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“My parents separated when I was very small.” A story of a Maldivian Boy.

Mariyam Mohamed

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“I don’t expect myself to be part of the community. I never fit in with people around me.” This is a common statement we hear from people who yearns to belong in the society.

“I grew up in a home where I see constant abuse and I have members in my family who use drugs. Growing up in an environment like this is not easy for me but I do my best to be a better person.” He said with a faded smile. I could see the pain in his eyes when he was giving this interview. This is a story of a Maldivian teenage boy who wishes he could have a better life.

“For people like us from the lower class, we are not supported much. We are bullied and ridiculed when we dream big. Sometimes I wish I was born in another country.” He said it wiping his tears. To protect the person’s identity his name is not disclosed in this article.

 “My parents separated when I was very small. I was dragged between them. I move a lot and there was a time I wanted to commit suicide.”

The boy belongs to a low-income family. He is like many teenagers in this small community struggle as a result of broken families.

When parents separate it has a huge effect on children. When love and caring is not received by the people in their life, these children choose a path any parent would dread. Many choose friends from similar background which give them some sense of belonging to a community. Being naïve and due to lack of guidance they choose to use drugs and do criminal acts to distract themselves from the pain they are enduring.

“I would like to thank you for reaching out. I thought no one would hear me out. We don’t want to be like this way. It’s just when life gets hard and when no one is there to rely on, we make decisions that are not good. I wish government would really reach out to people and ask us why we act out this way.” I could see the confidence was building up as he was giving his opinion on the matter.

These children need help from both the society and the government. A nation can be built only when it really address the root cause of the problems facing the youth.  This is an issue that should not be taken lightly by the authorities as these children represents the future of this country.

Even though we have NGOs in our community that support such individuals, they need more awareness programs, assistance and a community where these children can speak up openly without being judged.

Opinion

Seychelles, Mauritius and the Maldives – Small Islands with Indian Military Bases.

Hamdhan Shakeel

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Indian Military Base in Mauritius.

On 3rd August 2021, the Aljazeera published a startling report on the construction of a military base on the Agaléga Island in Mauritius.

According to the Al Jazeera, India has been constructing a massive airstrip and two jetties on the 12Km long island. The Agaléga Island, which is on the outer skirts of the Mauritian territory, was chose in 2015 by then Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth and India to “improving air and sea connectivity”.

However, the Agaléga Island which houses only 300 residents has seen the development of a 3Km long airstrip, capable of catering to heavy duty military aircrafts.

Samuel Bashfield, a researcher at the National Security College at the Australian National University spoke to Al Jazeera on the subject and noted that “There’s no real reason why this island would be developed other than for military use.”.

As noted by the Al Jazeera news, the Indian Ocean has become the hotbed for a global power struggle as India steps up their game to establish itself as a reckoning force against the China and Russia’s growing economy and Russia and the ensuing probable loss of global power and influence by the U.S.

Indian Military Base in Seychelles.

A similar set of radar stations were also established at in Seychelles and Mauritius in 2015 and 2011 respectively.

The radar systems being placed under various guises in these islands thousands of miles apart are not by accident, but rather by design. As India attempts to establish its place amongst the superpowers of the world, it needs to station its military on foreign soil similar to how the U.S. maintains its military supremacy and combat readiness from around the globe.

Similar to the situation in Mauritius, in 2015 India attempted to establish a military base on the Assumption Island in Seychelles. 1,100 km away from the main island of Mahé, Assumption Island was set to provide India with the ideal military base to conduct covert operations with little to no oversight.

However, following massive uproar from the locals, the project was forced to halt. Even after a revised agreement was signed in 2018, India’s attempt to pump in $550 million to establish their military base in Seychelles was brought to an end.

Indian Military Base in the Maldives?

The Maldives also plays a crucial role in India’s efforts to establish itself as the proxy of the U.S. in Asia.

On 9th June 2019, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih signed an agreement with the Government of India to establish Indian coastal radar surveillance system (CSRS) in the Maldives. Under the agreement, India would have exclusive access and use of the data from the radars. The CSRS are the principal sensors for an India’s Integrated Coastal Surveillance System, which collects and produces a comprehensive network of information on the maritime domain awareness.

As with the case of Seychelles and Mauritius, India will not openly admit to establishing a military base in the Maldives. However, India has set a precedence of establishing military bases under various guises..

The construction of the 1.3million Sqft military compound by India in the southernmost Addu city in Maldives is viewed by the general public as a part of India’s growing militarization in the Maldives.

The unilateral annunciation by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that they would be establishing a consular office in Addu City, Maldives only further fuelled the allegations of them establishing an Indian military base in the Maldives.

