|Republic of Maldives
Dhivehi Raajjeyge Jumhooriyya
|Anthem: Qaumii salaam
Location of Maldives in the Indian Ocean.
and largest city
|Official languages||Maldivian (Dhivehi)|
|Ethnic groups (2011)||≈100% Maldiviansa|
|Government||Unitary presidential constitutional republic|
|-||Vice President||Mohamed Jameel Ahmed|
|-||Speaker||Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed|
|-||Chief Justice||Abdullah Saeed|
|-||from the United Kingdom||26 July 1965|
|-||Current constitution||7 August 2008|
|-||Total||298 km2 (206th)
115 sq mi
|-||July 2013 estimate||393,500 (175th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2011 estimate|
|-||Total||$2.841 billion (162nd)|
|-||Per capita||$8,731 (89th)|
|GDP (nominal)||2011 estimate|
|HDI (2013)|| 0.698
medium · 103rd
|Currency||Maldivian rufiyaa (MVR)|
|Time zone||MVT (UTC+5)|
|Drives on the||left|
|ISO 3166 code||MV|
|a.||Excluding foreign nationals.|
Maldives, officially the Republic of Maldives,[nb 1] is an island nation in the Indian Ocean–Arabian Sea area, consisting of a double chain of twenty-six atolls, oriented north-south, that lie between Minicoy Island (the southernmost part of Lakshadweep, India) and the Chagos Archipelago. The chains stand in the Laccadive Sea, and the capital, Malé, is about 600 kilometres (370 mi) south-west of India and 750 kilometres (470 mi) south-west of Sri Lanka.
From the mid-sixteenth century, the Maldives was dominated by colonial powers: Portugal, the Netherlands and Britain. The islands gained independence from the British Empire in 1965, and in 1968 became a republic ruled by a president and an authoritarian government.
The archipelago is located atop the Chagos-Maldives-Laccadive Ridge, a vast submarine mountain range in the Indian Ocean, which also forms a terrestrial ecoregion together with the Chagos and the Lakshadweep. Their atolls encompass a territory spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometres (35,000 sq mi), making the country one of the world's most geographically dispersed. Its population of 328,536 (2012) inhabits 192 of its 1,192 islands. In 2006 the capital and largest city Malé, located at the southern edge of North Malé Atoll, had a population of 103,693. Malé is one of the Maldives' administrative divisions and, traditionally, it was the "King's Island" where the ancient royal dynasties were enthroned. It is the smallest Asian country in both population and land area. With an average ground level elevation of 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) above sea level, it is the planet's lowest country. It is also the country with the lowest natural highest point in the world, at 2.4 metres (7 ft 10 in). Future inundation of the Maldives due to rising sea levels is of great concern to its people, motivating the government to pledge becoming a carbon-neutral country by 2019.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 History
- 3 Geography
- 4 Government
- 5 Administrative divisions
- 6 Economy
- 7 Demographics
- 8 Culture
- 9 Transportation
- 10 Education
- 11 See also
- 12 Notes
- 13 References
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
The name Maldives may derive from Sanskrit mālā (garland) and dvīpa (island), or මාල දිවයින Maala Divaina ("Necklace Islands") in Sinhala. The Maldivian people were called Dhivehin. The word Dheeb/Deeb (archaic Dhivehi, related to Sanskrit द्वीप dvīpa) means "island", and Dhives (Dhivehin) means "islanders" (i.e., Maldivians).
Jan S Hogendorn, Grossman Professor of Economics, theorises that the name Maldives derives from the Sanskrit mālādvīpa (मालाद्वीप), meaning "garland of islands". In Tamil, "Garland of Islands" can be translated as MalaiTheevu (மாலைத்தீவு). In Malayalam, "Garland of Islands" can be translated as Maladweepu (മാലദ്വീപ്). In Kannada, "Garland of Islands" can be translated as Maaledweepa (ಮಾಲೆದ್ವೀಪ). None of these names is mentioned in any literature, but classical Sanskrit texts dating back to the Vedic period mention the "Hundred Thousand Islands" (Lakshadweepa), a generic name which would include not only the Maldives, but also the Laccadives, Aminidivi Islands, Minicoy and the Chagos island groups.
Some medieval travellers such as Ibn Batuta called the islands Mahal Dibiyat (محل دبيأت) from the Arabic word Mahal ("palace"), which must be how the Berber traveller interpreted the local name, having been through Muslim North India, where Perso-Arabic words were introduced to the local vocabulary. This is the name currently inscribed on the scroll in the Maldive state emblem. The classical Persian/Arabic name for Maldives is Dibajat. The Dutch referred to the islands as the "Maldivische Eilanden" (pronounced [mɑlˈdivisə ˈɛi̯lɑndə(n)]), while the British anglicised the local name for the islands first to the "Maldive Islands" and later to the "Maldives".
Ancient history and settlement
Comparative studies of Maldivian oral, linguistic and cultural traditions and customs indicate that the first settlers were Dravidian people from Tamil Nadu in the Sangam period (300 BC–AD 300), most probably fishermen from the southwest coasts of what is now the south of the Indian Subcontinent and the western shores of Sri Lanka. One such community is the Giraavaru people descended from ancient Tamils. They are mentioned in ancient legends and local folklore about the establishment of the capital and kingly rule in Malé.
