The home ministry has ordered a southern island to halt production on a movie documenting the 1962 forced eviction of its residents as collective punishment for seceding from the Maldivian state.
The historical documentary, Thenadhoo 1962, was due to shoot in July on the island of Thinadhoo in southern Gaaf Dhaal Atoll.
Home Minister Umar Naseer moved to block the production on Monday on “national security and public order grounds,” said Ahmed Naseer, the president of the Thinadhoo council.
In a letter on Monday, the home minister told the council the police have launched an investigation into the film’s production.
“This is absurd, what happened to the people of Thinadhoo is an undeniable fact, and the film’s script does not focus on alleged inhumane treatment during the sudden depopulation, but on the lives of the Thinadhoo residents who were forced to migrate to nearby islands,” the council president said.
The home ministry was not available for comment at the time of going to press.
Thinadhoo was depopulated under then-Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir’s rule when the three southern-most atolls seceded and established the separate state, the United Suvadive Republic.
Soldiers from the central government raided and razed the island to the ground. Hundreds were tortured, and jailed or banished. Residents were only allowed to return in August 1966.
Naseer, the council president, said: “I do not see why the home minister is issuing orders in relation to films and documentaries, when there are relevant authorities tasked with the responsibility of monitoring and regulating such media content.”
The ministry had reportedly asked to see the film’s script before. The council had invited select officials to read the script at its offices.
Naseer said the council has not made a decision on how to respond to the minister’s letter.
The script, by Ahmed Zareer was written to mark the 50th anniversary of Thinadhoo islanders’ return. It was to be directed by prominent filmmaker Abdul Fattah.
Mushfique Mohamed, a human rights lawyer, said the home ministry’s move contravenes right to free speech, and amounted to an “attempt by the state to remove past political violence from mainstream discourse.”
He added: “The natives of Thinadhoo have been historically persecuted over their resistance to successive autocratic centralized Maldivian governments. Their story needs to be told.”