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Iyye, 'Yesterday' - Chapter 3
No independence in the 1948 Maldives-British Agreement
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.

A paper ship won't float forever

Port 'T' built in secret on coral islands

The story of 'Port T', a complete naval base hacked out of the jungle on Addu Atoll, a collection of waterless coral islets in the Indian Ocean, 500 miles from Colombo and 3,000 from Australia, is revealed by the Admiralty today.

Britain was planning this secret fleet anchorage while the Japanese were still preparing for the attack on Pearl Harbour. Like the Mulberry, Pluto and Fido, 'Port T' was always known by its code name. Absolute secrecy was essential, for this port was a vital link in the convoy route to Australia and for certain operations in the Indian Ocean.

In September 1941, the Royal Marines went ashore to establish coastal batteries, searchlights, signal towers, roads, camps and jetties for a naval base. The price they paid was heavy.

Twenty three per cent of the whole force had to be evacuated in the first three months as too ill to be of any further service, and by the time Japan declared war the base was ready, and on 3 January 1942, four months after the Marines had landed, the first convoy of five troopships, escorted by the cruiser Emerald, put in to water and refuel.

When the first Royal Marine Coast Regiment and a Landing and Maintenance Company, under the command of Lt. Col V. B. F. Lukis (now Major General), reached Addu Atoll they were faced with virgin jungle, and with the great swells of the Indian Ocean breaking in perpetual surf on the coral reef. Palms towered above the islands, themselves only a few feet above sea level.

Low Resistance
The climate 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. But in spite of the enormous difficulties, first landing places were improved by blasting away the coral, then sites cleared in the jungle for camps.

Roadways to take heavy guns and equipment had to be cut through the scrub to the battery sites before the work of gun-mounting could begin. The natives were timid and easily amused, They were willing to help but were incapable of heavy work and could do little but aid in stripping vegetation.

Giant Land Crabs
The programme required the guns to be mounted in 6 weeks and in 6 weeks to the day the batteries fired their proof rounds, but not before the Devon and Kent batteries of the Royal Marine Coast Regiment working on neighbouring atolls, had been reduced by sickness to fewer than 50 men apiece.

On Hithadhoo island, the four mile roadway from landing place to battery site had to be laid across a swamp infested by giant land crabs. The major in command stripped and led his men thigh deep into the black foul-smelling mud to lay foundations with palm fronds lashed into bundles. Another road was entirely built by a corporal and six marines continuously at work for two months. They used coral as the hard core with a top dressing of earth and sand.

Yet, despite all the difficulties, by December 8, when news of Japan' s entry into the war reached the island, the anchorage was already in a state of defence; only camouflaging, administrative installations and the completion of the war signal station remained to be done.

The linking of the island batteries by telephone and submarine cable was handicapped by a mad native girl who, at night, persistently cut the cables when they were laid.

When later in the year when marines of the landing party returned to Addu Atoll with a company of Royal Marine Engineers to build an aerodrome, they witnessed the most stirring sight in the history of the islands, they saw the Queen Mary, carrying home Australian troops from the Middle East, steam into the anchorage they had built.

The Times, UK

Ibrahim Doshimeyna Kilegefan masterminded the enslavement of Maldives when king Mohamed Mu-eenudeen III (Kuda Bandarain) was coerced by threats into signing a letter of agreement with the British on 16 December 1887.

Under the guise of becoming a British Protectorate, Maldives in reality was made a British colony. This work was continued by Ahmed Doshimeyna Kilegefan who had learned English well at Richmond College in Galle (Sri Lanka).

The 1887 letter formed the basis of another agreement signed on 24 April 1948 that gave even more power to the British. The signatories on behalf of Maldives were Mohamed Ameen Didi and Ibrahim Ali Didi. Signing on behalf of the British queen was the High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, W. Henkinson. This agreement is transcribed here (in the appendices), from pages 248-51 of the book Thangeehu Kunevunu Dhivehi Rajjeyge Thaareekh ge Thanthankolhu.

In response to the gentlemen who write history
On 11 November 1995, an article by Hirilandhoo Shathir and Ali Rafeeq appeared in the Haveeru daily newspaper. The article implied that the 1948 agreement brought political independence to the country. In a private phone conversation, Ibrahim Luthfee also said to me that Maldivians began the process of gaining their independence when Mohamed Ameen signed that agreement. Luthfee claimed that complete independence was attained later in the agreement signed by Ibrahim Nasir.

In my view, if these writers truly understood the 1948 agreement when they wrote that article, then those two men betrayed history. If they are just imitating someone else without doing any research, then I advise them to discover the truth before they write.

