Yumna Maumoon, daughter of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, has launched a one-woman Twitter campaign to save Male’s ancient heritage.
Since her first tweet on August 15, Yumna, niece to current President Abdulla Yameen, has criticised her uncle’s plans to relocate an 18th century coral stone mosque to a southern atoll.
On Monday, the former deputy education minister alleged Monday that the government plans to move a 17th century minaret, a landmark in Malé, to a different location in the city to widen the street.
Her tweets have gone viral.
Malé’s cityscape has seen major changes under Yameen’s three-year rule, including reversal of traffic flows, relocation of monuments and the development of an ice rink in the city’s main park, the Sultan Park.
The Kalhuvakaru mosque, carved from coral stone in 1799, was dismantled for the development of Sultan Park. It is to be moved to the island of Thinadhoo in Gaaf Dhaal Atoll.
“It is unacceptable that a 200-year-old ancient mosque of Male is being relocated to another atoll,” she tweeted on August 16. “That is why I resigned,” she said of her resignation in April. She was the head of the department of heritage at the time.
Describing the mosque as “a symbol of our religion, culture, craftsmanship and unique identity,” Yumna said its relocation violated the UNESCO World Heritage Convention that the Maldives is party to.
“[I]t also goes against our own principles of preserving our culture, heritage and identity,” she said.
Echoing similar concerns, Malé City Mayor Mohamed Shihab told opposition-aligned Raajje TV Monday that the council are “extremely concerned” and “saddened by the government’s lack of consideration to Malé’s cultural heritage and history”.
The mosque was relocated once before; it was sold to a resort for MVR9715.26 (US$630) in 1978, and returned to the capital city in 1979.
Yumna said the mosque’s relocation could damage it.
The mosque is to be set up on the recently discovered foundation of another mosque on Thinadhoo, meaning that the ancient site may not be preserved, she said.
On Monday, Yumna said: “I’ve been hearing that the minaret is going to be relocated for road expansion.”
The relocation of the minaret, built in 1675 and part of Malé’s Friday Mosque, would “destroy hopes” of getting the Friday Mosque on the permanent list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, she said.
The Friday Mosque, its minaret and the adjoining burial ground for former rulers was added to UNESCO’s tentative list in 2008.
The heritage department has since said it has no knowledge of plans to relocate the minaret.
Yumna’s campaign comes in the wake of a bitter feud between her father and uncle that became public when Gayoom, who heads the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives, refused to grant Yameen the party ticket for the 2018 election without a primary.
In the ensuing power struggle, Yumna’s twin sister Dunya Maumoon subsequently resigned from her post as foreign minister in July, and her brother, MP Faris Maumoon, was expelled from PPM, but the decision remains unenforced.
The Usgekolhu, the only remaining building left of the former kings’ palace, has meanwhile been handed over to ARC, a children’s NGO, to build a children’s heritage center.