A strong underlying layer of Dravidian population and culture survives in Maldivian society, with a clear Dravidian-Malayalam substratum in the language, which also appears in place names, kinship terms, poetry, dance, and religious beliefs. Malabari seafaring culture led to Malayali settling of the Laccadives, and the Maldives were evidently viewed as an extension of that archipelago. Some argue (from the presence of Jat, Gujjar Titles and Gotra names) that Sindhis also accounted for an early layer of migration. Seafaring from Debal began during the Indus valley civilisation. The Jatakas and Puranas show abundant evidence of this maritime trade; the use of similar traditional boat building techniques in Northwestern South Asia and the Maldives, and the presence of silver punch mark coins from both regions, gives additional weight to this. There are minor signs of Southeast Asian settlers, probably some adrift from the main group of Austronesian reed boat migrants that settled Madagascar.
The earliest written history of the Maldives is marked by the arrival of Sinhalese people, who were descended from the exiled Magadha Prince Vijaya from the ancient city known as Sinhapura. He and his party of several hundred landed in Sri Lanka, and some in the Maldives circa 543 to 483 BC. According to the Mahavansa, one of the ships that sailed with Prince Vijaya, who went to Sri Lanka around 500 BC, went adrift and arrived at an island called Mahiladvipika, which is the Maldives. It is also said that at that time, the people from Mahiladvipika used to travel to Sri Lanka. Their settlement in Sri Lanka and the Maldives marks a significant change in demographics and the development of the Indo-Aryan language Dhivehi, which is most similar in grammar, phonology, and structure to Sinhala, and especially to the more ancient Elu Prakrit, which has less Pali.
Alternatively, it is believed that Vijaya and his clan came from western India – a claim supported by linguistic and cultural features, and specific descriptions in the epics themselves, e.g. that Vijaya visited Bharukaccha (Bharuch in Gujarat) in his ship on the voyage down south.
Philostorgius, a Greek historian of Late Antiquity, wrote of a hostage among the Romans, from the island called Diva, which is presumed to be the Maldives, who was baptised Theophilus. Theophilus was sent in the 350s to convert the Himyarites to Christianity, and went to his homeland from Arabia; he returned to Arabia, visited Axum, and settled in Antioch.
Buddhism came to the Maldives at the time of Emperor Ashoka's expansion, and became the dominant religion of the people of the Maldives until the 12th century AD. The ancient Maldivian Kings promoted Buddhism, and the first Maldive writings and artistic achievements, in the form of highly developed sculpture and architecture, are from that period. Before embracing Buddhism as their way of life, Maldivians had practised an ancient form of Hinduism, ritualistic traditions known as Śrauta, in the form of venerating the Surya (the ancient ruling caste were of Aadheetta or Suryavanshi origins).
The first archaeological study of the remains of early cultures in the Maldives began with the work of H.C.P. Bell, a British commissioner of the Ceylon Civil Service. Bell was first ordered to the islands in late 1879 he returned twice to the Maldives to investigate ancient ruins. He studied the ancient mounds, called havitta or ustubu (these names are derived from chaitiya and stupa) (Dhivehi: ހަވިއްތަ) by the Maldivians, which are found on many of the atolls. Although Bell asserted that the ancient Maldivians had followed Theravada Buddhism, many local Buddhist archaeological remains now in the Malé Museum in fact also display elements of Mahayana and Vajrayana iconography.
In the early 11th century, the Minicoy and Thiladhunmathi, and possibly other northern Atolls, were conquered by the medieval Chola Tamil emperor Raja Raja Chola I, thus becoming a part of the Chola Empire.
According to a legend from Maldivian folklore, in the early 12th century AD, a medieval prince named Koimala, a nobleman of the Lion Race from Sri Lanka, sailed to Rasgetheemu island (literally "Town of the Royal House", or figuratively "King's Town") in the North Maalhosmadulu Atoll, and from there to Malé, and established a kingdom. By then, the Aadeetta (Sun) Dynasty (the Suryavanshi ruling cast) had for some time ceased to rule in Malé, possibly because of invasions by the Cholas of Southern India in the 10th century. Koimala Kalou (Lord Koimala), who reigned as King Maanaabarana, was a king of the Homa (Lunar) Dynasty (the Chandravanshi ruling cast), which some historians call the House of Theemuge. The Homa (Lunar) dynasty sovereigns intermarried with the Aaditta (Sun) Dynasty. This is why the formal titles of Maldive kings until 1968 contained references to "kula sudha ira", which means "descended from the Moon and the Sun". No official record exists of the Aadeetta dynasty's reign. Since Koimala's reign, the Maldive throne was also known as the Singaasana (Lion Throne). Before then, and in some situations since, it was also known as the Saridhaaleys (Ivory Throne). Some historians credit Koimala with freeing the Maldives from Chola rule.
Several foreign travellers, mainly Arabs, had written about a kingdom of the Maldives ruled over by a queen. This kingdom pre-dated Koimala's reign. al-Idrisi, referring to earlier writers, mentions the name of one of the queens, Damahaar, who was a member of the Aadeetta (Sun) dynasty.
The conversion to Islam is mentioned in the edicts written in copper plates from the end of the 12th century AD.
