The recent change of administration in the country raises a lot of interesting questions. Already the vanquished MDP party has determined that the former president Anni was unseated by a military (or a civilian?) coup. The opposition claims otherwise. So who is telling the truth and who is lying? Or could it be that this situation has also joined the philosophical realm where both truth and falsehood are somehow intertwined?
So we leave our friends and fellow resort workers to answer these questions below. If they are pro MDP then they may answer the “If so” questions. The rest may answer the “If not” questions…
- Who are the coup leaders? A few private police boys cannot hide after doing such a big thing.
- What were the motivation? Over work? Fatigue? Could be because there has been almost constant nightly demonstrations prior to the fateful day.
- Are the police and military same minded? Remember, there is only HQ for all our forces.
- There are allegations that police and military were bribed. But they are also highly paid, so who would have financed the big bribery campaign? How much could be the tipping point for a serviceman/woman? We understand that the average monthly salary of our armed forces personnel is higher than 1000$ per month.
- Why did it took a huge MDP congress meeting to realize that it was a coup?
- Why did the MDP congress hastily pass a resolution to block the line of communication with the current administration and called it illegitimate?
- Why did the police allow massive damage to their facilities in the islands? We understand that more than 9 regional police and military facilities were torched by angry MDP mobs. More than 30 police and military vehicles have also been torched in Addu alone, most of them have only recently been donated by China for the SAARC summit.
- Did the command structure broke down after the coup? Does that happen after the military win? After they win why did they gave command again to an unpopular president and an even more unpopular and ineffectual opposition coalition?
- Why did the police use excessive force to breakup the first strike after Anni was unseated?
- Why did they (who?) changed the official TV channel (MNBC1) to its former name (TVM)?
- Why did they hastily gave ownership of all government media to opposition media regulatory body MBC?
- Why did the criminal court issue an arrest warrant for former president Mohamed Nasheed (Anni)?
- Why is the parliament (still on vacation) uncharacteristically quiet when these massive developments happen? MDP has the majority even in the parliament now and yet they seem to unable to cut their all important holiday short– when the country is literally burning.
The long expected devaluation of local currency Rufiya has happened with an official range of 10.28rf to 15.42rf per 1$ announced yesterday. The immediate implications of this exchange hike would be a jump in consumer goods prices so one Rufiya would have less buying power than it had one day ago. This measure was enacted by president Anni with consultations of financial experts to curb a thriving black market for dollars at higher than official figures for exchange rate. The official storyline is that although there will be a lift in consumer goods prices in the short term, the crisis will pass and that dollar to Rufiya rate will fluctuate on a daily basis and everyone will live happily ever after. However with the current political realities its difficult to believe this measure will go unchallenged by the opposition.
The implications of this dollar exchange rate will be negatively felt by resort workers in resorts where the staff are paid their salaries in Rufiyas. Although there is no real reason for resorts to pay salaries in Rufiyas, several resort do exactly that. This is despite the fact that all the revenues generated in the resorts are foreign currency.
The construction industry will also be affected by this exchange rate measures, which hopefully will consider offering more work opportunities for local workers. The current model for construction industry is to employ illegal immigrant workers at near extortion rates for back breaking work and to employ only illegal immigrant workers (because they will be unlikely to pursue their rights in official channels) to do the job all the while saying local talent is unavailable. Nothing can be further from truth. Locals are as or more willing to work for a reasonable pay which the ‘construction industry’ does not seem inclined to give.
Ultimately, the solution to dollar shortage in the country is to adopt more financial reform measures which will be fought with on every step of the way by our opposition political parties which has only mission in office; to oppose the government weather its right or wrong!
Velezini, the reformist voice in Judicial Services Commission was stabbed in broad day light, in one of the busiest streets in the country and yet the attackers fled the scene never to be found again. Just last night there came another report of a stabbing, this time a police officer was stabbed by some gang near IGMH. Of course the attackers are unlikely to be found or even if found unlikely to receive any punishment for their violence. Male’ being so tiny as it is one wonders how can these daring crimes happen in broad day light and where the responsibility lies for preventing these crimes or making Male’ a safe place for common people live.
