Thursday, October 22, 2009

Maldives to support 350 with a 24 hours dive is a global campaign dedicated to unite the world to address the climate crisis. The mission of the 350 movement is to inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis — to create a new sense of urgency. The focus is on the number 350, as in parts per million - the level scientists have identified as the safe upper limit for CO2 in the atmosphere.

This December, world leaders will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark to craft a new global treaty, the predecessor to Kyoto protocol, on cutting emissions. The problem is, the treaty currently on the table doesn't meet the severity of the climate crisis.

Divers Association of Maldives has teamed up with the 350 movement to create a highly publicized, grassroots movement in the Maldives. The movement has created a new wave of positive energy throughout the country. The campaign also aims to educate the public and leaders on the socio-economic impact of climate change through creative means.

A 24 hour underwater dive, organized by Divers Association Maldives is scheduled to take place in the lagoon just outside of Malé, in front of the President’s Office on the 24th of this month. A total of 350 divers will participate in this event showcasing different activities at a depth of around 03 meters. An underwater protest — to highlight Maldives’ vulnerability to climate change, a Bodu Beru show (traditional Maldivian drums) and a bike ride is among some of the activities that will take place during the dive marathon.

World’s first underwater Cabinet meeting held on the 17th of October was also organized by Divers Association Maldives – in collaboration with The Government. The meeting, well received by the International media and the World community, helped to put Maldives on the map as the first nation that would be driven to extinction, due to the climate crisis.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Maldives officials dive for climate change

GIRIFUSHI, Maldives (AP) -- The president of the Maldives says he's trying to make people realize his low-lying island nation is a "frontline state" facing the threat of global warming.

To that end, President Mohammed Nasheed convened a Cabinet meeting today about 20 feet deep at the bottom of a lagoon.

The Maldives is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean made up of nearly 1,200 low-lying coral islands. They average 7 feet above sea level.

Many fear that climate change could cause sea level to rise and swamp the Maldives within a century.

Nasheed and 13 other officials donned scuba gear and used hand signals at a table on the sea floor. He says the stunt is an effort to draw attention to the serious consequences climate change could have for nations such as the Maldives.

The issue has taken on urgency ahead of a major U.N. climate change conference in December at which countries will negotiate a new international treaty.

Source: AP

Maldives MPs sink to all new lows

Politicians in the Maldives have sunk to new lows, as the President and his government ministers donned scuba gear for a cabinet meeting at the bottom of the sea.

The stunt was designed to highlight the threat that global warming poses to the low-lying nation.

Most of the island nation lies less than a meter above sea level and some scientists have warned it could be uninhabitable in less than 100 years.


Maldives Cabinet set for underwater meeting

The government in the Maldives is set to hold its first underwater cabinet meeting Saturday to attract international attention to the dangers of global warming, a spokeswoman said.

President Mohamed Nasheed, dressed in full scuba gear, is to conduct the 30 minute meeting at a depth of six meters (20 feet) just north of the capital Male from 0500 GMT, event coordinator Aminath Shauna said.

Most of the island nation, a tourist paradise featuring coral reefs and white sand beaches, lies less than one meter (3.3 feet) above sea level and scientists have warned it could be uninhabitable in less than 100 years.

Shauna said the ministers had already signed their wetsuits, which would be auctioned on the website, due to be launched later Saturday, to raise money for coral reef protection in the atoll-chain.

"All arrangements are in place for the underwater meeting," she said.

The government has arranged a horseshoe-shaped table on the seabed for the ministers, who will communicate using white boards and hand signals.

The Divers Association of Maldives (DAM) said the ministers, who had trained over the past two months, felt confident about the unprecedented meeting.

Of the 14-member cabinet, three ministers will not take part in the dive, two of whom have medical conditions while the third was currently in Europe.

The Maldives, located southwest of Sri Lanka, has become a vocal campaigner in the battle to halt rising sea levels.

In 2007, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that a rise in sea levels of 18 to 59 centimeters (seven to 24 inches) by 2100 would be enough to make the country virtually uninhabitable.

