Monday, February 21, 2011

First national university inaugurated

The Indian Ocean tourist haven of Maldives on Tuesday opened a new chapter in higher education with the upgrading of the Maldives College of Higher Education to the status of Maldives National University.

Its first intake comprises 4,853 students enrolled for full-time courses of longer than a year, and more than 7,000 students registered for short-term courses.

Inaugurating the national university in a ceremony at the Dharubaaruge Exhibition and Conference Hall, Male, Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed appointed former education minister Dr Musthafa Luthfee as chancellor.

The Maldives College of Higher Education, MCHE, was incorporated as the national university in accordance with the Maldives National University Act 3 of 2011. The decree establishing the university was presented to current Minister of Education Sifa Mohamed.

Vice-rector of the MCHE, Hussain Haleem, told University World News that the college had been set up in 1998, bringing several training and research institutes under one umbrella to rationalise resources and assure the quality of existing post-secondary government institutes.

Before 1998, training was offered under different line ministries, said Haleem. For instance, there was an Institute for Teacher Education under the education ministry, and nursing training was conducted by the Allied Health Services Training Centre under the health ministry. There were also centres for vocational, tourism, hotel and catering, maritime and other training.

"Subsequent to a loan provided through the Asian Development Bank's Post-Secondary Education Development Project, government brought all these under one roof."

Under the project "international consultants gave us the vision to transform MCHE into a university". The College Council and consultants worked towards this goal and policies, rules and regulations and curricula were benchmarked against international standards, said Haleem.

All courses offered by MCHE were geared towards conversion into university status, and academic staff upgraded their qualifications.

The college currently has eight faculties, three campuses and two centres. The faculties are of health science, education, engineering technology, arts, Sharia and law, hospitality and tourism studies, Islamic studies, and management and computing.

With the upgrading, the university also hopes to introduce masters courses in Devehi, the Maldivian language, and teacher education during the next semester.

"Government has allocated us a special budget to gear MCHE for its upgrade as a national university. However, the government can incorporate other institutions such as the Marine Research Centre and Environmental Research Centre."

Haleem said the president had emphasised the need for research-based higher education.

Vice-President Dr Mohamed Waheed urged the gathering to make the new institution a symbol of academic enlightenment. "Maldives National University should have the freedom to create, learn and disperse knowledge in order to achieve academic excellence. It is timely that the first university in the country was set up in a democratic environment," he said.

Waheed also stressed the importance of nourishing an educational environment allowing academic freedom and independence from political influence, to ensure the proper functioning of the university.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Somali pirates heading to Asia

A US military commander warned Thursday that Somali pirates were skirting pressure by moving deeper into Asian waters and said the only solution was to restore stability in the African nation.

Admiral Robert Willard, head of the 300,000-troop Pacific Command, voiced exasperation at years of naval efforts to stem the flow of pirates from Somalia -- which has been effectively without a central government for two decades.
"It's remarkable that 28 nations combining their maritime forces together in the Gulf of Aden have not been able to defeat this challenge," Willard said at the Asia Society on a visit to Washington.

Due to the naval campaign, "the pirates are just ranging farther out into the Indian Ocean -- hundreds of miles, quite literally," Willard said.

Willard said the pirates posed particular problems for Maldives, a sparsely populated Indian Ocean archipelago of 1,192 tiny coral islands best known for its upmarket beach resorts.

Willard said he recently visited Maldives and President Mohamed Nasheed told him that "his problem was that either abandoned pirates or pirates that were lost in the middle of the night in their activities, or otherwise detached from their motherships, were now landing in the Maldives."
The commander also saw problems with piracy in southern India and as far away as the South China Sea.
But he said that joint action by Southeast Asian nations has all but eliminated the piracy that once plagued the Strait of Malacca -- a vital route for oil that powers Asia's largest economies.
Foreign navies have stepped up operations off the Gulf of Aden since 2008. But Willard said that there was ultimately not a naval solution.
"I don't think you're ever going to defeat this threat at the far extremes of their operations on the sea lanes," Willard said.

"But rather you have to go to the centers of gravity -- the source on land in the Horn of Africa -- and put a stop to that," he said.

According to the Malaysia-based International Maritime Bureau, Somali pirates are holding 33 vessels and 712 hostages. The captives come from a diverse array of countries.

Willard said that Somalia's scourge also presented legal quandaries as sailors wondered what to do with captured pirates.

A US federal court on Wednesday sentenced a teenage Somali pirate, Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, to nearly 34 years in prison after the US Navy caught him in a clash at sea. The judge rejected pleas to be lenient due to his young age.

