Monday, November 14, 2011

President Mohamed Nasheed Highlights the fruitful Results of the 17th SAARC Summit

President Mohamed Nasheed has highlighted the many fruitful results of the 17th SAARC summit, while delivering the closing address at the concluding session of the summit.

Speaking on the trade, transport and economic development issues discussed at the two-day summit, President Nasheed announced SAARC’s decision to reduce the sensitive list of Least Developed Countries from 480 tariff lines to 25. He also said that the Heads of State and Heads of Government have agreed to finalize the Regional Railways Agreement and to convene the Expert Group Meeting on Motor Vehicles Agreement, before the next Council of Ministers.

Reflecting on the Security issues deliberated on at the summit, President Nasheed informed of the agreement on the Rapid Response to Natural Disasters and the decision to initiate work on combating maritime piracy in the region. He further said that all countries have agreed to spend an appropriate proportion of their national income on renewable energy technologies.

The President also highlighted the good governance issue on the table at the summit, “We have agreed to convene an expert group meeting to discuss a regional mechanism for empowerment of women and promote gender equality in the region. And we have agreed to strengthen the mechanisms of SAARC itself, including the Secretariat and Regional Centres.”

At the concluding session of the 17th SAARC Summit, held from the 10th of November to the 11th in Addu City, SAARC leaders adopted the Declaration of the Seventeenth SAARC Summit as the “Addu Declaration”. It was also announced that the Eighteenth SAARC Summit will be held in Nepal.
Following the conclusion of the Summit, President Mohamed Nasheed met with the press in his capacity as the Chairperson of the Summit, and briefed the media on the important decisions taken during the course of the Summit.


Biweekly ferry service to Male soon

India will soon launch a cargo-cum-passenger ferry service between Kochi and Male, the capital of Maldives, giving an impetus to Kochi-based exporters to open up new business ventures.
The shipping ministry has plans to operate two biweekly services in this sector and it is expected to start operations within a few weeks.

"Cochin Port will soon invite private operators interested in operating the service," said K Mohandas, secretary, Shipping Ministry of India. Last July, a delegation led by Mohandas and Mohamed Latheef, permanent secretary, ministry of transport and communication of Maldives, agreed to operate ferry service between Kochi and Male. Later, at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit, which concluded in Maldives on Friday, both the governments took the decision to complete the preliminary work for the service by the end of this year.

"Initially we will operate a cargo ferry service, similar to the one between Colombo and Tuticorin, from Kochi port to Maldives," a senior official at Cochin Port Trust (CPT) revealed.

"Currently a relatively smaller ferry is operating between Tuticorin and Male through the shallow waters of the Palk Strait. It transports vegetables and groceries from Tamil Nadu. The new service is expected to improve the trade between India and Maldives, and groceries from south Tamil Nadu could be sent to Maldives markets on relatively bigger ferry from Kochi," the official explained, adding: "Using a larger vessel would also bring down the cost of transportation."

"Maldives now imports goods, including light engineering merchandises and automobiles worth $1 billion per annum, mainly from Dubai and Singapore. The new ferry service from Kochi would help India develop a new market for our engineering products like motors in Maldives, and we expect this trade of value-added products to increase gradually in the coming years," the port official said.
CPT is now preparing for the launch of the ferry service by getting the berth and terminal for passengers and cargo ready. This month, a team of senior port officials from Maldives is expected to visit Kochi to discuss the arrangements to be made at their end to facilitate the ferry service.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

17th SAARC summit kicks off in Maldives

The 17th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit kicked off here on Thursday with the theme of "Building Bridges - both in terms of physical connectivity and figurative political dialogue".

At the opening speech, 16th SAARC Chairman and Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigme Y. Thinley said, "I am deeply honored to open the 17th session in the pristine island of Addu. Holding the summit south of the equator is truly a reminder of the vastness of our region and its diversity," said Thinley.

Photo taken on Nov. 10, 2011 shows the 17th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit in Addu City of Maldives. The 17th SAARC Summit kicked off here on Thursday with the theme of "Building Bridges -- both in terms of physical connectivity and figurative political dialogue".

He remarked that Bhutan's chairmanship was a successful one with key developments on food security, renewable energy and establishment of the SAARC campus. He also thanked the South Asian governments for the assistance given to him during his tenure.

This was followed by the inaugural address that was made by Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed said, "I believe that the 21st Century will be Asia's century. I believe that Asia, and South Asia in particular, is becoming more powerful and more prominent than any other time in our history. In short, I believe the future is ours to shape. Our economies are booming. Our political influence is growing. And our ability to shape the course of world affairs has never been stronger."

"Our populations are youthful and energetic. Our thinkers, researchers and scientists are globally renowned. Our culture is internationally acclaimed. Our private sector companies are some of the world's largest and most profitable. For too long, South Asia was considered a sideshow in the theater of global politics. But today, we occupy center stage. The eyes of the world are upon us. This is our time to shine," said Nasheed.

The SAARC region has great wealth, he said, adding that it is possible for the people to have a decent life. He insisted that they want to live in societies of law and order so that they can have a decent life. Growing economies and deepening democracies and ensuring stability is the possibility of south Asia.

"For this we must work together. Economic stagnation in one member nation causes insecurity in another. We must integrate economically and create a political environment that creates security. There are many reasons to be positive Afghanistan remains stable and as a region we must assist them," he said.

President Nasheed said that key aspects, among others, trade and transport connection, economic integration climate change, disaster management, will be the top agenda in the summit.

Nasheed said, "The theme of this summit is building bridges. I hope one of the things we can achieve, at this and future summits is greater integration and co-operation between SAARC countries.

The Republic of Maldives declared "Building Bridges" as the theme for the 17th SAARC Summit.

"Building Bridges - both in terms of physical connectivity and figurative political dialogue. However, the notion of bridging differences would be represented as the overarching theme of the summit rather than any set diplomatic or development aims," a statement issued by the Maldivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

President Nasheed said, "Today, the Pakistani and Indian prime ministers met in the lovely setting of the Shangri La in the Maldives. These developments are extremely welcome. I hope all political parties in India and Pakistan applaud these encouraging moves. I hope this summit will be enthused with optimism. And I hope both countries can work to resolve their core issues."

Earlier in the day, Indian and Pakistan prime ministers met for talks in what seems to be one of the focal points of the summit. Increasing warmth of relations were observed during the talks between the two parties with hopes for a "new chapter" opening during the next round of talks.

At the opening ceremony of the Summit, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called for all SAARC countries to work together to eliminate terrorism.

"Terrorism presents an enormous challenge to the people and SAARC needs to work together to eliminate this menace," he said. SAARC can also work together to promote culture and arts that can be used to promote tourism in the region. He welcomed a consideration to establish dialogue with partners to promote the travel industry.

Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged to promote fair trade in the region. He spoke positively of the progress made in SAARC, terming it as "impressive" and pointed out that many sectors including trade, transport, health and education have benefited from it.

"Our summit is taking place at a time when the West is having an economic crisis. In the meantime developing countries like ours will be squeezed for capital and markets and we should look for innovative solutions within South Asian region," he said.

Development within countries would attract foreign investors and freeing of trade between SAARC members would create benefit for all nations.

South Asia has been able to maintain a respectable growth rate and this encouraging trend has resulted in the integration of SAARC and shows the region is on the right path, Singh said.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his address focused on the need to create solutions for the youth of South Asia.

He expressed confidence that the SAARC summit would result in more agreements that will promote trade. Belief in the people is the greatest strength for this region, he opined, urging all members to develop their potential.
The SAARC is an organization of South Asian nations, founded in December 1985 and dedicated to economic, technological, social, and cultural development emphasizing collective self-reliance. Its seven founding members are Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan joined the organization in 2007. Meetings of heads of state are usually scheduled annually; meetings of foreign secretaries, twice annually. It is headquartered in Kathmandu, Nepal.


Pakistan, Maldives to expand trade, economic relations

Pakistan and Maldives on Wednesday agreed to expand their bilateral relations especially in trade, communication and manpower training. It was agreed when Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani held a meeting with President of Maldives Mohammad Nasheed here at the beautiful resort on the sidelines of 17th SAARC Summit. Members of the delegation of Pakistan including Interior Minister A. Rehman Malik, Minister for Communication Dr Arbab Alamgir and Minister for Shipping and Port Babar Ghauri were also present in the meeting.

Prime Minister Gilani appreciated the arrangements being made by Maldives for organizing the 17th SAARC summit and thanked for the hospitality given to the members of the Pakistan delegation.

The Prime Minister told the President of Maldives that he will discuss all issues with his Indian counterpart Dr Manmohan Singh including Kashmir when he will meet him tomorrow on the sidelines of SAARC summit.

He said improvement of relations between Pakistan and India are important and SAARC could be made more effective and result oriented with the better Pak-India relations.

