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Iyye, 'Yesterday' - Chapter 2
Ameen's Republic
Abdul Hakeem Hussein Manik
10 August 1997

translated by Fareesha Abdulla with assistance from Majid Abdul-Wahhab and Michael O'Shea
Notes from U.K. Public Records Office added by Maldives Culture
Photographs and graphics below have been added by Maldives Culture from various sources.
2005



  mohamed ameen didi maldives in military uniform
Mohamed Ameen Didi


Mohamed Ameen Didi announced the formation of a republican government on 1 January 1953, but in an article he wrote in Issue 17 of Finihiyaa, Ameen clearly admitted it was a monarchy being changed by name into a republic.

In the constitution of the republic, there was mention of the rights of the people but what Ameen wrote in Dhivehi completely contradicted the constitution.

Ameen said the constitution was drafted by Sir Ivor Jennings. There is an essay written by Ibrahim Shihab which explains the extent of the involvement of Sir Ivor Jennings with the constitution. The English Governor of Sri Lanka Mr Salisbury and Sir Ivor Jennings had already drafted the constitution which gave Dominion status to independent Ceylon (Sri Lanka). There were three pages devoted to the rights of the people. A copy of that constitution used to be here in this house, given to me by a very learned man, Hassan Ali Didi.

It is clear, and Shihab agrees, that the constitution of Ameen's republic had nothing to do with Sir Ivor Jennings.

I present two essays written by Ibrahim Shihab who was a member of the inner circle of that republic and had knowledge of other aspects of Ameen's government.

In Ameen's republic the koli ceremony was carried out in the same way it had been done for a king - the royal official responsible for making proclamations read the announcement in the public squares of the four wards of Male'. It was seen by the people as the beginning of the reign of a monarch with a new title. A potent symbol of the monarchy, the royal sword, was offered to Ameen and to the chief judge as well. Hence this new government should not be called a republic.

The seven months and twenty-six days of the first Maldive Republic
by Ibrahim Shihab
first published in Sarukaaruge Khabaru
7 January 1954


  ibrahim shihab maldives writer
Ibrahim Shihab


I understand that some people would hold the view that it is too early to start writing about this topic. However, with regard to honesty and serving the cause of Maldivian history, in my opinion the objective examination of this issue is a matter of far greater duty and urgency.

Dhivehi readers would remember the following words: 'From this bright, beautiful and civilised garden, an eloquent music, shining and sparkling, the sounds of songs bringing refreshing thasallee to our hearts, our first republic came into being on Thursday 1 January 1953…'

Within a year, that republic was laid in its coffin after the Friday prayer on 11 Zulhijja 1372 (Saturday 22 August 1953).

My intention is to write about the first republic for the benefit of Maldivian history. Since this is the age of free speech and writing, I keep an open mind in response to any reasonable criticism from anyone who thinks that I have gone overboard in my examination of the matter. And I keep a welcoming heart. Due to the nature of the issue, we will see some aspects of our future.

The way it began
Why did we have to change into a republic from the grand traditional monarchy that had existed in Maldives since antiquity? It cannot be taboo to examine this question. Matters of this nature are prone to be examined and interpreted in various ways, unlike set historical facts.

Farewell to Sultans in the Maldive Islands
by Sir Ivor Jennings QC, Vice-chancellor of the University of Ceylon and responsible for the constitution of Maldives.

Ameen Didi belongs to the family which has supplied all the sultans since 1759. The advantage of the republican form of government is that it is possible, without offending democratic principles, to combine the offices of President and Prime Minister. Though the two offices are formally separated in the new constitution a provision has been inserted to enable the President to assume the office of Prime Minister, if he so desires.

Orderliness of the crowds:
The most remarkable demonstration of this orderliness occurrwed at the final ceremony, the beating of Retreat by the band of the Ceylon. The crowd had assembled to watch a football match between Male' and the Vijaya, and about half the spectators were women.

While the band was marching and counter-marching a gentle rain began to fall, and very soon most of the crowd was wet to the skin; yet not a man or woman moved until the Air Commodore had taken the salute and the band had marched off... Probably the principal cause of this national self-discipline is good government…

Ameen played centre-forward for a football team while in office.

Two years ago these women were in purdah. Every home had its covered stand against the white wall which enabled the women of the household to peep over the wall through a curtain at the passers-by. No woman went abroad unless she was veiled up to the eyes. In many houses the stands remain but the curtains have disappeared and women walk about the streets with only a token veil pinned to the hair and falling over the nape of the neck.

Male' now has electric light, piped water, and three motorcars all owned by the government.