And in a first in Asia, a Malaysian court last week charged seven suspected Somali pirates for firing at Malaysian forces. They face the death penalty if convicted.
While failing to end piracy, the naval operations have spurred international cooperation. China sent warships, the first time in modern history that it has deployed on a potential combat mission far from its territorial waters.
Willard praised the coordination between the US and Chinese navies over piracy, saying: "We've been impressed with the effort that China has made."
Military relations between the United States and China have seen sharp swings, with Beijing last year snapping off contacts to protest a $6.4 billion arms package to rival Taiwan.

Willard voiced confidence that military ties with China were becoming steadier.
"I'm cautiously optimistic... that we will continue to progress, even slowly, in the military relationship," he said.

Source: AFP

Maldives free Briton after mid-air bomb scare

Maldives police have released a British man accused of sparking a bomb scare on a SriLankan Airlines flight, a spokesman said Tuesday, explaining he had been misunderstood by cabin crew.The unnamed elderly passenger was detained on Monday after a false alarm aboard a Colombo-London flight that made an emergency stop in the Maldives, an Indian Ocean atoll nation.

"It was a case of miscommunication between the elderly British passenger and the airline crew," Maldivian police spokesman Ahmed Shiyam told by telephone from the capital Male.He said the passenger had alerted the crew to a "disturbance in the plane" and the crew had thought he was raising a bomb scare.There was no immediate comment from the state-run SriLankan Airlines.The airline faced attacks during Sri Lanka’s 37-year civil war that pitched Tamil Tiger rebels against government troops. Fighting ended in May 2009 when the military wiped out the Tigers’ top leaders.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saarc gets 1st female secretary general

The 33rd Saarc Council of Ministers Meeting has unanimously endorsed former Maldivian Attorney General Aishath Dhiyana Saeed as the first ever female Secretary General of the eight-nation regional body.

The nomination was approved by the Council of Ministers, which is comprised of the foreign ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional Corporation (Saarc) countries -- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, at its meeting in Thimphu on February 8-9.

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni led Bangladesh delegation at the meeting, which was preceded by meetings of the Saarc Programming Committee and Saarc Standing Committee in Thimphu.

Dhiyana would become the first female and the youngest Secretary General of Saarc when she takes office on March 1, replacing the current Indian diplomat, Sheel Kant Sharma.

Dhiyana is the second Maldivian to be appointed the Saarc Secretary General, after special envoy to the President Ibrahim Hussein Zakee, who served as the Secretary General from January 1, 1992 to December 31, 1993.

Saarc was founded in December 1985 with seven members: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan joined the organisation in 2007. Maldives will host the next 17th Saarc summit in November or December of this year.


Saarc nod to multi-entry, multi-city visa

In season 2012, Indian Premier League franchisees can bid for Pakistani players without having to worry about visas.

The eight Saarc countries today approved a liberalised visa regime for 22 categories of professionals, including select sportspersons.

Of these, 19 categories will not need to apply for visas and will instead be able to travel on Saarc stickers. The stickers will be pasted on passports after the necessary checks and clearances.

These will allow unfettered travel through India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan, Nepal, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Diplomats, MPs, people working on Saarc projects and NGO representatives are among those covered by the visa exemption scheme that will come into force soon.

Their travel will not be limited to specific cities, no police reporting will be required and they will not need to fill up extra forms on entry in any of the eight countries, according to the decision taken by the Saarc Council of Ministers at Thimphu today.

The three categories — select sportspersons, journalists and businesspersons — who will need visas will be granted multi-entry, multi-city 90-day visas. They, too, will be exempt from police reporting.

However, given India’s and Pakistan’s fears about “undesirable” people from across the border entering their territory, the regional forum agreed that the visas and visa stickers would be granted at the discretion of the foreign ministries concerned.

The stickers will be issued within 10 days of application.

Saarc member countries also agreed to expedite pending decisions for smoother functioning of the South Asian University.

The governing body of the university, set up in Delhi, will meet early next month to set in motion the appointments to its steering committee and firm up rules and regulations, sources said.

The university president will be selected from India, with the Union government expected to nominate three persons of whom one will be chosen by the governing board.

The university’s first academic session started in August 2010 with 50 students.

Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao urged the Saarc countries to nominate their members to the university’s governing board at the earliest.

Some countries that are yet to ratify the agreement on setting up the university should also do so at the earliest, Rao added.

The Saarc meeting, which concluded today, approved India’s proposal to set up the South Asian Forum to suggest ways to increase regional trade.

The forum will include members from government, academia and industry.

The steering committee set up for the purpose will meet in Male, possibly next month, to take the proposal forward.

The meeting also stressed the need to take further steps on the South Asian Free Trade Area. Ministers of the eight member countries will meet in Maldives in May to discuss steps to increase trade.

Intra-Saarc trade has crossed the $1billion mark but has enormous potential to grow further, the ministers agreed.


Maldives welcomes Mubarak’s Departure, urges West to support democracy

President of The Maldives Mohamed Nasheed has welcomed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s decision to resign from office and reiterated his call on Western powers “not to fear, but to support, the forces of democracy in Muslim countries.”