The Prime Minister said there had been meetings between the Foreign Ministers, Interior Ministers, Commerce Ministers of Pakistan and India to improve relations in these fields and now Commerce Secretaries of the two countries will meet this month to improve trade and economic activities.

Talking about the theme of the summit - Build Bridges, the Prime Minister said connectivity is the most important thing and he emphasised the need to improve it.

Prime Minister Gilani appreciated the role of President Maldives in the recently held Commonwealth Summit in Australia where President Mohammad Nasheed was very vocal, articulate and convincing.

The Maldivian President told the Prime Minister Gilani that Islam came to Maldives through Pakistan during 1147 AD adding “Our region, concept and vision are common”.

He said connectivity can play vital role in improving the economic and trade activities, therefore special emphasis should be given on this sector.

The President of Maldives said once PIA had regular flights to Maldives which should be resumed for improving connectivity.

He told the Prime Minister that there is vast scope for import of vegetable, fruit and other products from Pakistan.

The President of Maldives told Prime Minister Gilani that he had the vision to steer out of a situation and seize the opportunity for improving the bilateral relations with India. He also congratulated Pakistan for being elected member of the Security Council.

He told the Prime Minister that Pakistan’s mangoes are very delicious and he had been receiving these mangoes when he was in jail and hoped that these mangoes will keep coming to Maldives.

The Prime Minister told him that he would send him Pakistani mangoes.


Pakistan, India herald new era of dialogue

India and Pakistan hailed progress in diplomatic ties on Thursday, promising to open a "new chapter" in their fraught relationship at a next round of formal peace talks.

Lasting peace between the nuclear-armed rivals is seen as essential to South Asian stability and to helping a troubled transition in Afghanistan as NATO-led combat forces plan their military withdrawal from that country in 2014.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani held nearly an hour-long discussion at a resort island in the Maldives, punctuating a recent thaw between the two.

That includes Pakistan's decision to grant its giant neighbor favorable trade terms and end huge restrictions that require most products to move via a third country.

"The next round of talks will be more positive, more constructive and will open a new chapter in the history of both countries," Gilani told reporters after the meeting with Singh on the sidelines of a summit of South Asian leaders.

"I can only assure you that I discussed all core issues."

India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, resumed a peace dialogue in February that was derailed after an attack by Pakistan-based militants in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008.

"We will resume this dialogue with the expectation that all issues which have bedeviled relations between the two countries will be discussed," Singh said. "The time has come to write a new chapter in the history of the relationship of the two countries."

Progress has been slow but Gilani and Singh have put a personal face to the discussions.

"I have always regarded Prime Minister Gilani as a man of peace. Every time we have met, we have held very extensive discussions of relations of the two countries. These have yielded some positive results, but more needs to be done," Singh said.


The two leaders, who last met in March at an international cricket match in India, discussed border disputes, sharing of common river water, Kashmir, militancy and trade, Gilani said.

Pakistan last week said it would grant India most-favored nation trade status. India gave the status to Pakistan 15 years ago, and the state of trade has closely been linked to the political temperature between the two.

"The process of trade normalization will be taken to its logical conclusion and we would also move toward a preferential trade agreement with Pakistan... and a liberalized visa regime," Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters, referring to visas for business people.

There was no immediate announcement on the date or location of the next round of talks. Asked when they would resume, Gilani gestured toward the room where he and Singh had spoken and said: "Just now" to a burst of laughter.

A judicial panel from Pakistan is due in India shortly to investigate the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, including speaking with the lone surviving gunman, Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik said.

An Indian court convicted Kasab, a Pakistani national, of murder and other charges, and he is appealing a death sentence.

"He is a terrorist. He is a non-state actor. He should go to the gallows," Malik told reporters.

India has demanded Pakistan investigate and convict the militants on its soil responsible for the assault on the Indian commercial capital.

So far, Pakistani authorities have put seven members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba group on trial but India says Pakistan needs to do more.

The leaders are in the Maldives for a summit of the eight-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which also includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the host country, an archipelago of nearly 1,200 mostly uninhabited atolls in the Indian Ocean.


Leaders arrive in Maldives with diverse agendas

For India it’s mainly trade liberalisation, for Afghanistan the security situation, for Pakistan both trade and anti-terrorism fight, whereas for Maldives and Bangladesh the rising sea level tops the agenda their heads of states will be pursuing during the two-day 17th meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) commencing here on Thursday afternoon.

Sri Lanka is looking for increased cooperation between members to catch up with them after winning a war against Tamil Tigers that has bled the country for decades. However, Bhutan and Nepal, the two relatively smaller members of Saarc, once again will be analysing how they can benefit from the forum which even after 26 years since its inception has failed to kick-start what to talk about serving over 1.5 billion people of the region.

Saarc came into being in Dec 1985 with the aim to promote welfare of the people of South Asia and improve their quality of life. According to analysts, the South Asian leaders have miserably failed on their collective responsibility. The intra-regional trade, another basic objective behind the creation of Saarc, is less than five per cent. Initially, it had seven member states but Afghanistan joined the bloc in April 2007.

Maybe it’s the diversity of agendas which every member state has been following over the years which has compelled the organisers to select ‘building bridges’ as the theme for this year’s Saarc summit.

“Building bridges — both in terms of physical connectivity and figurative political dialogue, however, the notion of bridging differences would be represented as the overarching theme of the summit rather than any set diplomatic aims,” a press release issued by the Maldivian foreign ministry said.

As in the past, there is every likelihood of a meeting between the Pakistani and Indian prime ministers on the sidelines of the summit, expected on Thursday, to overshadow the rest of the proceedings.

Unresolved differences between the two countries are considered a major stumbling block in making Saarc an effective regional organisation like other such bodies in other parts of the world.

Therefore, warming of ties between Pakistan and India is a must to have an operational Saarc. Otherwise it would remain a mere talk shop.

According to Pakistani delegates, barring any exceptions, the meeting between the two leaders is there on the agenda prior to the formal opening of the summit.

The two leaders are expected to thrash out differences over Pakistan’s reluctance to give the most favoured nation (MFN) status to India. India had given MFN status to Pakistan in 1996 and has been looking for reciprocity from Pakistan.

Only recently, when Information Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan misreported a federal cabinet decision that the government had decided to grant the status to India, it set off such an uproar in the country that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had to

make a clarification. He said during a media interaction that the government had only allowed the commerce ministry to start negotiations with its Indian counterpart to normalise trade relations.

“Definitely, issues regarding Indian presence in Afghanistan will also be taken up during the meeting between the prime ministers,” a Pakistani official said. He said Pakistan was not against increasing collaboration between India and Afghanistan.

However, being an immediate neighbour and main victim of the American war on terror, the country needed to be consulted.

A recent defence agreement between India and Afghanistan has raised many eyebrows in Pakistan.

India expects to move forward on the liberalisation of trade under the South Asian Free Trade Agreement and will work to promote greater integration and development of a South Asian identity at the summit, Indian media quoted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as saying before his departure to Addu city.

Mr Singh also expressed hopes that the Saarc countries would sign agreements on implementation of regional standards, a multilateral arrangement on recognition of conformity assessment, rapid response to natural disasters and establishment of a Saarc seed bank during the summit.

APP adds: Prime Minister Gilani said on Wednesday before leaving for the Maldives that the importance and effectiveness of Saarc had increased manifold since Pakistan and India resumed discussing bilateral disputes.

He said the association had earlier been losing its effectiveness and could not move forward because of tense relations between the two major countries of South Asia.

“We will definitely focus on the conference’s theme of ‘building bridges’ by discussing all possible ways and means for mutual cooperation through rail, road and sea routes.”

In the Maldives, the prime minister was received at the Gan airport by President Mohammad Nasheed.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Christmas escape to Anantara Maldives

Imagine spending Christmas in the world famous paradise of the Maldives.

Picture yourself hiding away in a private pool sanctuary of such unbridled space and thoughtful indulgence that your lifestyle seems exceptional even in this luxurious destination.  Then envisage lingering for longer with seven nights in festive bliss, and enjoying a complimentary activity that pairs a unique destination perspective with Anantara’s most exclusive signature touches.  Welcome to Anantara Kihavah Villas, where a Christmas escape comes with rich rewards.

anantara-maldivesSimply book seven nights or more, deciding between a private Pool Villa and Two Bedroom Residence either a step away from silky sands or perched directly above the azure Indian Ocean.  Then choose the perfect Christmas experience from Anantara Kihavah Villas’ one of a kind collection.

Set sail for a horizon of endless blue or dramatic sunset hues as you “Sip by Design” on a traditional Maldivian Dhoni sail boat.  Ostensibly designed for romance, it is perfect for intimate sunset sailing with your significant other.  Share a special hamper and toast Christmas with bottle of Champagne in a tranquil world of your own.

