Fact File

Geography

Maldives is a country of South Asia, situated in the Indian Ocean, south-southwest of India. It consists of approximately 1,190 coral islands grouped in a double chain of 26 atolls, spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometers, making this one of the most disparate countries in the world. Composed of live coral reefs and sand bars, the atolls are situated atop a submarine ridge 960 kilometres long that rises abruptly from the depths of the Indian Ocean and runs from north to
south. Only near the southern end of this natural coral barricade do two open passages permit safe ship navigation from one side of the Indian Ocean to the other through the territorial waters of Maldives. For administrative purposes the Maldivian government organized these atolls into nineteen administrative divisions.

The largest island of Maldives is Gan, which belongs to Laamu Atoll or Hahdhummathi Maldives. In Addu Atoll the westernmost islands are connected by roads over the reef and the total length of the road is 14 km.

People and society

The Judiciary in the Maldives has been a systematic institution throughout the history of the nation. It has been an institution which is under the full control of the Head of State and it is still so, to some degree. However a radical change occurred during the past decades. It is the introduction of the English legal system into the country; a result of the Maldivian society coming in close contact with the outside world. Consequently, the present legal system of the country is a mixture of not only Shari’ah and customs, but also the English legal system.

Government

The politics of the Maldives take place in the framework of a presidential republic, whereby the President is the Head of Government. Executive power is exercised by the government. The President heads the executive branch and appoints the Cabinet; Like many presidential democracies, each member of the cabinet need to be approved by the Parliament. The President, along with the vice President, is directly elected by the people to a five-year term by a secret ballot. He could be re-elected to second 5 year term, the limit allowed by the Constitution. The current President of the Maldives is former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, Mohamed Nasheed, who defeated President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom, who had ruled the country for 30 years, in the county’s first multiparty Presidential election.

The unicameral Majlis of the Maldives is composed of 77 members serving a five-year term. The total number of the members representing each constituency depends on the total population of that constituency. The last parliamentary election under the new constitution was held on 9 May 2009. A total of 465 candidates – 211 from 11 political parties and 254 independents – were vying for seats in the People’s Majlis. The 2009 elections were the first multi-party elections in the country. During the election, 78.87 per cent of the 209,000 registered voters turned out at the polls. The final results gave the DRP and the PA 28 and 7 seats respectively, three short of a parliamentary majority. The MDP became the second largest party, winning 26 seats. The Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and the Republican Party (RP) took two seats and one seat respectively. The remaining 13 seats went to independent candidates. The Commonwealth observers who monitored the elections said that they were “well-conducted”. The newly elected People’s Majlis held its first session on 28 May and elected Mr. Abdulla Shahid (DRP) as its new Speaker.

The Maldivian legal system is derived mainly from traditional Islamic law. There is a Supreme Court with 5 judges including the Chief Justice. The Chief Justice is appointed by the President, with the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission. Parliament is required to approve the appointment before he assumes office. There is a High Court, a Criminal Court, Civil Court and many Lower Courts in each Atoll/Island. An Attorney General is part of the Cabinet and also needs the approval of Parliament before taking office.

Under the new constitution, the function of Local Government is devolved to an Atoll Council to administer each atoll and an Island Council to administer each inhabited island. Island councillors are elected by the people of each island, and the Atoll Councillors are in turn elected by the Island Councillors.

Economy

One can find anything between a one-man canoe and a container cargo carrier in the Maldivian waters, depending on where one decides to go in the Maldives. However, when one has to make a decision as to what the star performers are and what the attention grabbers are on the seas, there are a few honourable mentions.

