was proposed as a replacement for the Nasandhura Palace Hotel which stopped operations earlier this year.


Sunday, October 19, 2008


Please choose your team.

Its not just ONE candidate.

Think Nation.

Source: ML

Commonwealth Observers depart from Maldives after first round of election

Some of the current Observer Group will return for the run-off to be held 28 October

The Chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group, former Prime Minister of Barbados Owen Arthur, departed from Maldives on 15 October 2008 upon completion of the Group's duties for the first round of the presidential election.

Some of the current Observer Group will return for the run-off to be held on 28 October 2008. Mr Arthur will also return to lead the team.

In its Interim Statement of 10 October, the Commonwealth Observer Group stressed the need for all parties to continue their positive and peaceful engagement in the process, and for a level playing field to be provided.

The Group also stressed the need for the Elections Commission to, among other things, address shortcomings in the voter list, and hoped that problems with the distribution of ID cards can be rectified in time for the run-off.


Profile: President Maumoon Gayoom

The president has recently appeared more vulnerable

But few have heard of him outside the sleepy Indian Ocean archipelago he has governed for three decades.

His supporters say this is because he is a popular president who has quietly got on with the business of making the Maldives more affluent and tackling head-on the problem of rising sea levels which it's feared may wash away his entire country.

President Gayoom has held power in the coral-fringed atolls since 1978, elected in yes-or-no referendums.

Under him, tourism has made the Maldives the most prosperous country in South Asia but his political opponents have described him as a dictator who has ruled like the Sultans of old.

They argue that his anonymity is a sign of something more sinister. President Gayoom, they say, silenced domestic dissent to steer the Maldives along a course of his own choosing.

Exclusive destination

The president, 71, has defended earlier curbs on democracy in the Maldives by pointing to its booming economy.

He says that his decision to introduce a new constitution in August 2008 has paved the way for the country to become a fully functioning democracy and presidential elections are a reflection of that.

"We have our own culture and traditions, and
I'm the president of Maldives. I'm my own man "

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

Since 1978, his economic policies have transformed a cluster of desert islands ringed by coral reefs into South Asia's most exclusive holiday destination.

With a per capita income of $2,280, the Maldives' population of 250,000 Sunni Muslims is now one of the wealthiest in the region.

Entire islands have been given over to luxury hotel developments and tourism has become the engine of the Maldivian economy.

Yet the reliance on Western tourism has made President's Gayoom's government sensitive to Western criticism.

Amnesty International and other human rights groups have accused the government of imprisoning and torturing its opponents, allegations the government says are baseless.

The president has also at times appeared to be politically and personally vulnerable. In September 2007, the country was hit by a bomb attack in a park near the main mosque in the capital, Male.

That prompted the president to introduce new laws to combat "Islamic extremism" in his country.

In January 2008 he escaped unhurt after he was attacked by a man wielding a knife.

Rising tides

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was born in the Maldivian capital, Male, in 1937, and studied in Sri Lanka and Egypt.

He has brushed aside three coup attempts and appears to have mastered the art of staying in office.

But the islands he governs could do with some staying power of their own.

If sea levels continue to rise at recent rates, the low-lying Maldives are set to vanish beneath the waves within the next few decades.

The threat of going under has cast President Gayoom in the role of an environmentalist advocating curbs on global warming.


Friday, October 17, 2008

India lauds free and fair polls in Maldives

auding the process of democratic transition underway in the Maldives, India Thursday praised the ‘peaceful and fair’ presidential election in the picturesque Indian Ocean nation comprising 1,190 islands.

‘We are heartened by the peaceful and fair manner in which the first round of multi-party presidential elections in Maldives took place recently,’ External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement here.

He was all praise for the Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who unveiled his roadmap for democratic reforms in 2004, for his ’sagacity and foresight’ for the first multi-party elections held under a new constitution in the island nation in the last three decades.

‘The elections saw a high turnout of voters (85.5 percent). It is for the people of Maldives to take necessary decisions about their future in the next round of elections which will be held soon,’ he said.

Underlining ‘close and friendly relations’ between the two countries, Mukherjee offered India’s willingness ‘to assist the friendly people of the Maldives in their democratic transition and in their march towards prosperity’.

India has stood by the Maldives in good and bad times. In 1988, the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi sent troops to thwart militants who tried to oust Gayoom in a failed coup.

Gayoom, Asia’s longest-serving leader, will face Mohamed Nasheed, a former political prisoner and pro-democracy activist, in a run-off vote Oct 29 that will decide landmark multi-party elections.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Two old rivals now duel for Maldives presidency

Maldives' first free presidential race on Friday became a duel between Asia's longest-serving leader and the pro-democracy activist he jailed dozens of times, who said he now has a unified opposition behind himself.

Even before the electoral commission announced early on Friday that President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and challenger Mohamed Nasheed would go to an Oct. 29 runoff, thousands of supporters of the two rivals took to the streets to celebrate.

Gayoom, the 71-year-old incumbent seeking a seventh term, got 40.6 percent of the votes in this week's poll, beset by rigging allegations and delays that stretched it into a second day. Nasheed, known as Anni, came second with 25.1 percent.

The Oct. 29 date puts it well outside the 10-day limit prescribed in a new election law, part of a series of democratic reforms Gayoom put in effect this year that culminated with the poll on islands that until 40 years ago were a sultanate.

Diplomats and a Commonwealth observation team praised the 85 percent turnout and said the overall exercise was credible despite the hitches.

"They did about as well as they could have, given this was their first time, and they did it all on the back of an envelope two weeks beforehand," said a Western diplomat who observed the polls. "The proof will be in the pudding in the second round, because it's head-to-head."

Nasheed, known popularly as Anni, was at the centre of pro-democracy protests in 2004 that led to a heavy-handed crackdown by Gayoom and drew rare international attention to politics in the sleepy Maldives.

