First they came for Faafu IV:

Himithi

by Azra Naseem

4.Saved by the bullshit?

Saudi King Salman has postponed his trip to the Maldives indefinitely.

Three resorts cancelled their bookings to accommodate the King and his entourage; the Republic Square in Male’ was whitewashed and made ready for the King’s landing in a helicopter; the jetty was spruced up; his special yacht sailed into Maldivian waters in advance, along with a navy ship to look after his security; and Maldivian parents risked their children’s lives by sending them to practice a welcome dance for the King during a deadly flu outbreak; and President Yameen combed his feathers and puffed out his chest an extra foot.

In the end none of it mattered, the King decided he is not coming. Not yet; maybe never.

What changed the royal mind? The International Spokesperson for the President explained it was the H1N1 flu that kept the King away. As explanations go, it’s pretty lame, given the wide availability of flu vaccines and the fact that King Salman is travelling with not just medical staff but an entire hospital. No, what seems more plausible is that it’s the Maldivian motor mouths that have put this King off his planned paradise getaway.

First to open his mouth was the President himself who told the starry eyed people of Faafu Atoll Magoodhoo that ‘the Saudi government, or members of the Saudi elite’ had fallen absolutely madly deeply loved their atoll. They were going to show their love by opening their wallets and giving Faafu the kind of makeover that would make it unrecognisable as an atoll in an island archipelago.

But, he cautioned, shush, shush, shush.

The Saudis do not want agitation, they do not want chaos. The deal had been in the making for months and months, and would have been signed aeons ago if not for the uncouth behaviour of Maldivians who, unlike their Saudi brothers and sisters, would not shut up and follow whatever rules their leaders decide for them. Calm down for development, he said.

The President’s bragging did not create the docile citizens he hoped for. It set tongues wagging instead. Pretty soon everyone was talking about the Saudis and Faafu – what does Yameen mean by investment? Is he selling Faafu? How much is it being sold for? Is it legal? What will I get?

The ruling party was caught between its desire to boast and its promise to the Saudis to keep the whole thing secret. So they got paid hacks in on the job, and got them to write ‘colour pieces’ which in reality were long odes to the sanctity of the Saudi Royal Family, and their undying love for the Maldives.

Strategic decisions, that no doubt looked cerebral from the perspective of the ‘top brass’ that were making them, were arrived at to ‘emphasis the Islamic angle’ – it’s okay to sell to the Saudis because they are 100% Muslim, ‘just like us’. The same hacks wrote more column inches glorifying unchecked capitalism—oh, imagine the beauty of a Burj Khalifa arising from the Maldivian sea; we will be Dubai! we will be Singapore! Ah, blessed development, Islamic capitalism. Glory be.

And then there were the teams of foreign journalists flown in, all expenses paid, to write articles that would, hopefully, make the deal more palatable to the international community. Perhaps it was also meant to attract more foreign ‘investment’. Anyway, the motive doesn’t really matter, because what all the coverage ended up doing was seriously piss the desert royals off.

Pretty soon the Saudi Embassy in Male’—run from an annex in the President’s Office—broke the silence by putting out a statement denying that the Saudi government had any interest or plans to buy Faafu or make an investment in the Maldives.

The statement created even more confusion—it denied any involvement of the Saudi government, but not of the Saudi royal family, which is what Yameen had been ‘hinting’ at so very subtly. More tongues wagged in the Maldives, while over to the east in Indonesia,  Bali suddenly appeared so much more attractive to King Salman that he decided to extend his stay there. His scheduled arrival in the Maldives was suddenly delayed by a good week or so.

Despite the palpable royal displeasure, preparations continued in Male’ for the King’s arrival: opposition HQs were raided several times, rolls of fabric [that could have ended as a protest banner] were confiscated; and activists were dragged to the police station and their phones taken away. Through it all the general brainwashing continued with substantial success [see following comment by member of public on Saudi deal].

I don’t have any concerns about the Faafu Atoll project because whatever happens those who are coming here are from a 100 percent Muslim country. In my view he (Saudi King) is the leader of the world’s Muslims. So, given that we are a 100 percent Muslim nation, there is great trust in my heart that, because they are Muslims, they will not do anything to hurt us citizens in anyway.