Of course it is easy to point at somebody and blame him/or her or for this shameful failing. But are we not all to blame for this? Do we all not have a stake in making Male’ and our other islands a safe place for fellow human beings?
- Commenting on this story and similar stories in the past many commented rightfully that this is not the first such incident. Indeed people had been killed in broad daylight in the streets of Male’ by gangs. What the authorities had done to make Male’ or our other islands safe clearly doesn’t seem to work.
- Whilst other advanced countries were debating putting on cameras on the streets, or subjecting the population to use id cards or the use of electric stun guns, our law enforcement agencies have been using these instruments freely and yet we do not seem to be able to control this criminality in our less than 3 sq km island city. This is not to say that there were modest improvements over a period of time, but the general public’s patience for tolerating these crimes have dropped to zero. What remains is only despair and helplessness.
- The popular ignorant view that these ‘small crimes’ were done by boys… is another factor. These are not small crimes, these are big crimes committed by criminals. Its not boys or girls playing here. If they are playing then they are playing with peoples lives, people who have families, who are loved and cared by their families and those who loved them. The proof of this wrong assumption is well summed up in Velezini’s facebook update which she updates from her bed reading “The boys who committed the attack are simply tools of those who fear the truth and its’ consequences to them…” Nor is Velezini the only one who uses this false assumption. Our president Anni regularly uses this term ‘boys’ to refer to these criminals objects. This is one basic thing which has to change if we really want to confront this criminality.
Although Tomato ( sorry Matato) claims otherwise, there will be absolutely be NO damage to the reputation of Maldives by agreeing to resettle Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Here are the reasons.
- Most resorts in Maldives are geared for high spenders rather than budget spenders who have their own businesses, professions and generally their heads with them. So they could not possibly be unaware of world politics or ramifications of it.
- Guantanamo Bay is not a terrorist camp or a training ground for terrorists. Rather its a place that came to be associated with the wrongful policies of the last US president whose successor is making good on his election promises to close down the place to show the ethical and humane side of American values. World media knows this and any measure to close down the camp will be cheered in any part of the globe.
- Our Obama (sorry, our president Mr. Anni) may not have always aligned his political steering to the correct compass direction but this time the president is correct. Absolutely correct to ZERO decimals without error. Assisting fellow human beings who happened to be caught in a global battle without an end in sight, is the responsibility of all respectable people of the world.
- Its the opposition politics which is taking advantage of the ignorance of the masses to gather support for their parties which is creating all this fuss about the move to resettle the POWs which has no basis whatsoever. Our president Anni showed considerable courage (far more than is generally necessary) in cutting short the reporters who are questioning this move because the media can make or break a country. In this case, the opposition is using media to the hilt to discredit a rather commendable move by the president.
- Maldives Association for Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) which is different from tomato (of course!) are not experts of world politics, terrorism, tourism or anything. These are just individuals (locals) who make a life selling package holidays to unwary tourists who might not have come across big names of world famous tour operators who operate in Maldives. Top brands in tour operations in the world knows the value of their statements to media so they generally refrain from commenting on issues without prior knowledge. Moreover these Tomatoes (sorry MATATOs) are the most worker unfriendly people who works in the tourism industry. Generally they make a living by their fancy websites (to unwary guests of course ) while we the workers resort workers tarry with the guests.
- The Tomatos (sorry MATATO) said that certain countries issued travel warnings to Maldives citing “internal conflicts and linking terrorism to Maldives.” these are just claims which has absolutely no basis. Even the specific wording they used has nothing to link this to the recent decision by the government to resettle Guantanamo Bay prisoners. What it has if anything was the fact that the former government of Maumoon committed the big mistake of smearing the name of the country by claiming to the world media about the presence of terrorism and terrorist camps in the country. These were of course lies to win in the presidential election by playing the “fear” card which thankfully backfired.
Below is the link to country specific information about Maldives which is certainly not issuing cautions against visiting the country.
US Department of State
Here is the world alert page by State Department which also does not contain advice to boycott our country’s tourism.
