Maldives Travel Guide

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The First Constitution and Maldives Republic

Maldives History
» Colonial powers and the Maldives
» The First Constitution and Maldives Republic
» 'United Suvadheeb Republic'
» The Second Republic

A written constitution did not exist in Maldives till 1932 and the customs and traditions along with Islamic Shariah formed the Law. The sultans usually consulted a group of advisors or bodun who included his ministers and the Fandiyaaru or Chief Justice. The Islamic scholars usually exercised much influence in the government affairs but quite often they were replaced when the Kings were at odds with them.

Maldives - most of the residents live in small islands
Maldives - most of the residents live in small islands

The hereditary system continued to exist but in many occasions the helm of power shifted from one family to the other following internal uprisings and the demise of kings. A constitution was introduced in 1932 after the emergence of a new educated elite. The new constitution, which provided for a People's Assembly of 47 members, did not survive long. It was literally torn apart by the public and the reigning Sultan Mohammed Shamsudheen 3rd was dethroned shortly thereafter in 1934. The Sultan was believed to have used exceeded his legal powers. A new constitution was formed in 1937.

In 1948 the existing agreement between the Maldives and the British were renewed.

In 1953 the Maldives changed from a monarchy to a Republic. Mr Mohammed Amin Didi was the first President of the Maldives. He was a popular politician who had won a referendum held to determine the type of government that the Maldives should have. However, the Republic was short-lived. After a mere eight months Amin Didi was overthrown and a Sultanate was formed once again. The people were outraged because of the prevailing food shortages and the total ban of tobacco by Amin Didi. The Second World War caused famine that continued even in the early 1950s. Against this backdrop it was quite easy to manipulate and mobilise the ignorant masses for political ends by Amin Didi's rivals.

Since the failure of the First Republic, the Maldives was a Sultanate until 1968. The intervening period saw the rule of only one king. Sultan Mohammed Fareedh was to be the last monarch of the Maldives.

During the Second World War, British built a military base in Gan of Addu Atoll and Kelaa of Thiladhunmathi Atoll. They evacuated the bases soon after the war. However, British interest in the Maldives revived during the late 1950s. The British were successful to conclude an agreement with the Prime Minister Ibrahim Ali Didi for the lease of Gan in Addu for 100 years.

This agreement signed in 1956 provided Gan, located in the southern tip of the Maldives, as an airfield for the British. It also included the provision of a part of Hithadhoo in Addu Atoll as a radio communication centre for the British.

The agreement was heavily criticised in the Maldives, and led to the resignation of the Prime Minister. He was succeeded by Mr Ibrahim Nasir who sought to solve the problem regarded by the Maldivians as an issue endangering the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Maldives. However, the government of Mr Nasir was to face more serious problems that threatened the integrity of the country.


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