Face it, how often is there news from the Maldives that you pay attention to? Several years ago there was some kind of attempted coup where the ringleaders were intercepted in a small boat ... that's about all I can recall. Otherwise I know of the Maldives as a major scuba-diving destination, that's all.
Early this morning (Nov 7) something happened that reminded me of that boat incident, though only in the brushstrokes. The Maldivian Democratic Party has planned a rally for November 10 against the Maldivian President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Gayoom has held power since 1978 (no typo), and the country officially allowed opposition parties to come into existence only last year. Gayoom has called elections for 2008, but the MDP has asked for him to step down and an interim government to run the country till the elections.
The Government appears to be running scared of the November 10 rally, declaring it an illegal assembly. But plans to hold it continue to be made. In particular, a boat left the southern atoll of Addu -- 360 miles from Male -- late on Monday night, carrying 54 people to attend the rally. (Including 3 women and 2 teenagers). Nobody told them when they started that they could not attend.
About 2am, the Coast Guard intercepted the boat (they call it a dhoni there) and refused to allow it to continue. The Coast Guard even sprayed hot water (!) on the dhoni's passengers, and threatened to shoot them and capsize the boat. The dhoni is now anchored in a lagoon in a small atoll near a larger atoll called Kolamaafushi.
After getting this news, I actually managed to speak to a man on the boat. He told me that they had spent five hours this morning without water and food (apparently the water containers fell overboard because the dhoni was rocked by the waves set off by the Coast Guard vessel). But they are now being allowed to get food and water from Kolamaafushi. The site of this standoff is still 24 hours from Male -- that's how spread out this tiny nation is -- but the man on the boat told me: "We are determined to try to reach Male tomorrow."
(One last angle to this story: the Coast Guard vessel that intercepted the dhoni and sprayed passengers with hot water is an Indian present to the Maldives. Once the INS Tillachang, it is now the Huravee).
So it goes, when a nation that few care about tries to dislodge a long-time dictator. See Mugabe, Robert; or Sese Seko, Mobutu; or Ratsiraka, Didier.
(News and updates at the Dhivehi Observer).
Subcontinent South is also carrying updates. Their first post about this has some interesting comments.