"We support Anni because he's our Nelson Mandela," activist Ahmed Hameed, 47, said. Many Nasheed supports draw that comparison to the former South African president and longtime political prisoner.


The string of 1,192 mostly uninhabited coral atolls 800 km off the tip of India is mostly famous as a tropical idyll of azure waters and Robinson Crusoe-like isolation where a one-night stay can cost thousands of dollars.

A little less than two-thirds of the islands' 300,000 people, all Sunni Muslims by law, took part in the election.

Early on Friday morning, hundreds of supporters wearing the trademark yellow of Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party chanted "60 percent want change!" as he addressed them outside the party headquarters, a tin building where he was arrested many times.

He said that the other four opposition candidates had rallied behind him on a common platform of change.

"We are ready for a runoff even tomorrow," Nasheed told rapturous supporters who gathered around an enormous yellow cake to celebrate.

Across town, several thousand Gayoom supporters watched as dancing girls gyrated to loud music, the women wearing multi-coloured headscarves, until the president addressed them as his image shone over the crowd on large video screens.

"It is evident I have your love. Maldivians want reform. We want change, but we don't want to change the president," he said.

Gayoom was at the helm as the Maldives transformed from a fishing-dependent economy into a high-end tourism destination which now has the highest per capita income in South Asia.

Tourism accounts for 28 percent of GDP directly, with some estimates placing its total contribution as high as 70 percent.

"Whatever we see in this country is because of him. He built this country from scratch. It is a volatile time and we need an experienced and dedicated leader," consultant Mariyam Mohamed, 32, said.

But critics say Gayoom has been quick to clamp down on opposition and ruled the palm-dotted archipelago like a personal sultanate, where only a small clique around him became rich.


Aussie James McGrath targeted in Maldives poll

THE first free election in the history of the Maldives might or might not topple Asia's longest-serving dictator, but it has already thrust Australian political strategist James McGrath back into the spotlight, a position he finds less than comfortable.

"For somebody who really likes to avoid attention and work behind the scenes, I suppose I've been having a pretty bad run," McGrath said by telephone yesterday after becoming the personal target of a withering publicity campaign launched by Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Just before the start of Thursday's presidential voting, Gayoom, who won six previous five-year terms thanks to electoral rules that made him the only candidate, portrayed the 34-year-old Queenslander as a corrupt - and corrupting - outsider, masterminding the main opposition campaign.

A barrage of press conferences, briefings and even cartoons released by the President's team called McGrath a malicious and highly paid outsider and said he was a Christian missionary, trying to undermine the country's Muslim faith.

Democracy campaigners are now concerned that McGrath, who has been working in the Maldives for 12 weeks as an unpaid adviser to former political prisoner turned presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed, may be deported before a final run-off election on October 29, and they have appointed minders to ensure there are no physical attacks on the Australian.

It is not the first unhappy exposure to public attention for McGrath, who shares the belief of his mentor and fellow conservative Lynton Crosby that political advisers are effective only when they "fly below the radar".

After starting his political career working for the South Australian Liberal government in 2001, McGrath travelled to Britain on a working holiday visa a year later and worked his way up in Conservative machine politics to become the chief political adviser to new London Mayor Boris Johnson in May.

But his days of invisibility ended just a month later, when Johnson sacked him for saying in a private meeting that Londoners of Caribbean descent were free to leave if they did not like Johnson's administration.

Johnson rejected claims that McGrath's comment was racist, but said he still had to go because Johnson did not want his administration to be tainted by such accusations.

After four weeks' holiday, McGrath went on what was supposed to be a 10-day assignment in the Maldives as "an interesting political experience" to keep him busy while he pondered his future.

The British Conservative Party used a government grant to fund his airfare and hotel costs for nine days as a show of support for the new opposition party, the Maldives Democratic Party, and when that time expired, the local party asked him to stay on.

Travelling by boat and small planes to about a third of the nation's 21 groups of islands, McGrath taught MDP campaigners and party leaders how to canvass and develop strategy.

"I found it quite humbling to be attending meetings with party leaders and realising I was the only one in the room who hadn't been beaten or arrested or exiled or tortured for my beliefs," McGrath said.

"When my colleagues start comparing scars and counting their broken bones, there's not much I can say to join in."

Street protests and foreign government pressure prompted Gayoom, 71, to allow multiple-candidate elections for president.

McGrath said the "passion that ordinary people are showing over being allowed to actually vote for an opposition candidate for the first time has been really exciting. From a total population of about 300,000, the MDP has got 30,000 members. You don't get that sort of commitment in Australian or British politics".

During his 30 years in power, Gayoom used top-end tourism to help make the Maldives the richest country in South Asia. It has an average annual income of $7620, but poverty is still widespread and the MDP has campaigned for better health services, housing and transport, cheaper food and action against drugs.

As the MDP's campaign gathered pace, the ruling party turned its fire on McGrath, claiming he was trying to spread Christianity and had been promised he could have his own island if he helped Nasheed become president.

Presidential spokesman Mohamed Hussein Shareef claimed McGrath had "links to a movement to change the Maldives into a multi-religious society".

McGrath described the claims as worrying.

"They held three press conferences in 36 hours to say all this stuff and it was all rubbish, but it could be damaging, especially the Christian missionary stuff. This is a very conservative and very Muslim society, and people don't want to hear that some foreigner is running around trying to introduce another religion."

Thursday's first round of voting gave the President 40.6per cent of the vote and Nasheed 25.1per cent. Four other opposition candidates were eliminated from the final run-off.

The President's backers argued that he was already within striking distance of a majority after the first poll, but the MDP said almost 60per cent of the voters had opted for change.

Nasheed claimed all four eliminated candidates had pledged to support him in the run-off.

"Until then, I will just be trying to keep working and not get kicked out of the country," McGrath said.