Create a Christmas snapshot that tells an unforgettable tale of Indian Ocean adventure with an “Underwater Photo Shoot”.  Dive into crystal clear waters and experience a thematically surreal world beneath the shimmering surface, where tropical fish are accompanied by Anantara’s eco-friendly underwater Christmas tree made from coral.

Spoil yourselves with a connoisseur experience of dazzling ocean marine life, without ever entering the water.  Descend to Kihavah’s exclusive underwater restaurant and wine cellar, Sea, for a “Private Wine Tasting” hosted by the Resident Wine Sommelier and General Manager.  Sample fine wines in good company as kaleidoscopic sea creatures glide gracefully beyond the glass.

Alternatively treasure an epic opportunity. “Cinema Under the Stars” celebrating a movie in paradise with a bottle of Veuve Cliquot.

Spend Christmas in paradise and choose your dream experience at Anantara Kihavah Villas, Maldives.
Anantara Kihavah Villas’ Festive Season rates start from $2,600 for a Beach Pool Villa and are valid from 24 December 2011 through 9 January 2012 for a minimum seven night stay.  Rates are quoted in US Dollar and based on single or double occupancy, per villa per night, inclusive of daily breakfast for two guests and subject to 10 percent service charge, 3.5 percent GST up to 31 December 2011 and 6 percent thereafter, and Maldivian Government Bed Tax of $ 8.00 per person per night.  Mandatory Christmas Eve Dinner and New Year’s Eve Celebration supplements apply for accommodation dates that include 24 December 2011 and 31 December 2011


A sea of message at Maldives

In a world where access to clean water and marine conservation are becoming increasingly important, it should come as no surprise that the first Water Wo/Men fundraiser event was in the Maldives. Between September 30-October 4, some of the world’s global glitterati came together to discuss and debate ideas on how to preserve one of nature’s most precious elements.

Hollywood stars Daryl Hannah and Kate Bosworth, Jose Garcia, Melanie Laurent, supermodel Helena Christensen, British singer Beth Orton, Foo Fighters keyboard player Rami Jaffee, Bollywood Director Shekhar Kapur and German actress Michaela Merten joined hands with the biggest names in water sports and marine conservation to raise funds for the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve through the BLUE Marine Foundation, an organization founded by “The End of the Line” producer Chris Gorell Barnes.

A water-sports show over the famous Yin Yang wave brought some of the world’s best surfers and wake-boarders together. Equally joyous was the fact that children from a local village were invited to participate in a surf lesson. Rami Jaffee was jamming away at Chill Bar at the Six Senses Laamu Resort while Helena Christensen and Kate Bosworth were seen enjoying a Zero Carbon meal at LEAF. Ethically sourced food and gourmet wines formed a large part of the social events and were in keeping with the spirit of the entire do.

The finale ‘Barefoot Ball’ was an unforgettable sunset beach jam with Maldivian musicians on local drums playing with their slightly more famous Western counterparts! For those who wanted to relax at night, open-air screenings on the beach at Cinema Paradiso came with bowls of ice cream — 50 flavours of them!

The event, which is meant to bring great minds together, will be repeated annually. Proceeds from this year’s affair will be donated to three key marine charities — ‘Water Charity’, ‘Plant a Fish’ and ‘Blue Marine Foundation’.


Another Dornier to patrol Maldives

India has deployed another naval Dornier aircraft in Maldives to help the Indian Ocean nation in anti-piracy patrols and maritime surveillance.

"The Dornier will operate from Male and other places from Wednesday for at least three weeks," said an official. This comes shortly after TOI reported that alarm bells were ringing in the Indian security establishment over renewed efforts by China to further expand its footprint in Maldives.

Ever since defence minister A K Antony's visited Maldives in August 2009, Indian warships and Dornier aircraft have been regularly assisting the 1,190-island archipelago in maritime patrolling.

New Delhi, apart from hydrographic surveys and other military assistance, is also assisting Male to set up a network of ground radars in all its 26 atolls and link them with the Indian military surveillance systems. Antony, incidentally, just last week had held that the Navy was mandated to be "a net security provider" for island nations in the Indian Ocean.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Learning about Islam in the Maldives

The highest point on any of the country's nearly one thousand idyllic islands is just 2.3 metres above sea level. Little wonder, then, that Climate Change and Global Warming are a cause for real concern, since it would take only a very small rise in sea level to make the islands disappear altogether.
   Whilst the government of the Maldives is doing everything possible to make the world aware of their plight, there is another consideration which puts all of this into its true perspective. For Muslims, all things come from Allah. In everything they do they declare, "inshallah." Even the sun coming up in the morning depends on His will.  
   Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) urged his followers to "tie your camel, then trust in Allah." In other words, Muslims should do everything they possibly can, and then when they have done everything they put their trust and their faith in the One who controls all things.
   On approaching Male, the capital of the Maldives, from the air, the most immediate impression is how beautiful the islands are. Upon arrival at the airport, visitors are reminded of this in a peculiar way. In most of the world's airports, travelers are asked to declare if they are bringing drugs or alcohol into the country. In the Maldives, they are not only asked this, but also if they are carrying idols of worship, which, being anathema to Muslims, are similarly banned. 
   Islam came to the Maldive islands in the twelfth century. It was another of those countries never approached by Muslim armies, but by traders from the Arab world. Their example eventually led the whole population to embrace Islam. In a country which rejoices in being one hundred per cent Muslim, one of the first things visitors see as they travel by boat to the nation's capital is the splendid golden dome of the Sultan Mosque.
   Egypt’s Al-Azhar has always played a central role in leading and guiding the Muslim world. The Islamic Centre in Male, which is a truly impressive building and which incorporates the country's largest Mosque, was built with the help of many Arab and Muslim nations. This is a visible sign of the unity and brotherhood which exists among Muslims.    
    The Opening Ceremony was attended by the late Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Jadul-Haqq, who traveled to the Maldives in November 1984 especially for this. Even today there is an Al-Azhar school in Male.
   There is only one Islam. The beauty of Islam, though, is that it has so many beautiful faces throughout the world. These faces don't change Islam, since Islam is at home in every country and in every culture, but they do show its colours and its diversity. In fact, they show how practical and sensible Islam has been throughout the centuries in making its message relevant to all people on the face of this earth. The Maldivian people have their own very beautiful portrayal of Islam.
   In fact, no matter how beautiful the sea or how white the sand, or even how peaceful the atmosphere, the real treasure of the Maldive islands is the friendliness and simplicity of its people. As Muslims we should never forget the real treasure of ordinary Muslims that is always in our midst.
   The Maldives, like every country, has its own particular problems. Sometimes, as Muslims, we get distracted by our own national situation and forget to look at the bigger picture. The bigger picture shows us that Islam is alive and well and that Muslims are thriving. Perhaps this is why Islam is now the fastest growing religion in the West.
   In a sense, the people of the Maldives can cling so closely to Islam because of their very way of life. This way of life has something to teach us all. Many of its people are fishermen, at one with the sea and its seasons, and they are in tune with their Creator. It is when we become so sophisticated and so caught up with the affairs of this world that we begin to lose something of Islam's simplicity. Islam is indeed simple, but we have managed to make it seem so complicated.
   Anyone staying in the Maldives for even a short time is reminded just by being there that we need to remain focused on Allah, not on the things of this world. When we do remain focused on Allah, all things fall quite naturally into perspective and we see that all things come to us from the hand of Allah. With such an attitude, there is nothing that can overcome us not even Climate Change and Global Warming!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

At first sight, the Maldives looks like paradise on earth, with its turquoise atolls, sparkling sand, fish in all the colors of the rainbow, and numer

The effects of global warming are very real for this tropical haven, where ocean waters threaten a delicate ecosystem. A closer look two years after Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed pledged to reach carbon neutrality with solar and wind power.

At first sight, the Maldives looks like paradise on earth, with its turquoise atolls, sparkling sand, fish in all the colors of the rainbow, and numerous luxury hotels. Maldives is a democracy with a dynamic young population, and its high-end tourism is currently overtaking famous destinations such as Mauritius and the Seychelles as a top destination. In 2011, the number of Chinese tourists caught up with the number of British visitors: the future looks bright.

But put on your scuba fins and you’ll discover a slightly less romantic picture. The reality is a seascape of floating bottles and cans, next to diapers washed out from beach landfills – the inhabitants don’t really have a choice. The coral is not in good condition either, as oceanographer Fabien Cousteau was able to see while diving there last week. Over-fishing is partly to blame, as it deprived the reef of its cleansing fish. The coral is also recovering from El Niño’s last visit in 1998, from a tsunami in 2004, as well as from a general warming of waters.

