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President of the Suvadives: Letter to the Times

 


The following is the text of a letter written by
President Abdullah Afif Didi of the United Suvadive Islands to the Editor of the Times of London. The letter was published on
25 May 1959

The Situation in the Maldives

To the Editor of the Times

Sir,


His Excellency Abdullah Afif Didi

We have noted with interest statements in the press and radio concerning the present political situation in the Maldives and in particular reports of the various utterances of the Male Government representatives in Ceylon and London.

Some of our reasons for the secession from Male the old capital of the Maldives are as follows: The indifference of their administration to the elementary needs of the people of these islands food, clothing, medicine, education, social welfare etc. For many years we have been reduced to surfs and tied by extortionate taxes and levies. At the commencement of this year further taxes were imposed and the people who had nothing left to give revolted.

Bear in mind we have not a single doctor for 18,000 undernourished people, nor any medical supplies. We have no schools, no means of communication, no public utilities. All this is certainly the fault of Male. Epidemics of Asian flu, malaria, enteritis, typhoid, diarrhoea, conjunctivitis &c. sweep our islands periodically during the year, and in 1958 we had a serious outbreak of dysentery causing deaths. We appealed to the Male government for help. They refused to help and very piously told us to go on reading the Quran! The RAF doctors came to our aid, supplied medicines and visited the sick day and night. Can you wonder that we hate Male?


Male Government naval vessel in action;
United Suvadive Islands 1961

Our main export from these islands was dried Maldive fish which we sent to Male for sale in Ceylon. Payment was made to Male in Ceylon rupees but we were forced by Male to accept Maldivian rupees in return. One Maldivian rupee is worth only half a Ceylon rupee and we had then to buy what food we could afford from Male at Ceylon prices.

The presence of the British in Addu Atoll had absolutely nothing to do with the will of the people to break from Male. Attempts have been made before and as recently as 18 months ago men were imprisoned for trying to make an improvement. The RAF at Gan Island had no knowledge of our intention to make an uprising on the first day of 1959. It was calculated action by the people to show Male that we are determined never again to submit to the despotic rule of a government of one family.


action by the people to show Male that we are determined never again to submit to the despotic rule of a government of one family

We wish to make it clear that we have set up a Government unanimously elected by the will of the people. We are a State of 18,000 people willing and able to support ourselves in spite of Male. We are now the United Suvadive Islands. Our immediate policy is betterment of our people, friendliness to all nations and particularly the British who have sincerely helped and wisely guided the Maldives whenever we dared to do so in the past.


Male Government cannot claim ownership over these islands


We are in favour of the staging post and radio station at Gan and Hitadu Islands respectively, which must bring economic development and prosperity to our islands. We earnestly appeal to your great and generous country for help and understanding. We have been inhabiting these islands from time immemorial, possessing thereby inalienable rights over them. The ownership thereof cannot certainly be claimed by the Male Government. We therefore appeal to the British Government to kindly grant us facilities to open negotiations at once with a view to conclude a Treaty of friendship and co-operation between Her Majesty's Government and the United Suvadive Islands.

We hope the British Govenment and people will appreciate the justice of our cause and recognize the United Suvadive Islands at once.

ABDULLAH AFIF DIDI
President, United Suvadive Islands
The Secretariat, Hitadu
United Suvadive Islands.


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

 

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