In a statement issued by the President’s Office late on Thursday, he said that he was “delighted” over the developments. The President heralded the “wave of democratic change sweeping across the Arab world,” which, he hoped, would serve as a wake-up call to governments that abuse their citizens’ fundamental human rights.

“The right not to be tortured, the freedom to speak your mind, the ability to choose your own government… these liberties are not the preserve of Western nations but universal values to which everyone aspires,” the President said.

The President called for “swift democratic reforms” in Egypt, including the lifting of the State of Emergency and granting of fundamental political freedoms, culminating in free and fair, multi-party elections.

President Nasheed said it was imperative for the international community to support Egypt in its transition from autocracy to democracy.

He noted that the development of strong political parties, a free press and a vibrant civil society is central to building a successful and stable democracy.

Late last month, President Nasheed telephoned Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei to pledge the Maldives’ support to the Egyptian pro-democracy movement.

“Maldivians have always loved freedom and thus Maldivians will always support those who are peacefully advocating for political freedom in Egypt,” the President told Mr. ElBaradei, according to the statement.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

ONYX Hospitality Group Signs First Maldives Property

ONYX Hospitality Group, Thailand’s leading hotel management company has been appointed to manage, Herathera Island Resort, a 273-villa property. The Maldives resort will become the group’s first property outside of Thailand.

During the course of this year, the resort will undergo significant upgrades including enhancements to the beach and villas as well as the addition of numerous sports and children’s facilities. By Q4 2011, the property will be re-launched under the Amari brand, the centrepiece of the ONYX portfolio. Amari Addu Maldives will be positioned as a leading destination in the Maldives for activity and family holidays.

At the official signing ceremony held recently, Mohammed Mihad, Chief Executive Officer of Maldives Tourism Development Corporation Plc (MTDC), remarked:

“We are confident that the experienced management team at ONYX will significantly enhance the services and systems at our resort. We are focused on further developing the southern part of the Maldives with Gan International Airport as the hub. The re-launch of Herathera under new management will play a significant part in this.”

“Today we mark an important occasion as we take the first steps towards introducing a property that will be a spectacular addition to the world class tourism infrastructure here in the Maldives. This is the fist property that ONYX will manage in the Maldives, my team and I look forward to the exciting times ahead as we work closely with the leaders of the tourism and hospitality industry here to support the on-going development of the Addu Atoll and the Gan region as a vibrant destination within the Maldives. We look forward to a long and mutually rewarding partnership with MTDC “, said ONYX Chief Executive Officer, Mr Peter Henley.

Set on Addu, the southern-most atoll in the Maldives, approximately 480km south of the capital Male, the 273-villa resort features three natural lagoons, a turtle hatchery and a unique 4km beach, the longest of any resort within the archipelago. Recreational facilities at Herathera Island Resort include three swimming pools, a range of restaurants and bars, a spa and dive centre. The resort is a 20-minute speedboat ride from Gan International Airport.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Will life be better on 'Blonde Island'?

At a proposed resort in the Maldives, brunettes will be as rare as a chilly day. Could this fair-haired retreat really be built?

In an effort to celebrate blondes — or to exploit stereotypes about them, depending on your point of view — one company plans to open a resort in the Maldives, the small island nation southwest of India, that will feature a staff made up entirely of fair-haired men and women. Olialia, a highly visible "mega-brand" in Lithuania, has told reporters it has found three suitable plots of land, and will move ahead with its plans to build its hotel — in the shape of a high-heeled shoe, naturally — by 2015. Will this resort really be more fun? A brief guide:

Why a blonde-only resort?
Because blonde "is light. It attracts people like sunshine," says Lauryna Anuseviciute, Olialia's 24-year-old brand manager (herself a former model), as quoted by the Associated Press. The company's managing director, Giedre Pukiene, echoes that sentiment: "Blondes are a great power that should not be underestimated."

Will brunettes really be banned?
Not exactly. Anuseviciute tells the AP that "Staff who are not blond will wear a blond wig to make everyone look similar. That will be part of their uniform." Even if the resort wanted to hire all-natural blondes, it would be hard-pressed to do so. Companies in the Maldives must employ at least 50 percent locals, and at least half of Maldivean women are brunettes.

What will the resort be like?
Once travelers disembark from Olialia Airlines — a special, blonde-staffed shuttle that will run from Lithuania to the Maldives — they will be privy to amenities common to tropical resorts. Olialia's development plans include 61 villas, several restaurants, a nightclub, a beauty salon and spa, a marina, a boardwalk, mall, helipad, and a center for "harmony and psychology." Of course, every building, according to the plans, must "comply with the spirit and the worldview of blondes." About 65 percent of the staff will be women.

