United Suvadive Republic    
Ekuveri Suvaidib Jumhouriyya
(1959 - 1963)    

Causes of the Southern Conflict









Direct external trade










Taxes enforced


Wartime British presence



Buchaa and Dada


Elha Didi ge Ahmed Didi



Afeef Didi flogged







Return of the British

Mass relocation










British encouraged
the rebellion








of independence



United Suvadive


Huvadu rebellion





British turn
against Suvadive

Second Huvadu
rebellion crushed



United Suvadive
Republic crumbles

Afeef Didi
sails into exile



Flag of the United Suvadive Republic

External 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.

Lack 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.

An Addu trading vedi the Yaahumbaraas
sunk by the Imperial Japanese Navy
during World War II. The survivors
sustained much ordeal in Singapore

The affluence of the Addu and Huvadu merchants was always resented by the mercantile classes in Malé.

World 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.

With 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.

The 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.

In 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.

The 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 kings (see
Hithadhoo Royal Connection) and 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.

The 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 the locals.

His Excellency Abdullah Afeef Didi
President of the Republic, United
Suvadive Republic

A 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.

Public 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. [Note: in 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 waist]

A British Officer stationed in Gan in 1957 wrote to Majid as follows:

"I 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!"

The officer prefers to remain anonymous

Wartime British occupation of Addu ended in 1944. The escalation of the Cold War saw the return of the British in 1957.

Mass relocation of whole communities resulted from the evacuation of Gan to build the British staging post.

The wartime ban on direct trading between the British and the Addu locals was re-imposed by the central authorities.

The 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.

Under 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.

Towards 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.

Nasir appointed Abdulla Afeef Didi as liaison officer between the British and the locals.

In October 1958, a Hithadoo mob threatened to attack govenment officials, but was suppressed by British militay police.

On 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.

The 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.

On 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 rebellion.

Afeef Didi was persuaded to take on this role when the British offered him in writing, safe conduct out of the Maldives should the rebellion fail.

An 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 corruption.

Across 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.

The Maldives (then eqivalent of the) National Security Service (NSS) Coast Guard in Huvadu Atoll 1961: state of the art
in naval technology

The 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.

In 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.

In 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir's international diplomatic campaigns were proving to be an embarrassment to the British.

On 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 Ahanmaa.

Following 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.

A 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.

Before 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 .

Gan 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 my father-in-law

In 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.

The 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.

Afeef 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.

See also:
Suvadive Revolt
by Michael O'Shea and Fareesha Abdulla