Politics Society & Culture

Coconuts or progress? President’s question for Kulhudhuffushi

President Abdulla Yameen has told the people of Kulhudhuffushi they can either stay in the past or move with the times. He has not visited the island for two years but was there on Sunday for the ruling party’s annual rally.

PPM supporters, heads of state-owned firms and senior government officials have been flocking to the northern island for the inauguration of an airport project and the party’s annual meeting.

Speaking at the rally, Yameen promised that “planes will be landing and taking off from Kulhudhuffushi Airport” before the end of August 2018. His supporters have previously claimed he will fly to Kulhudhuffushi for his re-election campaign.

Yameen centered his speech on one question, “why must we always soak coconut husks?” referring to the hundreds of women who use the mangrove area to make coir rope for their livelihood.

“When I visit islands, it makes me tearful… because after all this time (of being a country) people’s basic needs are not met. There are people living in poor conditions. We still have not made clean water and sewerage common across all islands.

“My eyes are teary with happiness too. Happiness because of people’s belief that things can be done and people putting their hopes on me.

“When I come to the islands, I think to myself: What right do political leaders have in thinking that we Maldivians are so unfortunate? Do we always have to do things like we did in ancient times?

“I’m not talking about traditions and good customs. But the things we do to move forward, to develop industries, to increase jobs, to bring development to youth and the people, do we always have to soak coconut husks? Why must we always soak coconut husks?

“I’m not saying there is no honour in that work. That is not what I’m saying. But I keep thinking, the income that the hundred something families get from coconut husks (making coir rope) and now this, the main gate of Boduthiladhunmathi (the greater north) is being opened, we are building an economic hub here, when this is opened, think about the wealth this will create when tourism is promoted here.

“Even now, let us give a choice to young people. Would you rather have the opportunity to earn more from tourism or would you rather beat coconut husks till your eyesight is all but gone?”

“I don’t even need an answer for this, the people of Kulhudhuffushi have shown me the answer to this when I arrived here.”

Yameen described airports as the “backbone of all economic work” and asked for the people of Kulhudhuffushi, Shaviyani Funadhoo and Hanimadhoo to give him the opportunity to develop airports.

After the reclamation of the Kulhudhuffushi mangroves, the MTCC dredger will head to Shaviyani atoll Funadhoo, Yameen said. Funadhoo is also home to several mangroves.

Yameen also promised to publish announcements to lease lagoons near Kulhudhuffushi to be developed as resorts.

Haa Dhaal, with a population of about 20,000, is the only atoll in the country without any operating resorts. Yameen had announced plans to develop five resorts in Haa Dhaal atoll during his last trip to Kulhudhuffushi in late 2014, but resort projects have stalled.

“When you look at the tourism benefits to Kulhudhuffushi, after the development of an airport and also building a resort, which wouldn’t take two years now, it can be done in a year… to Kulhudhuffushi area alone, we can add 1,500 tourist beds, 4,000 jobs can be created in resorts alone.”

“For this project alone, it will bring in a bare minimum of 200 million that is the lowest amount. When foreign investors come in, that number will increase. Will we still have to soak coconut husks then?”


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