More than 80 percent of the country's land, composed of coral islands scattered some 850 kilometers (530 miles) across the equator, is less than one meter (3.3 feet) above sea level.


Maldives cabinet makes a splash

The government of the Maldives has held a cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the threat of global warming to the low-lying Indian Ocean nation.

President Mohamed Nasheed and his cabinet signed a document calling for global cuts in carbon emissions.

Ministers spent half an hour on the sea bed, communicating with white boards and hand signals.

The president said the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen this December cannot be allowed to fail.

At a later press conference while still in the water, President Nasheed was asked what would happen if the summit fails. "We are going to die," he replied.

The Maldives stand an average of 2.1 metres (7ft) above sea level, and the government says they face being wiped out if oceans rise.

"We're now actually trying to send our message, let the world know what is happening, and what will happen to the Maldives if climate change is not checked," President Nasheed said.

"If the Maldives cannot be saved today we do not feel that there is much of a chance for the rest of the world," he added.

Military minders

Three of the 14 cabinet ministers missed the underwater meeting, about 20 minutes by boat from the capital, Male, because two were not given medical permission and another was abroad, officials said.

President Nasheed and other cabinet members taking part had been practising their slow breathing to get into the right mental frame for the meeting, a government source said.

About 5m underwater, in a blue-green lagoon on a small island used for military training, they were observed by a clutch of snorkelling journalists.

Each minister was accompanied by a diving instructor and a military minder.

While underwater, they signed a document ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December, calling on all nations to cut their carbon emissions.

World leaders at the summit aim to create a new agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.


Maldives Ministers Dive Into Cabinet Meeting

Ministers in the Maldives are taking part in their first underwater cabinet meeting to draw attention to global warming.

The government has arranged a horseshoe-shaped table at the bottom of the sea and they will communicate using white boards and hand signals.

The event will be "chaired" by President Mohamed Nasheed and there will be a total of 13 officials meeting under water.

Expert divers from the Maldivian military will be on hand to ensure the politicians are safe.

The ministers have been in training over the past two months and say they feel confident about the meeting's venue.

"The ministers are fairly comfortable in the water particularly given that they've just started diving," said Zoona Naseem of the Divers Association of Maldives.

Of the 14-member cabinet, three ministers will not take part in the dive because two of them have medical conditions while the third is away in Europe.

The politicians will sign their wet suits which will be auctioned on to raise money for coral reef protection in the archipelago nation.

The Maldives, to the south west of Sri Lanka, has become a vocal campaigner in the battle to halt rising sea levels.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in 2007 that a rise in sea levels of between seven and 24 inches by 2100 would be enough to make the country virtually uninhabitable.

More than 80% of the country's land, composed of coral islands scattered some 530 miles across the equator, is less than 3.3ft above sea level.


India sending Dornier aircraft to Maldives for surveillance mission

NEW DELHI: As part of the overall strategy to prevent China from further spreading its influence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), India is sending a Dornier aircraft to Maldives to help the country in maritime surveillance.

Defence ministry sources said an Indian Navy Dornier would begin its maritime reconnaissance missions from Male over the weekend. This comes in the backdrop of defence minister A K Antony's recent visit to Maldives, where he promised measures to bolster defence cooperation with Maldives.

Under the new plan, India will apparently help Maldives set up a network of ground radars in all its 26 atolls and link them with the Indian military surveillance systems.

Moreover, amid fears in Male that one of its island resorts could be taken over by terrorists, India will also provide Maldives with a couple of helicopters, as also help patrol its territorial waters with both warships and reconnaissance aircraft.

India has taken several steps to build bridges with IOR nations, which range from joint patrols with Indonesian and Sri Lankan navies and exercises with Singapore and Oman to providing seaward security for international summits in Mozambique.

Maldives, in particular, constitutes an important part of this strategy since China is making persistent moves in the region as part of its military diplomacy.

