- These are opinions
- If I have missed any information, please let me know
- If it turns out that none of this is true, consider this to be a rant about a hypothetical scenario
- This post contains sexual references
This has been the most talked about story in the Maldives this past week, so in an ever-vain attempt to be topical and relevant, I have decided to share my opinions about it.
Overlord Yameen recently hinted that a whole atoll of the Maldives will be given to Saudi Arabia for some mega project. The government is being pretty shush about this which is annoying pretty much everyone. As far as I know they didn’t deny any allegations about the atoll giveaway, which is probably a good indication that it’s going to happen whether we like it or not.
Let me double check.
and yes, it’s apparently happening “soon“.
They did clarify more recently that nothing is actually being sold to Saudi Arabia and the atoll will remain under state control. They also said that no one will be evacuated. But that doesn’t really help.
Of course this is cause for anger, and many people are angry. However, there are also plenty of people who aren’t angry. This in itself is a cause for anger because the ones who aren’t angry now are the same ones who got their panties in a twist a few years ago over the whole GMR fiasco. That was about letting a company run an airport for 20 years. This is about giving away a whole atoll to another country. Hypocrisy 101 amirite?
Let’s Break This Down
It has five inhabited islands and one resort. It has a population of around 4,370 or around 1.3% of the country’s population.
What is this Mega-project?
We don’t know the details yet, but it’s some kind of “economic city” that will be “open to the entire world”.
A few reasons:
- One country has a lot of money, and it knows that it can buy friends with said money. (see this recent news story about money being given to journalists)
- The other country wants a lot of money and is willing to whore itself out to obtain said money
- Soft colonialism is all the rage
އަހަރެންގެ ދެލާރި (My Two Cents)
I’ll try to be coherent but I can’t guarantee anything.
On The Atoll
The reasons for selecting Faafu weren’t the first things that came to my mind upon hearing about this sale, but like I said just before, coherency. I believe the reasons for giving away this particular atoll can be summarised by the following points:
- Agreement – Saudi Arabia can afford to buy the whole country but for the sake of good diplomacy, they had to restrict their greed to one atoll. From everything I’ve read about this, it seems like the Saudi king had been eyeballing Faafu for a while. This probably means that he initially asked for Faafu and the Maldivian government just said yes. However, it could also be that he wanted a different atoll that the Maldivian government didn’t agree with and they had to negotiate.
- Superficial equitable development – Tharaggee (“development”) (for the love of ﷲ don’t spell it “tharaqqee”) has been a buzzword in the Maldives for a few years now, particularly among political circles. And in order to appear as though they’re not pushing an agenda to relocate everyone into Hulhumale, the Maldivian government has to make sure that tharaggee at least appears to be happening everywhere. Faafu Atoll has until now been neglected, with only a few harbours being thrown at the people to quench their desire for actual development. I think an airport is planned for Nilandhoo now as well.
- Population – A small population means less dissent. It also rationalises the sale of the atoll: “at least we’re not selling out that many people, right?”
On the Project
While I do love me a good megaproject, I feel like I have to hate this one on principle. Having said that, there are probably going to be real reasons to hate this project as well:
You can bet that this project will involve land reclamation and therefore reef destruction (seriously, watch the documentary “Sand Wars”). Of course with any project there is going to be some sort of environmental cost. But with most projects, that cost is justified by its benefits, or they are made up for some other way. This Faafu economic city on the other hand promises jobs for locals but not much else. I don’t think we can justify further destroying the environment for what is essentially a vanity project.
A superficial reason, but hear me out.
Every time a rich gulf country undertakes a mega-project, there is always a building or buildings that speak nothing of their location, by which I mean they are completely disconnected from the surrounding landscape both physically and culturally. Dubai (an architect’s wet dream) is the perfect example of this. Each new building has to be flashier and more grand than the last and the designs hardly ever take into consideration the society that existed before the rapid growth of the city.
And they love making things unnecessarily tall. I mean, for a region of the world that is so hostile towards homosexuals, there sure is a strange obsession with adorning their city skylines with gargantuan phalluses. So now, Dubai, rather than being a beautiful set of buildings, is a set of beautiful buildings which, ironically, is not very beautiful. However, Dubai (and to a lesser extent other gulf cities) have a reputation for this now, so whenever they announce fancy new building, everyone can be all like “Oh, that Dubai!”