So what was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back, so to speak? What persuaded King Salman that it is far better to stay away from the Maldives than it is to spend a week swimming in its beautiful seas, snorkelling with the fish, and forgetting the pressures of being a royal?

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan, I would wager.

An audio emerged last night of the MP, and asslicker supreme, speaking to an unidentified group of men in what he referred to as a ‘brain feeding’ session. His talking points are enlightening to say the least. The recording goes on for half an hour. I will summarise here Nihan’s descriptions of, and references to the Saudi Royal Family.

This is basically something starting in 2012.

That Man was in One and Only and took a trip to get an aerial view of the Maldives. On this trip he saw an island that no Maldivian was likely to go to. […]

There are 54 kilometres between that island and any other inhabited one. Beyond that is the wide Indian Ocean. No Maldivian would be ‘encircling that’ even as part of a journey. That island is Faafu Atoll Himithi.

[…]

It was a geographic location That Man [the King] found. Actually his brain works well, he was thinking of ways that would cause the least inconvenience to Maldivians. So he wanted to develop that island.

But then he did not want the island to be taken back in 99 years, as it is said in that constitution, after he makes that fine investment. He knows that he cannot last that long. A normal human being’s mortality rate, if for example, is 70, he himself cannot stay on that island till the end of those 99 years. So, he requested for the ownership that will allow him to leave it to his next of kin, heirs.

When he made the request, we didn’t have the ability to create ‘99 plus one day’. We couldn’t even give him those [extra] 24 hours. That’s why we had to come to this point, why we had to change the Constitution. We wanted to give it to him to own. […]

But the public won’t understand. They will know only on the day they know who he is.

[‘After everything has happened?’, asks a member of the audience]

Yes, on the day they know for sure that it is the Saudi Crown Prince…on that day they will realise [clicks finger]: Aah! That’s the trap they set!

Mohamed had paid for acquisition of the island then. The island was under some sort of a group…some Dhivehi group…Anni had given it to them on some pipe laying pretext or other. He had given it to not just one party, but three!

Adeeb was Tourism Minister, Dr Waheed was President. Dr Waheed wanted to do this really badly. In a rush these great men gave him the island.

After they gave him the island he said the 99 years was not enough, so he was going to stop the deal. That meant the government had to give him back the payment he had made. So talks were held with people internally involved. He didn’t let go of his interest though.

Again, in 2013 he came back to One and Only. While he was there, in just a few days after President Yameen assumed office, the lad came with the current King, his father. He hadn’t become King yet, he was the Crown Prince.

As luck would have it then Crown Prince became King. King Abdullah passed away, he became King immediately, and as soon as that happened, all the power was now in the hands of his family, as it would be. Until This Man dies, that is. Then it will be Mohamed’s turn. He is the most likely man.

Anyway, without that assurance, they hadn’t begun the investment. We looked to see if we could penetrate this into the SEZ, if we could make it happen through the SEZ. But even the SEZ could not cross the Constitution – unless and until we changed it. It could only come out of an open window from that. That is why we created that window.

It was very designed, very proper, very planned so that we will not suffer any harm—even from a religious perspective—that is the kind of investor this is. That much can be said.

It is the belief that this investor is for sure not China, for sure not India, for sure not the UK, for sure not America, for sure not Russia. They are jumping around because they think we are facilitating Chinese ownership of land.

[…]

“This guy [King Salman] is gonna dump sixteen billion US dollars”. […]

There are other places in the world with more fish, more beautiful fish, than there are in the Maldives, fishes that are much more vigorous, more colourful – why would they come to the Maldives first to see these things? Why not go there? Why are they dumping here? His interest is also aroused “because we are Islam.” He believes that because we are Muslims he will be tolerated here.

So those Saudi princes can come here in their jets, waste away a weekend, and by the time they leave, all the waiters and everyone would have got a year’s wages—they will not have to work again that year. This is being said because of how these people behave. “We know what they are spending on”. T

here are so many countries with their hands out in anticipation of a Saudi Prince coming to their country – what does the Maldives have to show? What is this reef [Faafu] here for anyway? No one would go there to even pick up a shell. That reef has been sitting there like that, [serving no purpose] for three thousand, four thousand years.

