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Bridge weddings and ballot boxes: Maldives government mocked in Eid parade

Kulhudhuffushi’s Eid parade has become a way to mock the government and its broken promises.



Bridge weddings, ballot boxes and the first lady were among the targets in this year’s Eid parade on Kulhudhuffushi island.

The Mashi Maali parade dates back more than 20 years on the island and is an annual event that sees people dressed as maali (monsters) marching the streets.

The event is held across the Maldives but the one in Kulhudhuffushi is different: it gets its name from the white clay of its mangrove lake and, in recent years, has become a way to mock the government and its broken promises.

Wednesday’s Mashi Maali did not disappoint.

Islanders had fun with the government’s plans to hold weddings atop a $200 million China-backed bridge. One float showed a ‘couple’ sitting on top of a bridge made of sticks and empty sacks. A cardboard sign on top says “Bridge Wedding” while another on the side reads “Room 101” and “Do Not Disturb.”

Another showed how President Abdulla Yameen visits islands, as a man in a grey suit escorted by a dozen bodyguards and SWAT officers holding tin roofing as shields.

A woman clad in a purple floral dress and a red hijab with a placard reading “Kadhuru Faathuma” (Dates Faathun) pasted on her outfit handed out envelopes to the crowd, a jibe at first lady Fathimath Ibrahim whose charity foundation has faced corruption allegations in distributing dates during Ramadan.

There was doubt over whether the parade would take place, as Yameen was scheduled to visit the island that same evening.

But, hours before the event was due to start, there was a loudspeaker announcement that the president’s visit had been pushed back to 8:30pm.

Organisers refused requests by the president’s campaign team to postpone the festivities, the Maldives Independent understands.

The dark humour played out under the blazing sun, with islanders shielding their eyes or searching for shade under trees. Younger children hid behind their mothers from the maali and teenagers took selfies.

The parade mocked a government promise to start a school bus service for the island’s three schools, while four men in masks carried a huge ‘ballot’ box bearing the words “Certain to go missing 2018.”

A float labelled “Sea Ambulance” had “Corpse Transport” written on the back, a reference to the lacklustre medical services available on the island and ill-fated emergency medical evacuations.