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Maldives under Abdul Majeed, Hassan Fareed and Mohamed Ameen 1924-1953
compiled from various sources including British Public Record Office documents and the writings of Abdul Hakeem Hussein Manik

1924 Prince Abdulla Imadudeen, the eldest son of ex-king Imadudeen VI, arrives in Ceylon and lobbies king Shamsudeen to allow him to return to Maldives. Shamsudeen eventually agrees.

1925 In January, Abdulla Imadudeen arrives on Male' and is permitted to occupy his grandfather's house. Abdulla is soon found to be conspiring against Shamsudeen, and his fellow plotters are exiled. After being held on a boat in Male' harbour for a week, Abdulla is deported to Ceylon in March. His allowance from the Maldivian government ceases.

1928 Abdulla Imadudeen returns to Egypt from Ceylon.

The government school Madharusathul-Saniyya opens in Male', with classes in Arabic language studies and Islam.

1930 A Japanese survey ship visits Maldives and cruises around the atolls for months. In April, the British governor meets with chief minister Abdul Majeed in Ceylon and learns that, due to prince Hassan Izudeen's personal behaviour, he is unacceptable as successor to his father king Shamsudeen.

Under the governor's urging, Majeed agrees reluctantly to improve educational opportunities for men and women in Maldives.

1931 The population of Maldives is around 80,000.

The British are establishing constitutional government in Ceylon and decide to encourage similar reforms in Maldives. A senior British diplomat Sir Bernard Bourdillon, who speaks Arabic and Hindi and has Middle East experience, visits Maldives and meets king Shamsudeen. He speaks with many others in Maldives including the Borah business community, and argues persuasively for political reform.

1932 In February, chief minister Abdul Majeed seems to cease his opposition to political reform, and he allows a special majlis to prepare the constitution. In September, Majeed resigns from the Maldivian government, and Shamsudeen establishes an advisory committee including Mohamed Fareed and Hassan Fareed (Abdul Majeed's sons).

King Mohamed Shamsudeen proclaims Maldives' first constitution in December. The new chief ministers are Mohamed Fareed and Hassan Fareed, with Hussein Salahudeen as chief judge.

1933 Abdul Majeed moves to Egypt with his younger son and associates, and a Maldivian government allowance of Rp25,000 per month. His older sons Hassan Fareed and Mohamed Fareed remain in Maldives, where their new government announces many law changes.

In August, the Maldivian government ceases allowances to Imadudeen's family in Egypt. They are permitted to return to Maldives.

reforming constitutional cabinet from maldives in exile in Colombo 1932
Members of the reforming constitutional cabinet from Maldives in temporary exile in Colombo 1932

In November, the 'Motorboat Rebellion' occurs when the Male' militia, acting under orders from king Shamsudeen and Abdul Majeed, attack many of the new ministers, the chief judge, and their property, and destroy the government set up under the first constitution.

1934 A second constitution is proclaimed. It is based on the 1932 constitution with amendments by Abdul Majeed.

In October, king Shamsudeen is removed from power by a special majlis controlled by Abdul Majeed from his home in Egypt. Majeed's son, Hassan Fareed, becomes the dictator of Maldives.

1935 King Hassan Noorudeen, also known as Maajehi Palace Manipulhu, is chosen to be king with ceremonial powers only.

1936 A third constitution proclaimed with yet more amendments from Abdul Majeed.

  Koli during the coronation of Hassan Noorudeen II, Maldives 1938
With gong in his left hand and baton in the right, the koli herald, Koli Kalhu Tuttu, marches past the guards' platform towards the guards' gate during the coronation of Hassan Noorudeen II.
When not in use, the gong usually hangs from the chain seen above on the right. The gong suspended from the other chain is the hour gong. Guardsmen on duty operated an hour glass before the days of mechanical clocks. At the conclusion of the sunset, they begin the drum beat called naaba. Guardsmen would strike the hour gong every three hours during the night, to mark the change of the night watch.

1938 In July, Male' hosts a formal coronation of king Hassan Noorudeen II. Hassan Fareed acts as the master of ceremonies.

The British learn that Prince Hassan Imadudeen and his wife have returned to Egypt from Maldives, complaining that Mohamed Fareed and Hassan Fareed have forbidden foreign dress, prohibit travel abroad, prohibit marriage to foreigners, prohibit schools, prohibit foreign newspapers and journals, and exempt themselves and their families from all these rules. Bicycles are also banned in Maldives.

