The archipelago of the Maldives in the
middle of the Indian Ocean is a natural spectacle. Over the
past 30 years, it has become one of the most thriving and
sought-after holiday destinations in the world. It is the
economic lifeblood of the Maldives, contributing to more than
30% of the GDP, accounting for 70% of foreign currency earned
and 40% percent of the government's budgetary resources.1
The island nation of Maldives has been in existence for over
2000 years.2 Until early
20th Century, Maldives was ruled by royalty – kings, queens
and sultans. Maldives became a Republic and gained
independence from the British in 1965. The first recorded
constitution was adopted in 1932. The local traditions and
cultures are deep-rooted and people in Maldives are generally
content and happy.
The regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom in the Maldives is the
world's only "secret" dictatorship. Gayyoom has been in power
for the last 25 years and has no intention of relinquishing
power or reforming his brutal methods. Human rights groups,
including Amnesty International have frequently raised the
issue of Gayyoom's methods and practices. The international
media has also highlighted these concerns but to no avail.
Key characteristics of this tyranny are, rampant nepotism,
suppression of any form of political opposition, complete
control of media and communication, arbitrary arrests, torture
and death in custody, endemic corruption and misuse of public
funds, intimidation of the parliament reducing it to a
rubberstamp body, ballot rigging and total mismanagement of
The government of Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom
does not tolerate any
form or level of opposition. All forms
of communication and media are fully controlled or influenced
by the government. A single word against the government, and
people will end up in detention. Many are held in solitary
confinement for years without charges while others are given
life sentences passed at grossly unfair trials.4
Arbitrary detention of government critics is common. Although
freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution, this
regime undermines it and there are an estimated 20 or more
political prisoners in the Maldives. Some of them have been
detained without charge for over two years. Amnesty
International has a history of these acts of violence and
human rights abuses in the Maldives as highlighted in their
A further detailed report has also been released by the
American State Department emphasising these activities.5
However, it is common practice of the National Security
Service (NSS) to torture people during interrogation and when
serving time at the island prisons of the Maldives. Personal
accounts of such atrocities and crimes have now being detailed
and published yet this government appears relentless in its
pursuit of hanging onto power at any cost.
Recent instances of gross negligence of human rights Of such
incidents of brutality, the latest act by the regime was to
conceal and justify the torture and murder of 4 young inmates
at Maafushi Island prison. A 22 year old man was beaten to
death by police guards in the jail for insisting that his
basic rights be respected. Investigations have revealed that
on the night of 19th September 2003, 12 police guards beat
Eevan Naseem so brutally that he died of his injuries at the
scene of the crime. There was no part of his body that had not
sustained broken bones, cigarette-burn marks and extensive
bruising resulting from severe haemorrhaging.
Naseem's fellow inmates heard about his death and they rioted
the next day. In an attempt to quell the riot, the police
opened fire indiscriminately and 18 of them were shot, out of
which three were killed. The authorities attempted to bury the
dead discretely. This did not go according to plan because
people went to the cemetery and the hospital to find out the
truth about the whole incident. The government had by then
twisted the story, and said that those who were killed were
attempting to break free from the jail and that the
authorities had no choice but to contain them by shooting at
Riots followed in Male' resulting in government buildings
including police stations, the High Court and the elections
office being burnt down by a crowd outraged by the incident.
An inquiry into the death of Eevan Naseem has revealed that he
had done nothing to deserve punishment,6
and the shootings of 18 inmates on 20th September, resulting
in the death of a further three inmates were acts of gross
negligence and breakdown of executive power.7
There is no excuse for this excessive use of firearms in a
detention centre. On 20th September, when the dead and injured
people were brought to Male', the whole island was in disarray
and many went out on a rampage expressing their outrage at
police brutality. None of this was reported by any public
media, which is controlled by the government.
On 13th February 2004, the government of Maldives unlawfully
arrested several members and supporters of the Maldivian
Democratic Party (MDP), who were organising a peaceful march
in the capital island of Male'. On 12th February, the
government enforced a curfew, during which time NSS thugs
without a warrant entered several houses and arrested MDP
council members, members of their families, as well as
well-wishers. This occurred minutes after the MDP general
council election results were announced. Amnesty International
condemned this act forcefully.8
Pictures from the Maafushi
Jail Shooting incident Maldives
20th September 2003;3 inmates were killed and 16 were injured. These
pictures have never been seen before.
