Capital: Mal¾


Only 203 of these 1196 islands in the Indian Ocean about 400 miles south-west of Sri Lanka are inhabited. They were under Muslim control from the C12th and came under Portuguese rule in 1518. They were a dependency of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) 1645-1948 and under British protection as the Maldive Islands 1887-1965. In 1953, they became a republic but the sultan was restored in 1954. In 1965, they received full independence as the Maldives, a sultanate outside the Commonwealth, with Ibrahim Nasir as prime minister who became president when the sultan was deposed again in 1968.

When Britain closed the air-force staging post it had on Gan 1956-1975, the islands' income was greatly reduced but the president refused to lease the base to the USSR in 1977. Nasir did not stand for re-electionand the Majilis nominated Maumoon Abdul Gayoom as his successor. Nasir, then in Singapore, was called to answer charges of misusing government funds but extradition attempts were not successful. Despite rumours of a plot against him, Gayoom was re-elected in 1983 and the economy began to develop with the help of tourism. Although he retained Nasir's non-alignment policy, Gayoom began to forge closer links with Middle Eastern nations. In 1985, the Maldives rejoined the Commonwealth and became a founder member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

Gayoom, who was re-elected in 1988, was temporarily deposed by a coup led by Abdullah Luthufi from the pro-secession atoll of Adu who had a force of 200 Tamil mercenaries from Sri Lanka and may have been backed by Nasir. Indian paratroops intervened to restore Gayoom and in 1989, Luthufi and 16 fellow-captives were sentenced to life imprisonment.



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This collection of names compiled by Kate Monk. Copyright January 1997, Kate Monk. Last updated December, 98. Copies may be made for personal use only.