Education has been compulsory for the last five years and able students are sent to Colombo.

A government newspaper circulates, and news is received by wireless, twice a month.

Two steamers now ply the trade route between Male' and Colombo.

The Times
2 January 1953





Memories of Ameen
Aminath Faiza

Ameen said the first 1932 constitution was unworkable because it was designed for a colonial government, 'an inferior government', like Sri Lanka, and heavily influenced by the British and the Egyptian models.

Abdul Majeed had resigned from everything at sunset on September 14, 1932 and an all night meeting at the palace had followed, without Majeed.

On 22 September 1932, during the time of the preparation of the constitution, the sultan summoned Mohamed Fareed, Hassan Fareed, Ibrahim of Noomaraa Palace, Saeed Abdullah Doshisidi and the chief judge Hussein Salahuddhin and others. Shamsudeen said he intended to set up an advisory committee to run the Maldives government, and they were the new committee.

The advisory committee suffered from the lack of personal input from Majeed who had 30 years experience in government.

Shamsudeen wrote to Majeed saying that he had set up this committee and asked for Majeed's advice and help, telling him he was considered a member of the committee too. Majeed's reply was brief and clear: he accepted whatever the sultan and the leading people in the government thought was correct; he had already made a full written representation to the sultan on the matter. (Ameen himself could never find a copy of this letter mentioned by Majeed.)

It was suggested by Hussein Hilmy Didi, that a raivaru poem be written for the final part of the constitution:
'Do not play with gunpowder,
you will be burnt before you realise.
O my child, you may get burnt.'

Ameen later commented this raivaru was quite appropriate, but at the time, some of the advisory committee were very upset by Hussein Hilmy's suggestion, and it was eventually decided to use an Arabic testimonial.

It was decided the new constitution would be announced with a full ceremony 'as perfect as possible'. The sultan's son Hassan Izudeen was required to attend to complete the occasion and a boat was chartered a few days in advance called SS Barjoaraa. The boat arrived in time but without the prince, so his place was taken by the sultan's half brother on his father's side.

Shamsudeen announced that the new prime minister and chief treasurer was Mohamed Fareed. The treasurer and finance minister was Hassan Fareed and the justice minister was Hussein Salauddeeen who was previously the chief judge. The new minister for home, religious affairs and education was Ahmed Kamil Didi. Ahmed Didi (Majeed's brother) was in charge of labour, food, and handicrafts, while Mohamed Ameen was given trade, customs and post. Ibrahim Ali Didi became minister for health and mosques.

During the ceremony, civilians wore red sarongs and white shirts and handkerchiefs, and those in the constitutional committee wore beautiful white sarongs, white shirts and purple fez.

For the ceremony, many keema were constructed in Male' so women could sit in seclusion and watch the ceremonies. The hall was a high pole-structure shed without walls, three roofs wide. Women sat in a separate hall in front of the three long joined halls. There were hessian bags on the floor, covered in white cotton material. The sultan's voice was soft and difficult to hear, and the hall was full of the sound of coughing because of a flu epidemic.

The ceremony went very well, but after that day the whole atmosphere in Male' changed from the previous peace and quiet. Policemen with batons started to patrol the island and we felt afraid. Courts of inquiry were established, and a gazette was published with new laws and a new way of running things. Suddenly people were having to live according to new laws.

According to Ameen, the running of the government was in a state of confusion while the new administration learnt the job. It was trying to modernise Male' as quickly as possible, but due to lack of experience, intelligence couldn't control emotions and life became very difficult for everybody. The constitution committee started writing new laws without thinking of the consequences. 'We also didn't understand how difficult it was for the civilians,' explained Ameen. 'Instead of thinking about people's rights we were thinking our own selves.'

A list of laws written by the committee in order of preparation:
Law of the committee.
Garlic and firecrackers law.
Rules for the royal full moon tours.
Law of the sama.
Pushbike riding law.
Crimes on pushbikes.
Importing things to Maldives.
Dhiddhoo island in Thiladunmathi atoll is made a government island.
Law for black cotton material.
Laws of weights and measures for traders.
Customs duties raised.
Law of prohibited items in the Maldives.
Law for customs inspections.
Law for stamps.
Salted fish law.
Law for linear measurement based on 12.
Law for Policemen.
Law for punishment of adultery.
Law for learning Arabic, Koran, and Thaana.
Law for timber from islands.
Health law.
Law for punishment of stealing and people practising magic to cause divorce and personal relationship problems.
Foreign traders law.
Putting stamps on educational certificates.
Distribution of havaru (militia).
Constructing ships for the government.
Law for lepers.