Hirilandhoo Shathir is an up-and-coming young person who speaks with me and expresses a desire to find out the truth. Ibrahim Luthfee is well-educated and fluent in two foreign languages. He has the experience that comes from age and years of historical research.

All I can say is that between Luthfee and Ibrahim Nasir (the ex-President) there was a problem, the same problem that came between Henveiruge Hakura Manikufan and Ibrahim Doshimeyna Kilegefan. It was a dispute over a wife, and this is the reason Nasir appears on Luthfee's radar in a bad light. A person can only write history when they are completely objective. The fact is, Ibrahim Nasir's hard work brought political independence to the Maldives.

The 1948 agreement was signed at a large ceremony. Morning tea was held at my father's house and I sat at the table with Usman Ibrahim (Hoarafushi Kateeb Takurufan). Afterwards, as we went to the swing house, we received a draft copy of the agreement that was due to be signed that morning. Kateeb Takurufan read it out in a beautiful voice.

'Maldives is completely lost,' I said. 'The British can dominate us.'

Takurufan was a political thinker and he agreed. Together we went to the Public Meeting hall (Dharubaaruge), taking along our eight year old brother Abdul Ghafoor Ahmed. At the hall, there was a coir rope mat for the lowly ones and that is where all three of us sat down. It was the golden age of social discrimination.

The topic being discussed was that the agreement did not provide independence to Maldives. Sri Lanka was also mentioned because it was only semi-independent at that time. It was called a dominion state. Under this system, the ruler is the Governor-General appointed by the Queen of England. Such was the reality of the matter but Mohamed Ameen Didi and others have denied the truth and written that Sri Lanka gained independence. India and Pakistan also became independent at this dominion level. Those two countries gained complete independence soon after, and Sri Lanka joined them in 1972. Their first president was J. R. Jayawardana, the leader of the majority party in the government. But that is a long story and I leave it here.

Electing a President by vote
The first president elected by vote in Sri Lanka was Premadasa and from then on, the president was always elected that way. However, Sri Lankans celebrate their independence on the day they received dominion status. Sri Lankans also consider D. S. T. Senanayake as the leader who obtained their independence. He was Dudley Senanayake's father. India and Pakistan also celebrate their independence on the day they received dominion status.

Under western rule for 400 years, Sri Lanka has never attempted to take over Maldives. After being controlled by the British for 175 years, Sri Lanka received dominion status. During the time when the Portuguese were present in Maldives, tribute gifts in the care of Mohamed Takurufan were delivered to the Portuguese governor in Sri Lanka. If Ameen Didi or anyone else looked into the history of Sri Lanka, these facts would become clear.

Ameen Didi's educational standard
Naibuge Ahmed Haleem writes, 'the nobleman (Mohamed Ameen Didi) also has a Bachelor of Arts degree'.

In contrast to this assertion, Ameen Didi writes in his book Gratitude of a Son, a biography of Ameen's father, 'I abandoned the B.A. which I had intended to do. I had to take over the work that father was doing for the government. I did a course in postal management at Petah post office in Sri Lanka and returned to Male' to take the position of deputy post-master. This was one of my father's government positions.'

In Maldives under a Cloud of War, Mohamed Ameen recounts that after partying in a nightclub he would return home in the early hours of the morning to find Ibrahim Hilmy Didi still immersed in his books. Mohamed Ameen is writing about his days at Aligarh University, when both students are attending the intermediate college. It is clear from these admissions that Mohamed Ameen's educational qualifications were very low.

Evidence of Independence from Civic Language
'Civics' is the name sometimes given to describe the body of knowledge that is used in government operations. The English 'civic' includes numerous officials. In a totally dependent colonial state, the ruler is called the governor. However, due to India's enormous size, Queen Victoria's representative was called the Viceroy which means the 'vice of' or 'on behalf of' the British monarch. The chiefs appointed by the viceroy are called governors.

In the English civic tradition, a king of a fully independent country is called His Majesty and a queen is addressed as Her Majesty. The British also have a Commonwealth, with the king or queen as its head. In the language of English governance, the representative in a Commonwealth country is called the High Commissioner. The representative of in a completely independent country is called the Ambassador, while in a totally dependent country the person would be called simply Representative.

If Maldives really gained its independence with the 1948 agreement signed by Ameen Didi then from that day on, the Dhivehi representative in Sri Lanka would have been called Ambassador. However, long after the death of Mohamed Ameen, the official Maldive diplomat in Sri Lanka was known by the acronym M.G.R., the Maldives Government Representative.