Though axiomatic, India and the current Government of Maldives continues to deny the Indian establishment of military bases in the Maldives. The stationing of Indian military airplanes in Northern Hanimaadhoo airport, Indian Coastal Surveillance radar Systems, handing over of the Uthuruthilafalhu project, Kaadehdhoo Airport and the reclamation project and establishment of the base in Addu city all point towards one thing, India has successfully established their military presence in the Maldives in the absence of the jailed opposition leader.

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Opinion

Need to Re-Introduce Islamic Microfinance in Maldives

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Microfinance is not a new concept in Maldives today. The first microfinance institution in the country was given license to operate by Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) on 28th February 2019, which is owned by the Government of Maldives with shares of 3 City Councils: Male’ City; Fuvahmulah City; and Addu City. The main objective of SDFC is to assist Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to obtain financing to support their businesses. Even prior to the establishment of SDFC, funds received as foreign aids and institutions have been disbursed through the Bank of Maldives, the national bank of Maldives as it is required by law to disburse such funds through a bank. The beginning point that led to the formal existence of microfinance in the country is the enactment of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Act (Law No. 6/2013) in 2013. The objective of this law is to reduce poverty and related vulnerabilities as well as making the sector broad based, innovative, resilient and internationally competitive. The enactment of this legislation proved the importance given to SME enterprises by the government at policy level. The responsible government agency in dealing with SME sector development is Ministry of Economic development (MED). Under the significant SME Act, an SME Council was formed and it became a statutory responsibility for the government to allocate Maldivian Rufiyaa Fifty Million each year for disbursements of financing facilities to the sector.

Is Islamic Microfinance New in Maldives?

In 2015, the first Islamic microfinance scheme was introduced under the name of “Faseyha Madadhu” with the assistance from Islamic Development Bank. The local bank involved in the scheme was Bank of Maldives. The products developed under this scheme was unique as it was shaped by looking at the local needs. As such, Islamic microfinance is not new to the country. However, right now SDFC does not provide any Islamic financial products and due to this, those MSMEs looking for Shariah compliant solutions are unable to obtain financing from any financial institution in Maldives.

“Faseyha Madadhu” Scheme

“Faseyha Madadhu” means “easy assistance” in Dhivehi language. Forty percent of the total financing facility was allocated for women and youth entrepreneurs. Under “Faseyha Madadhu” scheme, micro (businesses with up to 5 employees and an annual income of MVR 500,000 Maldivian Rufiyaa) businesses can apply up to MVR 100,000; small (business employing between 6 and 30 persons and an annual income between MVR 500,001 and MVR 5,000,000) businesses can apply up to MVR 500,000; and medium (business that employs between 31 and 100 persons and an annual income between MVR 5,000,001 and MVR 20,000,000) businesses can apply up to MVR 1 Million. For newly set up businesses the maximum amount of financing that could be given is MVR 300,000.

The targeted sectors in this scheme was tourism, transportation, construction, fisheries and agriculture. For tourism sector, shariah compliant financing assistance was only given to purchase to buy materials to develop guest houses and to purchase equipment to produce handicraft items. For the transportation sector, the shariah compliant financing facility was provided only to replace old taxis with new cars and to purchase vehicles other than cars used for land and sea transportation purposes and for construction sector, shariah compliant financing will only be given for the purpose of purchasing machineries or materials used for construction. Finally, in fisheries and agricultural sector, Islamic finance facility was given to buy machineries that helps to process fisheries or agricultural produces or to purchase machineries that helps to value add the fisheries and agricultural produces. In agricultural sector Islamic finance facility can also be obtained if the applicant wishes to produce crops using new innovative way using technology.

There was no additional collateral requirement except for the equipment or assets purchased under the scheme which will be mortgaged as a security. The tenure of the financing facility was determined based on the financial documents submitted by the applicant and the tenure of the financing facilities given did not exceed six years. The financing rate was 9% per annum, which is relatively high for a microfinance product.

Conclusion

Maldives being a hundred percent Muslim country needs to re-introduce Islamic microfinance option in the country again. It is unfortunate that the only Islamic microfinance institution in the country at the moment offers only conventional financing for MSMEs. There are numerous successful Islamic microfinance institutions in the world such as Akhuwat Microfinance in Pakistan and Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia (AIM) in Malaysia that are successful in providing Shariah complaint financing for a sustainable poverty eradication approach. By learning from the experiences of these institutions, it is important for SDFC to re-introduce Islamic microfinance to Maldives.

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Opinion

Centenary Communist Party of China Promises a Bright Future for China-Maldives Relationship.

MNN

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By Yu Xueyong, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of the Chinese Embassy in Maldives

This year celebrates the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. On July 1, General Secretary Xi Jinping delivered an important speech at the celebration assembly in Beijing.