The famous Moroccan traveller Ibn Batutta, who visited the Maldives in the 14th century, wrote how a Moroccan, one Abu Barakat the Berber, was believed to have been responsible for spreading Islam in the islands. Even though this report has been contested in later sources, it does explain some crucial aspects of Maldivian culture. For instance, historically Arabic has been the prime language of administration there, instead of the Persian and Urdu languages used in the nearby Muslim states. Another link to North Africa was the Maliki school of jurisprudence, used throughout most of North-Africa, which was the official one in the Maldives until the 17th century.
Some scholars have suggested the possibility of Ibn Battuta misreading Maldive texts, and have posited another scenario where this Abu Barakat might have been a native of Berbera, a significant trading port on the north western coast of Somalia. This scenario would also help explain the usage of the Arabic language and the predominance of the Maliki school on the islands.
Another interpretation, held by some of the islanders, is that Abu Barakat was an Iranian from Tabriz. In the Arabic script the words al-Barbari and al-Tabrizi are very much alike, owing to the fact that at the time, Arabic had several consonants that looked identical and could only be differentiated by overall context (this has since changed by addition of dots above or below letters to clarify pronunciation - For example, the letter "B" in modern Arabic has a dot below, whereas the letter "T" looks identical except there are two dots above it). The first reference to an Iranian origin dates to an 18th-century Persian text.
The Maldives was the first landfall for traders from Basrah, sailing to Sri Lanka or Southeast Asia. In the Maldives, ships could take on fresh water, fruit and the delicious, basket-smoked red flesh of the black bonito, a delicacy exported to Sindh, China and Yemen. The people of the archipelago were described as gentle, civilised and hospitable. They produced brass utensils as well as fine cotton textiles, exported in the form of sarongs and turban lengths. These local industries must have depended on imported raw materials.
The other essential product of the Maldives was coir, the fibre of the dried coconut husk. Cured in pits, beaten, spun and then twisted into cordage and ropes, coir's salient quality is its resistance to saltwater. It stitched together and rigged the dhows that plied the Indian Ocean. Maldivian coir was exported to Sindh, China, Yemen, and the Persian Gulf.
"It is stronger than hemp", wrote Ibn Battuta, "and is used to sew together the planks of Sindhi and Yemeni dhows, for this sea abounds in reefs, and if the planks were fastened with iron nails, they would break into pieces when the vessel hit a rock. The coir gives the boat greater elasticity, so that it doesn't break up."
British protectorate, 1887–1965
On 16 December 1887, the Sultan of the Maldives signed a contract with the British Governor of Ceylon turning the Maldives into a British protected state, thus giving up the islands' sovereignty in matters of foreign policy, but retaining internal self-government. The British government promised military protection and non-interference in local administration in exchange for an annual tribute, so that the islands were akin to an Indian princely state.
In 1953, there was an abortive attempt to form a republic, but the sultanate survived. In 1957 the British established an air base in the strategic southernmost atoll of Addu, paying £2000 a year, employing hundreds of locals. Nineteen years later, the British government (Labour's Harold Wilson) gave up the base, as it was too expensive to maintain.
In 1959, objecting to Ibrahim Nasir's centralism, the inhabitants of the three southernmost atolls protested against the government. They formed the United Suvadive Republic and elected Abdullah Afeef as president and chose Hithadhoo as capital of this republic. However, political infighting during the '70s between Nasir's faction and other political figures led to the 1975 arrest and exile of elected prime minister Ahmed Zaki to a remote atoll. Economic decline followed the closure of the British airfield at Gan and the collapse of the market for dried fish, an important export. With support for his administration faltering, Nasir fled to Singapore in 1978, with millions of dollars from the treasury.
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom began his 30-year role as President in 1978, winning six consecutive elections without opposition. His election was seen as ushering in a period of political stability and economic development in view of Gayoom's priority to develop the poorer islands. Tourism flourished and increased foreign contact spurred development. However, Gayoom's rule was controversial, with some critics saying Gayoom was an autocrat who quelled dissent by limiting freedoms and political favouritism.
A series of coup attempts (in 1980, 1983, and 1988) by Nasir supporters and business interests tried to topple the government without success. While the first two attempts met with little success, the 1988 coup attempt involved a roughly 80-person mercenary force of the PLOTE Tamil militant group who seized the airport and caused Gayoom to flee from house to house until the intervention of 1600 Indian troops airlifted into Malé restored order. The November 1988 coup was headed by Muhammadu Ibrahim Lutfee, a small-businessman. On the night of 3 November 1988, the Indian Air Force airlifted a parachute battalion group from Agra and flew them over 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) to the Maldives. The Indian paratroopers landed at Hulule and secured the airfield and restored the government rule at Malé within hours. The brief, bloodless operation, labelled Operation Cactus, also involved the Indian Navy.
On 26 December 2004, following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, the Maldives were devastated by a tsunami. Only nine islands were reported to have escaped any flooding, while fifty-seven islands faced serious damage to critical infrastructure, fourteen islands had to be totally evacuated, and six islands were destroyed. A further twenty-one resort islands were forced to close because of serious damage. The total damage was estimated at more than US$400 million, or some 62% of the GDP. 102 Maldivians and 6 foreigners reportedly died in the tsunami. The destructive impact of the waves on the low-lying islands was mitigated by the fact there was no continental shelf or land mass upon which the waves could gain height. The tallest waves were reported to be 14 feet (4.3 m) high.
