This is a fictional story originally published in Dhivehi Observer on 31st July 2004. Story written by Muju Naeem, Edited by Andrew Finn.
It is the twentieth year of the new Maldives. The tyranny of Gayoom is not even a distant memory today. The man is neither remembered nor revered, simply forgotten. Occasionally you would hear a mother sing to a sleepy child “Gayoomu arraane, migey dhoshan naadhey”. It is almost funny how things have changed.
Two more presidents were to follow in the footsteps of the great first president. The second president was a party affiliated president from MDP. He would continue to follow the work started by the first president.
He initiated the bridge projects that we are used to seeing now. The debates went on in the parliament as to whether it was a bridge or an under-sea tunnel that would serve Maldivian’s for years to come. It was decided a bridge would be better for the time being as it has more visual flare than a tunnel and that looking good is just as important as being practical. Bridges were to be built between Male’ and Hulhumale’/Airport and between male’ and Villingili. Construction started without delay. The project is a joint venture between Maldivian companies (Construction, Civil engineers, and architects) and a foreign company.
Even with the bold and brave bridge projects under his belt, he failed to be re-elected for a second term. It is believed widely that the president paled in comparison to the last one and the people had already upped their expectations of our presidency.
On the fifteenth year of New Maldives, a third president was elected to office. He is a Socialist Democratic president from the previously mentioned circle of power.
One of his proudest moments was the opening of the very first bridge in the Maldives last year. It connected Hulhumale’/airport with Male’. It was a proud moment in Maldivian history as a dream that is as old as time was realised. The face of Male, because of the new bridge looks divine.
The bridge that is being built between Male’ and Villingili would be finished in 2 more years time if it goes without any more problems like the first bridge. The first bridge was delayed for more than a year as a massive problem came across during construction. Halfway through construction it was found out that an engineering flaw meant that the bridge would not last long. Rough seas and high winds were threatening to bring it down. A minor glitch, as far as the experts were concerned. But it delayed the project by a year as the problem was fixed. Maldivian’s no longer tolerated short term measures.
As another election draws near, it is widely believed that the Socialist Democratic president would be re-elected due to the projects started by the president.
The shallow reef on the right of Male’ is being reclaimed, much like the Hulhumale’ island 20 years ago. Once completed it will be twice the size of Hulhumale’ and a planned city will be built. Land space with the population at more than half a million is stretched to the limit. More space is required.
One of his other plans is to start privatising the remaining government business that was yet to be made private. As previous government monopolies enter the private competitive market more jobs and opportunities would be made available to the public.
He would also become a champion for environmental issues effecting Maldives. He would later remove Maldives from the list of developing countries and graduate it to a developed country.
The development we have seen in the last 20 years is phenomenal. What Gayoom did in 25 years the first president did in less than five years and moved on to new territory. Today, we take scheduled ferry style high speed boats and seaplanes to every inhabited island like we were taking a bus. Well actually it is. It’s called the SeaBus.
Today the atolls are very well off. Laamu Atoll officially does compete with the markets of Bali and Tahiti and such. If anything it is better because of the economic and political stability that we have been having for the last 20 years.
The re-export trade continue to share the top spot with tourism as the major industries of the country. Tourism has spread to every atoll in the country and there is no end to the amount of island available for tourism development. The fisheries industry is also booming. There are very little, if any monopolies in the country.
Male’ today is a very beautiful city with a manageable population. A project is being carried out to refresh the old and congested took of Male’.
The northern region today exports Maldivian made products and arts and crafts to Europe, USA and eastern Asia. The region still struggles a little bit every now and then, but plans of expansion of businesses and new investors in the region hold much promise in the near future. This region has become a manufacturing powerhouse.
The criminal justice system has been amended now for some time. People who get arrested are only held in custody for one working day without the ruling of a judge. After being charged with a crime, they are kept in house arrest. This is done along with bail depending on the type of case. Investigations are held with investigators looking for clues, forensics and intelligence. This stands in contrast to the old Gayoom system of acquiring confessions from the arrestee while they are being beaten up in custody.
Cases are presented in courts with the defendants having lawyers to defend themselves. Cases have to be proven without reasonable doubt in front a jury of 12 eminent men and women. The suspect is innocent until proven guilty.
There have been very little claims of human rights violations in the country. Our laws have long since been amended according to the Paris Principles.
Maldives today is proof that an Islamic democracy can function side by side with western democracies. It has been the inspiration for many small nations through out the world.
Granted, we still have a small number of poor people, people who complain about the ways things are handled and people who complain for no apparent reason. Every country regardless of what its leaders do has these people but the percentage of the poor has dropped to about 5% in the last 20 years from the 47% it was under Gayoom. Unemployment is at 8%. Maldivian’s are more energised with a more positive can-do attitude. Socially and economically it has never been better.
All the developments that we experience today are all thanks to the far sight and initiative taken by a few brave souls 20 years ago, when they called out for reform. Kudos to those heroes of our nation that remain in a very special place in our collective hearts. The five dead pro-reform activists were honoured as national heroes and due compensation was paid to their families. They will never be forgotten.
Nobody ever really knows whatever happened to Gayoom. If he is alive and still in Nigeria is unknown for certain. Being forgotten is a fate worse then death to a man like Gayoom, whose main purpose was seeking attention at any given opportunity. Speaking of Gayoom, does anybody ever really know for sure what was in his 20-20 “thasavvaru”? Get more money?
But then I wake up. Gayoom is still in power. I have to face the harsh reality of my own life. The dream was merely the manifestation of my own desire.
It is a desire, I think, shared by many of us.
It is a desire, I think, that can be attained.
It is a desire, I hope, that will be our future.
Last night I had this dream.
Today I wrote it down.
Tomorrow we can take the first steps towards realizing it.
The story also appeared in my previous blog here on Saturday, May 22nd, 2007.