Below is the link of MATATO board members
The couch potatoes.. sorry MATATO
Lets begin at the beginning.
His Excellency Mohamed Amin Didi was our first president and he is said to be the founder of the present “Republic” that Maldives is. Many important initiatives like formal education, creation of main roads in the islands are credited to him. However His Excellency’s rule was short lived and was brutally murdered by a mob. Despite his revolutionary and progressive governance, he does not associate himself with the common men and was elitist in appearance and style. It maybe one of his undoings of which clearly there were many. Mahatma Gandi was also educated but in Oxford and yet, to associate with the common populace, he wore clothes like a beggar. At that time Amin Didi was in power, few men in the ‘republic’ had the wherewithal to wear a shirt or anything to cover their bodies. Yet Amin Didi always wore either military uniforms or western attire…
Ibrahim Nasir was the second president after a brief spell of kingdom of Hassan Fareed. Ibrahim Nasir was a president brought to power by the elitist power brokers in Male’ and was not well loved or respected during his whole reign. Nor did he need love or popularity of the common people as he based his rule on fear and intimidation. Its said that he did not use bodyguards and walked the streets of Male’ alone and unattended yet it was common knowledge that His Excellency was not a person to be messed with. At the time his dictatorship only knew force, violence and torture to solve most of the cases. At the time political dissenters disappearances were not uncommon and prison inmates were routinely tortured sometimes to death. The most poignant example of Nasir’s notoriousness was shown on the occasion when he depopulated the island of Thinadhoo because Thinadhoo islanders allied themselves with the short-lived Suvadive government.
The current government’s effort to portray Nasir as a proper president making best of a rough situation, not as a dictator seems to be an effort to chip away the popularity of his predecessor Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom. Its commonly used tactic in politics to discredit an entity by presenting competing further entities which seems to be the case.
In the short lived Suvadive government (in Addu), the president was Afif Didi and he reigned in tumultuous times. During the short reign of Suvadiva, they were able to do pretty much everything a new country aught to do save perhaps the efforts to consolidate on what was achieved and to move forward. There were many reasons for their failure and on a personal level Afif Didi was more popular, loved and respected by his countrymen than any other. Most of the factors that lead to their ultimate defeat of the Suvadive Republic were possibly beyond their power. The involvement of the British and the Male’ government’s unwilling to let go of the souther three islands were certainly factors. The leadership of Afeef Didi on a personal level was impeccable but there were elements of aristocracy and elitism which would not have gone down well with the freedom loving masses.
Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom comes from an aristocratic family in Male’ and was pushed into presidential hot seat (it was much colder then…) by the favor of his predecessor Nasir. Under his rule lots of good and bad things happened and the list of his presidential mistakes were indeed long. Although a lot of propaganda goes both ways, the fact that he nurtured a personality cult and was a nepotist is true. Further mistakes would involve curbing freedom of expression, imprisonment and harassment of the Ulema. One of the most damning things for which Maumoon will be remembered is for his extravagant life style which is summed up in the gold decorated toilet in the Presidential Palace at Theemuge.
The incumbent president Mohamed Nasheed entered to the list of the presidents on popular vote after defeating his predecessor Maumoon in the first “real ballots” this country has seen (possibly) for the first time. Prior to coming power, he was a constant (and consistent) thorn for Maumoon’s government, forming a broad based popular opposition and basically twisting the Maumoon’s arm while he was still in power. After coming to power with a coalition of partners, Anni was lauded for his prudent economic policies which in his own words were in a state of jaahiliyya. It might be too early to state the full list of Anni’s presidential mistakes but there are indications that the once grass-roots president is loosing touch with the roots and bowing to pressure from the elitists in his party. The issues are social and religious which Anni used not to dictate in principle but at the insistence of the aristocracy and his inner circle of party members, the president is getting into uncertain waters. Adhaalth party which is the political partner of ruling MDP, consists of the most respected religious leaders of the country is increasing coming under pressure from the elitist camp in MDP which is basically trying to set the agenda on how Anni operates. It maybe Anni’s undoing for letting this vocal minority influence his relationship with Adhaalath Party which is in a position to make or break who will ask for votes come the next election.
enumerating the mistakes:
1) Signing agreements and pacts with Israel which by world’s consensus is the most roguish state currently in existence. This is the same country which uses the passports UK citizens to murder people in other countries despite the fact UK is the country which actually gave birth to Israel and is closest to them save the US.