Is this a joke?
The company behind it certainly isn't. Olialia, says Minivan News, is a "highly recognizable brand within Lithuania with a reported income of $10 million." The business fashions itself as the Eastern European version of Richard Branson's Virgin empire. And it has used a "troupe of glitzy models with platinum hair to market just about anything from potato chips to pop music."

What has the reaction been?
In Lithuania, "the small women's rights movement is cringing in disgust," says Liudas Dapkus of the Associated Press. But Anuseviciute insists this "is not discrimination" and draws this comparison: "If a ballet is casting for a male-only dance performance, is it discrimination against women when they only hire men?"

Will the resort really get built?
That remains unclear. For one thing, the Maldives' tourist board, which would be instrumental in approving the project, is completely unaware of it. For another, marine biologists warn that construction will lead to an environmental disaster. And even if Olialia overcomes those issues, it's an open question whether the Maldives, a politically conservative, Muslim nation, would be the right location for such an outré endeavor.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Blonde island resort raises eyebrows

THE jury is out on a Lithuanian company that plans to build a "fantasy resort" staffed only by blondes.

Olialia has created a business empire in Lithuania, using its troupe of glitzy models with platinum hair to market just about anything from potato chips to pop music. There's Olialia pizza and Olialia cola, even Olialia computers.

With the Maldives resort - and plans for an airline linking it to the Baltic republic - Olialia is taking its blond ambition to a new level.

"Blond is light. It attracts people like sunshine," the company's blonde, 24-year-old brand manager Lauryna Anuseviciute explained at the Olialia office in downtown Vilnius.

In Lithuania, where a big chunk of the population shares Ms Anuseviciute's light hair colour - naturally or aided by peroxide - such unabashed glorification of blonde beauty doesn't raise many eyebrows.

It remains to be seen how the Olialia concept will be received in the Maldives, a more ethnically diverse archipelago in the Indian Ocean, which requires foreign developers to hire at least 50 per cent local staff.

Maldives tourism officials said they had not received any details about Olialia's plans and had not yet issued any permits.

"We welcome any serious innovations and investment for discussions so long as it is backed by serious finance with a robust and realistic business plan," Simon Hawkins, director of the Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation, said.

He underlined "realistic." However, he didn't appear to see the blonde requirement as a major hurdle for employees from the Maldives, saying "perhaps they could work behind the scenes, or dye their hair?"

No need, Ms Anuseviciute says. "Staff who are not blonde will wear a blonde wig to make everyone look similar."

About 65 per cent of the staff will be women, she said.

The resort plans are still in their infancy - the tentative launch date is 2015 - but Ms Anuseviciute insisted Olialia already has secured financing for the project.

Back home, the small women's rights movement is cringing in disgust. Not only is the "blonde island" idea demeaning to women, but borderline racist, said Margarita Jankauskaite, director of the Lithuanian Centre for Equality Advancement.

"It is not discrimination," Ms Anuseviciute said.

"If a ballet is casting for a male-only dance performance, is it discrimination against women when they only hire men?"


Blonde-Only Fantasy Resort Planned for Maldives

Lithuanian Company Says Hotel Will Be Staffed Exclusively By Blondes - Or Women Wearing Blonde Wigs

Empowering blondes or stereotyping them?

The jury is out on a Lithuanian company that plans to build a "fantasy resort" staffed only by blondes in the Maldives.

Olialia has used its troupe of fair-haired models in Lithuania to market just about anything from potato chips to pop music.

It's unclear how the concept will be received in the Maldives, which requires foreign developers to hire at least 50 percent local staff.

Brand manager Lauryna Anuseviciute says "staff who are not blond will wear a blond wig to make everyone look similar."

The resort plans are still in their infancy but Anuseviciute insists Olialia already has secured financing.

Maldives tourism officials say they haven't received any details about the resort and haven't issued any permits.


Indians exploring new places for leisure, Singapore losing out

Indians travelling abroad for leisure are showing more interest in new destinations such as China, Maldives, Indonesia, Africa and Bangladesh and the most preferred destination Singapore is fast losing out, according to a survey by the Nielsen Company.

The 'India Outbound Monitor', a survey by the Nielsen Company and Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) based on their most recent trips taken, percentage of Indians visiting newer places such as China, Indonesia, Africa, Bangladesh and Macau has gone up to 38 per cent in 2010, up from 20 per cent in 2008.

On the other hand, Singapore's share has gone down to 24 per cent in 2010 from 32 per cent in 2008.

For business travel, Singapore's share has also fallen from 25 per cent in 2008 to 15 per cent in 2010.

"The diversification in destinations indicates a greater sense of adventurism and discovery that should be heartening for tourism as a whole and a clear symptom of a confident Indian consumer mimicking their country's confidence and prominence," Nielsen Company executive director Surekha Poddar said.

She said the Indian traveller is set to become a prized possession as potential spending power and disposition to travel to new countries increases.

Other popular destinations, Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong registered an increase in the number of Indian travelling in 2010 compared to 2008. Places such as Dubai, Switzerland, Australia and the US, however, saw a decline last year.

