of the United Suvadive Republic
trade in the Maldives had largely passed through Malé,
with some exceptions. A few influential families in the Northern
Atolls and most merchants in the Southern Atolls of Addu and Huvadu
had, until relatively recently, by-passed Malé and traded
directly with ports in India, Ceylon and the East Indies.
of communication between Malé and the South, in particular,
had meant that the central authorites could do little to prevent
this. There was no effective means of taxing the trade that did
not pass through Malé. For a very long time the central
authorities were content with the status quo.
Addu trading vedi the Yaahumbaraas
sunk by the Imperial Japanese Navy
during World War II. The survivors
sustained much ordeal in Singapore
affluence of the Addu and Huvadu merchants was always resented
by the mercantile classes in Malé.
War II presented the central authorities backed by Malé
merchants, their first opportunity to address this state of affairs.
By then, the Addu and Huvadu traders' main trading ports had long
been Colombo and Galle in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Passport requirements
imposed by the Dutch who ruled Batavia (Indonesia) had long spelt
an end to the ancient Aceh trade. Wartime perils discouraged people
from venturing out to British Bengal.
the co-operation of the British authorities, Maldive diplomats
stationed in Colombo managed to monitor and control the movements
of the Southern merchants. For the first time in living memory,
in 1947, Maldivians travelling to Ceylon and other British possessions
in the region were required to carry passports and visas issued
in Malé. Both were issued by Maldive authorities. That
spelt an end to the direct external trade out of the South. The
central authorities had finally exerted control over the livelihoods
of the Southern merchants. This was bitterly resented in the South.
control over trade enhanced the opportunity to tighten other controls.
For long it had been rather difficult for the central authorities
to fully enforce the vaaru (poll tax) and the varuvaa
(land tax) on the South. The control over trade had made it easy
to enforce these taxes as well. This too led to resentment.
1944 British troops and support personnel were stationed in Gan
and Hithadoo in Addu Atoll. The local population were denied any
direct trade or bartering with the British, who included many
British Indians. Militia officers from Malé were stationed
in Addu to ensure that even the barter of single coconuts or limes
were transacted through the government.
disgusting behaviour of the two leading militiamen, Buchaa Hassan
Kaleyfan and Dada Kassim Kaleyfan infuriated the mild mannered
Addu aristocracy. The Addu aristocracy was descended from exiled
the cream of the Maldive intelligentsia. A number of them had
served as chiefs justice in Malé over the centuries. In
the households of the royalty and the nobility in Malé,
the Addu aristocrats had always enjoyed a more privileged status
than the likes of Buchaa and Dada who were lower class officials.
arrest and physical assault on Ahmed Didi son of Elha Didi, a
member of one of the leading families in Hithadoo by Buchaa was
the final blow on the uneasy situation between the militia and
Excellency Abdullah Afeef Didi
President of the Republic, United
mob rose up against Buchaa Hassan Kaleyfan who took refuge at
the British barracks. When the situation calmed down, the central
authorities rounded up alleged conspirators of the uprising. Buchaa
Hassan Kaleyfan's version of events prevailed at the investigations.
Among those convicted and sentenced to public flogging included
Abdulla Afeef Didi son of Ali Didi son of Elha Didi of Hithadoo.
Afeef Didi was a highly educated intellectual who spoke both English
and Arabic fluently. He was the translator to the British and
the most respected young individual in Addu at that time.
flogging called burihan negun (literally, removing the
skin off the back) involved being simultaneously beaten by two
sets of cat-o-nine-tails until the victim was covered in blood,
then chilli paste rubbed into the wounds that covered most of
the area of the back between the shoulders down to the lower legs.
current Maldivian, buri may mean just the back, butt or
even anus. However, it may also mean the greater part of one's
behind. Burikarhi is the area betwen the shoulder and the
British Officer stationed in Gan in 1957 wrote to Majid
have the warmest memories and respect of the Addu people.
I admired the cheerfulness of the men, their prowess as
mariners and their acceptance of new ideas and probably
strange cultures. I recall the Elders, poised and sage;
the women beautifully clad and wearing gold embellishments,
and the eagerness of the children. I recall the immaculately-maintained
village streets, the incredible sunsets and the overall
beauty of the Maldives. Long may it be!"
officer prefers to remain anonymous
British occupation of Addu ended in 1944. The escalation of the
Cold War saw the return of the British in 1957.
relocation of whole communities resulted from the evacuation of
Gan to build the British staging post.
wartime ban on direct trading between the British and the Addu
locals was re-imposed by the central authorities.
reluctance of the Maldive legislature to ratify the 100-year lease
of Gan and Maamendu in Hithadu infuriated the British authorities.
The civilian British contractor in Gan actively fostered the notion
of breaking away from central rule.
the new accord with the central authorities, the British were
allowed to employ Addu people in their facilities. The income
from this and the luxury goods available to the workers together
with the encouragement from the civilian contractor persuaded
the locals to act.
the end of 1957, the mild-mannered Prime Minister Eggamugey Ibrahim
Faamuladeyri Kilegefan was forced to resign and the Sultan appointed
Velaanaagey Ibrahim Nasir (later Rannabandeyri Kilegefan) to that
position. Nasir was not conciliatory like his predecessor and
at the end of 1958, ordered the British to halt all construction
work in Addu. This was too much to bear for the civilian contractor.
appointed Abdulla Afeef Didi as liaison officer between the British
and the locals.