2) Trying to legalize sale of wine in inhabited islands which was revoked by mass protests. The front for the issue was city hotel business but was actually done to placate the wishes of the MDP party backers who were linked with the Holiday Inn hotel in Male’.
3) Seeking help for Islamic sharia from Germany which is ironic as this country is still respected by world’s Muslims as one of the few surviving 100% Muslim countries in the world. The idea is not actually to seek help for sharia but perhaps some financial gains which was given cold shoulder by Germany, as Islam and Europe do not mix. Its currently not acceptable political language in Europe to talk about Islam to the chancellor.
4) Aligning with and giving his moral backing and support to a vocal minority of secular elitists from his party activists and others. Democratic principles is firmly on the side of majority and the majority of this country still has not signed up to secularism.
Less than 24 hours after the infamous gang leader (Chica) was released there were 2 incidents of violent crime directed against news paper workers just for covering the story. Now one wonders what is happening to this country? Are we in Mexico fighting the drug war? Despite our military spending which tops even the oil rich Kuwait and Nato member Turkey as a %age of GDP, why are our armed forces not capable of controlling this thuggery in the less than 2 square kilo meter island?
To answer these questions lets analyze the context.
The problem in Mexico is about money. Mexico is bordering USA which has a big affluent market for drugs which means money in billions. But here in Maldives that context is not there. Our ‘little drug barons’ are not dealing in billions. Compared to Mexican drug dealers the likes of Chika are pimps. But the problem is why they are so powerful. Why were some of them alleged to have been protected in the past? In the case of Chicka it was alleged he was the henchman of the then “brigadier general” (a comical title..) Adam Zahir. After the transfer of power from Maumoon to Anni that protection may not be there but still they are able to intimidate witnesses, take advantage of amendments to law which were made possible only after the transition to democracy, claim the right to remain silent and have the courts re-examine the whole investigation process to manipulate the charges etc..
In our Majlis debates frequent references are made to USA as a standard bearer of many things like process, protocols etc. But those who remark on those issues fails to acknowledge that USA has a very effective history of asserting their national interests over any other principle be it the judicial process, international relations or whatever. If the USA finds a person a threat to their ‘national interest’ anywhere in the world, they will not hesitate to snatch or kidnap, detain or even assassinate that person. That is all justified under their national interest. Coming back to Maldives such realization of threat to national interest does not seem to be evident. We have had our courts throw out cases against money launderers simply because a clause in the constitution did not explicitly spell out the word ‘counterfeit money”. We have also witnessed recently how a well known ‘drug dealer’ was let free after the court failed to find fault for lack of adequate evidences despite there being lots of questions on the case. The court in effect dismissed a high profile drug dealer on a technicality. If we are to do things the American way these drug dealers might not ever be sent to court if they knew courts will release them. They might even create a special court to convict such people. However the most effective way to deal with the drug dealers is the Chinese way.
The potential for violence lies in gangsterism as well as religious extremism. In the current situation in our country, we seems to have overlooked the first one which is proliferation of gangs and gang warfare. Many deaths were claimed (closer to 50) to the gang violence in the last 3 years and each time the public simply has to absorb the shock and grief of the event. Those in authority who are charged with keeping law and order simply are not doing their job and giving themselves medals and honors and fancy titles. The situation is so bad that many areas in Male’ are simply no-go areas during the night and when the gangsters are visible on the street corner. Many homes are simply virtual prisons for their inhabitants and the occupants of the house only venturing out after calling a taxi or maybe a group of friends.
