After months of preparation, Addu will today host the 17th SAARC summit with several world leaders from South East Asian countries. Talks on agenda include the usual India-Pakistan befriending talks, transportation agreements and the idea to use single currency throughout the region like EU. SAARC is generally perceived to be a talk shop for leaders from the region and there is talk (just as before!) of giving more teeth to SAARC secretariat to make SAARC more pragmatic.
An example of the disconnect between SAARC summit organizers and the people is the ongoing demonstrations in Addu in protest at the monuments erected for the summit which depicts engraves images and statutes which are offensive to local belief and customs.
Just as SAARC has an agenda of things to talk about, SAARC also does have a smaller list of things not to talk about. These include to be hush about human rights violations in the nearby Burma (the ruling military junta even changed the name of the country to Myanmar), not to mind the media restrictions freshly ordered in Sri Lanka and not to be too concerned about US violating Pakistan’s sovereignty by conducting military operations without Pakistani consent.
MJA stands for Maldives Journalists Association which is run by a “Hirigaa Ahmed Zahir” a “journalist” in Haveeru. The Association is just an “association” and the number of real journalists associated to MJA according to them is 70. Quite a number in a paper-scarce country like ours.
Nevertheless MJA currently being in Sri Lanka briefing foreign diplomats and media on “the challenges facing the Maldives media” feels actually very un-journalistic. Not that our journalism is all smooth and calm but we are witnessing quite an improvement on media freedom compared to what was before. The problem with MJA seems to be that the association has aligned itself with the opposition and is failing to acknowledge this as politics. Politics and journalism are very different walks of life and its very unlikely that Sri Lankan media will be bought with anti-govt rhetoric of MJA or any other. Sri Lanka is the most advanced country in this south Asia region in terms of media and MJA will be making clowns of themselves by trying to tell how victimized they are to Sri Lankan Media. Sri Lanka is not exactly unaware of what this country went through in terms of media freedom or what was lacking of it.
The government is in the process of creating the Unemployment Register and according to the Human Resources Minister, the register will be up in 2 weeks time. The register will be established in all job centers in Male’, as well as in the islands and in island offices. Giving information about this project minister said the reason is to “…so that government can easily identify those who seek employment in an official manner…”
Several points immediately comes to mind in reference to the minister’s talk.
1.Its a very good first step maybe a little bit overdue considering the number of those who are unemployed in the country. At last the government is trying to come to terms with the problem rather than finding easy excuses for inaction.
2.The government is silent about what they would do once they identify those who seek employment and this is not very positive. Maybe the government is trying to be cautious in raising too much of a hope amid a global recession but there are many things that can be done. Sri Lanka is our nearest neighboring country and the friendliest country to ours and we can learn many a lesson from them.
3.The said “job centers” in Male’ and elsewhere is very much invisible and one wonders weather they function at all. We have yet to find any resort worker who got a job through these ‘job centers. If you know one please comment below.
4.We are still not the ‘welfare state’ so nobody gets any benefits of being unemployed. Apart from the former president, nobody in this country seems to benefit from unemployment and nobody seems to be asking for such benefits yet. True sign of patriotism, altruism and realism maybe.
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.