1940 A special majlis repeals constitution, and rice rationing is imposed in Maldives by Hassan Fareed, with a ration of one cup per person in the capital Male', and half a cup per person in other islands. During World War Two, government salaries and rice rations are halved to Rp12.5 per month and just over 12 kilos of rice per month.

The Maldive Islands: Monograph on the History, Archaeology and Epigraphy, by H.C.P. Bell (and W. L. de Silva) is published in Ceylon by the Colombo Government Printer. There is a negative reaction to the books publication by the wartime British administration and security services. One complaint raises the concern that it is 'perhaps surprising that its publication should have been sanctioned just at this moment, when paper economy is so important', while an officer in the Naval Intelligence Division writes, 'I do not feel that the report contains anything which would be of much value to the enemy, but agree this type of publication should not be generally released at the present time.' Few copies are printed and the book becomes a rare and valuable collectors' item.

1941 In September, the British Royal marines land on Addu atoll to establish the secret Port T base. They establish coastal batteries, searchlights, signal towers, roads, camps and jetties for a naval base. Within three months, nearly a quarter of this group have to abandon their work due to sickness.
A British account of the 1941/42 work on Addu published in The Times in 1945 says:
'The climate on Addu was hot and very damp. Flies and mosquitos and rats were very plentiful. Practically every drop of water had to be shipped to the atoll and landed across the beach. Supplies were seldom sufficient to allow for washing. The Royal Marines soon found that every small scratch immediately turned septic and developed into an ulcer that refused to yield to treatment. The humid climate favoured the growth of micro-organisms that ate the skin from the flesh, while the diet of dry or tinned food with no green vegetables or fresh fruit reduced a man' s resistance to infections. Soon a form of scrub typhus, born of the rats and their parasites broke out. While working, a man would suddenly full unconscious without having previously complained of sickness. A violent fever followed for 14 days, leaving the victim weak and debilitated. Malaria appeared in malignant form, but never became a serious menace owing to stringent anti-malarial precautions. Another problem was the rapid deterioration of tinned food that caused the quartermaster great anxiety and gave rise to the occasional case of food poisoning.'

1942 The total population of Maldives is 94,057 people.

Royal Marine Engineers arrive on Addu and construct an airport with three runways on Gan island. The Gan islanders are moved to adjacent Feydhoo and Maradhoo for several years.

  Maldives dictator Hassan Fareed
Hassan Fareed

The dictator Hassan Fareed moves to Ceylon with his family and buys a property in Kandy with Rp60,000 intended for national food rice supplies in Maldives. Fareed's cousin, Mohamed Ameen, rules in his absence.

The first convoy of five troopships, escorted by the cruiser Emerald, arrive at Addu to water and refuel.

In April, the Japanese attack Ceylon, bombing Colombo and Trincomalee. Japan's main motive is to attack the British Eastern Fleet which is commanded by Admiral Sir James Sommerville. Aware the attack is coming, Sommerville withdraws the entire fleet from Colombo harbour and sends them 450 miles southwest to hide at Addu atoll.

A fourth constitution is proclaimed in Maldives.

In July, there are reports that the Japanese are broadcasting in Dhivehi (the Maldivian language) from the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). The British ask the Maldivian king to assume emergency powers, which he does in August, sharing power with two ministers. Hussein Hilmy Didi, the Maldivian representative in Colombo, assumes the powers for Addu.

The Bodu Store, specially built by Abdul Majeed, opens in Male' in December and begins buying and selling dried fish from the atolls.

1943 Mohamed Ameen lowers the rice ration to half cup per person in Male', and a quarter cup per person in other islands. A famine in the northern atolls leads to revolt called the Northern Uprising. Thousands of people sail to Male' and demand a majlis meeting, reinstatement of ex-king Noorudeen, private merchants be permitted to buy fish, a reduction in customs duties and freedom to visit islands whenever they liked. Mohamed Ameen handles the negotiations and agrees to a majlis meeting and grants freedom of travel. Over the following days, Ameen intimidates and bribes some of the leaders, and threatens to shoot others. Leaders who refuse to accept Ameen's decisions are beaten and exiled.

Hassan Fareed replaces Hussein Hilmy Didi as the Maldivian representative in Ceylon. Fareed commutes between Kandy and Colombo by car.

In April, King Hassan Noorudeen abdicates and becomes the head of a council of regency which invites Abdul Majeed to be king of Maldives. The British governor in Ceylon investigates the activities of Abdul Majeed in Egypt. The governor has received information that Hussein Hilmy is being accused of corruption and that Abdul Majeed is likely to be the new king.

