Tagged: Maldives environment

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

Forced migration around the corner: time to act

by Salma Fikry*

For several years, we in the Maldives have accepted that we are a country with few natural resources. Our development policies were formulated and implemented with the underlying justification that the biggest challenge to our development was the highly dispersed nature of sparsely populated communities, over a vast spread of the ocean.  

This being the case, it was seen as unfeasible to provide services and opportunities to every inhabited island. Priority was given to develop the capital island Male’ and subsequently, Vilingili or ViliMale’ (a resort island in the vicinity of Male’ changed to an inhabited island). Since then, we saw a huge stretch of land reclaimed near Male’, that is HulhuMale’, and the efforts to develop and relocate Maldivians to the artificial island of HulhuMale’. In recent years, we also witnessed a grand project to develop “GulhiMale’’ in the lagoon of Gulhi nearby Male’. And today we witness the reclamation of land for HulhuMale’ Phase II.

These projects at creating artificial islands took place while there remained already existing natural land, undeveloped and underdeveloped, in the north, mid and south of Maldives. Development policies were formulated and implemented such that Maldivians were forced to abandon their land/homes and migrate to one corner of the country. The trend continues even today and at a much more alarming pace.

While we Maldivians accepted ours as a country with few natural resources and understood this factor as the most challenging to our development as a nation; the truth is that a select few individuals became powerful, wealthy oligarchs using the same “few” natural resources. It is also a reality that the gap between the rich and the poor continued to widen through the years. It is also an undeniable fact that the development disparity in income, services and opportunities are glaringly obvious between the capital Male’ and the atolls of Maldives.

Maldivians are paying a high social and economic cost for development policies that enforce atoll populations to migrate to Male’ – the capital island, which today, is among the most congested places on earth. A place, burdened with environmental degradation, societal problems and ever increasing crimes. Regardless, our development policies are still geared in that very same direction that has brought us to the present unsustainable, inequitable development. We are still pursuing policies and investing our finances to congest all Maldivians into one little corner of our archipelago, while abandoning the rest.

Today, we should ask ourselves what will happen to our birthright, i.e the land we leave behind and its natural capital, as we migrate to one corner of the country, in the perusal of better development opportunities and services. Today, we should question who will gain the benefits of the land, the lagoons, the reefs, the seas and other natural resources that we as Maldivians proudly thought belonged to us.


 

* Salma Fikry is a recipient of the National Award for services to decentralisation in the Maldives, and is an advocate of sustainable development through community empowerment.

The above article is a translation of the Foreword Salma wrote for Falhu Aliran Muiy, a book by Muna Mohamed on the inhabited islands of Maldives, including the islands being abandoned to pursue a relentless corporate agenda; and on the history, present and future of forced migration in the Maldives.

Muna Mohamed, Falhu Aliran Muiy, Published: Novelty Bookshop, June 2016, MVR240