Ameen admitted to friction with Hassan Fareed over the purchase of a passenger vessel for the Colombo-Male' run.

Hassan Fareed wanted the government to buy a large boat, but Ameen thought it would be an extravagance given the financial situation of the government. Ameen thought the bangala types used by the Borahs should be used by the government until profits justified the purchase of a larger passenger boat, but he only had six supporters in the committee.

Ameen stopped attending the constitutional meetings.

Ameen was more interested in establishing a shipping company in the Maldives with a wide shareholding among Maldivians. One share cost Rf10 and no-one could buy more than 100 shares. People on a single island could buy a maximum of 500 shares, and only Maldivians could become shareholders. The government would hold 5% of the shares which would total 10,000. Dividends were distributed after first two years and anyone with more than 50 shares would be allowed to attend monthly board meetings. All shareholders had the right to attend the annual general meeting.

translated from
Aminath Faiza, Memories of Ameen
Maldives 1997





Maldives under a Cloud of War
by Mohamed Ameen

After travelling in the atolls I came back to Male' having experienced and learned a great deal about the Maldivian people and their living conditions. Their plight burned into my heart and distressed my mind in a way which was beyond description with pen and paper.

For a long time, we had been receiving reports from the atolls about appalling starvation and death. But hearing and seeing are two different things. Yes! I returned to Male' determined to take steps to alleviate these problems and rescue Maldivians from starvation.

Without doubt the opening of Big Store benefited many Maldivians. The only way to restore health to the community was to supply food on credit, and on a regular basis. But talking about solving a problem is much easier than actually doing it. And formulating bureaucratic procedures is far easier than implementing them.

However, within a few days of my return to Male' I had prepared a bill for the majlis with proposals for a food distribution system in the atolls. The result of many sleepless nights and hours of thought and planning on the HMS Maloy, the bill's first draft was written when we were anchored in the Manadhoo island lagoon. My pen flowed faithfully as the clauses of the bill blossomed in my mind and from intense discussions with my friend, Flight Lieutenant Walker. Because of the enormous beneficial consequences of this bill I request your permission, gentle reader, to reproduce it here:

Bill No. 1/63
Rules for Food Distribution in the Maldives
1. A government officer in Male' will organise food for distribution throughout the country. This person is to be designated - chief of food distribution ( K.H.V. is the Dhivehi abbreviation ).
2. The various Atoll Chiefs will be empowered to organise and distribute the food on their particular atolls.
3. On atolls without the necessary existing administration, a representative will be chosen to organise and distribute food.
4. An advisory committee is to be established in each atoll to assist with organisation of the food.
5. Each island is to have a Big Store community shop and manager.
6. Each Atoll Chief, K.H.V. representative, and community shop manager is to have a Male' contact person, called the Atoll Food Advisor/Helper.

Law relating to the shipping of Food to the Islands
1. Islands which cannot use the amount of food originally allocated will receive an amount to be decided at that time by the government.
2. These islands are to put aside sufficient fish to pay for the food. This fish will be accepted by Big Store.
3. No food is to be allocated to any such island in the name of a particular person.
4. Food is to be sold from each store on these poorer islands in such a way that it is equally distributed. Those who cannot afford to pay for food will receive it on credit.
5. If the fish received by the stores in these poorer islands is not enough to pay for the food they have received, the food is to be sold and receipt from the fish used to make up the balance.
6. Those richer islands which can afford the food are to be supplied from the island shop. Food is to be sold.
7. The money received from food sales is to be distributed fairly among those who bought it from Male'.
8. An amount of fish is to be set aside to pay for this food. This fish is to be accepted by Big Store. At the end of the year, if the cost of the food has been completely paid, then all fish receipts are to be returned to the island.
9. Non-fishing islands can pay with whatever they produce for a living.
10. Those islands with no money-based economy at all, are to create and develop some kind of employment base and produce to pay for food.

After drafting this bill I didn't send it to the majlis straight away because I wanted to discuss its contents with Lieutenant Walker. This delay proved even more worthwhile when Hassan Fareed Didi also gave his thoughts and advice about the bill.

In the early morning of 13 March 1944 at 4.45 a.m., the little HMS Maloy moved slowly through Gaadhoo Kohi channel to anchor in Male' harbour. My memory of this morning is vivid. Not long after the Maloy dropped its anchor, Ibrahim Ali Didi and I left the shore in a dhoani to visit the ship.