[…]

There are a lot of parties [potential investors]. But we are not able to allow them. “A Russian billionaire might want it immediately”. They would have the money. They would have much worse, dirtier money [than the Saudis], but of course we won’t give it to those people. “Though even this is created”. The fear is what will happen if our government ends? What will those who come after do?

[…]

These people, this family that we are in negotiations with, they do not want their name to be associated with this [sale of Faafu] suddenly. If not, we would have written it down [in the Constitution] that this is for a specific person. […]

If that had been said, these issues [of what would happen when PPM government ends] would not arise. But even he [King Salman] would not have wanted to do such a ridiculous thing. This is the Constitution of a country we are talking about!

So what do you think? Was it the H1N1–or Maldivians who could not keep their mouths shut–that has made the King stay away? Has the government bullshit rescued Faafu from merciless ‘development’?


Photo: Himithi and Minimasmagili, Faafu Atoll, by 

First they came for Faafu III

First they came for Faafu II

First they came for Faafu I

    First they came for Faafu III

    by Azra Naseem

    3. Muizzing Maldives

    Yesterday, from The Guardian, Dhivehin finally learned what the government has in store for the Maldives. The publication ended weeks of speculation as to what Dear Leader Yameen has been planning for us ever since he got up close and personal with the unscrupulous and filthy rich Saudi royal family.

    Oh, he dropped many hints: what is coming will change the very map of Maldives; it will be larger than your [little raffushu] imaginations; it will be development like no one has ever seen; it will make Maldives the envy of the world.

    But he stopped just short of telling people what exactly it is. Because people’s reaction may endanger the deal. Maldivians cannot be trusted with the great plans he has for the Maldives.

    But yesterday, through The Guardian, Yameen’s cabal finally chose to reveal details of what is to happen: residents are to be relocated to larger atolls, ‘leaving smaller islands ripe for development.’

    Thousands of years old island way of life, sustainable development, living with the fragile environment, looking after the astounding natural beauty of the country for future generations—fuck all that. That’s airy-fairy arty-farty New Age hippie bullshit. Solar power, carbon neutrality? Pfft. Who has that kind of time to waste?

    “We want to bring better living conditions to the whole country over a small period of time,” housing minister Mohamed Muizzu tells The Guardian.

    This is the same Minister, whose unplanned haste to ‘bring development’ to Male’ has led to so many disastrous undertakings that people now say ‘That’s Muizzed” to describe projects–often work that don’t need doing, to fix something that isn’t broken–that become ever messier with each vain attempt to get it right at an ever increasing cost.

    So here they are, these members of the kakistocracy ruling Maldives who– knowing so much what the people should want for themselves regardless of what they actually do–are ready to usher in what they call super development: geo-engineered artificial islands built as super-resorts, six-star hotels, high-end housing, high-tech centres, economic free-zones and foreign universities…all for ‘the global elite’, of course.

    Meanwhile, the people of Maldives—the very people who have been excluded from the billions earned from 20 years of high-end tourism—will be relocated from their too-small-to-live-on-islands onto the so-called Greater Male’ Area where acres and acres of land is being reclaimed from the sea for this very purpose.

    There they will live happily ever after in purpose built high-rises with running water, garbage bins, and plumbed toilets to shit in. Hip-hip-hurrah!

    They will, of course, go to the same schools bursting at the seams as now, will be taught by the same barely qualified teachers, will work in the same dead-end jobs in the vast behemoth that is the civil service, or will clean hotel rooms and be bare-chested butlers in sarongs bowing deeply to provide the super-rich with ‘the authentic Maldivian experience’ as they sip their US$100 cocktails.

    But, never mind. There will be plumbing at home.

    Dhivehin shouldn’t expect much more. Their numbers are just too small for their existence to make any economic sense. What would be really economically viable would be to annihilate them, but then even the super-rich may balk at investing in real estate straight after a genocide. They’d wait at least one or two years; and time is money.

    Once the plan is realised, number of visitors to the Maldives will increase from 1.3 million (over three times the population) to more than seven million within ten years (over 18 times the population). The Marine Research Centre—yes, the Marine Research Centre, which you’d think is looking out for the country’s natural resources—thinks this is a marvellous idea. In fact, according to Director Shiham Adam, it could be what saves the Maldives.

