November 3 – Victory Day in the Maldives

Posted on November 3, 2016

 It was called Operation Cactus.

There were no casualties.

The winners were Indian paratroopers and the Indian navy.

Does this sound like a set up for Victory Day in the Maldives? Unlikely as it sounds, it's true:

The Maldives are a bunch of coral atolls in the Indian Ocean. It's very small, and the population is more dispersed than those of most countries – since the atolls are flung far-and-wide. The islands seem to be a tropical paradise – so much so that the economy depends heavily on tourism.

Still, people who want power sometimes struggle and fight for it, even on a tropical paradise with little economic clout and a sparse population!

Apparently supporters of a former president, Ibrahim Nasir, attempted several coups against the then-current President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The 1988 coup attempt included, not just Nasir supporters in the Maldives, but also a group of Tamil terrorists / militants – I assume “guns for hire.” (In other words, I assume the Tamil fighters were taking part because they were being paid to do so.)

The Tamil fighters gained control of several buildings and the airport in the capital city of Malé but did not capture President Gayoom. He fled and asked for help from several other nations. India quickly responded with – as I mentioned above – a parachute battalion and the navy. And in just a few hours, the Indian forces were able to recapture the airport and buildings. They sent the mercenaries on their way and restored order by the lawful government (including Gayoom).

The people of the Maldives have celebrated November 3 as Victory Day ever since.

The Maldives is an Islamic country. And yet its economy depends on tourism. I wondered how the two things worked together in practice, given the interest in alcohol and skimpy swimwear in a lot of tourist resorts.

What I found out was that most tourists are whisked straight from the airport to their resort, and there is almost no mixing between tourists and Maldivians. Each resort seems to be on its own island – but there is a choice from 106 different resort islands to choose from! Maldivians do not live on the resort islands.

I also read that the Maldives has become more and more repressive with its citizens, with a reactivated death penalty, public floggings, and punishment for crimes that aren't crimes in most nations, such as publicly taking part in a religion other than Islam or carrying a can of Spam or other pork product. Some people wonder if it is ethical to support such a nation with tourist dollars – even if the Maldivians do leave the tourist resorts completely out of their Islamic law enforcement.

I personally think it best to choose another tropical paradise. The Maldives seem to be unstable at least right now.

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