Monday, March 17, 2008


The British Royal Navy established the so called PORT T in Addu Atoll and made its headquarter in the island of Gan in the year 1941, during the 2nd world war. They used almost all the parts of Addu Atoll during this period. Again, during the cold war years, from 1957-1976, this atoll was used by the British.

The original idea of a naval base in Addu Atoll came up to provide a safety fall-back for the British Eastern Fleet. In their military thinking, if the Japanese took over Singapore, Malaysia and Java, then there was no other alternative option other than Trincomalee, Sri Lanka for the British. But the naval commander-in-chief Admiral James Somerville, upon inspection, found that port inadequate. So they searched for an isolated island base with safe, deep anchorage, in a suitably strategic position. Finally, it was Addu Atoll that met their requirements. With approval from the Maldives government, its facilities were used extensively by the British fleet.

In August 1941 HMS. Guardian was in Addu Atoll to clear and construct an airstrip on Gan Island. Large oil tanks were build on Gan and Hithadhoo. The six major islands were garrisoned by the marines, namely Gan, Maradhoo, Hithadhoo, Vilingili, Kandu Hura, and Meedhoo. The Royal Marine Coast Defense Regiment, manmed shore batteries and anti-aircraft guns. To facilitate the defense, causeways were built on the islands on the side of the western reef. But there were disadvantages, namely the equipment was visible from a long distance at sea, given low elevation of the atoll.

During this time, the populations of the island of Gan and Feydhoo were transferred to Maamendhoo, in Hithadhoo, and to Meedhoo. Residences were temporarily build by cadjan and other low profile woods. Imagine how the people would have felt and how difficult their life would be. Shifting was easy but to settle down to another environment was very difficult.

The Japanese remained unaware of the base till much later in the war. But submarine reconnaissance established the existence of the base. All the entrances into the inner channel of the atoll were permanently closed by anti-submarine nets. The German U-boat U183 torpedoed the British Loyalty in March 1944. It was a very impressive long range shot from outside the atoll. A grip in the anti torpedo net was focused to attack the vessel. There was noteworthy oil pollution after this incident and the British personnel cleaned the lagoon. Even today, the affect of this pollution is seen in the lagoon. After war the British Loyalty was scuttled close to Maradhoo Island and is a now a dive point.

During this period, the quality of life of Adduans went below poverty. Those who went to work for the central government were paid insufficient wages in the form of rice and sugar. The people were treated like slaves by the officials sent from the central government. Hunger was its ultimate result. People were not fishing as they did before. What they had they were not able to export due to the war.

Luckily, the people of Addu had large housing plots during those days. They grew coconuts, bananas, papayas, and a very large amount of cassava in their gardens, along with other plants as fertilizing. Hithadhoo had 149 toddy [A sweet sap from palm tree] trappers. From their work Dhivehi Hakuru [sugar made from toddy] was available in every house hold. By the grace of Almighty Allah, the people did not starve. But clothing was another matter. I heard that some people wore materials used for tenting by the British. However, there was abundant food available with British personals and every month a lot of it was burnt in Feydhoo. This consists of flour, sugar, and even rice. The inner harbour was full of ships and the crew were selling a bag of rice for a fleshy chicken. A single bunch of banana meant a lot of food to take home. But the government severely punished people caught on going these trips to buy food from ships. There was no fair trial. Wherever government officials discovered such acts of trade their fists were ready to beat the offenders like slaves; perhaps it was even worse than slavery. Shouldn’t the community have had the right to utter their feelings? Shouldn’t the community stand up for their rights or for a change? Surely it’s a human nature to do so.

The central government had dispatched a person called Bodu Dhon Kaleygefaanu to deal with the Addu people. He was actually Buchaa Hassan Kaleygefaanu of Male. His actions against Adduans were inhuman, and his merciless punishments unbearable. Some of his victims are still alive today and will describe what they went through.

When cruelty went beyond limits, the people of Hithadhoo stood up in unity to kill the heartless official. The leader was Mr. Abdullah Afeef Didi, along with some of his supporters. But when the then head of government went to investigate, he sent almost all of Afeef Didi’s family to Male’. They were kept in the jail and a trial was carried against them. Mr. Abdullah Afeef was given the most unforgiving punishment which the central government gives, after which he and members of his family were banished to different islands.

Afeef Didi may or may not have had the idea of parting the southern atolls from central government at that time. But for sure he stood up for protection his community. However, whatever happened took place due to the uncivilized punishments given by officials. These officials may not have foreseen the ultimate result of their actions. The worst point is, these officers were being protected by the ongoing regime.

Can the Addu people be called secessionists? It is more worth to explore whatever happened, and to learn from the findings.

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