Tales from the Commonwealth

Tales from the Commonwealth


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The Maldives, Sri Lanka, Seychelles and Mauritius are popular holiday destinations for wealthy tourists.

In this four part series, Robin White visits these four island nations, to find out what is life is really like for people who live there.

Part One - The Maldives

The Maldives is made up of 1,200 idyllic islands, most of them uninhabited, which lie off the coast of the Indian sub-continent.

The island nation is run, somewhat dictatorially, by one man, President Maumoom Gayoom.

He is Asia's longest-serving leader having been in office for 30 years.

However, under a new constitution, ratified by President Gayoom last month, the country's first multi-party presidential elections will be held by the tenth of October.

Robin speaks to President Gayoom and asks why he has changed his mind and assesses his chances of winning the presidential elections scheduled for next month.

He also speaks to the opposition who think he may have some cunning tricks up his sleeves.

Capital congestion

Robin visits the capital city Male, one of the most congested in the world.

Around a third of all Maldivians live in Male, therefore the shortage of housing and road congestion are huge problem.

He finds out what influence, the major religion Islam has on the island nation.

Nudity in films is banned and it's illegal for Maldivians to drink alcohol - if caught you are banished to a remote island.

In contrast tourists are only allowed to drink alcohol in resorts.

Heroin addiction is also a growing problem among young people of the island.

Global warning

The most serious threat to the stability of the Maldives is not alcohol, drugs or even politics, it's global warming.

The seas are rising and none of the Maldivian islands are more than six feet above sea level.

Six thousand people have been moved from their homes due to rising seas already.

It's estimated that around 50-80% of the Maldives is likely to be lost within the next 50 years if nothing is done to curb the rising tide.

To add to that threat people on inhabited islands are sand mining on a commercial scale, literally digging their own graves.

In the meantime, Maldivians are watching and waiting to see if democracy will come to their island next month.

However, whoever wins will have few islands than now to run.

First broadcast Friday 12th September 2008.

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