During the later part of Gayoom's rule, independent political movements emerged in Maldives, which challenged the then-ruling Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (Maldivian People's Party) and demanded democratic reform. These movements brought about significant change in political structure. In 2008 a new constitution was approved and the first direct presidential elections occurred, which were won by Mohamed Nasheed and Mohammed Waheed Hassan (as Vice-President) in the second round. The 2009 parliamentary election saw the Maldivian Democratic Party of President Nasheed receive the most votes with 30.81%, gaining 26 seats, however the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party with 24.62% of the vote received the most seats (28).
The government of President Mohamed Nasheed faced many challenges, including the huge debts left by the previous government, the economic downturn following the 2004 tsunami, overspending (by means of overprinting of local currency rufiyaa) during his regime, unemployment, corruption, and increasing drug use.[unreliable source?]
Taxation on goods was imposed for the first time in the country, and import duties were reduced in many goods and services. Social welfare benefits were given to those above 65 years of age, single parents, and those with special needs. On 10 November 2008, Nasheed announced an intent to create a sovereign wealth fund with money earned from tourism that could be used to purchase land elsewhere for the Maldives people to relocate should rising sea levels due to climate change inundate the country. The government reportedly considered locations in Sri Lanka and India due to cultural and climate similarities, and as far away as Australia.
On 23 December 2011, the opposition held a mass symposium with as many as 20,000 people in the name of protecting Islam, which they believed Nasheed's government was unable to maintain in the country. The mass event became the foundation of a campaign that brought about social unrest within the capital city. On 16 January 2012, the Maldives military, on orders from the interior ministry, un-constitutionally arrested Judge Abdulla Mohamed, the chief justice of the Maldives Criminal Court, on charges he was blocking the prosecution of corruption and human rights cases against allies of former President Gayoom. On 7 February, Nasheed ordered the police and army to subdue the anti-government protesters and allegedly told them to use force against the public. Police came out to protest against the government instead.
President Mohamed Nasheed resigned on 7 February 2012 by letter, and followed that with a televised public address informing Maldivians of his resignation. Later Nasheed told foreign media that he was deposed by a military coup led by President Waheed. There have been disputes over exactly what happened that day. Nasheed's vice president, Mohammed Waheed Hassan, was sworn in as President in accordance with the Constitution at the Peoples majlis in front of the Chief Justice.
On 23 February 2012, the Commonwealth suspended the Maldives from its democracy and human rights watchdog while the ousting was being investigated, and backed Nasheed's call for elections before the end of 2012.
Though in March 2012 the new regime promised new elections; in April the state minister of foreign affairs announced that elections would not be held in the near future.
On 8 October, Nasheed was arrested after failing to appear in court to face charges that he ordered the illegal arrest of a judge while in office. However, his supporters claim that this detention was politically motivated in order to prevent him from campaigning for the 2013 presidential elections.
Maldives consists of 1,192 coral islands grouped in a double chain of 26 atolls, along the north-south direction, spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometres (35,000 sq mi), making this one of the world's most dispersed countries. It lies between latitudes 1°S and 8°N, and longitudes 72° and 74°E. The atolls are composed of live coral reefs and sand bars, situated atop a submarine ridge 960 kilometres (600 mi) long that rises abruptly from the depths of the Indian Ocean and runs north to south. Only near the southern end of this natural coral barricade do two open passages permit safe ship navigation from one side of the Indian Ocean to the other through the territorial waters of Maldives. For administrative purposes the Maldivian government organised these atolls into twenty one administrative divisions. The largest island of Maldives is Gan, which belongs to Laamu Atoll or Hahdhummathi Maldives. In Addu Atoll the westernmost islands are connected by roads over the reef (collectively called Link Road) and the total length of the road is 14 km (9 mi).
Maldives is the lowest country in the world, with maximum and average natural ground levels of only 2.4 metres (7 ft 10 in) and 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) above sea level, respectively. In areas where construction exists, however, this has been increased to several metres. More than 80 per cent of the country's land is composed of coral islands which rise less than one metre above sea level.
Protected areas of Maldives
The Maldives has a tropical-monsoon climate, which is affected by the large landmass of South Asia to the north. The presence of this landmass causes differential heating of land and water. These factors set off a rush of moisture-rich air from the Indian Ocean over South Asia, resulting in the southwest monsoon. Two seasons dominate Maldives' weather: the dry season associated with the winter northeastern monsoon and the rainy season which brings strong winds and storms.
The shift from the moist southwest monsoon to the dry northeast monsoon occurs during April and May. During this period, the northeast winds contribute to the formation of the northeast monsoon, which reaches Maldives in the beginning of June and lasts until the end of August. However, the weather patterns of Maldives do not always conform to the monsoon patterns of South Asia. The annual rainfall averages 254 centimetres (100 in) in the north and 381 centimetres (150 in) in the south.
|Climate data for Malé|
|Record high °C (°F)||32
|Average high °C (°F)||30.0
|Average low °C (°F)||27.4
|Record low °C (°F)||25
|Precipitation mm (inches)||75.2
|Avg. precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)||4.6||3.5||6.1||9.1||14.3||12.9||11.9||12.8||15.8||14.6||13.3||11.8||130.7|
|Average humidity (%)||78.0||77.0||76.9||78.1||80.8||80.7||79.1||80.5||81.0||81.7||82.2||80.9||79.7|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||248.0||259.9||279.0||246.0||223.2||201.0||226.3||210.8||201.0||235.6||225.0||220.1||2,778.2|
According to former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldives are ranked the third most endangered nation due to flooding from climate change. In March and April 2012, Nasheed stated: "If carbon emissions were to stop today, the planet would not see a difference for 60 to 70 years," Nasheed said. "If carbon emissions continue at the rate they are climbing today, my country will be underwater in seven years." He called for more climate change mitigation action while on the American television shows The Daily Show  and the Late Show with David Letterman.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2007 report predicted the upper limit of the sea level rises will be 59 centimetres (23 in) by 2100, which means that most of the republic's 200 inhabited islands may need to be abandoned. At least one study appears to show that the sea level in the Maldives dropped 20–30 centimetres (8–12 in) throughout the 1970s and '80s, although later studies failed to back this up.