Friday, October 10, 2008

No clear winner from landmark Maldives election

The first-ever democratic presidential election in the Maldives looked set to go into a second round after Asia's longest-serving leader apparently failed to deliver a knock-out blow to his rivals.

Official results based on roughly two-thirds of ballots cast showed incumbent President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom -- who has run the Indian Ocean archipelago unchallenged for 30 years -- in the lead but short of a majority needed to avoid a tough run-off.

The president had just under 40 percent support, the election commission said, with his most outspoken critic -- former political prisoner Mohamed "Anni" Nasheed -- in second place with around 26 percent.

If the counting trend holds, the two will fight head-to-head within 10 days.

Analysts say Gayoom will have a tough time fighting Nasheed in a run-off if supporters of the other opposition candidates rally behind the one-time Amnesty International "prisoner of conscience."

"If there is a second round, that would be a big blow to Gayoom. He was so sure of winning in the first round," said an official from Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which had accused Gayoom of trying to rig the polls.

The landmark presidential vote held Wednesday was the first time Asia's longest-serving leader has allowed any competition.

The polls also marked the climax of an effort to bring political freedoms to the Muslim nation of 300,000 people in the wake of pro-democracy protests and international pressure.

Rival political parties were only allowed to be formed two years ago.

Many Maldivians are eager to see a fresh face in charge of their atoll nation -- which despite its image as a beach paradise is beset by problems including a critical housing shortage, rising crime and drug abuse.

Political tensions have also been mounting.

In January, one islander tried to stab Gayoom with a kitchen knife, and a year ago several tourists were injured in the Maldives' first-ever terrorist attack, which was blamed on Islamic militants and followed by a tough crackdown.

"I want change. Thirty years of Gayoom is long enough. He's been filling his pockets and denying our rights for long enough," said Hamza, a 20-year-old student who queued for five hours to cast his ballot.

While the cramped island capital Male is seen as an opposition stronghold, Gayoom -- with his conservative Muslim platform and father figure persona -- appears to be more popular on outlying islands.

Gayoom can also lay claim to having built South Asia's richest nation per capita, thanks to the opening of dozens of resorts on white sand beaches and crystal clear waters -- where some rooms cost up to 15,000 dollars a night.

"I feel I must be at the helm to see through the reform programme," Gayoom told reporters before the vote, positioning himself as a committed democrat rather than the Robert Mugabe-type politician his opponents paint him as.

And the president has also taken legal action against two opposition politicians who accused him of stealing 40 million dollars of tsunami aid and stashing away tens of millions more in a foreign bank account.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Presidential Election 2008 Result

'Dictator' Gayoom faces ex-prisoner Nasheed in first free election on Maldives

Asia's longest-serving ruler was up against a former political prisoner compared by some to Nelson Mandela as the Maldives held its first multiparty presidential elections yesterday.

Mamoun Abdul Gayoom, the 71-year-old President, won the six polls since 1978 as the only candidate on the ballot, before pro-democracy protests forced him to lift a ban on political parties in 2006.

He says that he will still win at least 50 per cent of the vote in a country he has transformed into South Asia's richest per capita, based on luxury resorts that can charge up to $15,000 (£8,700) for a room.

His and tsunami aid, and who rivals Robert Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe, in his efforts to cling to power.

The front-runner of his five challengers is Mohammed “Anni” Nasheed, 41, a former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience who spent six years in jail and was given political asylum in Britain in 2004.

Mr Nasheed, who returned to the Maldives in 2005 and now heads the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), said: “The people of this country deserve better - we've had a dictatorship for the last 30 years.

“If we can't have a free and fair election then the good people of Britain should question how beautiful the Maldives is based on other factors, not just its white sandy beaches.”

As voters queued outside polling stations in the rain, opposition parties accused Mr Gayoom of trying to rig the poll using tricks such as removing their members from the electoral roll. Mariya Didi, chairwoman of the MDP, went to her polling station to find that she and her ten brothers and sisters were not on the voting list.

Ahmed Shaheed, a former Foreign Minister running as an independent vice-presidential candidate, said: “It's a disaster. I think there is deliberate tampering.” Mr Nasheed said that the Government had tried to annul the vote because of the problems with the electoral roll but had backed down after protests from the opposition.

“We feel that things are going our way - we will win an absolute majority,” he said. “Of course they will rig the result later because they can't afford to lose. But if they rig it, I think the reaction will be very violent.”

The ruling party said that the voting problems were understandable and that some of its officials also had difficulties at polling stations. A spokeswoman for Mr Gayoom's party said: “Because it is our first multiparty election, we are experiencing a lot of teething problems.”

The election commission responded by extending last night's voting deadline and allowing anyone with a national ID card to vote, prompting further protests from the opposition.

Analysts say the results, due today, are hard to predict because there has been no reliable opinion polling. They say that Mr Gayoom's conservative platform remains popular in outlying parts of the nation of 370,000 people, mostly Sunni Muslims, spread across 1,192 islands in the Indian Ocean.

They also say that he is increasingly unpopular in Malé, the capital of 104,000 people which has a growing heroin problem and suffered its first terrorist attack, blamed on Islamist militants, a year ago. If no candidate wins more than 50 per cent, there will be a run-off between the two front-runners - probably Mr Gayoom and Mr Nasheed.

Mr Gayoom, who survived an assassination attempt in January, has promised to bow out if he loses, but still appears confident of winning another five-year term.

“I feel I must be at the helm to see through the reform programme,” he told reporters in his final campaign appearance, dismissing comparisons with dictators around the world.

“It is very wrong to compare me to those people,” he said.


Run-off vote expected in Maldives election

Preliminary results in the Maldives first multi-party election show Asia's longest serving leader is unlikely to avoid a run-off vote.

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who's ruled the country for 30 years, has taken the lead in the islands' first democratic election, but preliminary results indicated he would fall short of a majority need to avoid a run-off.