The religious extremism issue is simply a trumped up issue by the authorities to divert the attention of their own culpability. The only real violence which can ever be attributed to religious intolerance in Maldives was the home made explosive device some dejected youths detonated in our “Sultan Park” injuring a few tourists. The incident happened because of the then government’s intransigence on a local issue which is the Himandhoo mosque issue. The locals only wanted not to worship in a government designated mosque, which the locals knew was constructed on a graveyard but the government sent the “military forces” for successive 3 years (Each time in the holy fasting month) to force the worshipers out from a modest small mosque they have constructed. In the last ensuing battle with the locals and the forces our country was injured big time when foreign media took up the issue and tarnished our country’s beautiful image as a peaceful country.
We the resort workers are very apolitical a group of people but we also have ideas of our own and families back home who would be affected by the politics around us. We take it as matters of concern the issues of work and wage weather we are resort workers or civil servants. In the category of work, we are all in the same boat.
Time as always is short for us in resort life so a few points are in order…
On the issue of cutting government staff salary, the president seems to be wrong.. here is why. (saying this much would have been akin to blesphemy only a year ago!)
- The process was rushed. Some committees were arranged hastily to do meetings and come up with advise to the cabinet which was hastily given and hastily taken. Should not have been.
- People were not informed and legitimate concerns doesn’t seem to have been addressed.
- Ramazan is just around the corner, so the time is obviously wrong.
- The Majlis people earn a very fat salary and the government with its half of MPs and with a concerted effort could start with them first. However the bill to trim their salary was put forward by the majority people and was turned down by everyone else saying it was gimmic to fulfil campaign promises (which is also true!)
- Cutting cost is good and becoming efficeint is very good but we shall not go after the easy targets like hardworking people’s salaries etc.
- This is especially so in a politically polarized atmosphere where both the government and opposition is weak and can be used to pick on each other.
- The government is trying to be saintly by doing painful sacrifices while hoping others will follow which will not happen.
- There are indeed many other ways the government can cut costs and dramatically reduce wastage but those who are already mired in wasteful practices who were assimilated to positions responsible for cutting costs cannot register it. Fresh faces and purposeful well meaning people can do the job although such people are in short supply. Another way would be to involve the people in the islands and atolls (not the big shots from eminient families of the island… ) to come up with a list of measures which can be implemented to do this.
- The use of media (state media for that matter) for promoting a just cause could not be wrong. However in the zeal (or zest?) for pure democracy the government is seeming to be shying away from media as it doesn’t want to be seen controlling the media like as was the case with the past regime. This is understandable but does anybody have time learn from committing mistakes and learning from them again?
- In this case the math that is involved in this cost cutting is not explained. For example if 5% cost cut was implemented on civil servants who number 20000 with an average of 3000rf per month, the savings would be 3 million ruffiyaas. Which is what? Roughly the equivalent of a fish dhoni built on fiber glass… Evidently not engough to raise the ire of a large number of people. The numbers are imaginary but the point is the media should have been used to inform the people on how much would be saved. And how the saved money would benefit the people.
Do you agree? If you would like to agree to disagree then please comment below here!
After a long many years …at last the island of Villingili is finally open with Shangri la, a world famous brand. It has long been a wish of the people of Addu that the island of Villingili become a source of income for the people of Addu and yet for many years this wish was just not fulfilled. Addu is the second most populous atoll after Male’ despite which, has seen not sufficient benefit of tourism like the islands in Kaafu and Alif atolls. The easy way is to blame everything on the politics but the truth of the matter is Villingili is still counting on many things to go right in the future and at a time when the world economies are struggling with demons the size of swimming pools… (poetically said that is). Nor will Addu see substantial increase of wealth directly related to tourism as many things will still have to take place to do that…. BUT minister Sawad was optimistic in predicting an eventful 5 years ahead for tourism and we would like to believe him. At the moment we seem to be in the bottom of the pit and hopefully there will only be a way up..
Anyways Our best wishes and prayers for the success of Shangri la Villingili and prosperity for the good people of Addu.
some info about the island from http://www.hospitalitynet.org & etc
>over 6km of coastline & nearly 2km of beach.
>is 3km long island
>12 hectares of lush vegetation
>17,000 coconut trees
> 45 species of plants.