On our way, we saw Hassan Fareed Didi approaching the Maloy in a police dhoani from the direction of Dhoonidhoo island. We met half way between the British ship and Male', and we were asked to follow the police dhoani back to Male'. Just after 8.00 a.m., Hassan Fareed Didi, Ali Kuda Rannabandeyri Kilegefan, Ibrahim Ali Didi and myself met upstairs in the post office.

Hassan Fareed Didi told us he intended to travel in the southern atolls just as I had done in the northern atolls with Lieutenant Walker. Fareed also wished to investigate a disturbance reported from Addu atoll. He had been told that all over Addu and particularly in Hithadhoo, there had been an uprising in February 1944. The people organising this revolt had intended to break the law regarding economic relations between foreigners and Maldivians. They had also tried to hunt and kill a senior government officer in charge of enforcing this law, Buchaa Hassan Kaleyfan. All this was confirmed by a later investigation. (Buchaa Hassan Kaleyfaanu was under the protection of RAF Officers in Hithadhoo, and stayed there until Hassan Fareed Didi arrived in Addu to sort things out.)

Well! All my plans were changed. Hassan Fareed Didi had decided to go down south instead of me. In the middle of our discussion, Lieutenant Walker arrived from the ship and joined us. We then discussed the food bill at length. Everyone was very happy with it.

Hassan Fareed Didi stayed in Male' for three more days and then prepared to sail southwards at dawn on the 16 March. Ibrahim Ali Didi and myself accompanied Fareed from Male' to the Maloy in a dhoani. It was a calm beautiful morning. The sea was dark blue and depthless as the clouds puffed above us in the gentlest of breezes. Ah! The power and beauty of God! How weak and ineffectual are the puny plans of men!...

We boarded the Maloy - the ship on which I had spent so many pleasant days; once from its decks I had even caught a glimpse of a distant Japanese submarine! Soon it was time for the sultan (Hassan Fareed) to depart. The first to shake my hand was the ever cheerful and humorous ship's captain. Next was my faithful friend, a true servant of the Maldives, Lieutenant Walker. He hoped we would meet again soon and complete the projects we had begun.

Near the boarding ladder, the sultan said his goodbyes to us. His manner was so friendly and kindly, expressed with such an honesty of feeling, that I'll never forget that moment as long as I live.

We left the ship, Ibrahim Ali Didi and I, to return to Male'. None of us saw or even guessed what was about to happen. Our dhoani rowed back to the capital as the British vessel began to move into the open sea. The distance between us and our beloved young leader increased and soon he had disappeared from our sight. Yes! Hassan Fareed Didi left Male' forever, as fate led him away to be written into the divine pages.

He was accompanied on this trip by Sikka Ali Manikufaan and Kuda Ahmad Fulhu's Adam Fulhu. They were both to stay in Addu atoll.

On the same day as the sultan's departure from Male', at two o'clock in the afternoon, I presented the Food Bill to a special sitting of the majlis. If I remember correctly, it was passed unanimously and on 18 March, the sultan gave his assent to the bill. The majlis elected me as chief of food distribution. The task was to enforce the bill - a difficult and arduous undertaking. However the results of our labours prove that for those who work hard, nothing is impossible.

translated from Maldives under a Cloud of War
Mohamed Ameen Didi 1949


In the view of many thinking people, Maldives became a republic in a slow 'gradual' way, due to the natural process of the decay of royal power and procedures. I do not entirely agree with this opinion, and here are my reasons.

In order to clear the path, I shall first take those interested in Maldivian history into a very special meeting of the People's Majlis held in Male' on 13 April 1952. Yes! Though I believe the issue had been in political existence before this time, it was on this day that the first official decisions were taken. The matter tabled for debate by the majlis was 'What kind of government system was suitable for Maldives?'

malim moosa maafaiy kaleygefan maldives
Malim Moosa Mafaiy Kilegefan

 
That meeting ended with the unanimous election of the committee listed below, which would consider the matter and make a final decision:
Mohamed Ameen Didi, (acting as head of state).
Famuladeyri Kaleygefan.
Abdullah Jalaludeen, Chief Justice Manikfan.
Ibrahim Mohamed Didi, deputy Vazirul-Auzam.
Malim Moosa Mafaiy Kilegefan, speaker of the majlis.
Ibrahim Shihab, member for Kolhumadulu (Thaa) atoll, resident in Male'.
Bucha Hassan Kaleygefan, member for the Galolhu ward in Male'.
Kaannaa Kaleygefan, atoll chief of Faadhippolhu (Lhaviyani) atoll.

This committee held a series of meetings at Athireege (Mohamed Ameen's) house and came to the conclusion that the country should become a republic. However, the final outcome would be based on the results of a referendum in Male' of the people of the island and those people from other islands who were in Male' at the time.