In November 2008, President Mohamed Nasheed announced plans to look into purchasing new land in India, Sri Lanka, and Australia because of his concerns about global warming, and the possibility of much of the islands being inundated with water from rising sea levels. The purchase of land will be made from a fund generated by tourism. The President has explained his intentions: "We do not want to leave the Maldives, but we also do not want to be climate refugees living in tents for decades". On 22 April 2008, then President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom pleaded for a cut in global greenhouse gas emissions, warning that rising sea levels could submerge the island nation of Maldives.
By 2020, Maldives plans to eliminate or offset all of its greenhouse gas emissions. At the 2009 International Climate Talks, President Mohamed Nasheed explained that:
For us swearing off fossil fuels is not only the right thing to do, it is in our economic self-interest... Pioneering countries will free themselves from the unpredictable price of foreign oil; they will capitalize on the new green economy of the future, and they will enhance their moral standing giving them greater political influence on the world stage.
Other environmental issues include bad waste disposal and beach theft. Although the Maldives are kept relatively pristine and little litter can be found on the islands, no good waste disposal sites exist. Most trash from Male and other resorts is simply dumped at Thilafushi.
Maldivian waters are home to several ecosystems, but are most noted for their variety of colourful coral reefs, home to 1100 species of fish, 5 species of sea turtles, 21 species of whales and dolphins, 187 species of corals, 400 species of molluscs, and 83 species of echinoderms. Many crustacean species are there as well: 120 copepod, 15 amphipod as well as over 145 crab and 48 shrimp species.
Among the many marine families represented are Pufferfish, Fusiliers, Jackfish, Lionfish, Oriental Sweetlips, reef sharks, Groupers, Eels, Snappers, Bannerfish, Batfish, Humphead Wrasse, Spotted Eagle Rays, Scorpionfish, Lobsters, Nudibranches, Angelfish, Butterflyfish, Squirrelfish, Soldierfish, Glassfish, Surgeonfish, Unicornfish, Triggerfish, Napoleon wrasses, and Barracudas.
These coral reefs are home to a variety of marine ecosystems that vary from planktonic organisms to whale sharks. Sponges have gained importance as five species have displayed anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties.
In an effort to induce the regrowth of the reefs, scientists placed electrified cones anywhere from 20–60 feet (6.1–18.3 m) below the surface to provide a substrate for larval coral attachment. In 2004, scientists witnessed corals regenerating. Corals began to eject pink-orange eggs and sperm. The growth of these electrified corals was five times faster than ordinary corals. Scientist Azeez Hakim stated:
before 1998, we never thought that this reef would die. We had always taken for granted that these animals would be there, that this reef would be there forever. El Niño gave us a wake-up call that these things are not going to be there forever. Not only this, they also act as a natural barrier against the tropical storms, floods and tsunamis. Seaweeds grow on the skeletons of dead coral.
The corals reefs are like the rainforest for marine life.
Maldives is a presidential republic, with the President as head of government and head of state. The President heads the executive branch and appoints the cabinet which is approved by the People's Majlis (Parliament). Following the introduction of a new constitution in 2008, direct elections for the President take place every five years, with a limit of two terms in office for any individual. The current President is Abdulla Yameen. Members of the unicameral Majlis serve five-year terms, with the total number of members determined by atoll populations. At the 2009 election, 77 members were elected. The People's Majlis, located in Male, houses members from all over the country.
The republican constitution came into force in 1968, and was amended in 1970, 1972, and 1975. On 27 November 1997 it was replaced by another Constitution assented to by the President Gayoom. This Constitution came into force on 1 January 1998. All stated that the president was the Head of State, Head of Government and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and the Police of the Maldives. A third Constitution was ratified on 7 August 2008, which separated the judiciary from the head of state.
According to the Constitution of Maldives, "The judges are independent, and subject only to the Constitution and the law. When deciding matters on which the Constitution or the law is silent, judges must consider Islamic Shari'ah." Article 15 of the Act Number 1/81 (Penal Code) gives provision for hudud punishments. Article 156 of the constitution states that law includes the norms and provisions of sharia.
Islam is the official religion of the Maldives and open practice of any other religion is forbidden and liable to prosecution. Article 2 of the revised constitution says that the republic "is based on the principles of Islam." Article nine says that "a non-Muslim may not become a citizen"; Article ten says that "no law contrary to any principle of Islam can be applied". Article nineteen states that "citizens are free to participate in or carry out any activity that is not expressly prohibited by sharia [Islamic law] or by the law."
The requirement to adhere to a particular religion and prohibition of public worship following other religions is contrary to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Maldives has recently become party and was addressed in Maldives' reservation in adhering to the Covenant claiming that "The application of the principles set out in Article 18 of the Covenant shall be without prejudice to the Constitution of the Republic of the Maldives."