In the speech Xi comprehensively reviewed the glorious history and great achievements of the Communist Party of China over the past 100 years, profoundly elaborated on the valuable experience accumulated in this historic process, especially the great founding spirit of the Communist Party of China, solemnly declared that China has realized the first centenary goal, and clearly put forward nine major requirements that the Party must firmly grasp in the new journey of learning from history and building a better future. The important speech received great attention and overwhelming responses from the international community.

The 180-year history of China since the modern era, the 100-year history of the Communist Party of China since its founding, and the 70-year history of the People’s Republic of China since its founding have all fully proved that without the Communist Party of China, there would be no new China and no great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. To learn from history and build a better future, we must adhere to the strong leadership of the Communist Party of China.

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012, under the strong leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has adhered to the Five-sphere Integrated Plan and the Four-pronged Comprehensive Strategy, overcome a series of risks and challenges, and made new great achievements. In particular, in 2020, China took the lead in controlling the once-in-a-century Covid-19 pandemic and in reviving its economy and development, eradicated extreme poverty, and built a moderately prosperous society in all aspects, thus achieved the first centenary goal. For the first time, China’s GDP exceeded the 100-trillion-yuan threshold to 101.6 trillion yuan, about 17% of the world’s total GDP.

In the 100 years since its founding, the Communist Party of China has profoundly changed the course of Chinese history in modern times, transformed the future of the Chinese people and nation, and altered the landscape of world development.

In terms of foreign relations, the Communist Party of China has strived to promote the building of a community with shared future. The Communist Party of China, inheriting such beautiful ideals and aspirations of the Chinese civilization as “peace is the most precious”, “seeking harmony with all nations” and “the unity of the world”, has unswervingly pursued an independent foreign policy of peace. It has successively put forward and put into practice the five principles of peaceful coexistence, the path of peaceful development, the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit, and inclusiveness with neighboring countries, the new type of international relations, the Belt & Road Initiative and other peaceful diplomatic policies and ideas, and has developed extensive cooperative relations with political parties, governments and peoples of various countries.

At present, major changes unseen in a century and the once-in-a-century pandemic are intertwined, and the factors of insecurity, instability and uncertainty have increased significantly. But no matter how the international situation develops and changes, no matter how well China is developed, China will always hold high the banner of peace, development, and win-win cooperation, adhere to the path of peaceful development and to the opening-up strategy based on mutual benefit and win-win cooperation. China will promote friendly cooperation with all neighboring countries including Maldives and promote the building of a community with a shared future.

Peace, concord, and harmony are ideas the Chinese nation has pursued and carried forward for more than 5,000 years. The Chinese nation does not carry aggressive or hegemonic traits in its genes. The Communist Party of China cares about the future of humanity, and wishes to move forward in tandem with all progressive forces around the world. China has always worked to safeguard world peace, contribute to global development, and preserve international order.

The 100-year-old Communist Party of China always gives its people the first priority and keeps the world in mind; China continues to develop and always pursues equality, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation. China led by the Communist Party of China represents great opportunities for the China-Maldives relationship. Over the years, the fruits of mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries are gradually emerging in economic, social and cultural fields, strongly boosting the development of the two countries, and bringing tangible benefits to the two countries and their peoples.

Not long ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping had a phone call with Maldives President Ibrahim Solih. Xi pointed out that, since China and Maldives established diplomatic ties, the two countries have treated each other with mutual understanding and support, setting an example of equality and win-win cooperation between countries of different sizes. Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, China and Maldives have been sticking together and helping each other. China is willing to continue to provide vaccines and other support for Maldives’ fight against the virus, so as to help the country prevail over the disease. President Solih extended congratulations on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China , saying that the Communist Party of China, under the strong leadership of President Xi Jinping, has become an important force in promoting equality, prosperity and cooperation among countries across the world. This is an important phone call between the two heads of state at an monumental moment in China-Maldives relationship, and is of great importance to the future development of relations between the two countries.

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Maldives. China is willing to hold various forms of celebrations with Maldives to deepen the friendship between the peoples of the two countries and push forward bilateral relations. The Chinese side is ready to work with Maldives to continuously push forward the Belt and Road cooperation, so as to bring more benefits to the people of both countries. The two countries should strengthen mutual support on multilateral occasions, uphold international equity and justice as well as the common interests of developing countries, and promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.

Looking forward to the journey that lies ahead, we believe China-Maldives relationship will have a bright future. China is willing to work with the Maldivian side and actively implement the important consensus reached by two heads of state during the phone call. We are good neighbors based on equality and mutual trust, good partners engaged in win-win cooperation, good brothers who support each other all the time, and good friends who trust each other with all sincerity. I am confident that, with the joint efforts of our two governments and people, we will write an even more beautiful chapter in our friendly relations and cooperation!

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