The decision of the committee was approved by the majlis. The meeting and minutes of the special majlis decision added a new page to the history of the Maldives. The meeting was held, as provided in section 70 of the constitution, in the Nadi Thamaddhunu building on 16 April 1952 at 4 p.m.

The special majlis made a unanimous decision on the referendum, and some people may remember this meeting as a milestone in the cause of women's freedom. This was the first majlis meeting where women took part.

The public referendum was held on 17 and 18 April, and the results were announced late in the afternoon of Friday 18 April at Henveiru football ground. At four o'clock in the presence of men and women, the result was announced, as you will remember, with a large majority in favour of a republic for Maldives.

To fulfil my sacred duty and properly serve history, I state here that up until the moment the majlis made its decision, Mohamed Ameen argued in favour of the rejuvenation and promotion of the monarchy. Whether this was his real belief or not, only holy God knows the intentions of a person's heart. Yes! The events that took place later cannot be ignored.

As mentioned before, regarding the real cause of a republic and the official reason for it, I wrote the following words:
'Maldivians said goodbye to the existing monarchy in Maldives and the inhabitants agreed for a very simple reason. The sole objective of the citizens was to arrange matters so Mohamed Ameen could become supreme leader. To achieve this, the Maldive monarchy was transformed into a republic.'

In review of my statement above (made after the fall of the first republic), when I think about the subject today there is not the slightest change to my opinion. It is based on what truly happened. Yes! Regardless of whatever was said, the real reason for the change was to instal Ameen as the president of a Maldive republic.There may have been other minor reasons for the change, but I consider the elevation of Ameen to be the main motive.

If future generations of Maldivians ask whether this event took place according to the will of the people, my reply is that from the result of the vote, a majority of people were for it. However, I cannot say there was a diminished fondness for the monarchy among the common people. Consideration should also be given to the political atmosphere in the country, and the level of personal freedom at that time. Due to the state of politics, other prominent people could not find a way to prevent Mohamed Ameen from becoming the supreme leader of the country. There was no way anyone could stop it.

I do not intend to mention here how the monarchy was run in later times, nor comment on the powers of a monarch and the effect on the king and other consequences of the constitutional changes. For this reason I do not think it is my duty to write in this section about the status of the reign of king Mohamed Shamsudeen after the passing of the first constitution of the Maldives on 22 December 1932 and the fall of the first constitutional government on 9 November 1933.

Yes! The reign of Mohamed Shamsudeen, the reign of his successor king Hassan Nooradeen the Third, and then Hassan Fareed Didi entrusted as our head of state - we saw these things appear and then vanish. And in addition to this, Hassan Nooradeen, Mohamed Fareed Didi, Ali Kuda Rannabandeyri Kilegefan, and Ibrahim Ali Didi, all held responsibility. There was also the period of a regency committee. Membership of that committee changed, and at certain times it included Mohamed Ameen, Ali Mafaiy Kilegefan, Sheikh Abdullah Jalaludeen, and Ahmed Kamil Didi.

After the abdication of king Hassan Nooradeen III on 8 April 1943, and up until the country became a republic in 1953, Maldivians found that the authority entrusted with the smooth running of their religion, way of life, and all matters of government, varied from day to day and depended on changing procedures and levels of responsibility of various people.

Forgive me. From the time of the resignation of king Hassan Nooradeen in 1943, efforts were made to get Abdul Majeed Rannabandeyri Kilegefan to accept the throne of Maldives after he was elected for that position. However my belief is that his ways of thinking and personality prevented him from accepting the throne.

We should also not forget that the first step towards changing the monarchy was the period when Ameen ran the country as the commander-in-chief. Yes! These changing colours on the political horizon led to the transformation of the age-old monarchy into a republic.

Some events of the period
18 April 1952 has gone down in history as the date when it was decided to change Maldives into a republic. As the days went by, among the events which occurred was a public amnesty.

With regard to the issues we are discussing, one of the most special moments was the night when the voting for the majlis members took place in Male'. Would women be among those elected for the Male' seats?

Young women were employed as clerks for the first time on 5 August 1952, and on the following day, certain women were allowed to wear saris.

On 15 August, the People's Majlis met for the last time under the monarchy system. The meeting ended with the reading of the letter by the clerk from commander-in-chief (Ameen) asking for the dissolution of the majlis. This day was special for another reason. It was the day when chief judge Abdullah Jalaludeen was given the high title of 'Sheikh-al-Islam' by the commander-in-chief. No doubt it was in recognition of his services to religion in Maldives!