The Supreme Court of Maldives is headed by a Chief Justice, who is the head of judiciary. As of 2008 the President had appointed 5 judges, who were approved by the Parliament. The interim court will sit until a new permanent Supreme Court is nominated under the constitution. Underneath the Supreme Court sit a High Court and a Trial court. The constitution requires an odd number of judges in the High Court of Maldives, leading to the current three appointed justices. Verdicts must be reached by a majority, but must also include a minority report.
Magistrate courts are located in the administrative divisions of the atolls of the Maldives, with a Magistrate Court in each inhabited island. At the moment, there are 194 Magistrate Courts in the country.
An appointed Prosecutor General (PG) is responsible for initiating court proceedings on behalf of the government, overseeing how investigations are being conducted and having a say in criminal prosecutions, duties previously held by the Attorney General. The PG has the power to order investigations, monitor detentions, lodge appeals and review existing cases. The PG is appointed by the President and has to be approved by the Parliament.
The Maldives, in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), wrote the world's first Islamic criminal code. As of 2008 the code awaited action by the parliament.
In February 2013, the judiciary sentenced a fifteen-year-old girl to 100 lashes and house arrest for 8 months in Vilimale's orphanage for engaging in premarital sex. The international media caught the story when her fornication case came alongside her rape case. Charges were brought against her in 2012 after police investigated accusations that her stepfather had raped her and killed their baby. He is still to face trial. Prosecutors stated her conviction did not relate to the rape case; she was sentenced for fornication, "which is a different matter." The government said it did not agree with the punishment and that it would look into changing the law. The case generated a global petition which may damage the Maldivian tourism industry. Homosexuality and nudism are illegal in the country.
The Maldives ranks high on the list of governments that restrict religious freedom.
Since 1996, the Maldives has been the official progress monitor of the Indian Ocean Commission. In 2002, the Maldives began to express interest in the Commission but as of 2008 had not applied for membership. Maldive's interest relates to its identity as a small island state, especially economic development and environmental preservation, and its desire for closer relations with France, a main actor in the IOC region. The Maldives is a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, SAARC. The young Republic joined the Commonwealth in 1982, some 17 years after gaining independence from Great Britain. The Maldives enjoys close ties with Commonwealth members Seychelles and Mauritius. The Maldives and Comoros are also both members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
The Maldives National Defence Force is the combined security organisation responsible for defending the security and sovereignty of the Maldives, having the primary task of being responsible for attending to all internal and external security needs of the Maldives, including the protection of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the maintenance of peace and security. The MNDF component branches are the Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Special Forces, Service Corps and the Corps of Engineers.
As a water-bound nation much of the security concerns lie at sea. Almost 99% of the country is covered by sea and the remaining 1% land is scattered over an area of 800 km (497 mi) × 120 km (75 mi), with the largest island being not more than 8 km2 (3 sq mi). Therefore the duties assigned to the MNDF of maintaining surveillance over Maldives' waters and providing protection against foreign intruders poaching in the EEZ and territorial waters, are immense tasks from both logistical and economic view points; hence for carrying out these functions it is the Coast Guard that plays a vital role. To provide timely security its patrol boats are stationed at various MNDF Regional Headquarters; the Coast Guard is also assigned to respond to the maritime distress calls and to conduct search and rescue operations in a timely manner. Maritime pollution control exercises are conducted regularly on an annual basis for familiarization and handling of such hazardous situations.
Tourism is among the country's main sources of income.
The Maldives has twenty-six natural atolls and few island groups on isolated reefs, all of which have been divided into twenty-one administrative divisions (twenty administrative atolls and Malé city).
Each atoll is administered by an Atoll Chief (Atholhu Veriyaa) appointed by the President. The Ministry of Atoll Administration and its Northern and Southern Regional Offices, Atoll Offices and Island Offices are collectively responsible to the President for Atolls Administration. The administrative head of each island is the Island Chief (Katheeb), appointed by the President. The Island Chief's immediate superior is the Atoll Chief.
The Maldives has 7 provinces each consisting of the following administrative divisions (the capital Malé is its own administrative division):
- Mathi-Uthuru Province; consists of Haa Alif Atoll, Haa Dhaalu Atoll and Shaviyani Atoll.
- Uthuru Province; consists of Noonu Atoll, Raa Atoll, Baa Atoll and Lhaviyani Atoll.
- Medhu-Uthuru Province; consists of Kaafu Atoll, Alifu Alifu Atoll, Alifu Dhaalu Atoll and Vaavu Atoll.
- Medhu Province; consists of Meemu Atoll, Faafu Atoll and Dhaalu Atoll.
- Medhu-Dhekunu Province; consists of Thaa Atoll and Laamu Atoll.
- Mathi-Dhekunu Province; consists of Gaafu Alifu Atoll and Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll.
- Dhekunu Province; consists of Gnaviyani Atoll and Addu City.
In addition to a name, every administrative division is identified by the Maldivian code letters, such as "Haa Alif" for Thiladhunmati Uthuruburi (Thiladhunmathi North); and by a Latin code letter. The first corresponds to the geographical Maldivian name of the atoll; the second is a code adopted for convenience. As there are certain islands in different atolls that have the same name, for administrative purposes this code is quoted before the name of the island, for example: Baa Funadhoo, Kaafu Funadhoo, Gaafu-Alifu Funadhoo. Since most Atolls have very long geographical names it is also used whenever the long name is inconvenient, for example in the atoll website names.