India, on its part, has always been willing to help Maldives in times of crisis. Indian paratroopers and naval warships, for instance, were rushed to Maldives in November 1988 by the Rajiv Gandhi government under Operation Cactus to thwart the coup attempt against the Abdul Gayoom government.

Similarly, India had deployed two ships and four aircraft to Maldives after the killer tsunami struck in end-2004. "In April 2006, India gifted a fast attack craft INS Tillanchang to Maldives as a goodwill gesture. Apart from training, hydrographic and military assistance, our ships visit the country regularly,'' said an officer.


Maldives underwater meeting to address climate change

Small island nations have much at stake at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

The Maldives, along with other islands such as Seychelles and Tuvalu, is organizing a series of activities and events to pressure the international community to take action. On Saturday it will hold an underwater cabinet meeting designed to highlight the danger Maldive faces from rising waters and rising temperatures.

Global Voices Online posted a roundup of blogs from Maldive explaining what the small island nation is doing to publicize the urgency of the issue.

One of the first major events, run by, was a Global Climate Wake-Up Call on Septemer 21 in Malé, the capital of Maldives.

The International Day of Climate Action, coordinated by, will be on October 24. Among the events of that day: 350 grounded motor vehicles and a 350 kilowatt reduction in energy consumption in Malé.

“350″ signifies the safe upper limit (in parts per million) for carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere. The current level is 389 ppm. Vroomfondel explains the movement’s goals:

By having actions all around the world that day, plans to send a clear message to the world leaders (who will be meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark this December to craft a new global treaty on cutting emissions) that ‘the solutions to climate change must be equitable, they must be grounded in science, and they must meet the scale of the crisis.’

In addition, the Maldives Photographers Association together with the Maldives Science Society is planning to send 350 unique postcards to 350 world leaders and personalities who will be attending the Copenhagen conference (COP15).


Maldives cabinet rehearses underwater meeting

Ministers in the Maldives dived in their final rehearsals Friday ahead of an underwater cabinet meeting this weekend aimed at drawing attention to the dangers of global warming for the island nation.

Ministers in full scuba gear dived six metres (20 feet) for the dress rehearsal near the Girifushi island, 25 minutes by speed boat from the capital island Male, coordinator of the event Aminath Shauna said.

"All arrangements are now in place and we are fully prepared to have Saturday's cabinet meeting underwater," Shauna told AFP by telephone.

She said the ministers would sign their wet suits which would then be auctioned on the website to raise money to protect coral reefs in the archipelago.

The government has arranged a horse-shoe shaped table at the bottom of the sea for the ministers to hold Saturday's meeting during which they will communicate using white boards and hand signals.

The Maldivian archipelago, located south west of Sri Lanka, is on the front line of climate change and has become a vocal campaigner in the battle to halt rising sea levels.

In 2007, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that a rise in sea levels of 18 to 59 centimetres (seven to 23 inches) by 2100 would be enough to make the Maldives virtually uninhabitable.

More than 80 percent of the country's land, composed of coral islands scattered about 850 kilometres (530 miles) across the equator, is less than one metre above mean sea level.

Maldivian officials said the idea to hold the attention-grabbing underwater cabinet meeting came from President Mohamed Nasheed when he was asked by an activist group to support its "environmental day" action on October 24.

"The group asked if the Maldives can hold an underwater banner supporting environmental day," an official from the president's office said.

"The president thought for a while and then came up with the idea to have an underwater cabinet meeting."

Source: AFP

All set for underwater Cabinet meeting

Government ministers in scuba gear prepared Friday to hold an underwater meeting of the Maldives' Cabinet to highlight the threat global warming poses to the lowest-lying nation on earth.

The Maldives' president will lead Saturday's meeting around a table on the sea floor — 20 feet (6 meters) below the surface — and ministers will communicate using white boards and hand signals.

President Mohammed Nasheed has emerged as a key, and colorful, voice on climate change amid fears that rising ocean levels could swamp this Indian Ocean archipelago within a century. Its islands average 7 feet (2.1 meters) above sea level.