Bringing this back to the Maldives; I would bet that most of the buildings built for this economic city would be very out of touch with Maldivian society, making the city soulless (even the term “economic city” sounds soulless, don’t you think?). Of course, bad architcture isn’t as strong a reason as the first to be against this project, but it’s something to think about: “Do we really need this?” etc.
To make things a bit more tangible, here is a picture of what Jeddah economic city (a mega-project that Saudi Arabia is currently working on) might look like:
And here’s King Abdullah Economic City, another work in progress:
Try to imagine these as the future of Faafu Atoll.
False Promises, False Hope
Jobs – What jobs? It can’t possibly be all cushy high-level office jobs because that would require upgrading education. And it can’t be manual-labour-construction type jobs either because since when do Maldivians do that? And it can’t be anything related to the jobs that Maldivians already do (fishing, boat building, etc.) because that would be against the vision of this new modern city. In addition, if the government really wanted to provide jobs in areas which people can, do and want to work, there would be no need to build this city. In short, this project doesn’t seem to be planned with Maldivian people in mind.
And for those who support this project because they think it’s the ticket out of all their problems, it rarely plays out that way.
On The One Country (KSA)
I would like to think I have nothing against Saudi Arabia, but the following spiel will probably make you think otherwise.
Let’s start with the big idea of soft colonialism. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s like regular colonialism except a lot more underhanded and behind closed doors. Basically, one country will be really nice to another and then expect that country’s government to bow down to it (the first country) in return. China, for example, has been accused of soft colonialism in Africa with all the infrastructure projects they funded.
No country wants to be thought of as a soft coloniser. They would rather be “generous” and “helpful”. But Saudi Arabia isn’t just being generous; they’re not helping the Maldives build a new city – they’re buying the country to build it for themselves. They’ve pretty much crossed the line into full on colonialism.
With any country, colonialism (soft or otherwise) is bad, but with Saudi Arabia it’s especially bad. This is because of the price that Maldives will eventually have to pay.
Firstly there’s the fact that Saudi Arabia isn’t known for being the most environmentally friendly country. Their economy is almost entirely based on an outdated, heavy-polluting, not-great-for-low-lying-island-countries-which-may-disappear-within-the-next-century energy source. Not only is it hypocritical for the Maldives to get into bed with such a country; it’s downright stupid.
Then there’s the little issue of pushing religious ideologies. While you can debate whether or not Saudi Arabia directly funds terrorism, you cannot argue that the type of Islam Saudi Arabia promotes doesn’t fuel terrorist ideology. We all know what happens to Maldivian society when Saudi Arabia shoves its thick religious narrative down the Maldives’ throat (that’s a metaphor). And we don’t want any more of that than we’ve already gotten.
What needs to happen is GMR level anger; probably more. Sure it might strain relations between the two countries like what happened with India, but who cares!? There are more important things at stake. In fact, the relations between the country should have been strained when Saudi Arabia had the gall to even ask for a whole atoll in the first place. In any case, biting the hand that feeds you is better than sucking the cock that rapes you.
On the Other Country (Maldives)
This country needs to stop opening its legs to every other country that throws money at it.
I’m rarely one to make dramatic references to the past, but what happened to the Maldives which drove out the Portuguese in the 1500s? What happened to the Maldives that only a couple of years ago was having an unnecessarily large party to celebrate its independence? How come giving away land on such a massive scale to a single entity is okay now?
And even though (they say) it’s not a question of giving up sovereignty as many originally feared, we should ask ourselves why there was and why there continues to be so much secrecy around this project. Call me old fashioned, but I think citizens have a right to know what their government plans to do with their country.
We are setting a dangerous precedent. Many people have been extremely vocal about this, which is a good thing, but the government messes with the people so much that it might be best to go with the flow and just let the project go on as intended. From everything I’ve read, it’s inevitable. Let’s just accept it and focus our efforts on renaming the country. I suggest ސަޢޫދިވެހިރާއްޖެ (Saudhivehi Raajje).