>comprise of 142 spacious stand-alone villas
>The villas will be a minimum of 133 square metres in size
> the two presidential villas will measure up to 957 square metres each
>16 luxury tree house villas, a first for the Maldives, perched on stilts offering a special three-metre high perspective of the island through tropical foliage. The tree house villas, with separate bedroom and living room, will measure 218 square metres, each with its own private pool.
>The inaugural ceremony held at the resort was attended by Tourism Minister Dr. Ahmed Ali Sawaadh , State Minister for Southern Province Mohamed Naseer , senior management of the resort and leading dignitaries of the atoll.
>President Anni is expected to visit the resort on 28 July.
Ibrahim Firushan member Empoyment Tribunal
President Anni has appointed a Mr Ibrahim Firushan for the membership of the Labour Tribunal.
In the president’s website there is next to no info about Firushan and it contains the following diplomatic nonsense…
“Mr Firushan took his oath of office before the President at a ceremony held this morning at the President’s Office. The oath was administered by Supreme Court judge Abdulla Areef.
Speaking at the ceremony, the President noted that Labour Tribunal plays an important role in the economic and developmental sphere. Speaking in this regard, the President urged members of the Labour Tribunal to keep this consideration in mind while fulfilling their responsibilities.”
After that nothing…
President Anni Inaugurated Irufushi Yesterday afternoon. The name of the resort is to be Hilton Maldives Irufushi Resort and Spa and is located in Milandhunmadulu south atoll. The resort is “owned” by Sun Hotels Ahmed Shiyam Mohammed and leased to Hilton to operate.
Speaking in the ceremony the president talked about the same smooth words neccessary for such an occasion namely the importance of keeping aside the differences, making personal sacrifices because of the global meltdown and about environment.. Notably the president also hinted on good management practices which is a good thing as most resorts seem to lack such practices if asked from a typical resort worker. However Hilton is reknown for good management practices as is the case to some extent all the big hotel chains. The last time president Anni spoke about such issues was in Four Seasons Kuda Huraa where in effect he is said to have said that his countrymen needs more training and education to work in the field of tourism.
The effects of Maldives being the world’s first carbon neutral country to the global environment as a whole will be minimal, but to the country the effects will be felt and felt strongly. The government has not yet revealed a comprehensive plan about how they intend to achieve this target and is believed to be working on plans to implement the works as soon as the studies are ready. One advantage we in the Maldives have over others is our country’s small size when we intend to go 100% green and the government just seems to have grasped only this notion out of the whole picture and is trying to make do with a grand project.
As the plans are yet to be formulated we shall take the liberty of musing to ourselves how this target is to be achieved. However the context has to be applied here in the divided politics of our country and it has to be remembered that all voices on this matter do not sing to the same tune. The reason is simple. For years Maldives was dominated by a president who played the environmental card to the foreign media to mask the growing unrest at home and in the process has done much to raise awareness of the public to the environmental issues at hand. The people were made to believe that the then president Gayoom was the inventor of green politics. After his electoral defeat and once Anni became president those who supported the former president has come to believe Anni is no body but a copy cat stealing Gayoom’s policies. There might or might not be substance to that view but at least thats some context to the issue at hand.
Now if the government does indeed want to become carbon neutral (which they pledged) the very first step could be to shut down the diesel generators in various islands and to build a national power grid most of which would be submerged on the seabed connecting all the roughly 200 inhabited islands of the country. The grid will be powered by a few select power stations which could be anything from wave power, solar and wind farms. Alternate ways to produce power such as wave and solar current technologies has been tested and proven to be effective in the country.
Next the transport sector shall be made greener by urging the people to use less diesel and petrol and make more use of electric bikes scooter , cars and buggies etc. The islands of Maldives being small and as there are few roads built, the “need for speed” shall be curbed. Simply put there is nowhere to drive a 1200cc petrol guzzler as its forbidden to drive faster than 30km per hour and that much speed can easily be attained by a battery powered vehicle. Here as a policy what the government would have to do is to ask the people to make sacrifices on personal preferences in favor of their policies or the common good of humankind. Incentives shall be offered to battery powered vehicles to make them attractive for the people who by now are used to fast petrol powered bikes. etc.