A short time after Ameen died, a coronation installed a king on the throne of Maldives. He was Mohamed Fareed Fashana Kilegefan and he became king on 7 March 1954. Ameen Didi passed away (translators' note: dying of his injuries from the attack in Male') on 19 January 1954. The king's title was His Highness, and in Arabic he was called al-Sultan. According to civic tradition, if the 1948 agreement provided independence to Maldives then the British would have addressed Mohamed Fareed in writing as His Majesty from the very beginning. In Arabic, his title would have been Jalalathul Malik.

When these are the facts of the matter, there is no evidence or proof to back the claims of those who say Mohamed Ameen obtained independence for Maldives.

According to the writings of Ibrahim Shihab regarding the issue of Addu (translator's note: a revolt against Male' rule occurred on Addu atoll on 1 January 1960, and until September 1963 the British base at Gan island was part of the Republic of Suvadive led by Afeef Didi from Hithadhoo island), the British relied heavily on powers provided in one of the articles of the 1948 agreement. Here the initial view held by myself and Usman Ibrahim Takurufan concurs with the view of the honourable Shihab.

I assert that the inability of Ibrahim Doshimeyna Kilegefan to undermine the power and influence of both Kakaage Mohamed Ranabandeyri Kilegefan and Henveiruge Hassan Hakura Manikfan, resulted in Ibrahim Doshimeyna actively seeking the support of British so he would gain the upper hand in Maldives. That seed which he planted - the noose he threw over the country or, in the words of Anni (Mohamed Nasheed), the 'iron armour' - this is what Mohamed Ameen reinforced during his rule. Ameed legitimised the country's dependent status.

The work begun by Ibrahim Nasir to rescue Maldives from British colonialism, became an eleven year jihad which eventually succeeded and Maldives became fully independent on 26 July 1965. On that day, in the first document written by the British government to the Maldive king, he was addressed as His Majesty Mohamed Fareed the First. They completely stopped using the term 'His Highness'. The Maldive representative in Sri Lanka was given ambassador status. All this happened because Nasir was utterly furious with the British and Maldives refused to join the Commonwealth.

Being part of the Commonwealth was not a bad idea. There were benefits from membership. When Nehru defiantly refused to take India into the Commonwealth, its constitution was changed to accommodate India. The queen of Great Britain's position in the Commonwealth is now that of a chairman of an organization. When Maldives later joined the Commonwealth, the representative's name changed to 'High Commissioner'.

The facts of the matter are clear and easy to understand, but a group has attempted to make Mohamed Ameen look good by portraying Ibrahim Nasir as bad. This prejudiced group has used trickery to fool ignorant people. The appropriate name for such trickery is 'trying to sail a paper ship on water'.

During Nasir's rule, this writer was also banished for committing an offence. Similarly, Baibuge Ahmed Haleem was found guilty of an offence. He had a government position, and lost that as well. Abdul Raheem Abdul Majeed was also found guilty. However, I have always worked in private business and after my sentence I returned to work.

I have nothing personal against Nasir. I admit I was banished due to my personal guilt. It was a political offence, not a crime of theft, fraud, or an indecent act. I was punished for the offence of writing a letter for someone to the attorney-general and chief judge.

When I was sentenced, it did not occur to me to begin condemning all the good deeds done by Nasir. I have always been suspicious of subjective analysis and I believe in fairness. Hence, I do not wish to raise the status of Mohamed Ameen, the son-in-law of Hussein Salahudeen, by lying. It is a pleasure for me to write the truth about the nobleman, and essays of this type can be read in the issues of the Amaaz and Finihiyaa magazines.

The Dhoshimeyna koli for Mohamed Ameen
At the meeting when the 1948 agreement was signed, Abdul Majeed Ranabandeyri Kilegefan was present wearing a very elegant abaa. After the ceremony, Abdul Majeed had much praise for Mohamed Ameen, saying that he was a great man with numerous achievements, including freeing Maldives and stopping the tribute to the British.

Majeed summoned Velanage Ibrahim Didi to Athiree Maafannuge house and instructed him that because of the great services to Maldives by Mohamed Ameen, Majeed was ordering a koli to award Ameen the title of Dhoshimeyna.

Ibrahim Didi told Mohamed Ameen about Majeed's orders, and Ameen accepted the title. Ibrahim Didi then asked Ameen to come to the Bodu Ganduvaru (grand palace), and summoned the Koli Kaleygefan. In the presence of Mohamed Ameen, and on the instructions of Ibrahim Didi, the dhoshimeyna koli was carried out on 29 April 1948. Mohamed Ameen became Al-Amir Mohamed Ameen Dhoshimeyna Kilegefan.

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