The final official results are expected later today.

Australian MP Fran Bailey, who's in the Maldives as part of an eight-member Commowealth Observer Mission, has told Radio Australia the election was well-organised at a local level, but there were some issues with voter ID cards.

"In virtually every island, there were people ranging in numbers from a handful to large numbers of people who had not received their ID cards, and of course they can't vote without those," she said.


Incumbent leads in Maldives vote marred by delays

The Maldives 30-year incumbent leader is ahead in the islands' first multiparty presidential election, according to preliminary results on Thursday from a poll marred by rigging charges and delays that took it into a second day.

Polling closed on Thursday morning -- some 12 hours behind schedule -- and shortly afterwards the election commission said President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had 39.8 percent of the 130,316 votes counted.

The election in the sleepy Maldives, best known as a tropical Indian Ocean hideaway for Hollywood stars, is the culmination of years of agitation for democratic reforms which Gayoom, 71, finally signed into law in August.

One of the chief agitators for those reforms, Mohamed Nasheed, was in second place with 26.35 percent. Nasheed, known as Anni, was jailed repeatedly by Asia's longest-serving leader on what rights groups said were trumped-up charges.

"We will try to have the final result at 11:30 p.m. (1830 GMT). Voting is no longer going on. Counting is going on," Elections Commissioner Mohamed Ibrahim told a press conference.

The commission said it had no turnout figures for the 208,252 registered voters, but had verified 68 percent of the 396 ballot boxes.

But given the wide disparity in the size of polling stations spread over 200 inhabited islands and a few luxury resort islands it was hard to gain a clear picture, the board said.

If no one gets 50 percent of the vote, it will go to a runoff due within 10 days.


Just a few hours after polling opened on Wednesday, voters complained of missing registrations or ink that was supposed to be indelible washing off the hands of those who had voted.

After an emergency meeting, the electoral board said anyone with an ID card could vote, prompted three opposition challengers to declare the poll would be subject to fraud and double-voting.

But Nasheed, whose vocal criticism throughout Gayoom's reign repeatedly landed him in jail, said the problems were too minor to affect the vote.

The decision to open up voting led the polls, which had been due to end at 8 p.m. (1500 GMT) on Wednesday, to drag into the Thursday morning.

Many Maldivians had expected vote-rigging and bribery. Despite some minor threats in the final days of campaigning, the polling went peacefully amid a heavy security presence.

Gayoom is seeking a seventh term running the island nation of 300,000 mainly Sunni Muslims, which in the past he has been accused of ruling like a sultanate.

That form of government was abolished on the islands, located 800 km (500 miles) off the tip of India, 40 years ago.

He campaigned on a record of developing tourism to make per capita income on the chain of 1,192 islands the highest in South Asia.

But critics say tourism, which directly accounts for 28 percent of GDP and by some estimates up to 70 percent indirectly, has only benefited a small group surrounding him.

Diplomats had hoped the poll will be an example of a credible democratic election in a Muslim majority nation, with a non-violent transition should power change hands. Gayoom has pledged a peaceful handover if he loses.

Gayoom drew international criticism after a heavy-handed crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, which eventually led to his signing into law last month a new constitution that established an independent judiciary and electoral body.

It also abolished the old style of voting for president, where a parliament-approved candidate stood in a yes-no referendum that Gayoom won six times.


Voters in Maldives question register

Voting opened in the tiny Indian Ocean nation of Maldives yesterday in the Islamic country's first multi-party presidential elections.

But reports of widespread irregularities spread almost immediately after polling started, with voters throughout the country's 196 far-flung inhabited islands complaining of an incomplete voter register.

A four-hour emergency meeting of the elections commission resulted in a decision to continue polling, but with an ad-hoc registration system in place that raised concerns over manipulation.


New firm to push IBM middleware in Sri Lanka and Maldives

Midware Technologies, a Sri Lanka IT firm has been appointed a distributor of IBM Software group to drum up business in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, the company said.

Midware Technologies will distribute Lotus, Tivoli, Information Management, Rational and WebSphere, brands from IBM.

"The company will actively engage in brand building and product awareness campaigns in both countries," Midware Technologies director Romeish De Mel, said in a statement.

"Sri Lanka represents a large market opportunity in the South East Asian region.

"Although we do not have a direct presence in the Maldives, we will work through our Business Partners there, with support provided from Colombo," he said.

Midware Technologies will work through its diverse business partner channels thus enabling their technical teams to provide strong support and bring more value to their business.”

"Midware team comes with deep expertise in the Sri Lanka and Maldives markets," IBM South Asia's vice president for channels Anil Menon said.

IBM Software Group offers middleware for all types of computing platforms, the company said. It has software for transaction processing, messaging, data management. Midware was incorporated early this year, to focus on IBM software, the company said.


Gayoom headed for likely runoff in Maldives

Incomplete election results show that President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom appears headed for a runoff against the nation's main opposition leader in the Maldives' first democratic presidential election.

Elections commission chairman Mohamed Ibrahim said Thursday that Gayoom received nearly 40 percent of the 130,000 votes counted, while Maldivian Democratic Party leader Mohamed Nasheed came in second with just over 26 percent.

The commission did not announce turnout among the 208,000 registered voters. But the votes announced represented well over 50 percent of those cast in Wednesday's election.

If no candidate wins an outright majority, the two top vote-getters meet in a runoff.

Source: AP

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Maldives begin historic election

The first multi-party presidential polls in the Maldives have opened with President Gayoom seeking a seventh term in power.

The president is facing five challengers, some of whom have been strongly critical of his "dictatorial and bullying" style of leadership.

President Gayoom is Asia's longest serving leader and has been in power for more than 30 years.

The polls are the culmination of reforms he introduced.

Polling began at 0400GMT and 208,000 people are eligible to vote.

