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23.02.2009 Feature Article

Maldives, a nation towards democratic practice

Maldives is one of the founder members of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and this islands nation has past a very glorious history and of course heading to a democratic governance and social system.

As of ancient history of South Asia, the region had at least five clusters of civilization i.e. the Indus valley civilization of north-west, Ganga-Jamuna-Sawrashwati civilization of center, Barak-Brahmaputra civilization of east, Kuvery-Mohanadi civilization of south and Islands based civilization. Today's Maldives is the part of ancient Islands based civilization, which was the extension of sub-continent.

Historian told that as early as 2,000 B.C. Maldives lay on the maritime trading routes of early Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Indus Valley civilizations. Scholars working on Maldivian history believe that early sun-worshipping seafarers, called the Redin, first settled on the islands. But it is yet to be decided that what the root of this anthropological group is.

Even today, many mosques in Maldives face the sun, lending credence to this theory. Because building space and materials were scarce, successive cultures constructed their places of worship on the foundations of previous buildings. Historians thus surmise that these sun-facing mosques were built on the ancient foundations of the Redin culture temples.

In present day Maldives, there is an elected presidency that is the focal point of all administrative functions. Before that this nation has experienced the mix up process with Sinhala and main land civilization in ancient age and Arab-Local mix up at early medieval period. Europeans like Portuguese, Dutch and British had also ruled the small country for a substantial period of time. Maldives gained independence in mid 60s 0f last century from the British colonial power. From this point the country has gone through the rules of sultan and dictator-like president.

Presently Maldives has at least 12 political parties; these are Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Islamic Democratic Party (IDP),Justice Party (Adhaalath Party) (AP), Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Maldives National Congress (MNC), Maldives Social Democratic Party (MSDP), National Alliance (Gaumii Ithihaad), People's Alliance (PA), People's Party (PP), Poverty Alleviating Party (PAP), Social Liberal Party (SLP) and Republican Party (Jumhooree Party) (JP). New president Mohamed Nasheed popularly known as Anni, who elected in 2008 represents MDP and he is one of the founder of this party as well. His predecessor Mamun Abdul Gayum ruled the nation for three decades and as per rights activists, he was a dictator-like president who never loved any opposition opinion.

While politics is concerned, Mohamed Nasheed, the president of the country, is a preacher of democracy and rights. The open activities of the political parties is the reflection of democratic practice, it should be cited. In this view, it could be said that the small nation of South Asia is heading to build a society and political system, which will ensure the rights of individual and state must not be an oppressive one.

As an economy Maldives is not a very large one but it has an important role in the business of Indian Ocean for its geographical position. This country has also a very rich trading history. In olden times, the islands provided the main source of Cowrie Shells, then used as currency throughout Asia and parts of the East African coast. That was the beginning of their trading. In present time tourism, fishing, agriculture and industry are the sectors contributing to the gross national productions.

Tourism is the largest industry in the Maldives, accounting for 20% of GDP and more than 60% of the Maldives' foreign exchange receipts. It powered the current GDP per capita to expand 265% in the 1980s and a further 115% in the 1990s. Over 90% of government tax revenue flows in from import duties and tourism-related taxes. Fishing is the second leading sector in the Maldives. Agriculture and manufacturing play a minor role in the economy, constrained by the limited availability of cultivable land and shortage of domestic labor. Industry in the Maldives consists mainly of garment production, boat building, and handicrafts. It accounts for about 18% of GDP. Maldivian authorities are concerned about the impact of erosion and possible global warming in the low-lying country.

President Mohamed Nasheed is also a preacher of liberal economic policy. A speech of Mohamed Nasheed delivered on January 03, 2003 in Colombo, Sri Lanka reflects his liberal approach towards foreign investment. In his speech Maldivian president stated that 'I can go on and on but the message is very simple Maldives is open for business and you can very safely come and invest in it.'

Lastly, one thing should be mentioned that citizen living in peripheral islands are not benefited equally in comparison to capital male dwellers. Besides this many malpractices are yet prevailing in the social power structure. For the new president the most important challenge is ensuring social justice to all. For this the president should go for a very special social reform program.

Mohoshin Abbas
Mohoshin Abbas, © 2009

This author has authored 26 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: MohoshinAbbas

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