Golden Jubilee of Independence: The journey of Maldives
Those never oppressed by slavery will not understand the sweet taste of independence. There is nothing more distressing than being under the control of another in your own land. The Republic of Maldives, located in the Indian Ocean, consists of a double chain of 20 atolls that lie between Minicoy Island and the Chagos Archipelago. But before the days of a republic, the tiny island nation suffered through years under the rule of outside forces.
128 years ago, on December 16, 1887, Maldives was officially taken under the protective rule of Britain. 78 years later, the country gained independence on July 26, 1965. July 26, a joyous occasion, is marked as the country’s Independence Day. On 2015 Maldives marked the golden jubilee of independence for the country.
Prior to independence
History shows that, until the 12th Century AD, in 1153 Maldives practiced Buddhism and prior to that an ancient form of Hinduism. But late in the year of 1153 the country embraced Islam and has since maintained values of 100 percent Muslim practices and teachings. Following this, came 3 separate incidences where the people were forced under the rule of foreign forces; dark days for the people, as its existence, freedom, peace and sovereignty were at stake.
The first were the Portuguese, who ruled savagely and mercilessly for 15 years from 1955 and in the mid-seventeenth century the Dutch. The British took Maldives under protective rule in an 1887 agreement which gave them power over the Maldivian external relations and defense.
Under British rule, our predecessors began the efforts to gain independence for evident reasons which included large cultural and economic losses. It was also the love for freedom and patriotism, which ultimately resulted in the sweet taste of sovereignty.
Some argue that British for an extent did the right thing, but those who experienced “protective rule” were the only ones who could fathom the feeling of being imprisoned in their own homeland.
After Independence; Development
Following independence, the country became a member of the United Nations. Efforts began to strengthen social services throughout the country.
The country established its first international airport and introduced tourism. Fisheries processing and packaging factories were established, fish products were and still are the main exports of the country. The country kept expanding an English curriculum education system and soon began radio broadcasting, and a couple of years later the first TV channel began telecasts. Health centres & regional hospitals were being set up.
The country established international relations and joined international organizations including the Commonwealth and South Asian association for regional corporation SAARC. Foreign investments were increasing in the country.
During 1980 – 1988 Maldives experienced a series of attempted coups. While the first two attempts failed, the 1988 coup attempt involved a roughly 80-person mercenary force of the PLOTE Tamil militant group who seized the airport until the intervention by 1600 Indian troops restored order. The attempted coup left 14 dead and 40 injured, including civilians and military officers.
In the beginning of the new millennium, the living standard of citizens was being improved through various housing projects introduced in the country. One of these projects included the Hulhumale’ Development Project, which saw reclamation of land in the lagoon adjacent to Capital Male’. This was a huge step ahead, as one-third of 350,000 population resided in the capital.
On August 7, 2008, the country laid the foundation to introduce democratic governance in the country by the ratification of the new Constitution. This was followed by the first multi-party elections in the country. Then President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was defeated by opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed. The new Constitution enshrines human rights and many other democratic values including separation of powers and introduction of much needed legislation.
The administration of President Nasheed was mainly oriented on implementing people and rights based policies. Transportation services between islands were strengthened, which was utmost necessary as 99 percent of the country was ocean. National health insurance scheme, social protection allowances; including old age pension, single mother’s allowances and allowance for disabled individuals were introduced. Furthermore a Privatization Board was launched, integrating local companies to participate in providing services for residents.
Even though the country is the small, geographically and population-wise, the country has gained many achievements internationally. It is a strong advocate of mitigating the adverse effects of climate change. It has achieved many other developmental goals.
A report released by UNICEF Maldives, the country has also made significant progress towards achieving most of the Millennium Development Goals. It added that these notable achievements demonstrate robust development with a strong commitment to the social sectors, particularly health and education. “Maldives has achieved five out of the eight MDGs ahead of the 2015 deadline, making it South Asia’s only “MDG+” country. Progress has been substantial in eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases – UNICEF
Next to tourism, fisheries industry is the second highest contributor to the economy via exports of fish to Europe, Asia and Middle East. It contributes 15 percent to the GDP. Statistics also reveal that the country has the highest GDP per capita in the Asian region. The country also has a 98 percent literacy rate.
Some of the most recent development ventures by the country include proposed Male’-Hulhule’ Bridge Project, establishment of Special Economic Zones and second phase of Hulhumale Development Project and Development of Velanaa International Airport. All islands have health services and educational institutes. The country has more than 10 airports, and regional sea ports.
Referring to the country’s effort to develop and expand economically, President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom said “the government will prioritize maintaining country’s peace, sovereignty and independence above everything else. President noted that the government will ensure its policies not would not affect the independence of the nation.”
Celebrations are just held to commemorate the feat for the country but we believe true independence is ensuring that the country does not go under the influence of an outside power, its ensuring development, enabling foreign relations without losing one’s cultures, values and beliefs.