Majeed tells the British in June that he does not wish to be king and is happy for the council of regency to continue. The British accept Abdul Majeed as an aristocrat, worthy of the throne.

In July, German U boats move into Indian Ocean and Penang in Japanese-occupied Southeast Asia. Five months later, British Flight Lieutenant Walker arrives in Maldives to investigate wartime food shortages and the Maldive fishing industry.

1944 Acting swiftly, Flight Lieutenant Walker releases his 'Inquiry into Food Conditions in the Maldive Islands and Investigation into Difficulties of the Maldivian Fishing Industry' early in January.

The report says starvation is worse in the northern islands due to a decreased fish catch. This decreased income from fish while import prices are increasing. 'It would appear that the government have made a great effort looking to their difficulties of finance and communication, to alleviate suffering, but that a combination of many unfavourable circumstances has been too much for them.'

Walker's scheme for importing more food by guaranteeing fish exports is acclaimed by some, but impeded by cabinet in Maldives. 'They were wary that the Civil Defence Commissioner was a Sinhalese and the elderly cabinet members did not want to enter into any agreement with a Sinhalese.' This is the 'chief difficulty' with the scheme. The younger ones are less prejudiced. They are happy with an amendment which means their fish guarantees were to the British commander-in-chief, and not a Sinhalese.

Walker comments that 'the illness of Mohamed Ameen from malaria left the Maldivian ship of state completely rudderless'. Despite Walker's opinion,the British governor in Ceylon writes in March, 'Abdul Majid seems not to have given any final answer to the offer to him of the throne, but he appears to keep in correspondence with the Maldivian government as a sort of distant advisor. The council of regency continues to function satisfactorily.'

In February, there is a rebellion on Addu atoll after two militia leaders from Male', Buchaa Hassan Kaleyfan and Dada Kasim Kaleyfan, are stationed there to prevent any food trading or transfer of items between Addu islanders and members of the new British base. Buchaa and Dada Kasim's abuse, beatings and torture, and abuse of women, lead to a small revolt in Hithadhoo island. Buchaa is protected by the British in Hithadhoo until the arrival of Hassan Fareed from Colombo to assess the situation. Fareed assures the people of Hithadhoo that all is forgiven and there will be no retribution for the attacks on Buchaa and his men. Fareed takes Buchaa with him when he leaves. The British vessel lands Buchaa on an atoll south of Male', and then Fareed cruises directly towards Ceylon. On 31 March, Hassan Fareed is declared dead after Japanese submarine sinks the British vessel HMS Malloy carrying him and Flight Lieutenant Walker and others from Maldives to Ceylon.

Mohamed Ameen, who has been ruling in Maldives as Fareed's proxy, now becomes a virtual dictator answerable only to his uncle Abdul Majeed who remains in Egypt.

The British governor writes in June that 'no representations on the food situation were received from the Maldivian Government Representative.'

In July, Mohamed Ameen visits Addu. He has listened in Male' to Buchaa's version of events. Enemies of Afeef's family in Hithadhoo are also capitalising on the situation - accusations of threats and black magic rites against Hassan Fareed combine with rumours of letters between the British and Abdulla Afeef discussing Addu's possible succession to Britain. Afeef has formed friendly relationships with the British and when Ameen demands to see all correspondence, he interpretes Afeef's reticence as a sign of guilt.

Abdullah Afeef and other members of his family and friends are taken to Male', convicted, tied prostrate face-down on the ground and publicly flogged with a long rod of several bound rattan canes. Chilli powder is poured into their open cuts, leaving life-long scars. The men are then exiled to other atolls for years. Afeef is exiled for seven years.

Regarding the suggestion of regular inspection visits to Male' from Ceylon, the British governor writes that 'the government of the Maldives is extremely sensitive in regard to such measures and would not welcome the suggestion.'

In October, the fifth constitution, based on the third constitution, is proclaimed.

1945 Abdul Majeed returns briefly to Male'. First he visits Ceylon where he sells dead son Hassan Fareed's residence in Kandy and purchases a commercial building in Colombo. Part of the rent goes to his sons Mohamed Fareed and Ibrahim Fareed.

