and We Live on.
31 March 2006.
is thirty years since the British left Gan for good after being part
of a turbulent period of the history of Addu Atoll.
First, when the news of British leaving reached us, we could not
believe it. How could they leave just like that? What about our
sacrifices. We went as far as revolting against our government;
some of us left our own islands where we had been living for thousands
of years, just to keep them in Addu so that we could live a better
life. But then the people began to understand that their worst nightmare
was really going to be realized. Suddenly everybody began to think
about what would happen next. What would happen to their children,
how about their future?
On 31 March 1976 the British left Gan. Nasir, then the president,
against whose government we had revolted, hit back with vengeance.
He got his revenge of the rebellion in the 50s and 60s by raping
Gan. Like Ian (Jock) Morrison wrote in the website, Gan Remembered
“When the RAF left Gan, they left behind a viable airfield,
a hospital, restaurants and adaptable living accommodation, to say
nothing of an English speaking population. It would have been a
logical step to develop the area as a holiday resort right away.
Unfortunately, logic did not enter the equation. Revenge certainly
did. President Ibrahim Nasir had never forgiven the Adduans for
their rebellion in 1959 and he had sworn vengeance. He had the island
stripped of all useful items such as generators and hospital equipment.”
Ships after ships were loaded with anything they could move and
carry, and taken to Male. Things that would otherwise have been
in good use were destroyed by Nasir’s unprofessional thugs.
This time we could not do anything about it. We were just watching
powerlessly. Even the 31 March became the new Independence Day.
In desperation, the people were left with no option but to go to
Male in search of work. Large families who were living together
for generations, disintegrated. As one can imagine, the people of
Male did not receive these “arrogant traitors” with
open arms. “Adduans are more numerous in Male than the caps
of dondon bottles.” The Addu guys were simply littering
Male like garbage.
But things did not turn out so bad after all. Many people joined
the newly developing tourism industry. They had an advantage in
the tourism industry over other people because of the many skilled
workers they had. Few pounds that some people had saved became a
fortune in Male and they invested the money and soon became rich
and became an important part of the Maldivian economy. The unwanted
garbage turned to highly paying guests.
Today, perhaps more people in Addu Atoll are self sufficient than
they were thirty years ago. But a large portion of the population
including the writer is still living outside the atoll. Our dream
is that one day we will be able to work in the atoll like thirty
years ago. That dream might be fulfilled before the next thirty
years are out.