Nasheed is also a certified diver, while other ministers have had to take diving lessons in recent weeks.

"None of the ministers have ever been diving before, except the defense minister, and all of them are very enthusiastic," Zoona Naseem, president of Divers Association Maldives, said in a statement from the president's office.

Nasheed has already announced plans for a fund to buy a new homeland for his people if the 1,192 low-lying coral islands are submerged. He has promised to make the Maldives, with a population of 350,000, the world's first carbon-neutral nation within a decade.

The underwater Cabinet plans to sign a document calling on all countries to cut down their carbon dioxide emissions ahead of a major U.N. climate change conference in December in Copenhagen, where countries will negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are blamed for causing global warming by trapping heat in the earth's atmosphere.

Wealthy nations want broad emissions cuts from all countries, while poorer ones say industrialized countries should carry most of the burden.

On Friday, the Maldives ministers went diving for rehearsals off the island of Girifushi, about 20 minutes by speedboat from the capital, Male, said Aminath Shauna, an official from the president's office.

Three of the 14 ministers will miss the underwater meeting because two were not given medical permission and another is abroad, Shauna said.

Source: AP

Navy to patrol Indian Ocean with Indonesia,Maldives

In the backdrop of increased piracy related incidents and illegal activities in the Indian Ocean Region, India will join littoral countries, Indonesia and Maldives, to patrol the waters to protect their maritime boundary this month.

The navies of India and Indonesia would carry out their 14th coordinated patrolling of Malacca straits region, once a piracy hit area in the Indian Ocean, from October 18 to November 5.

The Indian Navy would also deploy a Dornier maritime patrol aircraft in the Maldives as part of the security assistance New Delhi agreed to provide Male to secure its waters from pirates and threat from terror groups.

"To increase the cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region, the Indian Navy will conduct coordinated patrols of the international maritime boundary with Indonesia.


Friday, October 16, 2009

First Holiday Inn Resort to open in The Maldives

IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) on October 15 announced that it has signed an agreement with Leisure Holidays Private Limited (LHPL), a Hotel Properties Limited (HPL) Group company, to takeover on 1 November 2009 and re-brand Kandooma Maldives to Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma.

Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma is the first Holiday Inn Resort in the Republic of Maldives, and will be the second Holiday Inn property in the Republic to carry the look-and-feel and service standards of the refreshed Holiday Inn brand.

LHPL, the owning company of Kandooma Maldives, is a subsidiary of HPL. HPL is listed on Singapore Exchange Limited (SGX), and its principal businesses include hotel ownership and management, property development and investments.

"This partnership gives us the opportunity to begin a relationship with IHG. We are confident of the strength of the new Holiday Inn brand, and believe the new Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma will provide a unique guest experience in this segment of the Maldives market," said Stephen Lau, Chairman of HPL Hotels & Resorts Pte Ltd and Executive Director of HPL.

The 160-room resort is built on Kandooma Island in the South Malé Atoll, which lies 35 km south of Malé International Airport, via a forty minute speedboat ride.

Kandooma Island is a favoured tropical isle because of its close proximity to many excellent dive sites. The Kandooma Channel, Kandooma Caves and Kandooma ‘Thila' (an undersea mount) dive sites all contribute to making the island one of the Republic's most sought after destinations for divers.

The Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma will feature villas with great sea or garden views and extensive food & beverage options. This includes a specialty restaurant with Mediterranean-Thai cuisine, a well stocked wine room, and a rooftop lounge serving tapas.

Sports and recreational facilities at the resort include the Dive Centre, Kandooma Kids' Club, full spa services at the COMO Shambala Spa and 3 radio channels with resident radio DJs. Guests can also enjoy activities such as dolphin watching, windsurfing, snorkelling, guided kayak safaris, and underwater hockey.