Correspondents say that the campaign has been hard fought and lively, with noisy late-night rallies in the capital, Male.

There are many problems for the newly elected president to confront including a growing heroin problem among the young and the threat caused by rising sea levels which environmentalists say could wash the country away.

Candidates have used sea planes to canvas for votes among the hundreds of islands that makes up the archipelago.

President Gayoom has urged voters to back him because he is a "safe pair of hands" who will keep the country's economy - especially its important tourism sector - functioning smoothly.

The president argues that after 30 years of his leadership, the Maldives has become South Asia's richest economy, at the forefront of the international battle against climate change and on the verge of becoming a fully fledged democracy.

"If you want a leader who will protect these freedoms, our religion and our culture, then vote for me," he told supporters, promising "five more dynamic years".

President Gayoom's bedrock support is on the islands and he has been travelling by plane across the atolls to encourage people to vote.

Security around him has been tight - in January an islander tried to stab him, but he was foiled by a boy scout who fought the attacker.

'More trustworthy'

The main challenger to President Gayoom is Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) - one of his fiercest critics and a former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience.

"From this stage, it is about the personality, who is more credible, more trustworthy," Mr Nasheed said.

He said that his administration would comprise people from all parties and - unlike the president - he would ban his relatives from holding key government jobs.

"We counted close to 44 of his family members in senior posts," he said.

Mr Nasheed has also accused President Gayoom of "dirty tricks" including what he says is the false allegation that the MDP wants to convert everyone to Christianity.

The election follows reforms introduced after Mr Gayoom was accused of crushing pro-democracy protests in 2004.

If no candidate gets more than 50% of the votes, a second round of polling will be held.

"This should not be done by so called father of environment.
Campaign leaflet is throng all over male' roads


Is Asia's longest serving leader on way out?

The tourist paradise of the Maldives is getting its first democratic presidential election on Wednesday. It could mark the end of the road for Asia's longest serving leader.

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has ruled the Indian Ocean islands for 30 years, elected in 'yes or no' referendums since 1978.

He is running for another term in office. But this time he faces a challenge from five opponents.

If no candidate gets more than 50%, the vote will go to a second round.

Turquoise lagoons

President Gayoom insists that he is not running out of steam after three decades at the top and wants to serve another five years.

I joined him on a seaplane as he travelled from atoll to atoll campaigning in this country of nearly 1,200 islands.

We flew over coral islands surrounded by white beaches before landing by turquoise lagoons.

People lined the jetties to greet him, clapping, cheering, singing and dancing.

After his speeches hundreds lined up to shake his hand.

President Gayoom claims credit for making the Maldives South Asia's most prosperous and orderly nation, largely thanks to tourism.

There have been advances in education, health and life expectancy on the Muslim archipelago.

Now he says to complete a transition to democracy he needs more time in office.

Well received

"I think this is a vital time for my country and I have begun this very important reform agenda," said President Gayoom.

"After being president for 30 years or even 35 years, to have this as my heritage to leave to the people, a new liberal democracy in the Maldives, that is the reason why."

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's message is that he has experience, and stands for stability and continued economic growth.

On the atolls he visited it was well received.

One man said that 30 years of the president was not enough, he should have at least 10 more in power.

But the opposition says President Gayoom is a dictator, who only began reforms in response to street protests, and has had to be pushed all the way to this first democratic election.

'No answers'

These elections are the first time he has allowed competition.

Of the five rival candidates, most attention is on Mohamed Nasheed Anni of the Maldivian Democratic Party which spearheaded the anti-Gayoom demonstrations.

Mr Nasheed clearly enjoys support on the cramped island capital of Male.

His final rally dwarfed those of the incumbent in the city. The crowd stood and cheered in torrential rain.

Mr Nasheed was once a political prisoner, now he is a candidate for president.

His supporters like to paint him as the Maldives' very own Nelson Mandela, while President Gayoom is depicted in the role of Robert Mugabe.

Mr Nasheed says President Gayoom has no answers for the problems of the Maldives - a paradise for wealthy tourists - but troubled by inequitable distribution of wealth, bored youths and drugs.

"He's already had 30 years," he said, snorting with derision at the idea of the president he calls a dictator needing more time for reforms.

"We really quite can't see how and what else he's going to do with another five years. He's ruined our lives for 30 years and now he has the audacity to come out and say he needs another five years. He's not going to get it."

And his supporters are hungry for change.

"We are 30 years old but the same president is going on, the same things are happening," said one.

"This will change the whole country because this 30-year-old dictatorship is finished," said another.

Both President Gayoom and Mr Nasheed say they are convinced of victory in the poll on Wednesday.

But with six candidates running it may be that neither gets more than 50% of the vote, so the elections will go into a second round.

The people of the Maldives await the outcome with baited breath.


Monday, October 6, 2008

India looks at more economic engagements with Saarc nations

The government on Friday gave its green signal for the entry of Afghanistan, with a GDP of about $8 billion, to become the latest member of the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (Safta).

In this regard the Cabinet approved the proposal for ratification of the protocol of accession of Afghanistan to Agreement on Safta. “Early ratification of the Protocol of Accession will accelerate Afghanistan’s formal joining of Safta. It will also help in full implementation of Safta by putting pressure on Pakistan to adhere to Safta norms for the sensitive list and give transit to Afghanistan,” information and broadcasting minister PR Dasmunsi said after a Cabinet meeting.

A Safta ministerial council meeting in March this year had recommended that Afghanistan would be treated at par with Maldives as far as Mechanism for Compensation of Revenue Loss (MCRL) under Safta is concerned.

The Cabinet also gave its approval for the establishment of South Asian Regional Standards Organisation (Sarso) and the charter of Saarc Development Fund (SDF). The minister said the establishment of Sarso would enhance economic engagements with South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) countries by cooperating in the field of standards and quality control. It will accelerate full implementation of Safta by harmonising the standards in Saarc, he added.

