Ten thousand miles from Malé- in a new orbit

 

By Amin Didi

Since 1978 the Maldive foreign policy appears to have been written by Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization.This opinion is contributed by Amin Didi who, like his famous namesake, is a member of our Dynasty.

This web site and its editor do not have any input into this opinion, other than providing a forum, as required by Law. This opinion is published within the context of Section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. We do not publish material from those who do not provide sufficient personal information to enable us to establish their identity. We do not necessarily endorse the views of those who are not members of the staff of this site.

With sadness I recalled the glee and joy expressed by many Maldivians when the shuttle blew up on re-entry the last time. I remember the elation with which many Maldive people claimed that Allah was punishing the AmericansSpace and space travel has always fascinated me. The rocket and the moon has a special charm for me. In my childhood I listened when my father tuned into the Voice of America and BBC broadcasts. And in 1969 it happened. The Apollo 11 launched from the Kennedy Space Center and on July 20, 1969, the Eagle landed. Commander Neil Armstrong became the first man on the moon. Soon it came closer to me. I went with my friends from school to the National Museum in Sultan Park to see the moon rock. It was a small piece of black rock in a glass cage. There was nothing special in its appearance. But for me the dreams and ingenuity of humankind were embedded in that little rock. As the years flew by I continued to follow my fascination in the only way I could. I read books by Asimov and Arthur C, Clarke. I listened to radio reports. When TV arrived things became more interesting. Now we had visual.

Today I am waiting, in front of the TV again to watch another launch. The launch and re-entry has always been an emotional moment for me. The shuttle was returning to flight. Two years after the disaster, NASA was launching again. With sadness I recalled the glee and joy expressed by many Maldivians when the shuttle blew up on re-entry the last time. I remember the elation with which many Maldive people claimed that Allah was punishing the Americans. My grandmother and many in her generation did not believe that man could go to the moon. But I was studying physics and chemistry and biology and I did not doubt that Neil Armstrong walked the moon. Today there is a new skepticism in young people. The love of science is now being replaced by a blind faith in the muttering of mullahs like Ahmed Deedat. It is as if the flight path has been re-routed and we are now in a new orbit.

As I wait for the launch, ten thousand miles away, Independence Day in Maldives is coming to an end. I am relying on cyberspace for my information and the news from Male’ is that there are no big celebrations. What happened?

When the Protectorate ended, the independence we acquired was the power to decide our own foreign policy. And where has that led us? Since 1978 the Maldive foreign policy appears to have been written by Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Our old allies, the British have become villains. The BBC on whom we depended for so many years has turned into a reviled liar.


Indian troops carrying out house-to-house search in Malé in 1988. This happened in the 18th century too. On that occasion a common forebear of the author and the site editor kicked the invaders out.

President of the Republic Ibrahim Nasir Rannabandeyri Kilegefan (N.G.I.V) inspecting a guard of honour of Majeediya School senior cadets, accompanied by Major G.W. Amarasena. 26 July 1969.

Nasir was the hero of Maldive independence and the one who inspired a generation of forward-looking Maldivians like Amin Didi

And we hear of a defence agreement with India, our northern neighbour. Nobody seems to know the real story. It is a secret, only whispered with embarrassment. With the Protectorate, we were defended by the British. Today we are defended by India. And most Maldivians believe that India is taking us to lunch and dinner and it will not be long before they take us to the cleaners. If we have just switched from the British to the Indians, I do not believe that we gained anything from having the Independence to decide our own foreign policy.

What we lost is probably more important. The association with the British gave us much more than we care to recognize now. The British gave us our Parliament. The Maldive Constitution was drafted and imposed on the people by the British. Although in the years after Independence we have managed to warp and destroy these important institutions, I believe that they were the result of our association with Great Britain. Education in the English medium has been the cornerstone of our development. The General Certificate of Education from the London University allowed our students to study all over the world. We have to recognize that our association with the British was good for the people. We did not have colonists raping our land and our women. Independence from Britain and its institutions has only given absolute power to those who rule us. And this has proved to be both painful and costly.

The countdown has begun and I have to go watch the launch of Discovery.

 

 

26 July 2005

Home

"