Click here to view pictures
Tourism in Maldives
Visitors must know the truth about this
'holiday heaven on earth'. Thousands of wealthy tourists flock
every year to these exquisite islands in the Indian Ocean for
the holiday of a life time. Blue skies above, crystal clear
warm water, white coral sand beneath the feet – Paradise! But
this sparkling image of perfection is very far from being the
Most of the resorts in the Maldives are developed near the
capital island of Male' and located in this vicinity are some
of the most spectacular resorts in the Maldives such as Cocoa
Island, Kandooma Beach Resort and Fun Island Resort. In the
midst these idyllic island is the notorious prison island of
If only those holidaymakers on Cocoa Island, Kandooma and Fun
Island Resort knew what was happening on the nearby island of
Maafushi! They would have wondered what the cracking distant
gunfire meant. Little did they know that while they were
enjoying an evening of peace and tranquillity on a moonlight
beach in a Maldives resort, a young boy was begging for his
life as he was being beaten to death savagely until his chest
bones caved in rupturing his lungs. How would they feel if
they knew that whilst they were soaking the sun and enjoying
the warmth of the clear blue sea, in the next island people
were being shot and killed indiscriminately for expressing
outrage at the murder of a young Maldivian?
This is just one of the many reasons why people who visit
Maldives must be told the truth about this regime.
State and the Justice
The justice system in the Maldives is
not independent of the President. This makes the system prone
to his influence by the executive.9
Amendments to the constitution are required to implement a
balanced and fair justice system. The state consists of the
executive, the legislature and the judiciary. However, the
president who is the executive also appoints the
speaker of the Majlis as well as 8 members of the 50 member
Majlis, giving him enormous power. Most independent MP's are
constantly harassed and intimidated by the government. In
addition, the power of administrating justice is vested in the
Powers of the
The executive powers rendered to the
president of the Maldives are quite astonishing. It is common
knowledge in the Maldives that the current constitution was
compiled and adopted in an atmosphere of intimidation and fear
so the members of the parliament were not able to have their
say in the amendments that were adopted.
The democratic process of electing the head of state in the
Maldives is quite unfair and leaves much room for corruption
and influence by the executive. Hence the results of elections
are not truly representative of the people's broad view.
Positions filled by President Gayyoom include the following
among many others:
1. President (the executive).
2. Commander-in-Chief of the National Security Service (NSS).
3. Highest judiciary authority.
4. Minister of Defence and National Security.
5. Minister of Finance and Treasury.
6. Governor of the Central Bank (Maldives Monetary Authority).
The National Security Service is not
doing its proper job. Its commander-in-chief, the president,
has created an ethos within NSS that his protection is their
paramount duty, not the security and protection of the people.
It is a police state.
Education, Health and
Nearly 70% of the population of Maldives
is under the age of 35. The growing student population
requires more schools and a more accountable education system
providing opportunities for all. In the current system, the
government is unable to provide even advance level GCSC A
Level to those finishing O Level exams.
In addition, there are more community schools than government
schools, and in in some islands there is no opportunity to
even complete primary education.
Instead of investments in schools and so forth, the Gayyoom
regime attaches more importance to building his personal
palaces, holiday retreats and the purchase of luxury items
such as yachts and his Mercedes Benz cars.
In the health sector, the general population does not have
adequate facilities. There is one main government-owned
hospital in Male and a couple of regional hospitals. For any
major health problem, Maldivians usually go to India for
treatment. Most people tend ask around for donations and help
from friends and family to pay for these medical trips to
India. Maldive philanthropists spend a substantial amount in
this sector. The cost of healthcare is also not comparable to
the income levels of the ordinary people.
Other social services including utilities are extremely
expensive and people are not able to afford to live a
comfortable life in spite of having a normal job working 10
-12 hours a day. The government and the private sector need to
reform the system urgently and come up with a minimum wage in
accordance with the levels of inflation.
Currently the average monthly salary of Rf2000 (US$155) is
barely enough to pay the bills, and this is the average income
of full time government and private sector employees.
Housing in Male' and most islands also require to be
overhauled and made affordable. Government also needs to stop
being in competition with private firms in all sectors.
Nepotism and corruption play a major role in construction.
The government has complete control of
the media, the television, the radio and all newspapers and
magazines in the country. The state owns the TV and Radio
stations whilst all three major papers are owned by cabinet
ministers and the brother-in-law of the President.
Anything contrary to the government line does not appear on
any medium, and all dissident websites are blocked by the
government controlled Dhiraagu server. It is therefore a
criminal offence, apparently, to try and reach out to the
people with the aim of informing them the truth about the
activities of this regime.