As a whole, Asian countries account for 76 per cent of leisure travel by Indians and 63 per cent for business travel.

Europe attracts a higher percentage of business traffic (14 per cent) rather than leisure (10 per cent).

According to the survey, the top reasons which decide destination choice for leisure travellers are visiting friends or relatives (26 per cent), range of leisure and entertainment activities (18 per cent) and scenic beauty (10 per cent).

According to the study, one Indian traveller on an average spends $1,645 on a trip including air travel, accommodation, shopping, food, recreation and sightseeing.

"With growing choices at home, Indians have not really expanded their travel budgets. Overall, travel expenditure has remained the same as 2008, among leisure travellers. Business travellers have, however, seen a significant reduction in overall trip expenses," according to Nielsen.

For the survey 2,395 respondents were interviewed across eleven cities of India who have travelled outside India in the last 12 months.


SAARC to have first woman Secretary-General

SAARC will get its first woman Secretary-General in its silver jubilee year — the former Maldivian Attorney-General, Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed, is all set to succeed Indian diplomat Sheel Kant Sharma, who will complete his tenure of three years by the end of this month.

Incidentally, Maldives will host the next SAARC summit in November this year.

Diplomatic sources here said that barring a major hitch, Ms. Saeed is all set to take over at a time when SAARC is focussed on women's empowerment and is taking steps to check their exploitation. Two SAARC projects — Women's Empowerment and Maternal Healthcare — have also got off the ground with encouraging results.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Kuramathi Island Resort wins TUI’S International Environment Award 2010

The Eco center at the Kuramathi Island resort is honored to receive the highly acclaimed international award - TUI's International Environment Award for the year 2010, making them the first winner in the Asia pacific region in the awards history.

The accolade comprises of prize money worth Euros 10,000 which is designed to stimulate & assist in continuation of sustainable development activities while building links with tourism.

Past prize winners to win this prestigious accolade included local environment initiatives from Turkey, Greece, Kenya, Canary Islands and Minorca, "Blue Flag" campaign conducted by the foundation for environment education (FEE), the international commission for the protection of the Alps CIPRA & the federation of National parks of Europe (EUROPARK).

The World of TUI has sustained model international environmental, landscape and nature protection activities since 1991. TUI's International Environment Award which was conferred for the first time in 1991, is presented to environmental and nature protection organizations or interregional initiatives which make contribution to the protection and maintenance of nature and the environment in world of TUI holiday destinations.

This prestigious award will be presented to Kuramathi Island resort on 19th January 2011.


NTPC eyes Maldives for solar energy generation news

The state-owned National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) of India is looking at the feasibility of establishing solar powered energy projects within the Maldives. In the event the move comes through, it would boost the thermal power generator's green footprint.

NTPC is conducting feasibility study within the islands to research the potential of the island nation for creating solar power projects. The final report is predicted next three to four months, in accordance with NTPC chairman and managing director Arup Roy Choudhury.

Talking to reporters about the sidelines of a function in New Delhi on Thursday, Choudhury declined to offer specifics about the investment that India's biggest power generator would make in Maldives. "Let the (feasibility) report come, then we will see," he was quoted saying.

Meanwhile, NTPC is targetting to add 105 MW of electricity for the national grid by establishing four to five solar energy projects in the united states within the next several years. "We are going to set up 105 the new solar energy plants at our existing facilities at Anta, Dadri, Ramagundam, Sipat and Korba," he said.

NTPC generates over 31,000 MW of power from all reasons for energy. The business intends to increase this chance to 75,000 mw by 2017.

NTPC in addition has formulated an idea for capacity addition of approximately 1,000 MW through renewable resources by 2017. Simultaneously, it will have a capacity addition of 301 MW through Solar PV (photo-voltaic) and thermal by March 2014, Chudhury said.


Volunteer Wildlife Conservation Organization Helps Protect Maldives Marine Paradise.

A new conservation project has been organized to help preserve the marine environment surrounding the islands of the Maldives, off the Southern tip of India. Ordinary travellers from the US will be able to assist by collecting important data on the corals, fish, and marine wildlife under the guidance of a marine scientist who will train and oversee their work. This study, organized by award-winning volunteer organization Biosphere Expeditions, will ensure that informed conservation decisions can be made by the government and non-governmental organizations.

Biosphere Expeditions will be working in collaboration with Reef Check and the Marine Conservation Society, along with a group of international volunteers, to study and safeguard the spectacular coral reefs and the resident whale shark population.
Kathy Gill, Strategy Director from Biosphere Expeditions, said The coral reefs of the Maldives archipelago and the fish populations that live amongst them are extraordinarily diverse and rich. They are also in a relatively pristine state and having both these factors together is quite rare. As only less than one per cent of the world's oceans are protected it is very important that we monitor and manage areas that are doing well.'
People joining the research project will work alongside marine biologists surveying the beautiful coral reefs and whale shark population. Whale sharks can be identified by their gill markings which are unique to each shark, like fingerprints. Photo identification can be used to map where the fish go, how often they are recorded at individual locations and if further protection is needed for specific areas.