    “People are investing huge amounts of money. They are not idiots,” says this very brainy scientist. “You can build an island in four weeks with suction dredgers”.

    It would be absolute idiocy to think that this causes any damage to the environment; that it will kill the marine life, lead to erosion, destroy beaches, and shrink the entire land mass of the Maldives drastically. According to Shiham, all the existing resorts are just lovely little ‘mini marine reserves’, and there’s no reason (except science, which you don’t really need to consider when time is of the essence) to think the reclaimed super resorts would be any different.

    What about sea-level rise that could put 75% of the Maldives underwater by 2100?

    ‘That’s not going to happen next year,’ says the director of marine research.

    What does not happen before Yameen’s election in 2018, and 2023—or in his lifetime—should not concern us. That’s for the future. “We have immediate needs.’ And fulfil them these geniuses will. To hell with future generations, it’s not like they even exist.

    This is what is ‘good for the people’, says Muizzu. He knows. That should be enough.

    Let us all courtesy collectively to King Salman when he arrives, and pray that his rule over us would be as kind as it is over the people of Saudi Arabia, that he will consider our children with as much love as he does the children of Yemen. Let us all raise our hands in supplication to Yameen, our Saviour, for his Great Economic Vision. Let us all say thank you to all the super-rich billionaires and multinationals who are coming to save us from our inconsequential little lives in the shitty little ‘Indian ocean backwater’ called Maldives that so many people have mistakenly viewed as paradise on earth for so many centuries.


     

    First they came for Faafu I : Of Kings and Pawns

    First they came for Faafu II : Of Myths and Monsters

     

      First they came for Faafu II

      Scary-Sea-Monster (1)

      by Azra Naseem

      2. Of myths and monsters

      This is a very interesting story.

      Today’s Crown Prince and Defence Minister of Saudi Arabia Prince Mohamed was not always a very popular member of the aristocratic Saudi royal family. Those days, Mohamed used to spend a lot of time in the Maldives. He stayed on an island in Faafu Atoll and went snorkelling. When the Prince went past Himithi on these trips, he marvelled at its beauty.

      His noble heart took a fancy to Himithi. He made contact with the government, and through it, the varuvaa holders. The Prince got permission to develop the island as his own private holiday retreat. At the same time, Mohamed’s star began to shine bright on the Saudi horizon. King Abdulla died and Mohamed’s noble father Salman ascended to the throne. Mohamed became Crown Prince, and was given the powerful position of Defence Minister. Prince Mohamed is the visionary who designed the present Saudi economy and drew up Saudi Arabia’s new development plans.

      With so much responsibility to bear, the Prince no longer has the opportunity to swim in the seas of the Maldives. But the Prince has not forgotten Himithi. Even King Salman knows just how much Mohamed loves the Maldives. The King himself, with his own noble tongue, told Maldivian President Yameen so. What’s more, the King himself also loves the Maldives, just like the noble Son Mohamed. The King made an official visit to the Maldives at the beginning of President Yameen’s rule.

      The Prince has now changed his earlier concept of creating his own private retreat on an island. The close friendship President Yameen has with Saudi King Salman and his Noble Son played an important role in making this change happen. The new drawings were created by the very best designers in the world. That President Yameen has been granted the opportunity to view these designs can be understood from what the President said in his latest speech in Faafu Atoll. There have only ever been just two or three such concepts in the entire world.

      They will build a big big city like Dubai in the Maldives. They will invest dollars in many billions. Saudi Arabia has such vast riches this is nothing to them. Big land will be reclaimed to build this city.

      The ‘interesting story’ above is an extract from the chief narrative the Maldives government is disseminating to tell people the story of how President Yameen has made a deal to sell territory in Faafu Atoll to a group of rich privileged men from the Saudi royal family.

      It is a clever strategy.

      Every state has its founding myths, narratives repeated so often through time they become ‘truths’. These narratives become the basis on which national identities—and often policies—are built. Take, for example, the narratives of American Exceptionalism, and Satthain Sattha Maldives. These narratives, when repeated in various forms, pull at the national ‘psyche’, and successfully reactivate nationalism, patriotism and other such emotive ideologies the disseminators want during a given period of time.