Life imprisonment is common for those who write or promote a
view which opposes that of the government. The situation is
unbearable considering this is the 21st century. The people of
Maldives deserve better treatment and more freedom, after all
it is a country with an adopted constitution and it is a
republic. There are more than three journalists incarcerated
for expressing their opinions.
It is paramount to have a reaction to
every action. The purpose of a political party is to represent
the ideals of a group of people in a society as a uniform
voice, and endeavour to govern their country with an adopted
set of objectives, uphold the rule of law and respect for each
other, allowing freedom of expression and association. A
nationally recognised critic to the government will be the
party or parties in opposition. This will ensure that the
party in government will always have people of the same
calibre to scrutinise their actions. Political pluralism is
needed to achieve a high standard of social justice and
In 2001, an eminent group of 42 people including members of
parliament, a former cabinet minister, leading businessmen,
academics, feminists and popular sports stars came together to
form a political party under the name of Maldivian Democratic
Party (MDP). However the Gayyoom regime refused to grant this
fundamental right of political association, in blatant
violation of the constitution.
After this refusal and the September 2003 uprising following
the torture, shooting and murder of inmates by the National
Security Service, a number of people from the original 42 and
many other new-comers investigated other possibilities for
political association as a party. Having decided that the only
viable option was to declare the party as an entity in exile,
on 10 November 2003 the Maldivian Democratic Party started its
operations in neighbouring Sri Lanka. Since then MDP have made
much progress. Membership has increased and it has received
international recognition and financial contributions from
members, supporters and sympathizers.
Soon after voting finished for the MDP council on 13 February
2004, the regime conducted a brutal crackdown. Many members of
the council, their families and supporters were blindfolded,
handcuffed, manhandled and arrested. The party planned a
peaceful demonstration to deliver a letter to President
Gayyoom on 14 February 2004, to inform him of the new
developments surrounding the party. However this was
pre-empted by the wave of mass arrests.
The MDP will now endeavour to work with all parties,
governments, non-governmental organisations and individuals to
pressure the government of Maldives to allow political
pluralism and respect human rights in the country. Today the
party operates out of both the UK and Sri Lanka.
Challenging the government of Maumoon in
any way or form is treated by the regime as either a threat to
national security or character assassination of the president
himself, resulting in life imprisonment with years of solitary
confinement. Until the sad events of September 2003, most
dissidents remained silent. However, this is not the case now,
and MDP members and supporters are lobbying across the globe
to find a solution to the desperate plea of the people of
Listed below are 4 members of the MDP general council, who
make up the current international delegation.
Member of the General Council.
Born: 17th May 1967 in Male'.
Education: BSc. Maritime Studies, Liverpool University. UK
Work Experience: Member of the MDP General Council 2004,
Director of the Oriental Academic Centre, Male' 2001, Member
of Maldives majlis 1999-2001, Director of Safari Tours
Publications: Author of many Dhivehi and English books, novels
and newspaper articles.
Mohamed Nasheed has been an active critic of Maumoon Abdul
Gayyoom and has been in solitary confinement for over 24
months over the past 15 years. He has operated in the
political life of Maldives since he returned to Maldives after
studying in England. Nasheed is one of the founding members of
Member of the General Council.
Born: 24th January 1957 in Male'.
Education: English Preparatory & Secondary School, Male'.
Maldives Work Experience: Member of the MDP general council
2004, Campaign Manager for Mohamed Nasheed in 1999 Majlis
elections, Director of Aries Enterprises Private Limited in
Maldives since 1981.
Ahmed Mausoon has been an active voice in the pro-democracy
movement in the Maldives over the past 10 years.
Ahmed Shafeeq Ibrahim Moosa
Member of the MDP general council.
Born: 4 November 1968 in Male'.
Education: PhD research (1995-1998) Impact and Fracture
Behaviour of Polymer Bead Forms, Birmingham University; M
Phil. Eng. (1997) Metallurgy & Materials, Birmingham
University; B Eng. Hons. (1995) Mechanical Engineering,
UK Work Experience: Member of the MDP general council 2004;
Director of Horizon Fisheries Private Limited 2003; Consultant
for the Chairman, Villa Group of Companies, Maldives
1998-2003; Chairman and Managing Director of 'A' Company
Private Limited Maldives 1999; Internet and Business
consultant; Senior Engineer with Maldives Transport and
Contracting Company 1998-2003.
Publications: Scientific publications in Journal of Cellular
Plastics and Polymer Testing; author of newspaper articles and
papers, and editor of the Dhivehi Observer news internet site.