"This partnership is both a fantastic opportunity for IHG to build a relationship with a partner like HPL and to introduce a brand-defining resort property under the new Holiday Inn brand. I have every confidence that guests will enjoy the facilities and service experience at the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma, which will be a refreshing new hotel option in the Maldives," said Jan Smits, Managing Director, IHG Asia Australasia.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Maldives Coach Istavan Urbanyi Calls For Unity Ahead Of South Asian Cup

Ahead of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship tournament in December, Maldives coach Istavan Urbanyi wants his team to pull together.

The islanders are the reigning champions in the region and want to defend their prize in Bangladesh.

“We need to join hands in order to keep the crown. Everyone in this country wants to retain the trophy and we should together work for success,” he told

Maldives are happy to have avoided the hosts and to have been grouped with India, Afghanistan and Nepal.

“I am pleased with the draw. We got the easier group compared to the other one. But none of the teams in our group is weak either. We have to play and show our commitment at maximum to retain the trophy in Maldives,” he said.

“India is the strongest in our group. I have seen their matches in Nehru Cup and we have to give our maximum.”

“We don’t know much about Afghanistan. They have mostly players who are playing in Germany in their squad. So for sure they would be strong.”

“Nepal is an emerging nation in our region. So we should not underestimate any team in our group.”


Maldives’ cops learn coastal security in M'lore

The final session of training for a batch of ten police officers from Maldives, who had enrolled in Mysore police academy, was conducted by Karnataka Coastal Security Police (CSP) in Mangalore on Monday.
As Maldives is an island, the batch of police officers were trained in coastal protection techniques through drills planned in Mangalore, Malpe, Karwar and other coastal security police stations.
In 1988, Maldives islands attacked by LTTE cadres.
Maldives government successfully fought the LTTE cadres with assistance from Indian army. Extending the goodwill, Maldives government signed an agreement seeking India’s assistance to train its police officers.
The police officers from Maldives have been trained in Maharashtra and other states. This is the third batch that has opted to train in state Police Academy. The batch includes an officer of rank of DySP, three chief Inspectors and six sub inspectors.
The initial training was given in Maldives and the officers were sent to India for higher training, Maldives police officer Mohammed Nadeem told mediapersons.
Maldives like coastal districts is humid and faces common problems like drugs smuggling, terrorism among others, Nadeem added.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Maldives International Boat Show 2009 Ship builders from Sri Lanka will also compete

The 3rd Maldives International Boat Show,will commence here today,with the participation of several Sri Lankan companies.

Managing Director of South Asia Exhibition Services, Arjun Dharmadasa, told the Island Financial Review, that big names in Sri Lanka,such as Solar Marine Lanka,Neil Marine,Barramundi Boat Yard and BTI,will be competing with companies from around the globe,including Europe,Australia and the Middle East.

Forty boat builders and suppliers worldwide,would be showcasing a variety of Kayaks,Super Yachts,modern technology,marine products and allied services,he said.

Maldivian Transport Minister Mohammed Aslam is scheduled to declare open the event.The Guest of Honour would be the Fisheries Minister Ibrahim Didi.Maldivian President Mohammed Nasheed,is also expected to visit the Show.

Maldivian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Ali Hussein Didi,said that a huge industry awaits Sri Lankan boat manufacturers,who participate in MIBS 2009.

"Sri Lanka has shared its resources with the Maldives in various fields and its boat builders,can now assist us to manufacture the boats we require",he said.

"The main source of transport,to and from the 200 inhabited islands in the Maldives,is by boat and this has created a big industry,with immense benefits for those willing to take up the challenge."

Maldives,appreciates the sharing and caring of its Sri Lankan brothers and sisters.The fact that MIBS 2009,is being organized by South Asia Exhibition Services,which is a Sri Lankan company,should be an incentive for greater participation by its business sector,in Maldives economic development.Our,status as a tax haven for investors,is an added attraction,Didi said.

"It was in 2007,that SAES Director,Imran Hassan sought approval to hold the inaugural MIBS in Male",he said "I was in charge of the Male Municipality at the time.Looking back I have no regrets in approving the application,because MIBS has proved to be a great success."