The expedition takes place September 10th-16th, 2011 and costs $2570 per person, excluding travel to and from the Maldives. The base for the expedition will be a large, modern boat with air conditioned, ensuite cabins and all modern amenities. Those taking part must be experienced divers and need a minimum of a PADI Open Water certificate, or equivalent.

Biosphere Expeditions inspires and supports critical wildlife conservation around the world. It increases the effort and funding that goes into conservation by providing the opportunity for ordinary people to work and contribute to field research in many locations across the globe. Biosphere Expeditions is committed to protecting endangered species and habitats by forging alliances between scientists and the public. In 2010, Biosphere Expeditions was working in partnership with the United Nations in its 'International Year of Biodiversity' program to increase the public awareness of the importance of conserving our planet's biological diversity.
For more information about Biosphere Expeditions' volunteer conservation work and current projects, visit the website at or contact Stephanie Moreland at .

Biosphere Expeditions
Stephanie Moreland


Maldives President urges Egypt’s Mubarak to step down

President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives has called on Egypt’s longstanding ruler, Hosni Mubarak, to step down and “heed the will of the Egyptian people.”

In an interview to the BBC yesterday evening, the president said that Egypt needed an “interim arrangement” without Mubarak, that leads to free and fair, multi-party elections.

President Nasheed’s remarks come as hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators gather in central Cairo to call for an end to Mubarak’s 30-year autocratic regime.

President Nasheed called on western powers not to fear a democratic Egypt, which, he said, was the best guarantor of fundamental liberties and human rights.

“Suppressing people with extremist views through repressive means only makes them stronger,” he noted.

“Egypt is a mature country. It contains many reasonable people who are capable of ruling reasonably.

“Fundamental rights and freedoms are human aspirations… things that all of us want. These forces are playing out on the streets of the Middle East today.”

Earlier this week, President Nasheed telephoned Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei.

During the call, the President said that “Maldivians have always loved freedom and thus Maldivians will always support those who are peacefully advocating for political freedom in Egypt.”

ElBaradei thanked the President for his call and said Egyptians would take note of lessons learnt from the Maldivian democracy struggle.


Indonesia signs fisheries accords with three countries

Indonesia’s marine affairs and fisheries ministry recently signed fishery agreements with three countries consecutively - India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, a minister said.

The extended memorandum of understanding between Indonesia and India on marine and fishery was signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in India last January 25, Marine Affairs and Fishery Minister Fadel Muhammad said at a press conference here Monday (Jan 31).

On January 24, Minister Fadel had a meeting with Indian Minister of Earth Sciences Pawan Kumar Bansal to discuss the two countries’ responses to the impact of climate change and the need to conduct further research on the role of the oceans in global climate change, Fadel said.

The two nations’ cooperation covered marine productivity, marine ecosystem health research and monitoring, climate change joint research and observation, marine resources management and applications, he said.

As the world’s second most populated country, India was a potential market for Indonesia’s fishery products, especially tuna, the minister said.

India also planned to invest in seaweed processing in Luwuk and Banggai, Central Sulawesi Province.

From India, Minister Fadel proceeded to Sri Lanka for a working visit.

Fadel and Sri Lankan Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Dr Rajitha Seranatne at their meeting had discussed bilateral cooperation in the marine and fishery sector as well as in aquaculture, particularly in the Indian Ocean.

Minister Fadel on the occasion also emphasized the importance of eradicating Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) Fishing to support sustainable and wise marine and fishery resources management in the Indian ocean especially.

Both countries agreed to prepare a draft memorandum of understanding on marine and fishery cooperation expected to be signed in middle of 2011.

Sri Lanka and Indonesia also planned to organize a forum of businessmen engaged in the fishery industry.

After visiting Sri Lanka, Minister Fadel went to Maldives to meet Maldives Fishery and Agriculture Minister Dr. Aminath Jameel in Male.

The two ministers agreed to follow up their meeting by drafting a Letter of Intent expected to be signed in March.

Fadel expressed his interest of learning Maldives’ experiences and policies in managing their small islands.

In the meeting with Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, Minister Fadel said Indonesian businessmen were interested in investing in the fishery sector in Maldives, according to a press statement of the Indonesian marine affairs and fisheries ministry.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Expensive Romantic Getaways For Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is around the corner and most of the couples are planning great vaccination ahead of them. Love is in the air and most of the couples in love want to have a silent getaway with that special one.

Listed below are some of the expensive romantic getaways for this valentine's day, these ideas will definitely add in more color to your plans and will spice up your relationship.

