President Abdulla Yameen has hit back at criticism from his half-brother and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom over his development vision for the Maldives.
Gayoom, in a Facebook post on May 12, had said that he was impressed by a group of young people he had met who did not “believe the Maldives should become another Singapore.”
The post was widely perceived as a shot at Yameen’s plan for the Maldives, which envisions the relocation of more than 70 percent of the country’s population, currently dispersed across some 200 islands, to the reclaimed island Hulhumalé near the capital Malé.
His administration is meanwhile borrowing more than US$1billion for a host of megaprojects, also concentrated near Malé, including a US$800million project to develop the main airport, a US$210million bridge connecting Malé, the airport island Hulhulé and Hulhumalé, and housing projects in the new “youth city.”
The elder Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives from 1978- 2008, however, appeared to support a more decentralised and environment-friendly model.
He said: “I was impressed by some young people I met recently who were quite passionate about protecting the Maldives as a beautiful, environment-conscious and progressive island nation where development is not concentrated in the Malé region, but takes place in all atolls.
“They felt that more must be done for community development. They did not believe that the Maldives should become another Singapore because we have the most beautiful beaches in the world and we can build a more nature-friendly and environment-friendly progressive model.”
Gayoom’s post is only the second instance Yameen has faced criticism from within his own party. On May 3, former Speaker and Justice Minister, Ahmed “Seena’ Zahir, had questioned whether the government would develop municipal services in Hulhumalé along with the housing projects.
Yameen responded fiercely at a function to mark the 50th anniversary of the country’s main airport on Sunday.
“We want to change our situation. This does not mean development is reserved for Malé. To maintain the beauty of our Maldivian islands, we have to find the money to protect their shorelines. It is to maintain the beauty of our islands that we must consider the Singapore model,” he said.
“If we do not know how to raise funds, we cannot attain such objectives within a short period of time. So why shouldn’t we emulate the Singapore model? There is absolutely no reason. Emulating the Singapore model, in my opinion, does nothing to our air, or strip the beauty of our islands. Land can be reclaimed, resources will improve, and population consolidation efforts will continue. This is what we must do in a modern economy.”
Megaprojects, financed by loans, are the way forward, he said, adding: “We have seen that we cannot go forward with small projects, as evident by our distant past.”
The Maldives must also emulate Singaporean “democracy” based on discipline and public order, he said.
“The Singaporean and Maldivian democracy are the same. But as Lee Kuan Yew has said, the most important aspect of democracy is, or the most important aspect for a country to progress, is public conduct, even more than democracy.”
Meanwhile Maldivians on social media, frustrated by frequent flooding in Malé and the airport, have dubbed the Maldives “Singapool.”
Dear Yaameenu, its will be easier to aim for Venice than Singapore me thinks. pic.twitter.com/vosCPJ2tNq
— Waddey (@waddey) May 9, 2016
Greeting from SingaPOOL! Theme park pic.twitter.com/4ZtoPh7Oaq
— ShafiuJameel (@ShafiuJameel) May 10, 2016
I should get out from my huge apartment and go swimming to the marvellous large pools of our great city. The great Singapool.
— Moose (@mooosyy) May 10, 2016