30 Years…. and We Live on.

31 March 2006.


It 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.



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