Being with your loved one is a special feeling and expressing your love for him or her should be done in such a way that she or he will always remember the moment.

Read on and get inspired by these expensive romantic getaways for this valentine's day.

1.The cook Islands – The feeling of love is special. The best romantic getaways for this valentine's day is the Cook Islands. This romantic islands discovered by James Cook is a lovely getaway from the modern world to only be with that loved one. The place has hot and humid temperatures throughout the year.

2.Hawaii – This place is known for the beautiful parties and the most famous thing in Hawaii is the waterfalls. All throughout the year it is cool and some parts of the year it is warm. The best place to visit is during February where you have different parties all related to the day of love.

3.Maldives – Situated in the middle of the Indian ocean. The Maldives is the great place to express your feelings to your special one. The best thing in the Maldives is that only 200 islands are inhabited and the rest of them are not out of 2000 islands. On a visit to this best romantic getaways for this valentine's day, do not forget to see the white sea sands and the coral islands.

Choose wisely from these three expensive romantic getaways for this valentine's day and give your loved one a special experience this year.


Aitken Spence Conventions & Exhibitions organizes the Sri Lankan Education Fair in Maldives

Sri Lanka is fast becoming more than a tourist hot spot and is now more often perceived as an ideal destination for education and personal growth in Asia. Most often youth in developing countries make their way overseas to further their education. Due to certain limitations or in a bid to gain an added advantage over fierce competition in society, students seek out the best destinations for education and development.

Maldivian students are increasingly turning towards Sri Lanka as a home away from home for their diverse educational needs. Maldivian students of today are very focused and prudent in their choice of careers and seek out new avenues and options for education and career development on a regular basis. Increasingly Maldivian students are favouring Sri Lanka to further their education and with this in mind, Aitken Spence Conventions & Exhibitions with the endorsement of the Ministry of Education - Maldives, announces the Sri Lankan Education Fair from March 17 to 19 at the Dharubaaruge Exhibition Hall, Male, Maldives.

Promoting Sri Lanka and putting the spotlight on all it has to offer Maldivian students, the Sri Lanka Education Fair gives Sri Lankan schools, colleges, institutes, universities and management training centres the ideal opportunity and forum to meet with potential students and brief them on what they can offer students for a brighter future. As the Maldivian government aims to upgrade their educational standards by giving top priority to education, Sri Lanka has been identified as the best destination among their neighbouring countries for higher education. Sri Lanka with its close proximity to the Maldives has the added advantage of ease of parental supervision, low costs in travel and visits back home etc.

The Education Fair gives Maldivian students the opportunity to choose between various options offered by Sri Lankan institutes which will meet their educational needs and ambitions - all under one roof. Secondary & Tertiary educational institutes, professional educational bodies/institutes, local and foreign banks, immigration and visa experts, management training centres, universities, international schools, affiliated institutes/ universities, migration consultation bodies and training institutes are all welcome to participate in this fair to broaden their horizons and capture a new market of students who seek professional guidance and information.

With an extensive promotional campaign supported by the Ministry of Education - Maldives, the Education Fair will attract Maldivian students, graduates, postgraduates, diploma holders, working adults, professionals, parents, teachers, government officials and the general public at large. This would be the ideal place for educators to meet with students who are seeking to qualify themselves in a chosen field.

Last year the Maldivian population was estimated at 396,334 people, with 74% amounting to the 15 - 64 year age group. This population is dispersed among 200 inhabited islands, with 90% of them having a population of less than 1,000 people. Around 25% of the population is concentrated in the capital, Malé. The Maldives enjoy a GDP of $1.688 billion (as at year 2009) and per capita is at $4,894 proving that these islanders are successful and enterprising. The contribution of education expenditure is 8% of the GDP illustrating the importance placed on education in an average home.


Islamic Bank set to open in March

The Maldives Islamic Bank (MIB) has said that they will open the bank for business on March 7, the day Maldives embraced Islam.

Rf 150 million share worth MIB was developed with an 85 percent share from the Islamic corporation for the Development of Private Sector of Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and a 15 percent share from the government.

During the first press conference held in the bank on H. Coconutvilla, Ameeru Ahmed Magu, Managing Director and CEO Haris Haroon revealed that all the work required to open the bank has now been completed.

“Now we are testing the systems, training our employees and working on the operating manuals. All of this will be completed within the next 3 or 4 weeks and we will be open for business by the end of the month. The bank will be opened on March 7th, which marks the day that Maldives embraced Islam,” he said.

He introduced the bank’s Board of Directors and the Shariah Board. The bank chairman is ICD CEO Halid Al Abudi, while the Government is represented on the board by the State Minister for Finance Ahmed Asad. The only Maldivian on the Shariah Board is Maldives Higher Education Vice Rector Fayyaz Ali Manik.

Hiris said that while there are some legal difficulties in running an Islamic bank, they will broaden the business. The bank has also decided to provide internet banking and ATM services.