Commenting on a proposal by Neil Marine,that a sail boat service be started between Sri Lanka and the Maldives,Didi said that it was a novel idea.Asked,if he,as High Commissioner would pursue the project,Didi said that an Indian ocean sail boat service, would certainly have its attractions and needs to be explored.


No danger from Al Qaeda to Maldives – Dr. Shaheed

Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Ahmed Shaheed has said that Maldives will not face any dangers from terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda owing to Maldives’ announcement to strengthen diplomatic ties with Israel Dr. Shaheed said this responding to a question asked by Miadhu Daily.

Highlighting the points noted in the letter sent by Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) to President Mohamed Nasheed, Dr Shaheed said that it was a “crazy” thought that Al Qaeda would attack Maldives because of its ties with Israel.

“How many people have we invited to Maldives, who were hot terror targets? Kadirmagar was a guest of the government. How many times did he visit Maldives? Kumaaratunga came to Maldives three times. Yaasir Arafat also came to Maldives. We never saw any bomb blasts when they came here. Where would we run back then if such a terror attack happened? American ambassador always visits Maldives. That’s a high target but nothing has happened so far. So we don’t face any such threats just because we have decided to openly conduct diplomatic relations with Israel.” said Dr.Shaheed

Rejecting the false conclusions derived by DQP that we may face attacks due to relations with Israel, Foreign Minister said that from the actions of Al Qaeda, it is clear that they do not attack countries which establish relations with Israel.

Dr Shaheed further said, “We have to first understand just where Al Qaeda is operating. Afghanistan is their base and their presence is wide spread in Pakistan. Then, we hear from news that there are Al Qaeda cells in Irag and that they may travel to Comoros islands. Al Qaeda exists in Indonesia, they may go to Malaysia, Singapore, India and they are making their nest in Bangladesh. There maybe Al Qaeda presence in Sri Lanka and Maldives. But have you heard of any attacks to Israel from these people?”

Further explaining why there won’t be any dangers from terrorists to Maldives, Dr.Shaheed said, “When Al Qaeda attacked Indonesia who did they target? Their first target was Americans and the second target was just Muslims. Among Muslims they target people who do not accept their ideologies. So we can say that Al Qaeda is not attacking Jews or Israel or countries which establish relations with Israel but to Muslims who do not heed to their fundamentalists ideas.”

In the letter sent by DQP to President Nasheed concerning Maldives – Israel ties, Dr. Shaheed’s name also cropped up.

“Speaking truthfully, I have to say that when I was the Foreign Minister in Maumoon’s government, we had much closer ties with Israel than now.”

He further noted that the number of Israeli’s and Jews coming to Maldives has not decreased before or even now and that a number of Jews has even invested in Maldives.

Field visits were carried out to the various units of Forensic Department and different tools used in forensic work were also shown. The units visited were forensic Laboratory, Finger Print and Document and Digital Evidence unit.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Can Mohamed Nasheed save the Maldives – and the rest of the world – from the rising seas?

The Maldives president roused the Tory faithful at Manchester last week. Next Saturday he will hold an underwater cabinet meeting to highlight the dangers of global warming

On a humid, airless night last March, Mohamed Nasheed – the 42-year-old president of the Maldives – opened up his palace in Male for an unusual public event. A projection screen was hung at the back of a ballroom and brightly coloured chairs were arranged in rows. Then the audience was shown in: lawyers, cabinet members, presidential advisers and journalists, along with a sizeable chunk of Maldives society.

Nasheed, dressed in an open-neck striped shirt and dark chinos, sat in the front row. The lights dimmed and scenes of environmental mayhem unfolded on the screen: Sydney Opera House in flames, ice sheets crashing into the seas, deserts spreading and forests burning.

Thus the people of the Maldives had their first glimpse of Franny Armstrong's documentary, The Age of Stupid, in which Pete Postlethwaite plays the last man left alive in a post-apocalyptic, climate-fried world.