Marine species can’t cope with the wastewater, which is hardly being treated among the 300 inhabited Maldivian islands. Financially speaking, the atolls’ nebulous political past is responsible for the country’s persistent public debt. The small paradise, 1,000 nautical miles away from any other coast, is following the same path as many other territories going through an ecological and financial crisis. The Maldivian government is adopting a more proactive approach, as it is well aware of the consequences that a decaying ecosystem could have on tourism, which accounts for 40% of the island’s GPD.

But another threat has the government concerned: just barely above sea level, the islands risk going under rather sooner than later, as ocean water levels rise from the effects of global warming. It was in the face of this threat that President Mohamed Nasheed, back in 2009, made what was a stunning pledge. He vowed to make the Maldives carbon-neutral within a decade, by moving to wind and solar power. His aim was simple. His goal was to raise general awareness and set an example for other small, less energy-integrated countries to follow.

Strategic plan

It has become the core of Mohamed Nasheed’s advertised diplomatic speech. In October 2009, a few days before the opening of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the Maldivian President organized an underwater cabinet meeting. His commitment even led to a documentary called "The Island President." The film was recently shown at the Toronto International Film Festival. Last week, Nasheed’s archipelago welcomed a panel of international experts. On Monday, the Maldivian President met with France’s minister of foreign affairs, Alain Juppé, and spoke in favor of an international agreement limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

The first democratic president after more than 20 years of dictatorship, Nasheed knows that this ecological issue is not going to get him reelected. Polls suggest Maldivian voters care little about the environment. So he decided to underline the importance of carbon-neutral economic growth by calling peoples' attention to the fact that more than 30% of the island’s GPD is spent on fossil fuels. Tired of not seeing a sign of the money Europe promised to give, Nasheed is now betting on cheap renewable energies for electricity, which has so far been produced by diesel generators that are accountable for half the carbon dioxide emissions. Other emissions, linked to road or water transport, will be neutralized by progressively introducing electric vehicles. As far as the impact of air transport is concerned, buying carbon credits seems to be the only medium-term solution.

Since last year, things have become clearer. A strategic plan was written down. It is now possible to buy green electricity, and a first photovoltaic contract was signed with the Maldivian hotels and resorts owner Kaimoo. The whole movement is catching momentum as Samoa, Costa Rica and Ethiopia have all joined Norway in the club of countries that pledge to go carbon-neutral before 2030.


Clean power: Maldives leads the way with a carbon dream

It’s quite a letdown. As tourists come into land in the Maldives – renowned for their pristine beauty and environmental campaigning – they are confronted with the world’s biggest island built of garbage.

Thilafushi – once a lagoon seven kilometres long by 200 metres wide – is an elongated semi-circle of hell on the threshold of the much-marketed paradise. Admittedly, the Maldivians have always taken a cavalier attitude to rubbish – the words for waste dump and beach are identical in the local language – but the island, growing at a square metre a day, is something else. Stinking smoke from pyres of plastics streams into the sky, while poisons leach out into the surrounding water.

But now the artificial island is to gain a different symbolism. For the bonfires are to go, replaced by a modern plant to turn the garbage into electricity for the nearby capital, Malé. And a new, much bigger plant to generate power from renewable biomass will follow.

It’s all part of an ambitious aim, announced two years ago, to make the Maldives the first carbon neutral country by 2020. And although the low-lying 1,190-island archipelago is one of the nations most threatened by the rising seas brought on by global warming, it is aimed as much at economic as physical survival. “For us, this is not just an environmental issue,” President Mohamed Nasheed told an environmental symposium at the resort of Soneva Fushi this week. “We would need to become carbon neutral even if there was no such thing as climate change, simply because it is more viable economically.”

The country spends 14 per cent of its GDP – more than on health and education combined – on importing fossil fuels, mainly diesel, and this will rise as oil prices increase. Generating energy from the sun and biomass is much cheaper. The plant on Thilafushi – burning imported wood pellets from sustainable sources – will produce power for 30 per cent less than from diesel.

Much the same goes for other island, and some mainland, nations all over the Third World, and the Maldives hopes they will follow suit. But, though simple to articulate, the zero-carbon goal looks difficult to achieve, and it is easy to be led astray.

Wind power companies descended on the country soon after the goal was announced and Manmohan Singh, prime minister of India – which has a large wind industry – briefly persuaded Nasheed. But the wind scarcely blows in the islands for months on end, and the country’s new plan – drawn up with the help of a British engineer, Mike Mason – gives it short shrift.

The biomass plant is best suited for Malé, which is probably the world’s most densely populated city, with 100,000 people packed into just two square kilometres (if everyone came down from its forest of high-rise buildings at the same time, they say, there would be no room for them in the streets). And solar power, which is almost as cheap, looks the best bet for the 200 inhabited islands and 100 resorts scattered through the archipelago.

Meanwhile, the government is eliminating import duty on electric cars and motorbikes, leaving petrol and diesel ones subject to a 200 per cent mark-up. This month it will scrap the tax on renewable energy equipment and super-efficient appliances like fridges. And it has introduced a feed-in tariff to pay those who generate their own clean power.

All the same, it looks as if it will fail to meet its goal, for – while providing half the country’s power from renewables is relatively straightforward, and getting to around 80 per cent is possible – it is proving formidably hard and expensive to go all the way. For the Maldives has no reliable, constant form of clean power – like hydroelectric or tidal energy – and though the sun rises every day, it sets at night and occasionally hides behind clouds.

Thus, solar energy has to be stored in batteries and it is prohibitively expensive to provide enough to cope with a string of sunless days, though costs are expected to fall. Replacing diesel for fishing boats and ferries will be tricky. And to cap it all, the government has just contracted with a Chinese company to provide a gas power station, partly to provide back-up for an ill-conceived windfarm, decided upon before the plan was drawn up.

So the bold zero-carbon goal is being quietly downgraded to 80-90 per cent carbon free, still an extraordinary achievement in just a decade, with the hope of completing the job later. As the plan puts it: “We can do it – almost!”

March of the pylons continues – with a small improvement

'Encase your legs in nylons/Bestride your hills with pylons/ O age without a soul;/Away with gentle willows/And all the elmy billows/that through your valleys roll.”

Thus John Betjeman in 1966, and he is by no means alone among the graveyard great and good. Such eminences as Rudyard Kipling, Hilaire Belloc and John Maynard Keynes were campaigning against pylons as long ago as 1929, just a year after the first was erected, outside Edinburgh. And the dislike remains strong, as opposition to erecting them in the Cambrian Mountains and Suffolk’s Constable country testifies – though, believe it or not, there is a Pylon Appreciation Society (membership fee £15) for “anyone who is interested in or inspired by transmission towers”. Already, 80,000 march across Britain and there will be more as our energy supplies are increasingly electrified, whether from using renewables, nuclear power or shale gas. But at least it seems that the traditional 165ft monstrosities are going to be replaced by a smaller

T-shaped structure, announced yesterday as the winner of a competition.

Of course it would be better to bury power lines in the countryside. Better still would be to use electricity more efficiently so less needs to be generated. For as Betjeman went on: “And if there is some scenery,/Some unpretentious greenery,/surviving anywhere,/It does not need protecting/For soon we’ll be erecting/A Power Station there.”

Even builders come out against planning free-for-all

Now here’s a turn up for the books. The British Property Federation, one of the few supporters of the Government’s explosive draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has endorsed one of this newspaper’s key criticisms in strong ethical terms.

Its chief executive, Liz Peace, told the Commons Environmental Audit Committee this week: “We think it is morally right to seek brownfield land before looking elsewhere, such as the green belt”, adding that its members “would have no problem with this being enshrined in the NPPF”. That pretty much explodes ministers’ insistence that their weak, and heavily qualified, injunction to use “land with the least environmental or amenity value” will suffice.

No doubt ministers will be relieved that the consultation period – planned for the normally quiet holiday and party conference period – ends on Monday. However, the changes – or, as they would prefer “clarifications” – are, if recent assurances are anything to go by, likely to be substantial. So will it be good enough to alter the document and present it as a fait accompli? Or should they submit their amended proposals for another, if briefer, public consultation? Asked by the committee, planning minister Greg Clark hinted that they might, without making any undertaking. They’d be wise to do so. Even government supporters do not now seem to trust it to get it right.


Building Bridges picked as: 17th SAARC Summit theme

ISLAMABAD: ‘Building Bridges’ will be the core theme for the two-day 17th SAARC Summit beginning in the picturesque Atoll Addu in Maldives next month on November 10-11, 2011. The theme, preferred by the Republic of Maldives, represents a range of new diplomatic initiatives covering geo-physical regional connectivity to conscious nursing of political dialogue among the SAARC community.

This will be the third-time SAARC Summit being hosted by the Maldives government: the previous ones in 1990 and 1997 respectively.