The introduction of code-letter names has been a source of much puzzlement and misunderstandings, especially among foreigners. Many people have come to think that the code-letter of the administrative atoll is its new name and that it has replaced its geographical name. Under such circumstances it is hard to know which is the correct name to use.
In ancient times the Maldives were renowned for cowry shells, coir rope, dried tuna fish (Maldive Fish), ambergris (Maavaharu), and coco de mer (Tavakkaashi). Local and foreign trading ships used to load these products in Sri Lanka and transport them to other harbours in the Indian Ocean.
Historically Maldives provided enormous quantities of cowry shells, an international currency of the early ages. From the 2nd century AD the islands were known as the 'Money Isles' by the Arabs. Monetaria moneta were used for centuries as a currency in Africa, and huge amounts of Maldivian cowries were introduced into Africa by western nations during the period of slave trade. The cowry is now the symbol of the Maldives Monetary Authority.
The Maldivian government began an economic reform program in 1989, initially by lifting import quotas and opening some exports to the private sector. Subsequently, it has liberalised regulations to allow more foreign investment. Real GDP growth averaged over 7.5% per year for more than a decade. Today, the Maldives' largest industry is tourism, accounting for 28% of GDP and more than 60% of the Maldives' foreign exchange receipts. Fishing is the second leading sector.
The Maldivian economy is to a large degree based on tourism. In late December 2004, the major tsunami left more than 100 dead, 12,000 displaced, and property damage exceeding $400 million. As a result of the tsunami, the GDP contracted by about 3.6% in 2005. A rebound in tourism, post-tsunami reconstruction, and development of new resorts helped the economy recover quickly and showed an 18% increase on 2006. 2013 estimates show Maldivians enjoy the highest GDP (PPP) per capita $11,900 (2013 est) among south Asian countries.
Agriculture and manufacturing continue to play a lesser role in the economy, constrained by the limited availability of cultivable land and the shortage of domestic labour. Tourism gave a major boost to the country's fledgling traditional cottage industries such as mat weaving, lacquer work, handicraft, and coir rope making. New industries that have since emerged include printing, production of PVC pipes, brick making, marine engine repairs, bottling of aerated water, and garment production.
The Maldives remained largely unknown to tourists until the early 1970s. Only 185 islands are home to its 300,000 inhabitants. The other islands are used entirely for economic purposes, of which tourism and agriculture are the most dominant. Tourism accounts for 28% of the GDP and more than 60% of the Maldives' foreign exchange receipts. Over 90% of government tax revenue comes from import duties and tourism-related taxes. The development of tourism fostered the overall growth of the country's economy. It created direct and indirect employment and income generation opportunities in other related industries. The first tourist resorts were opened in 1972 with Bandos island resort and Kurumba Village (the current name is Kurumba Maldives), which transformed the Maldives economy.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, the emergence of tourism in 1972 transformed the economy, moving rapidly from dependence on fisheries to tourism. In just three and a half decades, the industry became the main source of income. Tourism was also the country's biggest foreign currency earner and the single largest contributor to the GDP. As of 2008, 89 resorts in the Maldives offered over 17,000 beds and hosted over 600,000 tourists annually.
The number of resorts increased from 2 to 92 between 1972 and 2007. As of 2007, over 8,380,000 tourists had visited Maldives. Visitors to Maldives do not need to apply for a visa pre-arrival, regardless of their country of origin, provided they have a valid passport, proof of onward travel, and the money to be self-sufficient while in the country.
Most visitors arrive at Malé International Airport, on Hulhulé Island, adjacent to the capital Malé. The airport is served by flights to India, Sri Lanka, Doha, Dubai, Singapore, Istanbul, and major airports in South-East Asia, as well as charters from Europe. Gan Airport, on the southern atoll of Addu, also serves an international flight to Milan several times a week. British Airways offer direct flights to the Maldives around 2–3 times per week.
For many centuries the Maldivian economy was entirely dependent on fishing and other marine products. Fishing remains the main occupation of the people and the government gives priority to the fisheries sector.
The mechanisation of the traditional fishing boat called dhoni in 1974 was a major milestone in the development of the fisheries industry. A fish canning plant was installed on Felivaru in 1977, as a joint venture with a Japanese firm. In 1979, a Fisheries Advisory Board was set up with the mandate of advising the government on policy guidelines for the overall development of the fisheries sector. Manpower development programs began in the early 1980s, and fisheries education was incorporated into the school curriculum. Fish aggregating devices and navigational aids were located at various strategic points. Moreover, the opening up of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Maldives for fisheries has further enhanced the growth of the fisheries sector.
As of 2010, fisheries contributed over 15% of the country's GDP and engaged about 30% of the country's work force. Fisheries were also the second-largest foreign exchange earner after tourism.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (April 2012)|
The Maldivian ethnic identity is a blend of the cultures reflecting the peoples who settled on the islands, reinforced by religion and language. The earliest settlers were probably from southern India and Sri Lanka. They are linguistically and ethnically related to the people in the Indian subcontinent. They are ethnically known as Dhivehis.
Some social stratification exists on the islands. It is not rigid, since rank is based on varied factors, including occupation, wealth, Islamic virtue, and family ties. Instead of a complex caste system, there was merely a distinction between noble (bēfulhu) and common people in the Maldives. Members of the social elite are concentrated in Malé.