The film is scrappy but passionate, a classic example of agit-prop cinema. But in the dripping night heat of Male, The Age of Stupid had a very different effect on its audience than it has had in the west. Its message seemed direct and immediate, a call to arms. Nor is it hard to understand such emotion. The islands that make up the Maldives are threatened with complete inundation, probably by the end of the century, as ice sheets melt and sea levels rise catastrophically, thanks to global warming.

The islands stand less than a couple of metres above sea level. In fact, their highest point, at 2.3 metres, is the "lowest high point" for any nation on Earth. It won't take much to inundate them. Hence the impact of the film which left its audience desperate for reassurance from their president as he moved to a microphone stand in the centre of the ballroom.

"If man can walk on the moon, we can unite to defeat our common carbon enemy," Nasheed told them. "And so today, I announce that the Maldives will become the first carbon-neutral country in the world."

The announcement was a typically slick PR exercise by Nasheed. He had only been propelled into power a few weeks earlier in a national vote that had made him "the world's first democratically elected president of a 100% Muslim country", as he puts it.

Yet he was already revealing himself to be an adroit and effective operator. The former investigative journalist, jailed six times by his authoritarian predecessor, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and made an Amnesty prisoner of conscience in 1991, has begun making waves – in every sense.

Apart from his pledge to turn the Maldives – a collection of atolls and islands in the Indian Ocean that have become one of the world's most luxurious tourist resorts – into a carbon-neutral state, he has revealed that he has embarked on an ambitious campaign to buy up land – in India, Sri Lanka or Australia – on which he will build a New Maldives to replace the old one when it disappears under the waves. This will be achieved by using the country's vast tourism revenues to establish "a sovereign wealth fund" to relocate its people.

"Our actions will be a template, an action kit for other nations across the world," he said recently.

Last week Nasheed – or "Anni" as he is generally known – was at it again. First, he wowed the Conservative party conference in Manchester with a flawlessly delivered speech – typically presented without notes – on the importance of centre-right politics when it comes to saving the world. Then he topped this performance by announcing that this Saturday he will chair the world's first underwater cabinet meeting.

The aim of this remarkable plan is to raise global consciousness about the issues that must be hammered out at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen this December, he says. Thus Nasheed's ministers will don wetsuits and air tanks in six days' time, gather in the shallow waters off the island of Girifushi, and then get down to the business of governing the Maldives underwater – mainly by communicating through hand gestures. One minister, for education, has already had to pull out after diving experts announced he was not fit enough to take part.

The meeting will, as some observers have noted rather sardonically, bring politics in the Maldives, literally, to a new low. As one official remarked: "The paperwork should be challenging if nothing else."

The idea of an underwater cabinet meeting is certainly gimmicky but it will focus attention on a nation that stands to suffer more than any other from global warming. The Maldives could, quite simply, be wiped off the face of the Earth. "Unless something is done, my grandchildren will find these islands have completely disappeared under the waves," Nasheed said last week. Hence those undersea meetings and those carefully organised screenings.

Mohamed Nasheed was born in Male in May 1967, the son of a prosperous businessman. He was educated at Majeediyya secondary school in the Maldives before continuing his studies at a school in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1981 and then, a year later, at Dauntsey's school in Wiltshire where he sat his A-levels. Afterwards, he took a degree in marine studies at Liverpool John Moores University.

He returned to the Maldives in the late 1980s – and ran straight into trouble. He founded his own magazine, Sangu, and published a series of investigative reports about President Gayoom's regime, which he accused of being corrupt and guilty of a string of human rights abuses. After the fifth issue, Gayoom had had enough. Police raided the magazine's offices and arrested Nasheed. The 23-year-old spent several months in solitary confinement, accused of attempting to overthrow the government.

These allegations and bouts of harassment were repeated over the next 10 years. "I have personally experienced the worst that a malicious regime can contrive in order to suppress its people," he told the Conservative conference last week. "I was imprisoned on 16 different occasions and spent a total of six years in jail. Of these, I spent 18 months in solitary confinement."