SAARC community consists of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The 16th Summit was held in April 2010 in Bhutan with Climate Change as its central subject of deliberations.

Maldives is trying to bridge political differences among the member countries of the SAARC forum.

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani who is expected represent Pakistan at the 17th SAARC summit on November 10 and 11, 2011, will have second strategic occasion of meeting with his Indian counterpart Dr Manmohan Singh.

It was the Thimpu SAARC event of April 2010 that both Islamabad and New Dehli had agreed to open up years choked channels for diplomatic dialogue between them, the process now gone much ahead to a burgeoning bilateral trade and Pakistan’s consent to accord Most Favored Nation (MFN) status to India.

Source: Hameed Shaheen /

Improve ties with regional nations: Gilani to Khar

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani directed Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Friday to concentrate on further improving relations between Pakistan and countries of the region based on mutual respect and equality.

Gilani made the remarks during a meeting with Khar. The Foreign Minister briefed him on upcoming international meetings like the Commonwealth conference in Australia this month and SAARC Summit in Maldives next month.

Khar "sounded upbeat so far as the relations of Pakistan with the countries of the region were concerned", said a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s office.

She said her optimism was based on the "shared realisation among the countries to improve relations".

She also apprised Gilani of the Foreign Office's efforts to seek support for Pakistan’s candidature for a non-permanent seat of the UN Security Council.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Maldives to Host Second South Asian Beach Games

Maldives will host the second South Asian Beach Games in 2013, the South Asian Olympic Council (SAOC) confirmed.

The decision was taken at the SAOC meeting at southern Sri Lankan coastal city Hambantota, where the inaugural South Asian Beach Games are now in progress.

Hemasiri Fernando, president of Sri Lanka National Olympic Committee and an executive member of the SAOC, told Xinhua that it was unanimously decided to hold the next Games in the Maldives.

The Maldives will decide the dates of the event, according to Fernando.

The total number of sports in the second edition are also to be decided later.

Bodybuilding and triathlon had to be removed from the scheduled 12 disciplines for the inaugural event due to lack of participation among the eight South Asian nations.

The first South Asian Beach Games were originally to be held in the Maldives but on the request of Sri Lanka, were shifted to Hambantota, the tsunami hit city which is also for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Sri Lanka is bidding against Australia's Gold Coast to host the Commonwealth Games in 2018.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Maldives could benefit from groundbreaking integrated climate change model

The Maldives, which is committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2020, could significantly benefit from a new branch of environmental science.

The Integrated Resource Model, which has been developed by Peter Head, of the Ecological Sequestration Trust, uses cloud computing to develop ecological models that boost economic growth and reduce carbon emissions.

Mr Head told delegates at the third annual Six Senses SLOW LIFE Symposium, that global computing power could be used to create a new development model for the Maldives.

He said: “Integrated resourcing covers energy, food, water and waste management. It is the concept that no single environmental problem can be solved in isolation.”

He added that the concept of sharing was vital in the fight against climate change. The most efficient use of finite resources, he explained, was sharing in a common cause.

Cloud computing is just one example of sharing – in this case computing processing power. Cloud computing is vital to his integrated resource modeling, which will be made available through open source on the “cloud”.

Mr Head also said that linking urban and rural development could boost overall agricultural output despite the loss of land for residential development.

“The analysis shows we can reduce carbon intensity but improve the ecological footprint as well,” he said.

He warned delegates that unless the pace of change towards a sustainable economy was accelerated, there would be a 50% chance of runaway climate change by 2070 that would lead to “total human catastrophe”.

Mr Head told delegates that he was seeking funding to enable the Maldives to take a global lead in Integrated Resource Modeling.

Other speakers during the last day of the SLOW LIFE Symposium included Sir Richard Branson, Eric Scotto of Akuo Energy and Jose Mariano, the founder of zero2infinity – the company which is planning on sending people into space using helium-filled balloons.

In the last session of the day, Sir Richard Branson said that business leaders had to do more to advance sustainable business development.

“If you are lucky enough to be a successful business leader – and you need a large element of good fortune – there is extreme responsibility that comes with that.

“If leaders are not responsible citizens and don’t redistribute that wealth then our current form of capitalism becomes questionable.

“Companies can become forces for good. The differences they can make locally and internationally is significant and the bottom line does not need to suffer for that to happen.”

Sonu Shivdasani, the Chief Executive of Six Senses, concluded the Symposium by saying that “sustainable business” had to become the norm and that the way in which business leaders were judged had to change to encourage companies to pay more attention to their environment.

“How we measure CEOs dictates how those CEOs behave.”
He added that the institutional owners of publicly listed companies should judge CEOs’ long term commitment to sustainability best practice and not just on short term profits.


Maldives defence minister visits Jaffna

Maldivian Defence Minister, Thalhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu, visited Sri Lanka’s occupying Army in the country of Eezham Tamils in Jaffna on Wednesday. His visit follows Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed’s unhindered support to genocidal Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa in shielding the latter from international war crimes investigation. The ‘hundred per cent Islamic country’ Maldives in recent times has entered into a number of agreements with Israel, the secret protocols of which are yet to be known to the public. However, the new friendship and the lease of one of the islands to Israel for ‘agricultural development’ are much talked about in Maldives. The support of US Asst Secretary of State Robert Blake to Nasheed’s Maldives in the international organisations is not without reason, political observers say.

The Maldivian Defence Minister, received at the Palaali Airport by the occupying SL military’s Brigadier Piyal wikramaratne, was first briefed at the SL military’s Headquarters Auditorium.

Later, he was taken around Jaffna to showcase the military’s ‘development’ work such as the 100 houses built ‘within 8 days’ at Keerimalai and a three storied building being constructed for Mahajana College, Thellippazhai, with the financial assistance of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, according to SL military news.

He also visited the Dutch Fort where Rajapaksa plans building a presidential mansion, the Public Library and Kurunakar Jetty, along with the SL military.

Maldivian President Nasheed claims that his government is an elected democracy. But his Defence Minister’s visit to Jaffna was like a military to military visit and not like the visit of a minister of a civilian government. Tamils are hurt by the gesture, news sources in Jaffna said.

Nasheed’s predecessor Gayoom’s guided democracy was strictly neutral in foreign and military relations.

Within month’s of Nasheed coming to power by changing the political system with Western help, his government sent a military delegation, along with the US, the UK, Japan, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to Vanni, to give moral boost to Colombo’s genocidal war at its height.


UN climate talks 'stupid and endless' - Maldives

The UN's talks on climate change are daft and crippled by finger-pointing and the need for consensus, the president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, was quoted on Thursday by Le Monde as saying.

Nasheed also said emerging economies were as much to blame for global warming as rich nations.

In an interview with the French daily, Nasheed pounded out the frustrations of vulnerable small island states with the 194-party UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

"The current negotiation process is stupid, useless and endless. It is based on this principle: two parties reach an agreement, a third one comes alone and says it doesn't agree and it reduces the ambition of the others," Nasheed said.

"In essence, even if we reach an agreement, it will be an agreement about nothing. It will be so diluted that it will be of no use," he said bitterly, calling for "an overhaul of international organizations."

Nasheed, whose comments were reported in French, was speaking during a visit to Paris.

He also criticized the rift in the UNFCCC talks over who was to blame for the man-made carbon emissions that stoke global warming.

Poor countries say rich countries bear "historical responsibility" as they were the first to burn the coal, gas and oil that cause the problem.

Rich countries say emerging giants such as China, India and Brazil also have to shoulder the burden as they have become huge carbon emitters in their own right.

"Responsibility is shared equally," said Nasheed.

"If the emerging countries had had the chance to emit as much carbon, they would have done the same, perhaps more so," he said.

"If the West stopped their emissions and China, South Africa and Brazil carried on emitting on the basis of business as usual, we would still die. The Maldives would disappear."

Efforts to tackle climate change were ravaged by the near-fiasco of the Copenhagen Summit of December 2009, where world leaders squabbled over targets and burden-sharing.

They cobbled together a last-ditch deal, the Copenhagen Accord, which sets down a voluntary approach of national pledges supported by financial pledges to help poor countries.

The UNFCCC's parties meet in Durban, South Africa, from November 28 to December 9 for their next annual conference. The big issue will be the future of the UNFCCC's Kyoto Protocol, whose current roster of promises expires at the end of 2012.

Global warming is predicted by scientists to have far-reaching impacts on the world's weather system.

It will also cause sea levels to rise, both through the thermal expansion of water and through the runoff of water from melted icesheets and glaciers.

Source: AFP

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Maldives Foreign Minister calls on Rehman Malik

Foreign Minister of Maldives Ahmad Naseem called on Federal Minister for Interior Rehman Malik here on Wednesday.The meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere in which both the ministers discussed issues of bilateral relations and exchange of prisoners.Rehman Malik said Pakistan attached great importance to its relations with Maldives, said a press release issued here.The Foreign Minister of Maldives said “ We also attach importance to our relations with Pakistan and both the countries have exemplary relations”. He hoped that the relations would further flourish with time.Upcoming SAARC Summit also came under discussion during the meeting.