Vehicles running on bio fuel does not seem to be a good choice as the recent food crisis in various parts of the globe was attributed farmers switching to bio fuel producing plants from food producing plants. Not that what we choose here in Maldives would have any effect in terms of global supply or demand of bio fuel products but atleast avoiding the bio fuel would be putting up a principled stand on a moral issue.
Buying our electric power needs from India of Sri Lanka via a submarine cable could be an option if technology and feasibility allows it. This could be an option if what we are able to produce here in our country by alternative means could be insufficient considering such factors as maintenance of the production systems and the demand on land such power production would take, as land is very much in a premium here. India already exports power in this manner to Bhutan and has recently signed with Sri Lanka in a deal to export power there which in the first phase (about 2 years from now) would supply about 500MW of power upgrade-able to 1GW in 4 years time.
Countries across the world are thinking big when it comes to their visions for future. In the EU and US a collective recognition that they are still using the same basic design Edison crafted as his bulb got them thinking and at last they are going to ban the bulb. The incandescent bulb that is. Beyond 2015 such bulbs as we use in our lamps will be collectors item. In the fast paced Singapore they have become absolutely fed up with everything low tech and they have decided to do something about it. They are going high tech and going about it big. From day to day electronic items to invisible public infrastructure devices, everything is going to be connected, networked and integrated with high tech and thinking machine capabilities. Just a few days back analog TV signals were switched off for good across the United States after 6 decades of continuous duty replaced by smoother, higher definition digital technology which does the same, only much better. The same process has been going on in the UK albeit slower paced giving ample time for people to do the final switch over in 2012. Here in the Maldives we also have an ambitious plan. Recently our president Mr. Nasheed announced to the world that Maldives will be the first carbon neutral country in the world. The time frame is 10 years and hopefully by the end of 10 years we shall have been able to swith over from diesel generators to other renewable sources of energy. And we are not speculating about the future.
Coming back to the present we have the small matter of digitally haves and have nots. Here in the resorts of Maldives we (the staff) certainly are have nots when it comes to mobile phone coverage, acceptable phone tariffs, availability of Internet and of course the speed of data transfer. The problem of course is the exorbitant fees the service provider charges on resort managements and the lack of competition in the area of telecommunications. Up until very recently everything that is telecom is monopolized by Dhiraagu which had in its board members, government (former) appointed ministers and enjoyed cozy opaque relationship with the regime. The same is true to a certain extent still and the monopoly is stifling development in the sector. Enter Wataniyya in 2006 in a wholly transparent manner to the market and yet the market seems not to budge. Wataniyya is at a disadvantage when it comes to installation of telephone towers in resort islands to improve mobile coverage as resort owners and operators do not wish to have more than one telephone tower in their resorts and Dhiraagu (which has about 80 towers in the islands including resort islands) refuses to share antennas with Wataniyya thereby weakening their position. Part of the problem being the government body which has authority on these issues is toothless and is not independent. As for the Internet most resorts (which are very few..) which provides Internet services free for staff (Such as wifi) do so mostly in an off-handed absent-minded manner. Most of the time such a benovelence is an afterthought rather than acknowledgment of a legitimate need. Money of course is the problem as Dhiraagu charges exorbitant fees for data transfer in resorts as there are no other parties are allowed in Maldives to operate as service providers. Focus info com which operates in Male and pretends to operate in other islands has to buy their capacity from either Dhiraagu or MediaNet (a local cable TV company which has a fiber optic ring one of the two in the Maldives… the other of course belongs to Dhiraagu).
The solutions we propose are:
The government has to come upon Dhiraagu hard on anti competitive behavior.
The telecom authority has to grow their own set of teeth.
Public awareness has to be increased on the issue of Dhiraagu overbearing attitude towards this sector especially as our current government seems to be very fond of privatization.
The members of parliament shall table a bill requiring all Internet service providers of the country to dispense wifi free Internet in schools, hospitals and public institutions like libraries mosques etc…
Resort owners and operators has to come to an understanding that keeping their staff behind the digital divide will bring them no laurels.