Dec. 24, 2007
By Ken Krayeske • 7:45 AM UCT
A brother and sister play in a doorway on the western side of Male.
*Dry means no alcohol. The Maldives is an Islamic country. No booze. Dry does not mean drought.
Just a few degrees north of the equator, it rains here often. And when it does rain in Male or the surrounding islands of the atoll, the air thickens with moisture and rain drops swim down from the sky like massive schools of tiny fish.
These fish are in the fish market in Male - 2,000 square feet of stink and fresh yellow fin for about $1 a pound. That means sashimi, tuna marinated in olive oil for pasta, tuna pan seared in a sesame seed rub, tuna and egg in a peruvian potato salad.
At the same time, I hear the words from "Beautiful Day" by U2 - "see the tuna fleets clearing the sea out." But it's not just the tuna boats here. For the past month, an unknown cause has claimed millions of bait fish in a massive fish kill.
Every harbor or inlet we pull the tender into, in a corner or in between boats and the dock, there are floating dead fish, more than I could count. The island government has sent water samples to Europe for testing, according to Ismail our cabbie who also works for the government.
But no one knows what is happening to the fishes. And people go about their daily business, like the banana merchants in the fruit market, a block west of the fish market.
The lumber shop stays open and sells wood.
Kids play football.
People pray. Visitors cannot enter this mosque after dark. And in Male, some shops actually close for evening prayer.
And the fight for human rights in this dictatorship of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who has been in charge for the past 30-plus years, goes on.
Walls across the city feature wheat pasted posters advertising a concert celebrating the Dec. 10 anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Other wheat pasted posters admonish citizens to vote or advertise for weak political parties. Some speech is better than none, I suppose, where the political process revolves around the iron-fisted whims of President Gayoom.
Lonely Plent notes that there are no independent newspapers in the Maldives, and after brutal suppression of prison riots in 2003, Maldivian journalist Jennifer Lateef was imprisoned on charges of terrorism for reporting about the riots.
Amnesty International has called Lateef a prisoner of conscience. Gayoom groomed over the details of the riots by hiring PR devils Hill and Knowlton, who gave us the 1990 myth of Iraqi soldiers tearing Kuwaiti babies out of incubators.
In 2005, the parliament here voted to allow multi-party elections, according to Lonely Planet, there aren't many real candidates stepping forward to challenge Gayoom.
And whatever you do, don't pull your tender or boat up to the presidential dock. You'll get yelled at, and possibly worse, arrested.