The Maldives Foreign Minister invited the Interior Minister to visit Maldives.
A delegation headed by Director General of Anti-Terrorist Office (UK), Charles Far, also met Rehman Malik and appreciated Pakistan’s efforts to eliminate terrorism.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Maldives Joins the International Criminal Court as 118th State Party

The Coalition for the International Criminal Court today welcomed the accession of Maldives to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a critical step towards greater accountability for serious crimes in the Asia-Pacific region. In joining the ranks of 117 states at the ICC—the world’s first and only permanent, international court with jurisdiction over crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes—Maldives has demonstrated its commitment to international justice and the rule of law, and has laid down a marker for other states to follow in one of the most under-represented regions at the ICC, the Coalition said today.

“The Coalition commends Maldives’ decision to embrace and strengthen the growing international justice system by acceding to the Rome Statute,’ said William R. Pace, Convenor of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, a civil society network of more than 2,500 NGOs in 150 countries advocating for a fair, effective and independent ICC and improved access to justice for victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. “It is vital that the momentum towards increasing respect for the rule of law and accountability for those responsible for the most serious crimes is seized by other states in the Asia-Pacific region, many of whom are close to joining the ICC,” he added. “Joining the Court represents a strong deterrent effect that will contribute toward the prevention of gross human rights violations in the Asia-Pacific region and to the global fight against impunity.”

Civil society has been urging Maldives to accede to the Rome Statute—the Court’s founding treaty—for many years. In April 2011, civil society organizations from 11 countries within the Asia region met in the Philippines to discuss and implement strategies to advance support for justice and accountability, and called on SAARC member states, including Maldives, to ratify and implement the Rome Statute. Moreover, as a focus country for the Coalition’s Universal Ratification Campaign (a monthly campaign aimed at encouraging states to join the ICC), the Coalition, in a letter dated 2 May 2011 to President H.E. Mr. Mohamed Nasheed, urged the government of Maldives to ensure progress towards completion of its accession procedures.

Maldives is the third state in South Asia to become an ICC member, following Bangladesh and Afghanistan; and the ninth in the entire region with Cambodia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, the Philippines and Timor-Leste. Given its important role in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) as current Chair, represented by Secretary-General H.E. Ms. Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed, it is hoped that Maldives’ accession will spur other states in the region to join the growing global movement for accountability for the most serious crimes.

With the Philippines’ recent ratification on 30 August, Maldives’ accession today, and Malaysia’s advances in its accession process, there is no doubt that the Asia region is taking a stand toward increasing its participation within the Rome Statute system. The Coalition for the ICC has taken important steps to promote this participation, including focusing its Universal Ratification Campaign (URC) on Malaysia (January 2011), the Philippines (February 2011), Indonesia (July 2011), and Nepal (August 2011) in an effort to garner support for ratification among government officials and other stakeholders.

“Maldives' accession to the ICC reflects its strong desire to be part of the international community's collective efforts towards international justice,” said Evelyn Balais-Serrano, the Coalition’s Asia Regional Coordinator. “It signals its resolve to move forward in its goal of ending impunity locally and globally, as well to honor its growing commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, as has been demonstrated through its current leadership in SAARC,” she added.

By joining the ICC treaty today, in addition to giving the under-represented Asia region a stronger voice at the ICC, Maldives will be able to elect highly qualified candidates for crucial ICC elections to take place in December 2011 at the tenth session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP)—the ICC’s governing body—during which state parties will elect six new judges and a new prosecutor, among other key officials.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Maldives to generate 60 percent of energy from solar power

Maldives has launched an ambitious plan to generate 60 percent of its electricity from solar power by 2020 as part of its aim to become the world's first carbon neutral nation, a statement issued by the government said on Friday.

Maldives Economic Development Ministry posted the "Renewable Energy Investment Framework" online and invited the international community to assist in its implementation.

"At the moment, our economy is run on imported oil and every time the oil price rises, we all suffer. The Maldives has an abundance of sunshine, so shifting to solar will improve the country's energy security," Economic Development Minister Mahmood Razee said in the statement.

The framework suggests that up to 80 percent of the electricity island communities use could be derived from renewable energy, without the cost of energy increasing.

The country's 100 tourist resorts will be offered opportunities to reduce their oil consumption.

The total investment in developing solar power is estimated between 3 billion U.S dollars and 5 billion U.S dollars over the next ten years.

The government hopes that these investments will pay for themselves by saving the Maldives government huge sums of money in oil imports.

In 2010, the Maldives announced plans to become the world's first carbon neutral nation by 2020.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Occy" Triumphs at World's Most Luxurious Surfing Event at Four Seasons Resorts Maldives

1999 World Champion Mark Occhilupo ("Occy") from Tweeds Head, Australia won the inaugural Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy - organised in conjunction with luxury surf pioneers Tropicsurf of Noosa, Australia - after a sensational week of surfing from six former world champions.

Contested over three days from August 31 to September 5, 2011 at the world-class break of Sultan's Point, located just off Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa, the event saw historic match-ups between contestants including four-time world champion Mark Richards and seven-time world champion Layne Beachley in a competition dubbed "the world's most luxurious surfing event."

It was a clean sweep for Occy, who won all three divisions of Single Fin, Twin Fin and Thrusters, before defeating world longboard champion Josh Constable in the Grand Champions Final to take home USD 19,000 of the USD 25,000 on offer.

The President of the Maldives, His Excellency Mohamed Nasheed and members of his cabinet watched the Grand Champions Final from the three-deck, 39 metre (128 foot) Four Seasons Explorer luxury catamaran, the Maldives' ultimate surf vessel.

During the competition, Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa scooped the top award at the Condé Nast Traveller 14th annual Readers' Travel Awards in London - the Best of the Best in the World's Top 100. And the surfers, partners and event crew certainly made the most of the five-star resort facilities.

"Personally I would like to congratulate Four Seasons on winning the award for best resort in the world and I can vouch that's true," said Occhilupo. "It's been an amazing time here. Sanjiv Hulugalle and all his staff have been incredible to us."

Occy dedicated his win to the late Tony Hussein Hinde (1953-2008), an Australian-born Maldivian surfing pioneer, considered to be "the father of surfing in the Maldives," who looked after Occhilupo on his first visit to the island nation over a decade ago .

Following his win, Occy and Constable celebrated by dancing with the President to the sounds of the traditional Maldivian bodu beru drummers. "It was a perfect way to cap off an incredible week," said Constable.

"The whole Maldives experience has been luxurious, from the Resort to the local surfers allowing us to take over their break," confirmed Beachley. "One of the best trips of my life, I never want to leave."

Resort guests rubbed shoulders with the contest's participants in Kuda Huraa's vibrant village setting - home to competitors, judges and supporters alike for the duration of the event. Guests booking the Resort's all-inclusive four- or seven-night Champions Trophy package got right on top of the action with competition day passes aboard Four Seasons Explorer and three half-day surfing passes with Tropicsurf.

Never before has a surf competition amassed such a high-profile field in such privileged surroundings. "It's the ultimate surf competition showcasing a hand-picked field of iconic champions with the latest surf craft available in some of the best surf on the planet," said Event Coordinator Mark Winson of Tropicsurf.

Following the enormous success of the inaugural event Four Seasons and Tropicsurf have vowed to make the 2012 Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy bigger and better next year.

Four Seasons Resorts Maldives wish to thank its kind co-sponsors of the 2011 Surfing Champions Trophy: HSBC, Billabong, Wataniya Telecom Maldives, Surfing World and Singapore Airlines; and its six inaugural contestants, all from Australia: 1999 World Champion Mark Occhilupo (Tweeds Head, New South Wales), 2006 world longboard champion Josh Constable (Noosa, Queensland), five-time world champion Mark Richards (Newcastle), seven-time world champion Layne Beachley (Manly), six-time world champion Nat Young (Town) and two-time world champion Damien Hardman (Narrabeen, New South Wales).


Deaths of Infants and Young Mothers Are Declining, but Goals Are Missed

Deaths of infants and young mothers continue to decline around the world, but nearly not as quickly as the world’s health ministers hoped when they set targets in 2000, according to an analysis released Monday by University of Washington researchers.

In 1990, more than 11 million children under age 5 died each year; in 2011, about 7 million are expected to. Deaths of women in pregnancy and childbirth declined to about 274,000 from 409,000 over the same period.Countries doing particularly well on both fronts include China, Egypt, Iran, Libya, the Maldives, Mongolia, Peru, Syria and Tunisia. (Above, awaiting delivery of a stillborn child in Senegal.)

