Maldivians show heart of stone



14 April 2007

New huts built for displaced Madifurhi islanders on Maamigili

On Boxing Day 2004, the people of Madifurhi Island in Mulak Atoll (not to be confused with the island of the same name in Kolhumadulu Atoll) in the Maldives had their homes, livelihoods and island completely destroyed by the Andaman Tsunami, the most devastating natural disaster to hit Asia in living memory. The Madifurhi islanders who survived the disaster were relocated to Maamigili, an inhabited island that was unaffected by the tsunami.

Now the relocated islanders are facing a plight worse than the tsunami itself, as resentment of the host community turns very ugly. Maamigili has always been a relatively prosperous community. It is the family home of the Maldive finance minister, central bank governor and, reputedly, the richest man in the Maldives- Ari Atholhu Maamigili Burumaa Ibrahimuge Gasim. He is a generous philanthropist in his own right, who has a heart of gold. The Madifurhi people's host islanders on Maamigili are Mr Gasim's kith and kin. They are resentful of the new huts and donor-aid money received by the displaced islanders from Madifurhi.

Ari Atholhu Maamigili Burumaa Ibrahimuge Gasim, Maldive finance minister, central bank governor and best-known Maamigili islander. His fellow islanders are extremely uncharitable towards internally displaced tsunami victims

Abdul Mateen, a community leader of the ex-Madifurhi islanders and senior government official on Maamigili said, “We are trapped in our homes without being able to go out. We are being threatened that our lives will be in danger if we venture out.” The ex-Madifurhi islanders have been dragged out of their workplaces by their hosts and chased home. Mr Mateen said that his community is at a loss to find a solution to the hostility of the native Maamigili islanders. He said that often up to 300 people, including a large number of women and school children, gather around their homes and throw stones on their roofs. They are unable to go out, even to buy essential supplies.

Many people here in the West gave up even their children’s toys to help those who were displaced by the tsunami. Financial and material aid poured in from the West as soon as the tsunami struck. The Red Cross, the Red Star of David, Caritas, World Vision, Friends of Maldives and others rallied to the aid of the Maldives and other countries affected by the tsunami. Private individuals in New Zealand, the UK, Australia, Europe, the United States, Canada and Israel donated extremely generously. Several people were offered temporary and permanent resettlement in some of these countries following the tsunami. Given this, the despicable and heartless attitude shown by the Maldivians on Maamigili Island towards their fellow Maldivians is shocking to say the least.

The Maldive “democracy” movement appears to be silent on the current plight of the Madifurhi islanders. The story does not appear in the British-based Dhivehi Observer which is the main mouthpiece of the Maldive opposition. Minivan News covered the story. We have sourced most of the material in this article from Haveeru Online, which is usually accused by the opposition of being biased in favour of the Maldive government.

Dharuma Saraka Budhu
Buddha of the Charity Wheel

Late in March 2005, a European parliamentary delegation visited the displaced people of Madifurhi on Maamigili. The delegation was led by Mrs Neena Gill (UK) and included five other Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). They were Mr Jan Mulder (Netherlands), Mr Jo Leinen (Germany), Mr Thomas Mann (Germany), Mrs Jean Lambert (UK) and Mr Ivo Belet (Belgium).

The gross lack of charity shown by Maldivians towards their brethren in distress is a clear indictment of the ideology that is currently foisted on these islanders. Historically Maldivians subscribed to an ancient, Buddhist-based, charitable philosophy known in the local language as dharuma. The indigenous dharuma-vantha nature of Maldivians appears to be gone now.

Toll wreaked by the Boxing Day Tsunami on Madifurhi island