      In the tone and manner of telling, the government’s Saudi sale narrative is very similar to the Rannamari myth at heart of the Maldivian identity of Satthain Sattha Muslim. Non-Muslim Maldivians living in darkness, plagued by monsters, and existing in a perpetual state of fear, were shown the light by a learned scholar from the holy lands of Arabia who, with the help of a wise King open to religious enlightenment, paved the way for Islam, prosperity, and eternal peace in the Maldives. Since then, says the narrative, Maldives has been a Hundred Per Cent [Satthain Sattha] Muslim country.

      Until now, that is. Today the Satthain Sattha identity is under serious threat, says the government.

      Irreligious Laa Dheenee locals colluding with the Great Satan of the West, have come together to threaten the faith of Maldivians. These monstrous forces have been launching sustained attacks on Maldivian belief systems ever since a majority adopted the Western concept of democracy. Embracing these values have stood in the way of development and prosperity, and weakened Maldivians’ belief in Allah.

      Maldivians of the 21st Century need rescuing, just like those of the 12th Century. Fortunately for Maldivians, wise President Yameen, like the enlightened King who embraced Islam in 1153, has become friends with not just a multitude of Arab scholars, but the King of Arabia himself, and his Noble Son, the Crown Prince Mohamed. Mohamed will bring Islam back to the Maldives in its proper form. He will save the Maldives.

      The plans for Faafu are far from mere economic genius.

      So-called gentry and their jealousy

      Another narrative planted in the ‘independent media‘, and successfully taking hold, is that criticisms of the Maldives government deal with the Saudi royal family are manufactured by the Privileged Male’ People jealous at the prospect of mega development somewhere other than Male’.

      The Male’/Raajjethéré divide is not in itself a myth. Vast differences exist between the capital island and the rest of the country in terms of economic development and provision of primary needs such as education and health. Fostered by these inequalities  systematically created by the central government in Male’, a ‘truth’ was constructed in which people of Male’ are somehow superior to that of people born elsewhere.

      This long surviving inferiority/superiority complex–although weakened substantially in recent times–survives like racism, apartheid and other such systems of inequality do elsewhere. Now the government is picking the scabs of this national wound, and drumming up support for the deal in Faafu by making people feel the injury afresh. The allegations of Male’ jealousy plays to audiences who have long suffered inequalities stemming from the centralisation of power. Given the familiarity of the narrative, it very much rings ‘true’.

      The Yameen government has completely dismantled the fledgling structures and nascent plans geared towards decentralisation. In this light, the the idea that the Faafu project  is intended to empower people of the atoll and surrounding areas is laughable. Decentralisation experts have pointed out that when Yameen came to power, existing laws required atoll assets to be handed over to respective islands and atolls. But local councils have since been systematically stripped of any authority and power. If empowerment of the people is a motive that drives government plans for outer atolls, why strip people of the atolls of all authority over their own resources?

      Fact is, Yameen has already signed the dotted line on the deal it made with the royal family. The deal was sealed long before people came to know about it. It was done with zero public discussion on the inevitable and irreversible damage the Saudi Mega City project stands to cause to the fragile Maldivian environment; national security implications; or how it will change Maldivian society and culture.  The most powerful way—perhaps the only way—to resist the future they have carved up for Faafu, and by association the entire Maldives, is for the people to consider these threats and unite against the plans.

      The (re)telling of powerful national myths in times of crises is a tactic that can be more effective than the brutal crackdowns that bring democratic protests to a stand-still. To drum up support for the War on Terror, US leaders tapped the myths of American Exceptionalim and Manifest Destiny. The narratives being (re)told by the Yameen government work to unite people in support for the Faafu plans against the manufactured threats to their religious beliefs and their right to equality.

      In selling Maldivian land to the great Saudi Royal Family, custodians of Islam’s holiest sites, the government has brought not just riches but also blessings from Allah to the people of Maldives. In a single deal, the president has paved the way to resist the Infidels who are attacking Islam in the Maldives on so many fronts, and to shrink the demon of irreligiosity. All the while he is cutting those privileged superior Male’ people down to size by making the people of Faafu equally rich, empowered, and closer than ever before to God (by association with the Saudi Royal Family).

      Only the irreligious, the foolish, the jealous and the arrogant would object.


      First they came for Faafu I: Of Kings and Pawns

      First they came for Faafu III: Muizzing Maldives

      Image source