The study was done by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which was created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to measure the effectiveness of global health efforts independently of the World Health Organization, which is often put under pressure by member states.

According to William Heisel, a spokesman for the institute, several factors contributed to the decline. Donor nations are giving about twice what they used to toward maternal and child health. Previously the focus was on AIDS.

In countries with malaria, mosquito nets have helped to reduce mortality among infants and young mothers. So have efforts like paying rural women in India to give birth at hospitals instead of at home.

“The single biggest factor, though, is the education of young women,” Mr. Heisel said. Girls with more schooling make better decisions about getting pregnant and learn to protect themselves and their newborns.


Monday, September 19, 2011

TIFF 2011: “Island President” scoops doc award

The Island President (pictured), Jon Shenk’s documentary following the president of the Maldives’ battle to raise awareness about climate change, has picked up the Cadillac People’s Choice Documentary Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

Bess Kargman’s ballet documentary First Position was awarded the first runner-up accolade, while Cameron Crowe’s music doc Pearl Jam Twenty was named second runner-up. The winners were chosen by popular vote.

The win comes after President Mohamed Nasheed, the subject and star of The Island President, made an appearance at the festival to take part in a Q&A alongside director Shenk, as previously reported.

In a statement, Shenk paid tribute to Toronto audiences, thanking them for supporting the film. “My team has been humbled so many times during the making of this film,” he said. The president himself also delivered a short statement, adding: “I’m very pleased audiences liked the film – I thought it was quite excellent.”


Pooja Bhatt set to launch Maldives singer

Bollywood actress-turned-filmmaker Pooja Bhat, who introduced Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in Bollywood with her 2004 movie Paap, is now set to launch Mariyam Unoosha, a singer from the Maldives.

“After introducing Rahat Fateh Ali Khan to India through Man Ki Lagan I will now unleash the sheer brilliance of Unoosha from the Maldives,” Pooja posted on micro-blogging site Twitter.

“Soon, Unoosha from the Maldives will create the same impact as Rahat did. This is not mere assumption. It is absolute conviction + belief,” she added.

Rahat became a household name after singing Man Ki Lagan in John Abraham and Udita Goswami starrer.


Documentary highlights sinking of the Maldives

It's a late-night party at the Toronto International Film Festival, and Mohamed Nasheed is trying to stifle a yawn. It's been a long week. Nasheed flew in from the Maldives, the island nation in the Indian Ocean of which he is the leader, and attended the premiere of the documentary The Island President. ("I thought it was excellent," he says.) Fighting jet lag, he is now moving among the guests at the after-party, talking about the problems of global warming that threaten to flood the entire nation in 40 or 50 years.

"It's getting worse and worse, and we are having to spend more money on it, on water breakers and embankments and so on," says Nasheed. When he returns to the Maldives this week, his first job is to build an embankment on one of the 1,200 islands - 200 of them inhabited - that comprise the tiny country. The Maldives is a tourist mecca, a place of luxury resorts, but even there, the effects of erosion are becoming visible: a disappearing shoreline and fallen palm trees.

The Maldives is one of the lowestlying nations in the world - the average elevation above sea level is 1.5 metres - and Nasheed has become a leader in the fight to lower the carbon emissions that warm the air that's raising the ocean waters.

If things unfold the way scientists say it might, what will happen to its 400,000 people? Where will they go? "They won't go anywhere," says Nasheed. "They'll die. That's what's going to happen."

The Island President was directed by Jon Shenk (Lost Boys of Sudan), an American documentarian who followed Nasheed through his first year of office, ending at the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference. There, the diminutive leader of the small nation became a driving force for a compromise agreement, the first ever signed by the U.S., China and India. His stirring speech to other world leaders salvaged the summit.

Nasheed - who came to the filmfestival party with an entourage that included plainclothes security guards - said it was helpful to watch the movie, because he gained perspective on the compromises that were necessary.

"It is only through compromise that we will actually be able to move forward on climate-change negotiations," he said, sitting at a small bistro table at a hip downtown restaurant. The Island President notes that carbon emissions have actually risen since the Copenhagen meetings, but Nasheed maintains his hope: "It perhaps would have gone up much higher, if not for Copenhagen. People could have been very mindless about opening new power stations. Lots has changed, even in developing countries. They're mindful of what they're doing, even if they're doing it."

The Island President also provides a kind of tour of the Maldives - its impossibly blue waters and pristine, if disappearing, beaches - and of its history. The country was a dictatorship under Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and Nasheed was a pro-democracy advocate who was once held for 18 months in solitary confinement in a small metal shack. He was arrested 12 times over 20 years and tortured twice. He went into exile and returned in 2005 to the cheers of crowds yelling his nickname, Anni.

"It won't do any good to have democracy if we don't have a country," he says in the film. At one stage, in order to draw world attention to the impending disaster, Nasheed holds an underwater cabinet meeting, with ministers wearing scuba gear.

The country has raised taxes so it can afford to build the embankments and seawalls that are protecting it from the rising waters.

"There's no other way," he said. "We have to fend for ourselves. Our means are very modest, but we have to fend for ourselves."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sinking Maldives would like to buy land in India

Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed is trying to prevent his island nation from going underwater, literally, due to climate change, but if that doomsday scenario does play out, among the options seriously being considered by his government is relocation of some of the country's population to India.

In an interview, President Nasheed said, "We have to have a kitty saved for a rainy day. That might mean some of the people, whoever wants to get relocated, to be able to go somewhere. I think any responsible Maldives government should be thinking along these tracks."

This has been mentioned to India. As he said, "We haven't had an official discussion on that but I've always been mentioning to Indian officials that it's important that we are able to buy land in India, it's important we are able to have easy access to India, so that these eventualities can be covered."

President Nasheed doesn't want that eventuality to occur, so he has undertaken a high-profile campaign on the issue. As part of the effort, he walked the red carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival or TIFF premiere of the documentary, The Island President.

As the name suggests, the film, directed by Jon Shenk, has President Nasheed as the central character. But for the President, the agenda went beyond just that since the film also focuses on the peril faced by his nation from possible global warming leading to rising levels of the Indian Ocean, causing submergence of large parts of the Maldives. The tiny South Asian nation consists of about 1,200 coral islands, with an average elevation of just 1.5 metre.

Among the countries he's relying upon heavily for support is India. Among the first shots of the film features Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.


Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed pushes against the tide

“Climate change issues are real to us,” President Mohamed Nasheed says of the situation facing the Maldives. “This is not tomorrow’s events. These are today’s real events.”
During his 20-year fight to bring democracy to the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed was arrested 12 times. He endured torture and exile. He was in solitary confinement when his second daughter was born.

Then in 2008, the Islamic country held its first multiparty presidential election and Nasheed, known as “Anni,” won by popular vote. Immediately, however, he found himself fighting again for survival — but for that of a nation.
Nasheed had essentially took helm of a sinking ship. As one of the lowest-lying countries in the world — the average elevation is 1.5 metres above sea level — a rise of three feet in sea level would submerge its 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean; some scientists fear it could be underwater in less than 100 years.

“Climate change issues are real to us,” the 44-year-old president said. “There is so much erosion, dwindling [fisheries], water contamination because of sea water intrusion. This is not tomorrow’s events. These are today’s real events.”

President Nasheed was in Toronto this weekend for the premiere of Jon Shenk’s documentary, The Island President, at the Toronto International Film Festival. Shortly after he was elected, he agreed to allow Shenk unparalleled access to his life. For a year, the award-winning San Francisco filmmaker followed Nasheed as he travelled around the world lobbying for reduced carbon emissions.
“He was a journalist,” Shenk said. “He used journalism to affect change and even though he’s now a president, he hasn’t forgotten that the power of a story in some ways trumps politics.”
Nasheed, who watched the film for the first time Saturday, said he found it to be “very true.”
“The country was going through a major transition from dictatorship to democracy. Someone wanted to record that; I thought an extra pair of eyes would be good,” he said. “Also, we want to know how we might be able to impress the international community on climate change issues and the gravity of it. To do that, we don’t have much money and if someone was willing to do it in cinematography, we thought this was good.”

Nasheed is a small man with a relaxed aura that contradicts his ramrod straight posture. He has a likability and sincerity that can be illustrated in a BBC clip featured in the documentary: Nasheed is being interviewed during the presidential campaign about the incumbent Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The camera is focused on his concentrated face.

“The president says he needs another term to see through his democratic reform,” the reporter says.
Upon hearing that, a puff of air blows up Nasheed’s cheeks and then escapes from his lips. “Um, well, he’s already had 30 years,” he says, stifling his laughter, “and we really can’t quite see how and what else he is going to do with another five years.”

“I love that clip,” Shenk said. “It’s so indicative of someone living in the moment. … He’s very human.”