October 1958, a Hithadoo mob threatened to attack govenment officials,
but was suppressed by British militay police.
New Year's Eve of 1959 the government announced a new tax on boats.
This sparked riots in Hithadoo which quickly spread. In the early
hours of 1959, government facilities were attacked and officials
forced to the security of British-controlled areas. Abdulla Afeef
Didi actually warned the leading officials of the impending disaster.
British did not do much to quell the unrest. A British soldier
actually pushed a box of matches towards a rioter encouraging
government facilities to be set ablaze.
3 January 1959, a delegation arrived in Gan and informed of the
declaration of independence to the British. Initially Abdulla
Afeef Didi took no part in this, but the British insisted on a
trustworthy leader being appointed before they would back the
Didi was persuaded to take on this role when the British offered
him in writing, safe conduct out of the Maldives should the rebellion
alternative government was soon installed with Abdulla Afeef Didi
as executive head of state. The sterling-based economy boomed
and a degree of prosperity unknown in living memory emerged in
Addu. Afeef Didi's administration was based on democratic principles
hitherto or henceforth unknown in the Maldives. He did not tolerate
the channel in Fua Mulaku and Huvadu Atoll news of Addu's prosperity
quickly encouraged rebellion. On 13 March 1959 these two atolls
broke away from the sovereign authority of the Sultan of the Maldives
and joined Addu to form the United Suvadive Republic.
Maldives (then eqivalent of the) National Security Service
(NSS) Coast Guard in Huvadu Atoll 1961: state of the art
in naval technology
reaction of the Sultan's government was swift and an armed gunboat
commanded personally by Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir arrived in
Huvadu Atoll and quickly put an end to the rebellion in Huvadu
in July 1959. Similar measures were discouraged against Addu when
the British deployed a regiment from Malaya to Addu.
early 1960, a new agreement between the Bristish and the Sultan's
government was ratified. The British announced an end to their
backing of the rebellion. However the United Suvadive Republic
refused to be disbanded.
1961 Huvadu Atoll revolted again. Nasir personally appeared on
the scene again to quell the rebellion. This time the rebel headquarters
on Havaruthinadoo (Thinadoo) was completely destroyed and the
entire population dispersed from the island. Huvadu Atoll was
partitioned into two administrative regions- Huvadu East and Huvadu
West, later renamed Huvadu South and Huvadu North.
rebel leaders were jailed in Malé and many died
in very sorry and highly questionable circumstances. Among those
who perished were Ahmed Hirihamaanthi Kaleyfan and his son Abdulla
Kateeb. Hirihamaanthi Kaleyfan was arguably the wealthiest merchant
in the Maldives in his time. He was one of the last to be elevated
to a kangathi title.
supression of the second revolt in Huvadu and Fua Mulaku spelt
a body-blow on the United Suvadive Republic. The British were
by then actively campaigning against the Suvadive movement.
Minister Ibrahim Nasir's international diplomatic campaigns were
proving to be an embarrassment to the British.
22 September 1963, the British political agent in Addu spelt out
an ultimatum to the people of Maradoo to hoist the Maldive flag.
A man called Kubbage Ahanmaa found the design of the flag in a
book and made it with bunting supplied by the British. At 3 AM
on 23 September 1963, the Suvadive flag was cut down and the Maldive
flag hoisted over Maradoo by Elhadaithage Alifuthaa and Hassanrahaage
Maradu's capitulation, the British quickly spread the word that
only those who were under the sovereign authority of the Sultan
of the Maldives would be employed in British facilities. That
was the final blow on the United Suvadive Republic.
week later, Afeef Didi invoked the letter of protection from the
British authorities promising him safe conduct. The British honoured
the promise and evacuated him to the Seychelles.
he left on 30 September 1963, Afeef Didi was ordered by the British
political agent to deliver the Maldive flag from Gan to Hithadoo.
As the flag was hoisted over Hithadoo and Afeef Didi sailed into
exile aboard HMS Loch Lomond, the United Suvadive Republic was
committed to history .
handover ceremony 29 March 1976: Flanked by the British
Ambassador to the Maldives, Vice President Koli Ali
Maniku receives the handover of Gan from Group Captain
W. Edwards of tne Royal Air Force. For the next two
years, March 29 was marked as the Maldives Independence
day until reverted back to July 26. Just above the Group
Captain's forearm is Mr Kakaagey Ali Didi who was appointed
as official in charge of Gan. He was later to become
Malé, Sultan Mohamed Farid proclaimed a general pardon
and no punitive action was taken by his Government against anyone
in Addu following the collapse of the United Suvadive Republic.
British withdrew from Addu in March 1976 and Maldive military
commitments to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth formally
ended 19 years before they were due to end.
Didi was pardoned by Velaanaagey Ibrahim Nasir Rannabandeyri Kilegefan
as President of the Republic. Afeef Didi visited Addu once before
he died in the Seychelles.
Michael O'Shea and Fareesha Abdulla