Sappe has been engaged in pro-democracy activities in Maldives
since his return from the UK in 1998. He now lives in exile in
the UK after making condemning the current government of the
Maldives in a BBC report recorded in Male' in October 2003.
Member of the MDP general council.
Born: 4 April 1953.
Education: Majeediyaa School, Male'.
Work experience: Member of the MDP general council 2004;
Artist and Communications consultant 1996; Arts and Crafts,
Stirling, Scotland 1993-1996; Website design and development;
Development Communication Project in Bangladesh and Maldives
1985-1990; Management Sector, Tourism Industry 1979-1985;
Program Producer, Television Maldives 1976-1979.
Ahmed Naseer is a prominent artist and poet. He has been a
lifelong activist for human rights and democracy. Naseer's
work has been exhibited in Maldives, Sri Lanka and in
Scotland. He was also an active member of Mohamed Nasheed's
general parliamentary election campaign in 1999.
Key areas of concern
1. Human rights abuses in the Maldives
must be made known to the world. International pressure can
bring an end to these practices.
2. The government of Maldives is expected to receive
substantial aid and loan aids amounting to approximately 55
million dollars in 2004. This represents 17.7% of the total
budget. This indicates that the government of the Maldives
must be willing to listen to donor countries and that these
countries can lobby and pressure the government of Maldives to
treat its citizens more fairly and more humanely.
3. The Maldive tourism industry is very much dependent on
investments provided by international tour operators. This
gives the tour operators a powerful position to pressure the
government to be more humane in their activities and uphold
human rights in the Maldives. These tour operators must play
an ethical role in the future of Maldives and contribute to
the well being of the Maldivian people.
4. The wealth distribution in the Maldives is grossly unfair
and the income disparity is substantial. The majority of
Maldivians do not benefit from the tourism industry. Most
resorts employ foreign expatriates for management and other
high level jobs, and employ local Maldivians for the lower
tasks such as waiters, room boys and cleaning jobs.
5. Resort businesses are mostly leased to the same group of
elites, time and time again. These are the 'favourites' of the
regime and are treated with preference for all contracts.
6. The business industry is heavily regulated and government
corruption is making it very difficult for new investors to
enter the market. Bribery is the only tool with which
operating licenses can be obtained and the only way an
investor can remain in business. The tourism industry is the
most corrupt industry in the Maldives.
7. The business formula for the economy as a whole can be
improved much further by allowing small businesses to prosper
and develop. All resort owners have a stake in supporting
sectors, which reduces the potential for new Maldivian
business to enter the tourism economy. The Government is
directly competing with small businesses in importing, which
is a major supporting sector for the tourism industry.
Engaging in resort supply and logistics is a highly
monopolised and unfair business system.
8. Due to the strict regulations set by resort owners, working
hours for the employees are sometimes very long (12 hour
shifts or longer). Resort workers spend long periods away from
their families on their native islands which contributes
significantly to the weakening of family structures. There is
a fear of losing your job if you request too many visits to
In many cases, the resort management are not on friendly terms
with adjacent islands and therefore people from these islands
are not employed in the local resorts.
9. Political pluralism in the Maldives is not only discouraged
but forbidden. Solitary confinement and imprisonment is common
for dissidents and opponents of the government. Political
parties are banned in the Maldives despite freedom of
expression and political association being a fundamental right
enshrined in the constitution.9
People working in the tourism industry are unable to express
their concerns in any way or form, and just have to accept all
and every regulation imposed on them. Resort owners force
their employees to vote for a particular candidate in
parliamentary and presidential referendum ballots, which is a
serious infringement on their basic rights.
The way forward
International community must pressure
the government of Maldives to adhere to international norms
and standards in dealing with its people and human rights
abuses, torture and death in custody must cease immediately.
The Maldivian government must reform itself and allow the rule
of law to be upheld. It must restructure the industry and
regulate it in such a way that the wealth is distributed more
evenly amongst the population of the Maldives.
We believe that countries with diplomatic and trade links with
the Maldives must bear some responsibility for this and they
should contribute to bring about this much needed change and
reform. The unethical and brutal behaviour of this dictatorial
regime is taking the Maldives into a very unsettled future.
Many have suffered indignity and financial hardships at the
expense of wealth creation for the family and friends of the
regime. Tour operators have a moral obligation to work with us
to promote a more humane and ethical agenda in tourism in the
In view of the desperate situation of the people of Maldives,
we believe that the international community will lend their
support and assistance. Presently councillors of the party are
in the UK to seek support and assistance for the party from
the UK government, foreign diplomats and NGO's working in the
The MDP has met with British and Commonwealth Foreign office
officials and members of the British Parliament, as well as
media personnel who have all shown a commitment to the cause.