The star performer in Maldivian seas is easily the ubiquitous Dhoani. The Dhoani is a unique craft. Each Dhoani is unique by itself in that it is normally hand-built by master craftsmen who work without blue prints and with only the general directions given by the prospective owner as to the dimensions of the vessel. Built of strong wooden planks, which are shaped and pegged to each other round a strong wooden frame, the Dhoani is built to sail in almost all weather conditions. Dhoanis are used as fishing vessels and as inter-island ferries throughout the Maldives. It is a well-known fact
that most sea-wise persons choose a Dhoani over any other type of vessel when the sea gets rough. Traditionally sporting a lateen sail that is extremely versatile, the Dhoani has also recently married well with the marine diesel engine and has become the work horse of the sea in the Maldives. Custom-adapted Dhoanis serve the tourism industry well as diving boats, excursions craft and supply tenders.

Powerboats of varying designs and sizes have become almost a new culture in the Maldives, especially with the advent of a serious tourism industry in the country. In a country where the International Airport is on an island all by itself, and where all the tourist resorts are on separate islands, the Speed Boat have come into its own in a manner that is purely Maldivian. In addition, the Speed Boat performs well in its more conventional roles in recreational activities like pleasure
cruising and water skiing.

When the windsurfer first arrived in the Maldives, some daring young person’s began using it as a means of getting around. After a few hair-raising incidents, this highly unconventional practice was banned – a fact that the new visitor must remember, for the temptation is ever so strong. Though now restricted to tamer seas within the house reefs of individual islands, the windsurfer was made famous throughout the country because of this.

Getting around in the Maldives is not restricted to a boat either. Very competent parties operate seaplanes and helicopters that make island hopping easier and faster than ever before, not mention the additional bonus of the breath taking view of these magnificent islands from the air.

Though bound to the sea by nature, the Maldivian is certainly not immune to the wheel-mounted internal combustion engine. It is quite normal to have the latest sports car whiz past one on the roads of some of the bigger islands, especially on the capital island of Male’. Motorcycles and scooters of all imaginable forms and bicycles are very common.

Transportation

One can find anything between a one-man canoe and a container cargo carrier in the Maldivian waters, depending on where one decides to go in the Maldives. However, when one has to make a decision as to what the star performers are and what the attention grabbers are on the seas, there are a few honorable mentions.

The star performer in Maldivian seas is easily the uniquitous Dhoani. The Dhoani is a unique craft. Each Dhoani is unique by itself in that it is normally hand-built by master craftsmen who work without blue prints and with only the general directions given by the prospective owner as to the dimensions of the vessel. Built of strong wooden planks, which are shaped and pegged to each other round a strong wooden frame, the Dhoani is built to sail in almost all weather conditions. Dhoani are used as fishing vessels and as inter-island ferries throughout the Maldives. It is a well known fact that most sea-wise persons choose a Dhoani over any other type of vessel when the sea gets rough. Traditionally sporting a lateen sail that is extremely versatile, the Dhoani has also recently married well with the marine diesel engine and has become the work house of the sea in the Maldives. Custom-adapted Dhoani serve the tourism industry well as diving boats, excursions craft and supply tenders.

Powerboats of varying designs and sizes have become almost a new culture in the Maldives, especially with the advent of a serious tourism industry in the country. In a country where the International Airport is on an island all by itself, and where all the tourist resorts are on separate islands, the Speed Boat have come into its own in a manner that is purely Maldivian. In addition, the Speed Boat performs well in its more conventional roles in recreational activities like pleasure cruising and water skiing.

When the windsurfer first arrived in the Maldives, some daring young persons began using it as a means of getting around. After a few hair-raising incidents, this highly unconventional practice was banned – a fact that the new visitor must remember, for the temptation is ever so strong. Though now restricted to tamer seas within the house reefs of individual islands, the windsurfer was made famous throughout the country because of this.

Getting around in the Maldives is not restricted to a boat either. Very competent parties operate seaplanes and helicopters that make island hopping easier and faster than ever before, not mention the additional bonus of the breathtaking view of these magnificent islands from the air.

Though bound to the sea by nature, the Maldivian is certainly not immune to the wheel-mounted internal combustion engine. It is quiet normal to have the latest sports car whiz past one on the roads of some of the bigger islands, especially on the capital island of Male’. Motorcycles and scooters of all imaginable forms and bicycles are very common.