1947 The British give Mohamed Ameen 300,000 pounds sterling. The money is compensation from the Japanese for the families of the victims of the sinking of the Addu ship Yahunbarahu during the war. The vessel had been owned by Ali Didi, the son of Elha Didi. Only two people escaped death on this odi, Mohamed Manikfan of Sikage house and Ibrahim Didi the son of Abeya. These two were imprisoned in Singapore by the Japanese after the odi was gunned and sunk. Later, when the British recaptured Singapore they were sent back to Maldives with clear details of the ship's accounts handed to them by their British rescuers.

When he learns of the compensation agreement, Mohamed Ameen summons Mohamed Manikfan and Ibrahim Didi to the Home Ministry office and orders them to hand over the documents. Mohamed Ameen keeps the money and ignores the victims' families.

In September, a report from the British Chief of Staff committee says the UK 'must retain freedom of action to develop such air and naval facilities as we may require in Maldive Islands.'

On 5 November 1947, the Maldivian government makes its last annual tribute to Ceylon, ending a centuries old custom of subservience to the current rulers of the oceans around them.

1948 The British-Maldives agreement confirms Maldives' protectorate status in the British empire. Abdul Majeed travels from Egypt to sign the agreement. Majeed praises Mohamed Ameen and awards him the prestigious title of 'Dhoshimeyna'.

1949 During the 1940s, Ameen builds a number of luxury houses for his female lovers and male friends. These constructions inflate building prices in Male'. In the atolls, Ameen orders the construction of wide roads through the villages. Using the islanders as slave labour under threat of torture, wide roads are cleared through ancient settlements. Apart from economic losses, there are many negative social and environmental effects.

1950 Mohamed Ameen is suffering from two chronic diseases - diabetes and high blood pressure. His tonsils were always infected and he often has a high temperature. Ameen regularly takes disprin and other stronger medication.

1951 Serious famine spreads in atolls and islands. There are food shortages throughout Maldives, even in the capital Male'.

The sixth constitution is proclaimed.

1952 The British survey Gan island on Addu atoll for a future military airfield development.

Electricity becomes available in Male' during February, the same month that Abdul Majeed dies. Though normally resident in Egypt, Majeed has been traveling in Ceylon. He is buried there.

In April a referendum is held in Male', on the instigation a special majlis. The result is a vote for Maldives to become a republic.

In August, for the first time, women are employed as clerks, and elite women are permitted to wear saris. At the December meeting of a new People's Majlis, a woman is elected as speaker.

On 1 January 1953, a new seventh constitution is proclaimed and a republican government forms in Male' with Mohamed Ameen as the country's first president. There are two weeks of government-sponsored celebration in Male' while widespread famine and malnutrition, endemic since the beginning of WW2, continues throughout Maldives.

  hakim didi and conspirators 1953
Hakim Didi (second from left) and fellow conspirators 1953

Ameen's rule as president is a disaster. He enforces strict censorship, bans tobacco, and enforces the amputation of hands as a sharia penalty.

Hakeem Didi and three fellow conspirators from Viligili island in Huvadhu atoll are accused of murdering their atoll chief, and plotting the murder of Mohamed Ameen using black magic. They are tortured and executed.

Ameen's misappropriation of public funds becomes common knowledge, and only families close to Ameen are receiving good food. Tainted flour is released into the general market.

In May, The Times reports that Maldives is appealing to Ceylon for food, and 7,500 bags of flour are dispatched with Rp300,000 worth sent as a loan.

Mohamed Ameen is removed from power in August and held comfortably, served by 13 attendants at Dhoonidhoo island just north of Male'. Historian Abdul Hakeem Hussein Manik writes of this time: 'Everyone yelled out that that there was no republican rule, no democracy and no rights for the people in the constitution.
'The constitution was written to give Mohamed Ameen the right to do whatever he liked,' the crowd shouted.'

The population of Maldives has been halved from 80,000 to 40,000 by famine. Major Borah traders and shop-owners are owed Rf5,800,000 and another two shops are owed Rf300,000. As well, the government owes 700,000 Ceylon rupees to the Umbuchi company. Ibrahim Ali Didi (also known as Ibrahim Famladeyri Kilegefan) and Ibrahim Mohamed Didi are the joint leaders of the new government.

On 31 December, Ameen returns to Male' and is severely beaten when he attempts to regain control. During a later investigation, Ameen says, 'I admit that I have betrayed the nation more than anyone else has in a very long time.' Twenty-four people arrested with Ameen are tried and sentenced to lashes and banishment.

Mohamed Ameen dies of his injuries on 18 January 1954 in Vihamanaafushi island (now Kurumba resort) just north of Male'.

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