The readers would remember that work was carried out in Male' and other islands in preparation for the republic celebration. In the atolls, the most enthusiastically performed activities were the selection of young women for the beauty contest, the organising of bashi teams, and the packing of all the food in the islands for transportation to Male'. The walls on the streets of the capital were lowered and endless speeches were made exhorting men and women to socialise together. I will never forget the organising of the bashi teams and the training for the beauty contest.

On the morning of the National Day in 1953, the Male' museum was opened for the first time. And on the twelfth of the same month, the Dhaarul-Uloom (House of Learning) was opened.

If you asked me to comment on these events and the state of the country at the time, I would leave any observation on the events to the readers to make their own judgments.

Regarding the condition of the country, I can make a truthful statement. Yes! There is no doubt about it: The country was starved in every way, people were eating leaves and living in a state of nakedness.

While the common people of Maldives were suffering, Male' people danced and dressed in silk dresses. Teas were drunk and feasts consumed... Yes! We are now experiencing the bitter consequences.

There is no doubt that by gathering all the country's food in Male' and making new dresses for those who gathered for the celebrations, a very colourful and glittering picture was painted for the eyes of visiting foreigners. However the reality behind the glitter was bound to be exposed one day, and this day came. It is a natural law.

The preparations for the republican celebrations, the welcoming of the foreign dignitaries, the handicraft exhibitions, and the various tea parties and dinners - it is appropriate that all these things should be listed here.

For the same reason, it is pertinent to discuss the events of the big day, the number of koli held, and the official announcements. And the events after the meeting - the fireworks display, the dhoani racing, and the president leading of the Friday prayer, all these are events that cannot be ignored. And allow me to mention also the republic carnival, the beauty contest and other sporting programs.

However, I do not intend to examine these matters in detail. Firstly, each of these events was presented to the Dhivehi people in a glitteringly beautiful and bold manner, and secondly, if I start on these details, this account will become unreasonably long.

For the purpose of history, we now know enough. Yes! The economic status of the country and perhaps, to a limited extent, the respectable standards of behaviour and manners that we inherited from ancient times, all these things were lost in the most inappropriate way.

I will comment on these issues in a different context. Let us place any of these issues on the table. Then compare it with what Maldivians faced - our financial wealth, our traditions, and the condition of the country at the time, and the conclusions will be self-evident.

Before I rest my pen regarding this issue, each one of these events had a common thread of hypocrisy and trickery, and displayed a disrespect and lack of regard for Islam. I take this opportunity to remind the readers about this. Yes! No one can deny that if a group of people forget holy Islam and the people of a country are fooled about their country's capabilities, then they will soon experience the consequences. Isn't that what happened to us?

At this point I would like to make some comments on the constitution that established a republic in the Maldives.

Thoughts on the Republican constitution
Some writers describe the republican constitution as a 'horror', so before I write anything about this document, allow me to make a comment about the matter.

As Maldive historians know, a constitution first appeared in Maldives on 5 March 1931 after the visit by B. H. Bourdillon CMG. It was during the golden time of the reign of king Mohamed Shamsudeen. On Thursday 19 March 1931, the king summoned all prominent members of government into his presence and gave instructions for the compilation of a constitution.

At an appropriate meeting, the issue was discussed and information gathered. The heavy responsibility and honour of writing the first constitution was granted to a committee of the following people:
Ahmed Dhoshimeyna Kilegefan.
Hussein Salahudeen, the chief judge.
Mohamed Fareed Didi, later Fashima Kilegefan and king.
Ibrahim Ali Didi, later Famuladeyri Kilegefan.
Ahmed Kamil Didi.
Ibrahim Rushdie.
Hussein Hilmy Didi.

It was the most capable committee that could have been selected at that time. The constitution was formulated and then publicly announced with all due importance. The people received it on 22 December 1932 at 9 a.m. Yes! A constitution was breathing for the first time in the Maldivian air about 20 years before that historic republican day in 1953.

A critical examination of that constitution and its 92 sections reveals parts where there is an attempt to attain very high ideals that are not reasonable for a nation just beginning its constitutional life.

However, it cannot be claimed that the constitution was adequate in terms of provisions regarding the responsibilities of the people and the protection of their rights as individuals and as equals.

After events occurred which are outside the terms of our discussion here, the constitution was 'torn up'. Yes! People cut it to ribbons on 9 November 1933 and we experienced a time when the government functioned without any constitution until a second one was passed on 12 June 1934. Actually, it was a version of the first constitution with amendments by Abdul Majeed Rannabandeyri Kilegefan.