The population doubled by 1978, and the population growth rate peaked at 3.4% in 1985. At the 2006 census, the population had reached 298,968, although the census in 2000 showed that the population growth rate had declined to 1.9%. Life expectancy at birth stood at 46 years in 1978, and later rose to 72. Infant mortality has declined from 12.7% in 1977 to 1.2% today, and adult literacy reached 99%. Combined school enrollment reached the high 90s. The population was projected to have reached 317,280 in 2010. Within an area of 298 km2 this gives a population density of 1,065/km2. To get this in a wider context, an average population density of 53/km2 was found for the "World (land only, excluding Antarctica)" in Wikipedia's List of sovereign states and dependent territories by population density based on data from July 5, 2014.
As of April 2008, more than 70,000 foreign employees, along with 33,000 illegal immigrants, comprised more than one third of the Maldivian population.
After the long Buddhist period of Maldivian history, Muslim traders introduced Sunni Islam. Maldivians converted to Islam by the mid-12th century. The islands has had a long history of Sufic orders, as can be seen in the history of the country such as the building of tombs. They were used until as recently as the 1980s for seeking the help of buried Saints. They can be seen today next to some old mosques and are considered today as cultural heritage. Other aspects of tassawuf, such as ritualised dhikr ceremonies called Maulūdu (Mawlid)—the liturgy of which included recitations and certain supplications in a melodical tone—existed until very recent times. These Maulūdu festivals were held in ornate tents specially built for the occasion. At present Sunni Islam is the official religion of the entire population, as adherence to it is required for citizenship.
According to Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta, the person responsible for this conversion was a Sunni Muslim visitor named Abu al Barakat sailing from Morocco. He is also referred to as Tabrizugefaanu. His venerated tomb now stands on the grounds of the Friday Mosque, or Hukuru miskiy, in Malé. Built in 1656, this is the country's oldest mosque.
The official and common language is Dhivehi, an Indo-Aryan language having some similarities with Elu, the ancient Sinhalese language. The first known script used to write Dhivehi is Eveyla akuru script which is found in historical recording of kings (raadhavalhi). Later a script called Dhives akuru was used for a long period. The present-day script is called Thaana and is written from right to left. Thaana is said to have been introduced by the reign of Mohamed Thakurufaanu. English is used widely in commerce and increasingly in government schools.
Largest cities or towns in Maldives
by registered population as of July 4, 2012
|2||Addu City||Addu Atoll||31,999|
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (October 2011)|
Since the 12th century AD there were also influences from Arabia in the language and culture of the Maldives because of the conversion to Islam and its location as a crossroads in the central Indian Ocean. This was due to the long trading history between the far east and the middle east. Somali travellers discovered the island for gold in the 13th century, before the Portuguese. Their brief stay later ended in a bloody conflict known by the Somalis as "Dagaal Diig Badaaney" in 1424.
However, unlike the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka and most of the Arabs, Africans and Europeans whose influence can be seen in borrow-words, material culture, and the diversity of Maldivian phenotype, Maldivians do not have the highly embedded patriarchal codes of honor, purity, corporate marriage, and sedentary private property that are typical of places where agriculture is the key form of subsistence and social relations have been built, historically, around tribute taking.
Reflective of this is the fact that the Maldives has had the highest national divorce rate in the world for many decades. This, it is hypothesized, is due to a combination of liberal Islamic rules about divorce and the relatively loose marital bonds that have been identified as common in non and semi-sedentary peoples without a history of fully developed agrarian property and kinship relations.
Ibrahim Nasir International Airport is the principal gateway to the Maldives. International travel is available on a number of major airlines. Two Maldives based airlines also operate international flights. Privately owned MEGA Maldives Airlines has Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft and operates frequent services to Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Government owned Island Aviation Services (branded as Maldivian) operates to nearly all of Maldives domestic airports with several Dash-8 aircraft and one A320 with international service to Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram, India, and Dhaka, Bangladesh.
In Maldives there are three main ways to move around: by domestic flight, by seaplane or by boat. For several years there were two seaplanes companies operating: TMA, Trans Maldivian Airways, and Maldivian Air Taxi, but these merged in 2013 under the name TMA. The seaplane fleet is entirely made up of DHC-6 "Twin Otters." There is also another airline, flyMe, which operates using ATRs to domestic airports, principally Maamagili and some others. The typical Maldivian boat is called dhoni. Depending on the distance of the destination island to the airport, resorts organise domestic flight plus boat transfers, seaplane flights directly to the resort island jetty, or speedboat trips for their guests. There are also locally run ferries by large dhoni boats. Speedboats and seaplanes tend to be more expensive, while travel by dhoni, although longer, is relatively cheaper.
The Maldives National University was inaugurated on February 15, 2011. Previously known as the Maldives College of Higher Education, it was established on January 1 1999, as part of a restructuring and rationalization of all government-run post-secondary education in Maldives. It is the only public degree-granting institution on the nation and offers a range of degrees, diplomas, and certificates, with particular emphasis on engineering, health science, education, tourism, and management.
- Outline of Maldives
- Index of Maldives-related articles
- Commonwealth of Nations
- List of island countries
- Dhivehi: ދިވެހިރާއްޖޭގެ ޖުމްހޫރިއްޔާ Dhivehi Raa'jeyge Jumhooriyya
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