The film culminates at the climate change summit in Copenhagen in November 2009 where Shenk and his crew were accredited as part of the official Maldives delegation. This afforded them a rare behind-the-scenes look at the jockeying between leaders and of course, Nasheed’s very honest reactions (“I’m really going to lose it if these bureaucrats keep bickering endlessly about the text”).
“It’s fascinating to watch world politics,” Shenk said. “Whenever world leaders meet, there’s this dance they do, they shake each other’s hands and the cameras flick away. The real meat of the meeting happens behind closed doors. But in Nasheed’s case, he literally would walk up to people and he would immediately start discussing the hard issues. The leaders oftentimes were completely caught off guard. At the end of the day, I think he just wants to get down to work.”
Nasheed, who pledged to make the Maldives the first country to go carbon neutral within a decade, is credited with coaxing India and China to soften their stance on the issue.

“For India and China, there are a lot of questions of pride and sovereignty,” he said. “The United States or Europe cannot tell them to go and do something. You are conceding to them when you do something they ask. It’s a very different story when we ask them to do something. It’s not a conspiracy against their development. They’re very receptive when they understand that we have something to lose.”

Not one to mince words, Nasheed is blunt about what that something is. A journalist asks Nasheed in the film: If the conference doesn’t achieve its goals and sea levels rise, what options are there for the Maldives?

Nasheed is leaning on his elbow, his face in his palm. He looks the journalist square in the eye and says: “None. We will all die.”


Thursday, September 8, 2011

How covert cameras detecting hot flushes will reveal who is lying at airport security

Secret lie detectors which can rumble fraudsters without them even knowing they were suspected are to be installed at a British airport.

High definition video and thermal imaging cameras could be used at passport control or in customs interviews to detect those trying to trick immigration officials.

The cameras, which would be installed covertly, would be able to pick up tell-tale signs of people giving false accounts of themselves based on research under way now.

They are able to pick up the minuscule changes in a person’s temperature which can indicate they are spinning a yarn.

Scientists hope the technology will enable officials to be able to detect liars ‘with the click of a button’ – but critics fear the devices could violate privacy if they become more widespread.

The Home Office and HM Revenue & Customs are sponsoring research into the system.

It is an improvement from conventional lie detectors, which involve hooking people up to machines to take a series of metabolic measurements, as it can be applied without people knowing.

It is not yet known which airport will test it out but if successful it could be installed in others across the UK.

The system was designed by Hassan Ugail, professor of visual computing at the University of Bradford.

He told The Sunday Times: ‘In an interview you can be talking to a person, then you basically just press a computer button and say: "Was this person lying or not?" '

The devices work by monitoring tiny changes in facial expression, including eye movement and micro facial expressions, which indicate the increased brain activity as a liar works out the most plausible story.

The brain activity also triggers tiny fluctuations in facial skin temperature, which can be picked up by thermal imaging cameras.

The pictures are then compared with a computer database containing the types of changes seen in people who are known to be lying.

Those with suspect changes can then be put under deeper scrutiny.

Prof Ugail said: 'With polygraphs, you try and get measurements of things, like the heartbeat and the temperature.

'What we try and do is experiment with the face itself, but it is purely non-invasive, which means the person is probably not aware the measurements are being taken.

In a video presentation to fellow academics Ugail said: 'When people lie they make up things in their brain which they haven’t really thought about before.

'So what tends to happen is your brain activity increases, so the blood-flow pattern in your actual face changes, especially at the eye area.

'There’s usually a heat change on the spectrum, so when we look through a thermal camera there is a slight rise in temperature when we tell lies.

'Usually people get nervous as well, so that comes out quite nicely on the camera.'

He is still developing the system, which has a current success rate of 60-70 per cent.

It could also have other uses in the police and security services and even help nervous people perform better in interviews – but critics fear widespread use could see schools, businesses and even jealous spouses adopting the technology.

Professor Ugail will be holding an event during the British Science Festival, which is in Bradford from September 10 to 17, when he will guide the audience through the lie-detection technology.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Climate Conversations - ‘Drowning nations’ threaten new 21st century statelessness

By Maxine Burkett

Migration of peoples and communities due to climate change may have a dramatic effect on the globe in the next half-century. It is estimated that some 200 million people worldwide may be on the move because of increased storms, flooding, sea level-rise, and desertification.

For some small island dwellers, the perils of migration will be made worse by the loss of their nations. In other words, while displacement within and across borders may be compulsory for many ‘climate migrants,’ small-islanders may be on the move absent a country to which to return.

Of particular concern are island nations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans - including Tuvalu, the Maldives, Kiribati, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, among others. Already, grim climate forecasts suggest they will face challenges remaining in their homes.

Sea-level rise, coastal inundation, seawater intrusion into freshwater sources and soil salinisation all hurt freshwater availability and adversely affect coastal agriculture, on which many islanders depend. Indeed, this is already occurring in some Pacific island communities.

These climate change impacts will exacerbate pre-existing vulnerabilities typical of countries of similar size and stage of development – those with small economies, which are highly dependent on imports and weather-dependent exports.

For some states, however, climate change threatens their very survival.

It has been 20 years since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change first stated that the “gravest effects of climate change may be those on human migration.” But the international community has made little legal or political progress in dealing with the coming problems.

A number of challenges are behind this political lethargy, including a persistent lack of information on three points:

(1) The number of people and reasons why they may need to move. While 200 to 250 million climate migrants by 2050 are the most widely cited numbers, estimates vary greatly - from a relatively small 25 million to a high of one billion depending on the greenhouse gas emissions scenarios employed, among other factors.

(2) Linking migration directly to climate change. The many potential and overlapping causes of migration confound efforts to quantify climate-related displacement, both current and estimated.

Deteriorating environmental conditions interact with other factors that can influence migration, including levels of development, governance, and the capacity for individuals, communities, and countries to adapt to external pressures, climate-related or otherwise. Demographic considerations, such as age, sex, culture, education level and work experience, as well as general risk perception and levels of risk aversion, play an crucial role in determining whether someone can or will move.

(3) What to call people who move as a result of climate pressures. There is no agreed-upon definition for those judged to have been dislocated primarily by climate change. “Climate refugees” has been the mostly widely used term.

From a law and policy standpoint, however, such migrants are not recognized as refugees, even if they cross national borders, because displacement as a result of climate change or other environmental factors is not yet legally recognized. Finding an appropriate term for these migrants is vital, however, as their rights and the resulting obligations of other nations and the international community will depend on it.

Given these challenges and the lack of solid figures, the plight of climate migrants is easily sidestepped. For small island states, however, there are myriad reasons to act now – not least because the loss of their land will be a clear result of man-made climate change.

In the extreme scenarios that small island states face, there are worrisome legal gaps. There is international law that helps determine what should happen to people deprived of their nationality as a result of a variety of circumstances.

There are no laws, however, that govern what happens to citizens of a country that disappears. When island states are no longer inhabited and the population is permanently displaced to other countries, it is unclear whether they may become stateless persons under international law or if they become merely landless citizens of a state that no longer exists.

A new international or regional legal regime, swiftly conceived and implemented, is vital to resolve this kind of question. The complexity of the issue, and the immediate threat of climate change, call for early efforts at planning and coordination. The alternative is disorganized and insufficient aid - which might come too late.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

ONYX Hospitality Group secures two management contracts in Hong Kong and Maldives

ONYX Hospitality Group is expanding its portfolio through the addition of two management contracts in Maldives and Hong Kong. The company recently signed a management contract for a 271-villa resort called Addu Atoll in Maldives. The property will be re-launched under ONYX's Amari brand as Amari Addu Maldives in November 2011.

The group has also been appointed by Methodist Centre Limited (MCL) to manage the 250-room Wesley. The property is located in the Wan Chai district of Hong Kong and ownership will be undertaken on February 1, 2012. The property will undergo an extensive refurbishment programme and will be relaunched as OZO at the Wesley, Hong Kong by December 2012.

"The Maldives project is a significant one for ONYX Hospitality Group, as it is our first international management agreement. It is also our first Amari property outside Thailand. We are delighted to have been appointed by the Maldives Tourism Development Corporation Plc to manage the villa resort. We have also signed an agreement to manage a property in Hong Kong under the OZO brand recently, which will open towards the end of 2012. At this point in time, we will have 25 properties in operation by the end of 2012,” said Peter Henley, President and CEO, ONYX Hospitality Group.

Speaking about the response from the Indian market, Henley added, “We receive strong support from travel agents and tour operators in the Indian market. In fact, our business from the Indian market continues to be positive and the footfall is growing by over 25 per cent this year. The new properties will hopefully allow the momentum to continue. We are keen on entering the Indian market at the opportune time with the right partners. Considering the business buoyancy and burgeoning hospitality industry in India, we are currently exploring a number of opportunities for growth.”