Dasmunsi said early ratification of the SDF would accelerate the implementation of the regional and sub-regional projects in Saarc. A functional SDF would help change Saarc from declaratory body to an entity that implements projects.

The Saarc countries had earlier aimed to increase the intra-Saarc trade from the present $20 billion to $40 billion in the next 3-5 years. According to Research and Information System for Developing Countries, South Asia has emerged as one of the world’s fastest growing regions with an average growth rate of 8% sustained over the past five years. But RIS adds that the region continues to be home for over 40% of the world’s poor and fares poorly in terms of different indicators of human development.

Saarc was set up in 1985 by the heads of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives to advance common interest. Safta was launched in January 2006 and become operational in July 2006, opening over 4, 000 commodities for trade. In 2007, Afghanistan had joined the Saarc as the eighth member.

The proposal for setting up Sarso follows the establishment of the Standing Group on Standards, Quality Control and Measurements, by the

Saarc commerce ministers in May 1998.

The group had recognised the need for the Saarc Member Countries to forge a Regional Action Plan for the harmonisation of specific product standards and the process of developing regional standards. It was agreed that the member nations would promote mutual acceptability of laboratory accreditation process.

Sarso will now look at providing access to certification scheme relating to product, systems and services of one country by other countries, including exchange of information on statutory rules and regulations having bearing on certification.

To boost intra-Saarc trade through exchange of information in regulatory systems, the countries had agreed that agricultural & food products, building material and household electrical appliances would be covered in the first instance.

It was also agreed that there would be promotion of mutual acceptability of the certification process of Member Countries in relation to safety requirements of products. The countries would also develop a process of accreditation systems based on international norms to facilitate mutual recognition at a later stage. To avoid duplication of efforts, they would share the facility of accreditation bodies to facilitate getting international approval from organisations such as International Accreditation Forum.

There would also be identification of testing and calibration facilities in the region and access to these facilities, besides informing other Saarc countries about various training programmes, and providing a list of experts in their respective fields.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sri Lanka Apollo hospital in test tube baby services

Sri Lanka’s Apollo Hospitals is seeing interest for fertility treatment services from the Middle East, Maldives, Canada and USA in addition to Sri Lanka, where an ageing population is stimulating demand, officials said.

Ajith Jayaratna, chairman of Lanka Hospitals Corporation which owns Apollo hospitals in Colombo said around 15 percent of the world population was sub-fertile, and the figures were expected to double by 2050.

Opening a new unit at the hospital, Jayaratne said with the population aging fast in Sri Lanka, fertility services would also have a high demand.

The hospital has set up 30 million rupee facility for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) or test tube baby services.

The fertility centre has already achieved 110 pregnancies through Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI) treatment, the hospital said.

The fertility treatments are priced between 150,000 rupees to 450,000 rupees.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

South Asia making great progress in mobile connectivity

South Asia is making rapid progress in the field of telephony, specially mobiles, with even smaller countries in the region throwing up some unexpected facts and figures.

The island-nation Maldives, Asia's smallest country in terms of population, has more than 100 SIM cards per 100 people and all the major islands are covered. Maldives is spread over 26 atolls and 1,192 islets, out of which around 250 are inhabited.

Bangladesh has 98 per cent of the population covered by mobile telephone signals. Nepal is seen as a "laggard" though, according to a South Asian ICT (information and communication technologies) policy and regulation think tank called LIRNEasia.

Sri Lanka, with a 20 mn population, has over eight million mobiles, under a million copper-wire conventional telephones, and close to two million CDMA-based 'fixed' phones that share many qualities of mobiles including the ability to handle short messaging service (SMS).

"Given very rapid roll-out, and based on extrapolations from LIRNEasia/AC Nielsen research, we estimate that 72 percent of households will have some kind of phone in 2008," said Rohan Samarajiva, executive director of the Colombo-based LIRNEasia.

Samarajiva said according to the Sri Lankan Central Bank, some 47 per cent of households had some kind of phone in 2006.

"In addition, LIRNEasia research showed that over 92 per cent of those approached had made or received a call shortly before the 2006 survey was conducted. Therefore, even if people do not own phones, they have shared access," he said.

"Pakistan has around 50 mobile SIMs per 100 population, but it has a greater problem in coverage and access because some areas are very remote. India's numbers are lower in terms of percentage, but growing very fast," Samarajiva said.

India has 300 mn mobile subscribers already and the government is aiming at 650 mn by 2012. Some 90 per cent of the population is covered by a mobile signal.

India is already considered the second largest wireless market in the world behind China, and the number of mobile phones it adds each month - in real terms - is currently the largest among any country.

Samarajiva acknowledged that Afghanistan has obvious problems, even though mobile telephony is growing fast there as well. After the introduction of a second operator, Bhutan's growth has picked up too.


Oppo Likely To Be Highest Paid Player

The man who scored twenty goals this time to top the goal scorer list is none other than Maldives hotcake Ibrahim Fazeel a.k.a Oppo, whose demand has gone higher in Maldives football.

According to the, Victory striker Ibrahim Fazeel’s (Oppo) price has reached more than 400,000 rufiyaa per season. Victory is yet to come to an agreement with the prolific striker but the club insisted that they will offer him a price worth his caliber.

Oppo’s price was somewhere around 300,000 rufiyaa when he moved to Victory from VB last season. But there are also reports that said his price is now at somewhere around 500,000 and some of the bigger clubs are already lined up to get his signature.

Oppo happened to be the second player during this year’s transfer market that put a price tag of more than 400,000. Lately Valencia’s winger Mukhthar Naseer joined Victory at a price believed to be more than 450,000 per season.

Oppo is the only player to win the golden boot in three consecutive years with three different clubs. However the report suggests that Oppo expressed his desire to stay with Victory for another season.