The saddest aspect was that he missed the births of his two daughters, he said. "It was a tough reminder of a fundamental truth… that the freedom of the individual should not be destroyed at the whim of an over-mighty state." The remark, predictability, sent the Tory conference into ovation overdrive. But then Nasheed knows how to work a crowd, if nothing else.

In 2005, Nasheed fled the Maldives to Britain. You could "always talk to a western government about democracy", he said. He returned to his homeland after a few months, however, and in 2008 stood against Gayoom – then Asia's longest serving president – in the Maldives first ever democratic elections. Nashood won, with 54% of the votes.

He has since shown a striking sureness of action, though his short reign has not been without its critics. His remarks in Manchester last week, aimed to gee along his centre-right allies, together with his plans for underwater cabinet meetings and for moving the entire population to a promised land free of the threat of inundation, have led to accusations that he is a little light on political substance and too gimmicky for his own good.

Nasheed is scaring off investors, say opponents who include his predecessor, Gayoom. "This man is so hellbent on hogging the media limelight that he is forgetting to do his job, which is to run the country," said a spokesman for the former president.

Such criticism reeks of sour grapes, of course. Nevertheless, it is questionable just how far Nasheed can go for his country. Just who will sell him the land where he can build his New Maldives? And just what good will it do to make his nation carbon-neutral? Providing answers to these questions will not be easy, though in many ways they distract from the real purpose of Nasheed's plans.

We are all Maldivians, he argues. Every nation on the planet is threatened today by global warming. The Maldives and its inhabitants just happen to be first in line for the great calamity when it arrives. They may survive more than 100 years, of course, if rises in sea level remain modest. However, the oceans will continue to rise throughout next century and probably the one after it, scientists warn. The islands will therefore have to face their watery fate either in the 21st century or the 22nd, or even in the 23rd.

The actions of Mohamed Nasheed are therefore aimed at stimulating action by the west in the hope his country can reap some collateral benefit when a programme for dealing effectively with climate change is eventually hammered out. As he says: "If scientists are not able to save the Maldives, then they won't be able to save the world."


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Maldives cabinet to go underwater

The government of the Maldives is to hold a cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the threat of global warming.

President Mohamed Nasheed and his cabinet will sign a document during the 17 October dive, calling for global cuts in carbon emissions.

An adviser to the president told the BBC the dive was "a bit of fun" but the cabinet intended to send a serious message about rising sea levels.

The low-lying island nation says it faces being wiped out if oceans rise.

The adviser, who asked not to be named, said ministers would communicate during the meeting using hand signals and waterproof boards and pens.

"Obviously the hand signals that divers can use are limited, so the amount of work the cabinet are going to get done will be limited," he said.

"But they will call on all nations - rich and poor, developed and developing - to take climate change seriously."

All cabinet members bar one - who has a medical condition that rules out diving - have been in training at a military base on one of the country's many islands.

Mr Nasheed, who is already a qualified diver, will also hold a press conference in the water.

While underwater, the government will sign a document ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December, calling on all nations to cut down their carbon emissions.

World leaders at the summit are aiming to create a new agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

'Friendly' sharks

The dive is being held to mark the 350 International Day of Climate Change Action on 24 October.

The day's organisers say they want to highlight the risks of rising carbon in the atmosphere and encourage world leaders to commit to reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million.

That is the amount some scientists say is the safe upper limit to avoid irreparable damage to the environment.

Some 80% of the Maldives archipelago is less than a metre above sea level and is extremely vulnerable to any rise in sea levels as a result of global warming melting the polar ice caps.

Officials say that by the time the Maldives feels the full effect of climate change, it will be too late to save other countries.

Mr Nasheed has warned that the entire nation may have to find a new home if the oceans rise as predicted by the UN.

The president's adviser told the BBC that although the country's government was almost all going to be underwater at the same time, there was no real danger.

Each minister will be accompanied by a diving instructor and a military minder and the local sharks were "friendly", he said.