President Abdulla Yameen mistakenly designating Mundoo in the southern Laamu atoll as an uninhabited island has drawn ridicule on social media and relief from its 400 inhabitants.
A decree issued on Thursday that declared Mundoo as uninhabited was rescinded later that night with the president’s office blaming incorrect information from the department of national registration and apologising to the island’s small population.
After the decree was published in the government gazette, the Mundoo island council had promptly put out a statement saying it was “deeply saddened and distressed” and complained that it was not consulted.
Ibrahim Naeem, the president of the council, told the Maldives Independent today that the people of Mundoo had been “in a state of confusion, with a lot of questions”.
He said the news came as a shock especially to the students of Mundoo’s school, who were preparing for their examinations this October. “The council, school management and teachers of Mundoo school listened with dismay to the concerns of students and parents of those who had registered to take the GCE O-level examinations,” he said.
The council immediately raised concerns through the Local Government Authority, the body responsible for coordination between councils and the central government.
Complaints were also lodged at the national registration department, which released a statement Thursday night apologising for incorrectly informing the president’s office that Mundoo’s inhabitants were relocated. The department assured steps to prevent such mistakes in the future. Action will also be taken against “negligent” employees, it said.
According to the president’s office, the department had said the people of Mundoo were relocated and that the island was yet to be legally classified as uninhabited.
The president’s office said it had had sought information about the status of inhabited islands ahead of the next local council elections, due to take place on January 14, 2017.
“The president’s office sincerely apologises to the people of Mundoo for the way this has happened. The office has asked the department to take steps so that such issues will not repeat in the future.”
The admission of the mistake over Mundoo meanwhile caused outrage on social media and the president’s office quickly became the subject of mockery.
The president doesn’t read what he signs? Or he read and still didn’t know people live in Mundoo?
— Shauna Aminath (@anuahsa) September 23, 2016
— AzraNaseem (@Manje) September 23, 2016
Requirements for presidency —> The ability to list off the names and population size of all inhabited islands in Maldives 🇲🇻☝️️
— Uninhabited Beard (@zaydamjad) September 23, 2016
A mock letter from the people of Naivaidhoo to the national registration was widely circulated. It reminded the department that the northern island was still home to some 300 people despite most of its 800 registered inhabitants now living in Malé.
The island of Gaadhoo in Laamu atoll was also declared uninhabited by a presidential decree Thursday night. Its people were relocated to Fonadhoo in the same atoll earlier this year and each family was reportedly paid MVR60,000 (US$3,890).
According to the 2014 census, the Maldives’ 338,000-strong population is scatted over 188 inhabited islands.
Only four islands have a population exceeding 5,000 and only 20 islands have more than 2,000 people. Some 38 percent of the population resides in the congested capital city.