On the night of 2 October 1934, the long reign of king Mohamed Shamsudeen Iskander came to a sad finish after a meeting of the special majlis under section 26 of this constitution.

A third constitution was introduced in 1936-7, and once again it followed the advice of Rannabandeyri Kilegefan. After a series of amendments were made on the night of 29 January 1940, a special majlis repealed the constitution completely, as provided under section 80.

Until 19 December 1941, the country was ruled without a constitution and seemingly according to the will of the then home minister and chief of the government, Hassan Fareed Didi. But in reality, the government was run according to past constitutions and the public's understanding of those practices.

Independent of the previous constitutions, the fourth constitution (popularly known as the 'little' constitution) came into existence on 22 April 1942. This twelve page document was in place until 29 October 1944, when it was decided to run the government under the previous third constitution of 1936-7.

Yes! After that, amendments were made to a number of sections and the final version was passed on 31 May 1951. This constitution was in use until Maldives became a republic.

There is no doubt that the mother of all these constitutions was the first one. In each, the highest priority was given to the rights of the people and their responsibilities to respect the holy religion of Islam and to stay as much as possible within the boundaries of Maldive society. Yes! The duty of formulating and amending each of these constitutions was undertaken by the most capable and learned people in Maldives at that time.

A very famous Maldive literary figure called the constitution a 'horror', and I will examine that issue here... but in the next issue, alright?


The seven months and twenty-six days of the first Maldive Republic (second part)
by Ibrahim Shihab
first published in Sarukaaruge Khabaru, 7 March 1954

As I mentioned in the previous essay, we now need to consider the constitution of the republic. Among Maldivians, it has been popularly believed that the writer of that constitution was the world famous lawyer, Sir Ivor Jennings. So who am I to express an opinion about a constitution drafted by such a person? Well, since that constitution was given to Maldivians and I am a Maldivian, I can't avoid saying something about it.

Let us examine the matter, starting from the first constitution, and then up to the new one in 1951 which became the republican constitution, and the constitutional convention.

When we think of the major parts of a constitution we think of 'Maldive government', 'Maldive people', 'rights of the people', 'the running of the government', 'people's majlis', 'the cabinet', and 'government ministries' and other categories like that. Each part should set out reasonable and fair legal provisions.

In contrast to this expectation, look through the pages of the constitution that was presented to Maldivians on 1 January 1953. The reader would not find anything other than the rights and powers of the commander-in-chief and his deputy.

In addition, we should not forget about the law that provided for the election of senators.

There was no hint of the rights of the people and their responsibilities, or personal individual freedom, or a model society. Yes! It is true that the constitution made it very clear that 'Al-Amir Mohamed Ameen, son of the late Al-Amir Ahmed Dhoshimeynaa Kilegefan' was to be the commander-in-chief of the nation.

I could not find in it any concern for Islamic conventions or respect for Maldive traditions.

With apologies, I have to say to the honourable Sir Ivor Jennings that when you drew the constitutional boundaries for the country, your understanding of the state of the people was very limited! But even though I say this, I am not sure whether the relationship between Sir Ivor Jennings and that constitution is like that between Jacob's son and the tiger.

Nevertheless, the constitution turned out to have a very short life.

The following is from Sir Ivor Jennings, The Approach to Self-Government, U.K., Cambridge University Press 1956, pp. 47-8:
'In 1952, at the request of the then Prime Minister, I drafted a new constitution for the Maldivians and I was present in Male', the capital island, when the constitution was proclaimed in Maldivian fashion on the 1 January 1953. Within eight months that constitution was overthrown in a coup d'etat.

The explanation was to be found not in the constitution but in a rapid deterioration of economic conditions. The price of the main export, Maldive fish, was low while the prices of imported goods, mainly rice, were high. The result was an adverse balance of payments which was met by the depreciation of the Maldive rupee which resulted inevitably in the lowering of the standard of living of the people.

In January 1953, as I saw for myself, the Maldivian people were solidly behind their government. Eight months later they were ready and anxious for a change because many of them were almost starving. Man cannot live on fish and coconuts alone; and it was essential that the Maldivian government reform its economic policies so as to make rice and other imported goods available.

With the assistance of the governments of the United Kingdom, Ceylon, India and Pakistan, economic stability was restored. Such stability was essential for effective self-government.'


Republic Celebration
Yes! The 1st January 1953 arrived, and the public declaration of the First Republic of Maldives was a historic day for the nation. Foreign dignitaries also arrived in Male' that day. Such an occasion had never happened before.