Oppo came into spotlight in 1997 as a student when he was included in Maldives senior national team. After the studies he joined New Lagoons, a club later renamed to IFC, and then he made a brave move to New Radiant and enjoyed a historical season with the blues that reach AFC cup semi finals in 2005.


IBS to deploy its solution for Maldivian

Thiruvananthapuram-based IBS Software will deploy its new-generation passenger service system aiRES for Maldivian, the national airline of Maldives.

The solution is to help Maldivian manage its passenger reservations, inventory control, fares and ticketing, and departure control functions.

Maldivian has chosen IBS’ solution for its cost-effectiveness, optimum fit, short implementation time and flexible features that include web distribution, GDS, and credit card payment gateways.

“Through its open architecture, aiRES will enable Maldivian to broaden its customer service offering by integrating it with its distribution channels,” the company said in a release.

Maldivian operates scheduled flights to Thiruvananthapuram and is looking to add destinations such as Colombo in November 2008 in its bid to boost tourism to the nation and to provide better convenience for the locals traveling abroad.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts voted 'Best Business Hotel Brand in Asia-Pacific

Asia Pacific’s leading luxury hotel group, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, was named Best
Business Hotel Brand in Asia-Pacific for the eighth consecutive year and won a total of
seven awards in Business Traveler Asia-Pacific magazine’s 2008 Readers’ Poll.

Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore was voted Best Business Hotel in the World, Best Business
Hotel in Asia-Pacific and Best Business Hotel in Singapore. Island Shangri-La, Hong
Kong; Makati Shangri-La, Manila; and Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, Taipei each
won the Best Business Hotel awards in their cities.

The poll was conducted among the magazine’s frequent traveler subscribers based mainly
in the Asia-Pacific region. Results will be published in the October issue of Business
Traveler Asia-Pacific.

Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, Asia Pacific’s leading luxury hotel
group, currently owns and/or manages 56 hotels under the deluxe Shangri-La and midmarket
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.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Tsunami That Changed My Life

On Dec. 25, 2004, I arrived very late at night at the Four Seasons hotel in the Maldives with my wife and two youngest daughters, who were then 1 and 4. It was dark out, but you could still sense how beautiful and peaceful the island was.

The next morning, at 7:50, I felt the earth move. I knew it was an earthquake, because I'd already been in several in China and San Francisco, and I didn't really think much about it. My daughters were very excited to go to the beach, so we set off earlier than planned, at around 10:10. We were just outside the hotel, by the pool and slightly above the beach, when I saw the water come.

It wasn't like in the movies, with a giant wave rolling toward you; the water just rose very fast, covering sunbathers on the sand. People started running toward the hotel, but they were still laughing. I picked up my 4-year-old, Jane, while the nanny took Jada, and we turned toward the hotel. In that instant, the water rose to my knees.

I took two steps and the water was at my hips. Two more, and it was at my chest. Then it was just under my nose. I put Jane on my shoulder and was trying to hold on to the nanny's hand; she was struggling because her head was already underwater. I turned back, and everything—the beach, the swimming pool—was gone. I was just standing in the ocean, in nothing.

I tried to hold on to the nanny, but the water was strong and pushed her and Jada away from me. Luckily, I'm famous and people knew I was there. They'd been looking at me. I shouted at the top of my lungs for help, and four guys swam toward us and saved Jada and the nanny. And I was OK; the water didn't go any higher than my mouth.

In those few seconds after a disaster strikes, you don't have time to think—you just move forward and instinct kicks in. When the wave was gone, there was nothing left. The electricity was down, all communications were down but for the hotel's satellite phone, and we were told we had water for five days and food for three.

That night, everybody camped in the hotel lobby. I held Jada as she slept in my arms, but I couldn't sleep myself, and I had a lot of time to think. I thought that if God had saved me, it must mean something. That day in the Maldives was a real turning point for me. I had spent the first 41 years of my life thinking about Jet Li first, wanting to prove I was special, wanting to prove I was a star. Everything I'd done was self-centered. In that lobby, however, I saw people of different colors, speaking different languages, helping each other. It was very much like in the movies, with people putting women, children and the elderly first, and I thought that if everybody helps, if everybody does a little bit, it will make a big difference.

I also realized that all the money and power in the world would not have saved me from the water. That night I decided that I couldn't wait until I was retired; I had to do something right away. A few days later I announced my plans to start the One Foundation. Still, I didn't quite know where to begin. I wanted to do something in China first, because that's my home country, but I also had to do it right. So it took me a couple of years to do some research and talk to people to understand what could be done there.

I finally set up the One Foundation in 2007. My formula is very simple: one person + one yuan per month = one big family. That is, if everyone contributes a little it will unite us. Sure, governments and companies have responsibilities for ordinary people, but I want to spread the belief that every human being has a responsibility too. It's not just when you've made your millions, when you're a captain of industry or a star. It starts with everybody, with just a little help.

At this stage, the One Foundation is primarily about helping with disaster relief. Since we started, we've already been involved with seven disasters, including the Sichuan earthquake. I chose disaster relief because of what happened to me in the Maldives. Usually when a disaster strikes, you hear about it, you see the pictures and then you donate. This means it can take days or weeks before help reaches those who need it desperately. I want to be prepared. I want to have some money already set aside, to buy food and water, so we can act immediately.

And it's not only about material things. People need to know that someone will come and help them. I know this from experience. You need to hang on and hope you're going to be rescued; we want to show people that help is on the way. I've taken a year off from filmmaking to dedicate all my time to the foundation. But I plan to go back to work next year, since being an international actor is a good platform for promoting the foundation. For me it's not just about raising money but also about changing people's beliefs, spreading a love virus. I want to use my name to do good, to give back to the world. Nothing is more important than this now.

