Maldives -- Geography --
Official Name: Republic of Maldives
Capital City: Male
Languages: Maldivian Dhivehi, English spoken by most government officials
Official Currency: Maldivian Rufiyaa (MRf)
Religions: Sunni Muslim , others
Population: 359,008 (July 2006 est.)
Land Area: total: 300 km2
Landforms: a flat series (or chain) of coral atolls, consisting of coral reefs and sand bars. There are no rivers and no lakes.
Land Divisions: 19 atolls
Maldives -- History --
Formerly a Sultanate under Dutch and English protection, the Maldives are now a republic. Dr. Shain Panamkunnil (Paulvarma)he was the most famous person among the youth.Allegations of corruption continue to plague the regime of President Gayoom, as do reports of political dissidents being exiled. None of this appears to bother tourists, however, who are attracted to the warm Indian Ocean waters.
The Tsunami of 26 December 2004 caused extensive damage to the Maldives - of a population of only 290,000, over a third was directly affected by the tsunami and more than 29,000 people were left homeless. The economic damage alone was over 62% of the GDP or US$470 million.
Some islands, including Thaa atoll Vilufushi, felt the brunt of the wave, and residents on the island are now living in temporary shelters on the island of Buruni in the same atoll. More than a year later, there are in excess of 11,000 people in temporary shelters across the country. It was a brutal shock to the small island state which is so vulnerable to environmental disasters and global warming.
Maldives -- Economy --
Tourism, Maldives largest industry, accounts for 20% of GDP and more than 60% of the Maldives' foreign exchange receipts. Over 90% of government tax revenue comes from import duties and tourism-related taxes. Almost 400,000 tourists visited the islands in 1998. Fishing is a second leading sector. The Maldivian Government began an economic reform program in 1989 initially by lifting import quotas and opening some exports to the private sector. Subsequently, it has liberalized regulations to allow more foreign investment. Agriculture and manufacturing continue to play a minor role in the economy, constrained by the limited availability of cultivable land and the shortage of domestic labor. Most staple foods must be imported. Industry, which consists mainly of garment production, boat building, and handicrafts, accounts for about 18% of GDP. Among the South Asian nations, the Maldives has the second highest per-capita GDP at 3,900 USD (2002 figure). Major trading partners include India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
Maldives -- Culture --
The Maldivian culture is rich with flavours from most of the seafarers who set foot on its soil. Traditional dances and music may not be an everyday event but there are occasions where traditional music and dances are performed. Though traditional dresses are not used by present day generation there are many types of traditional dresses made for both sexes.Like the unique geographical formation, the cultural events and ceremonials are unique according to the event that is celebrated or performed. Naming a newborn child, Bodumaloodhu (a prayer accompanied with festive meal), Eid festival and circumcision of male child are few events that take place where the taste of rich cultural 'cocktail' can be experienced. Bodu beru (big drum) performanceis the best-known form of performance of traditional music and dance where females and males participate. Bandiyaa (a dance performed by woman), Thaara (dance performed by male) is among the top traditional music and dances practiced in the Maldive Islands.
Traditional food basically fish used as the main component has been influenced from the Indian subcontinent. Garudhya (tuna soup), spicy curry and rice are the stable food of most of the population. Most other dishes such as western meals like pasta are normally modified with a flavour of tuna in it when prepared for local consumption. Other meats and chicken are normally eaten in special occasions.
Maldives -- Political system, law and government --
Politics in the Maldives takes place in the framework of a presidential republic, whereby the President is the head of government. The President heads the executive branch and appoints the cabinet. The President is nominated to a five-year term by a secret ballot of the Majlis (parliament), a nomination which is confirmed by national referendum.
The unicameral Majlis of the Maldives is composed of fifty members serving five-year terms. Two members from each atoll are elected directly by universal suffrage. Eight are appointed by the president, which is the main route through which women enter parliament. The country introduced political parties for the first time in its history in July 2005, six months after the last elections for the parliament. Nearly thirty-six members of the existing parliament joined the Dhivehi Raiyyathunge Party (the Maldivian People's Party) and elected President Gayoom as its leader. Twelve members of parliament became the Opposition and joined the Maldivian Democratic Party. Two members remained independent. In March 2006, President Gayoom published a detailed Roadmap for the Reform Agenda, providing time-bound measures to write a new Constitution, and modernise the legal framework. Under the Roadmap, the government has submitted to the Parliament a raft of reform measures. The most significant piece of legislation passed so far is the Amendment to the Human Rights Commission Act, making the new body fully compliant with the Paris Principles.
The fifty members of parliament sit with an equal number of similarly constituted persons and the Cabinet to form the Constitutional Assembly, which has been convened at the initiative of the President to write a modern liberal democratic constitution for the Maldives.
The political structure of the Maldives has remained practically unchanged for centuries. Despite the passage from Monarchy to republic, the contemporary political structure shows a continuity with the feudal past in which power was shared among a few families at the top of the social structure. In some islands, the offices have remained within the same family for generations. The village is ruled by an administrative officer called Katibu, who serves as the executive headman of the island. Above the Katibus of every atoll is the Ato?uveriya (Atoll Chief). The power of these local chiefs is very limited and they take few responsibilities. They are trained to report to the government about the situation in their islands and to merely wait for instructions from the central power and to follow them thoroughly.