“Until the bank is able to walk on two legs, the government wishes to keep a share. Afterwards even those shares will be released to the public. The highest amount that the government will keep is 5 percent,” he said.

He said that finding a way to store the reserve money of the bank in Maldives and selling and buying land are legal issues that need to be solved. He said that a commercial bank and an Islamic bank are very different.


Maldives creates diplomatic ties with Liechtenstein

The Republic of Maldives has formally established diplomatic relations with the Principality of Liechtenstein through the United Nations’ permanent missions of the two countries.

Liechtenstein is a small Western European landlocked country bordering Austria and Switzerland.

With a population just a little over 35,000 people, Liechtenstein is listed as one of the smallest countries in the world. However they also have one of the highest per capita GDP in the world.

According to a press release from the Foreign Ministry, “Maldives has recently undertaken an active role in fostering relations with the international community and establishing ties with friendly countries.”

Liechtenstein is the 156th country to establish diplomatic relations with Maldives.


Top U.S official visits Maldives

A top U.S. State Department official visited The Maldives in the backdrop of growing signs of trouble for the government, the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party and, increasing radicalisation of its youth.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, who is on a whirl-wind visit of the major capitals of Asia and Africa, found time to visit Maldives on January 28 and 29, and held discussions with officials and civil society leaders. “We have very practical interests in common, such as dealing with the challenges of climate change and piracy – security in this region is of enormous importance to us,” Mr. Steinberg said, in response to a question, according to the independent Maldivian newspaper, Minivan News.

Specific areas raised with the Maldivian government by Mr.Steinberg included the challenges of economic development, the need to strengthen education and build educational opportunities, as well as the challenges of confronting growing extremism “and how we can help promote tolerance in the Maldives,” the newspaper’s website said.

The State Department listed the Maldives on its tier two watch-list for Human Trafficking last year, barely a few weeks after The Maldives sat on the UN Human Rights Council. On this, Mr. Steinberg said: “This region, quite frankly, has particular challenges in dealing with forced labour and related issues on trafficking. What we are looking for is a road-map and a way forward. The watch-list is not intended to punish, but to motivate efforts to go forward.”

In his remarks at the American Centre in the National Library, Mr. Steinberg said that The Maldives represented an emerging model for “a tolerant and democratic Muslim society”, and “could have enormous influence in the thinking of countries around the world, as you try to build this new model.”

Mr. Steinberg was in Male after visiting Seoul (January 26), Tokyo (January 27), and Beijing (January 28), according to his travels posted at the US State Department website. His visit was to “discuss a wide range of bilateral, regional, and global issues, including climate change, human rights, and democratisation.”

The U.S. State Department has voiced its concern over the functioning of Maldivian democracy earlier too. In a December 15 telephonic press conference with south Asian journalists, the Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Robert O. Blake Jr. said : “It’s going to be very important now for I think all of the parties to work together to find common ground and to work to help the interests of the Maldivian people… So it’s important, again, I think for all the parties to work together… It’s important to set aside a lot of the rancour and again, focus on what is going to benefit the Maldivian people.”


Clearford signs $40M sewer servicing contract in Maldives

The Ottawa-based water management system provider aims to partner with the government-owned Upper South Utilities Ltd. to improve the infrastructure and groundwater on 15 of the 1,000 islands, which lie just southwest of India. Clearford said there are only 12 islands with sanitary sewers right now.

Under the terms of the contract, the government of the Maldives will pay back Clearford over a 20-year period.

"The islands are coral and sand structures with a very porous nature, and as a result the ground water on the unserviced islands is often contaminated by onsite disposal of human sewage," Clearford stated.

"Due to this circumstance, residents on many of the islands rely upon both rainwater harvesting and commercially available bottled water as their sources of drinking and cooking water."

Clearford and USUL will work together for six months towards gaining financing, as well as creating a design and working on the implementation of the system.

Earlier in January, Clearford announced a $150,000 contract to install its patented Small Bore Sewer System, which can clean up even small amounts of water, in a community near Orillia.

In its third-quarter results released Nov. 26, Clearford saw its net loss widen to $530,038 or $0.01 per share from $466,968 or $0.02 last year.


EU parliamentarians to visit Maldives

A group of European Union parliamentarians are due to arrive in the Maldives this month to discuss politics and climate change.

The two day visit on February 20-21 is the first since 2007, the Maldives EU mission said in a statement.

“A series of meetings would also be arranged with key party political leaders and key government ministries,” it said.

Last week, the Ambassador-Designate of the Maldives to Belgium and the European Union, Ali Hussain Didi, spoke at the European Parliament’s Delegation to South Asia.

MEP Ms Jean Lambert, the British Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation to South Asia, responded by welcoming the Ambassador-Designate to Brussels and hoped for frequent and positive engagement during his posting.