Li is an actor and the founder of the One Foundation (


Maldivian uses IBS' Passenger Services System

Maldivian, the national airline of Maldives, has gone live with IBS' new-generation Passenger Service System, aiRES in the Software as a Service (SaaS) mode. The solution will help the airline manage its passenger reservations, inventory control, fares & ticketing, and departure control functions.

Maldivian has chosen IBS’ solution for its cost-effectiveness, optimum fit, short implementation time and flexible features that include Web Distribution, GDS, and Credit Card payment gateways. Through its open architecture, aiRES will enable Maldivian to broaden its customer service offering by integrating it with its distribution channels.

Maldivian operates scheduled flights both to domestic destinations as well as to the regional destination, Trivandrum in India and is looking to add more such destinations such as Colombo, Sri Lanka in November 2008 to boost tourism to the island nation and more importantly to provide greater convenience for the locals traveling abroad. aiRES provides the airline the rich functionality and the flexible and scalable architecture required to help address its growth needs and the business agility to adapt to the requirements of a changing and competitive market. The SaaS (hosted) version of the new-generation system allows Maldivian to utilize the complete functionality of the system to improve customer experience, in a very cost-effective manner, being required to pay on a transaction basis. This is especially significant at a time when rising costs driven by fuel prices, are driving airlines to look for effective ways to reduce operational costs in other areas.


Tourism Day Supplement 2008

Please Click HERE to view the Tourism Day Supplement 2008.


New edition of 'Maldives Traveller' released

2009 edition of 'Maldives Traveller' has released by Minister of tourism and civil aviation Dr. Abdulla Mausoom on 18th September 2008, to coincide with the beginning of JATA World travel fair in Tokyo, Japan.

The launching of 'Maldives Traveller' was held at Hotel Nikko in Japan, at the Maldivian dinner reception hosted by the Maldives Tourism Promotion Board. Several travel agents, tour operators, media from Japan and JATA travel fair delegates from Maldives participated in the event.

'Maldives Traveller' is annually published premier guide for people eager to explore the Maldives with its unique Resorts Islands, history, culture, people and attractions. The 2009 edition has included new resorts opening in 2008 and early 2009.

The 'Holiday in the Maldives' section provides information how to spend a holiday in the Maldives plus well-known surf breaks; 'Maldives Resort Catalogue' covers the resorts in the Maldives; 'Diving in the Maldives' covers basic information on diving, most popular dive sites in the country and commonly seen fish by diving and snorkelling; 'The Maldives' section highlights its history, culture, festivals, Maldivian way of life etc. and finally 'Guide to Male' and Atolls' covers attractions and sights to see in capital Male' and the Atolls.

And plus the English language version has included 'Maldives Traveller Forum’, which includes, letters from readers, a tale from traveller, an interview with former Minister of tourism and little bit history of beginning of Maldives tourism etc.

'Maldives Traveller' is available through its partners and distributors worldwide and as well online on

Tropical Paradise has started publishing Maldives guides by educating travellers’ needs since 2002. Now these guides are available in six different languages, English, Japanese, Russian, Italian, German and French. Tropical Paradise hopes to introduce Chinese and Korean Languages versions in 2009.


Five candidates challenge Gayoom

Long-time President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom will face five opponents in the Maldives’ first democratic presidential election next month, said election officials.

The election is the culmination of a four-year reform effort intended to fight corruption and bring democracy to the Indian Ocean archipelago known more as a tourist getaway than a hotbed of political activism. Though most of the candidates have been known for several weeks, the Election Commission officially announced who would be on the October 8 ballot on Sunday.

Mr. Gayoom, who has ruled the Sunni-Muslim nation of nearly 1,200 mostly uninhabited islands for 30 years, hopes to capture a seventh consecutive term under a new Constitution, which has been hailed as an important reform step for the country. His main challengers are expected to be Mohamed Nasheed, head of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, and the former Attorney-General, Hassan Saeed. A former Foreign Minister who is also a prominent businessman, an Islamic party candidate and the head of a small opposition party are also running.

“I think this is going to be a very transparent, free and fair election, said Mr. Gayoom after the announcement. If no one wins an outright majority, there will be a run-off election between the two with the most votes. Mr. Gayoom faced no opposition in previous elections because political parties were banned, and voters were only allowed to vote “yes” or “no.”

He has been credited with turning a sleepy string of fishing islands into a major tourism destination and filling its coffers with hard currency. But he has also been accused of ruling the country with an authoritarian grip, while drug abuse and Islamist radicalism have increased during his decades in power.

Mr. Gayoom’s candidacy is being challenged in the Supreme Court under new laws that limit presidents to two terms.

An Islamic party has also accused him of not being a Sunni, a prerequisite for the presidency. Mr. Nasheed’s eligibility is also being challenged because of a 2001 theft conviction that was widely viewed as politically motivated.

The elections are the culmination of a reform movement that began in 2004 following mass street demonstrations over the death of a teenager at the hands of prison guards. Political parties were legalised in 2005 and the new Constitution, ratified in August, limits the President’s powers and promises Maldivians new rights, including freedom of speech and assembly.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Former Barbados PM to lead Commonwealth election observers to Maldives

Barbados: Former Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur will lead a Commonwealth Observer Group to the Maldives Presidential Election scheduled for 8 October 2008.

This was announced by Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma. The Observers will be supported by a staff team from the Commonwealth Secretariat.

The Commonwealth was invited by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Maldives to observe the election

"This election is the first to be conducted under the new Constitution, which was ratified in August 2008, and the first election under the new multi-party system," said the Secretary-General.

He added that the mandate of the Observer Group is to consider the various factors impinging on the credibility of the electoral process as a whole. The Group will determine in its own judgement whether the election has been conducted according to the standards for democratic elections to which the country has committed itself, in adhering to national election-related legislation and relevant regional, Commonwealth and other international commitments.

The team will be in the Maldives from 1 October.