It is not yet the time to discuss the people of the other islands. Yes! Male' was flying at the highest possible level of joy, but on that day the poor people of the other islands were eating the leaves of bushes. Thus the scene was one of extremes. Nevertheless, the sun still disappeared behind the western horizon after Maldives became a republic.

There is enough for a moral tale when one thinks about it today - the things that happened during the gathering within the Dhaarul Uloom and the looks that appeared on the faces of various people.

When one recalls the proceedings at the meeting and on the streets of Male', one would have to wonder about the religion of the government. Yes! With pomp and hypocrisy, the past was discarded.

The People's House
On 22 December 1952, we saw the first meeting of the People's House. The speaker was Malim Moosa Mafaiy Kaleygefan. The deputy-speaker was Hassan Ali Didi. The secretary was Mohamed Zahir, and the deputy-secretary was Ungulu Moosa Kaleygefan.

Contrary to Islamic custom, many seats were occupied by women. Not only that, a woman was elected as the leader of the House!

Various matters were proposed by the prime minister and seconded by the trade minister, and eventually the meeting ended.

At this point, I would like to examine the various bills that were passed by this House.

The first was the law forming councils in the different wards. Since many people from Male' know all about this, I won't discuss the matter in detail here. Even if there are actually only a few, there are still people among us who remember how the meetings to elect members of the councils turned into a circus.

The second law was the law prohibiting the importation and use of bidis, cigarettes, and tobacco mixtures. Is there any need for further comment on this law?

The third law was another equally infamous bill: 'The law for the Amputation of Hands of those who commit Theft.'

Then the Maldives saw the creation of the most powerful and cruel law of the republic, the People's House Members' Executive Privilege Bill, which brazenly entered an area exclusive to Islamic sharia. For reasons of self-interest, it was decided to shut the lips of the people.

Yes! Yes! As long as the law of executive privilege was in force, the members of the People's House could behave in any way they wished. Others had to turn a blind eye. Anyone who uttered a word would not be safe. Whatever the actual words of the law may have said, the reality was exactly as I have described.

Can anyone argue about this? The People's House, as its name implies, is a place for the protection of the people's rights. It is where the representatives of the people gather. However, in reality it was... as the reader may have witnessed...

The Republic Games and Carnival
Looking at this section's heading, the reader may think I have forgotten about certain things. No, not at all. I remember the colourful scarlet nights of the carnival, as well as the sporting events, the balls and tennis racquets.

The sad fact is that we were mesmerised by the moment and the pleasures of life. We did not remember that there would be another day. Otherwise, would everyone have been so lost in the celebrations? It is better not to mention all the mingling of the sexes that took place. Happiness and play is something we should all experience, but above all we must safeguard our humanity, manners, religion and beliefs.

Like all worldly things, the celebrations at the Dharubaaruge (Public Meeting Hall) and the sporting events came to an end. Male' returned to normal life and each person had the opportunity to ponder about what was happening and where we were heading.

Even the most apolitical person of those times would be thinking about avoiding hunger and finding enough clothes to wear. Maldivians were aware of what was going on; they weren't asleep. Yes! Not only were there people who pursed their lips in disapproval at the hypocritical behaviour of the governing circle, but there were those who shed tears of grief.

As a result, after the arrival of the republic, the disasters and suffering that spread conspicuously across the nation caused great distress in the hearts of honest people. It seemed as if the president of the country had forgotten that he was a human being. There was overwhelming arrogance among those in charge of government ministries. Islamic morals and conventions seemed to be saying goodbye to Maldives. The government treasury became the private property of those who had the power to access it, and their shares were relative to their power. Men became second-class citizens. The honour and respect of young women was pillaged in the name of education and sports. Those in charge of resolving minor issues for the government became extremely corrupt.

Yes! Despite these circumstances, common Maldivians showed complete obedience and displayed great patience. When would they see the fulfillment of the promises that had been made to them?

It is a lesson that history has taught repeatedly, that cruelty is a bad omen that spreads like an epidemic and when the population can no longer tolerate the situation, revenge become natural.

In this manner, the end of the seven months and 26 days of the first Maldive republic loomed closer. The people seemed to be asleep, inactive and neglectful.

At this stage let us ask, what benefits did Maldives receive from this republic?

In response to this question, the only answer I have is - nothing!

Yes! By establishing a sort of republic, instead of implementing real reforms, the change brought nothing but loss and destruction to the Dhivehi people. If we look at the republic from any point of view, be it religious, educational or economic, it was a total failure.

Nature made its judgment and a period of real reform in Maldives began on Friday 21 August 1953





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