Several questions have been raised at the British Parliament.
An MDP delegation will be travelling to Geneva, New York,
Rome, Berlin and other major cities to lobby for international
pressure on the tyrannical government of Maldives. The MDP is
asking all international communities to intervene in the
political situation in Maldives and pressure the current
government to show respect for human rights and regard for the
rule of law.
About the report
This report is prepared by the Maldivian
Democratic Party. MDP would like to thank those persons who
have rendered various forms and degrees of assistance, and
expresses its sincere gratitude to them. Many people have
helped the MDP in Male', while being fully aware of the
dangers they faced if the Gayyoom regime ever found out of
The Truth : Gayyoom is
Editor in Chief, Dhivehi
Observer,30th August 2004
19 September 2003
Eevan Naseem beaten to death by 12
policemen whilst serving a sentence in
Maafushi Jail. Evan's mother has been
detained several times because she
complained about the murder. Similar
incidents went unreported in Maldives.
This was just too much for the majority
of people and confirmed the fear people
20 September 2003
Riots broke out in Jail as cell mates
were angered about the murder of Eevan
Naseem. Today Police shot 19 inmates, 3
of whom died and others were
severely injured. People of Male' also
rioted and torched police stations. A
state of emergency declared. Gayyoom was
defiant and lied to the people.
17th October 2003
BBC World Service report by Adam Mynott
exposed the darker side of Maldives.
Proof that economic prosperity
at the expense of basic human rights. Gayyoom accused BBC of misleading
the world. Maldivians condemned Gayyoom
openly for the first time in this report
because they had run out of patience.
Maldivian Democratic Party launched in
exile in Colombo. Party members began
work in exile by lobbying across
the world promoting the right to better
life and democracy for Maldivians. Party
publishes news letters. Secretariat
Office opened in Colombo and London. MDP
is now recognised worldwide.
9th June 2004
After mounting pressure from dissidents
and foreign governments, Gayyoom
announced a reform agenda, which was
what the reformists have been asking, for
the last 20 years. It is unthinkable that a
nation would willingly support an
29th June 2004
Maldivians for the first time debated
and discussed democracy and party
politics openly. This was unprecedented
and there were several acts of defiance
such as calling for Gayyoom's
resignation. It was banned later as
Gayyoom could not stand criticism.
19th July 2004
Another unprecedented act showing the
strength of the people of Maldives. 23
MPs of the Constitutional assembly
worked out of the parliament in defiance
because attempted to undermine the
constitution of the Maldives by the
As Gayyoom banned reform debates and
assemblies, people started gathering
near the tetrapod monument in the
eastern corner of Male'. This was banned
on 8th August. Over the next 2 days 4
reformists were arrested. Gayyoom takes
the law into his hands.
Sheik Fareed was in the Court today. It
was revealed that he was going to be
sentenced for life. He was held in
solitary confinement for 2 years. His
friends and supporters gathered around
the justice building. Later they walked
around Male' in defiance.
12th August 2004
Fifth member of the reform movement was
taken into custody today. People started
gathering near Police HQ in Republican
Square. By midnight there were over
10,000 people demanding for the release
of the 5 reformists who were arrested in
the past 2 days.
Around 2 am 5 reformists were released
as demanded by the crowd. The crowd then
demanded the release of other political
prisoners and called for the resignation
of the President. By 3 in the afternoon,
Police pounded on the crowd and arrested
Gayyoom continues to arrest more people.
Police brutality has been beyond
comprehension. More than 600 people are
in detention now, including 11 members
of the constitutional assembly.
International media critical. Gayyoom
denies any wrong doings as well as
The Washington Times - Maldives 2002
2. Clarence Maloney, People
of the Maldive Islands, Orient Longman, India 1980.
MDP Press Release 20/02/2004
4. Republic of Maldives Repression of peaceful political
Amnesty International Report AI INDEX: ASA 29/002/2003 30 July
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2003 Released
by Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, 25 February
Investigative findings on the death of Hassan Evan Naseem
- Presidential Commission.
Investigative findings on the incident of shooting at Maafushi
Jail - Presidential Commission.
Maldives: yet another crackdown on peaceful political activity
- Amnesty International press release, 13 February 2004.
Constitution of Maldives (unofficial translation by