Royal People

A dedication to those wonderful people who served Royal Primary School & Royal College, in Sri Lanka, since 1835, and, who will be remembered for their committment, sincerety and unselfishness.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (Dhivehi: މައުމޫނު އަބްދުލް ގައްޔޫމް) (born December 29, 1937) has been the president of the Republic of Maldives since November 11, 1978, having succeeded Ibrahim Nasir. He was last re-elected to a sixth five-year term in October 2003 with 90.28% of the vote. He was the sole candidate, having been chosen by the Majlis or Assembly. The election is carried out as a referendum and a yes or no vote is chosen by the public.

Early and personal life
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is the son of Abdul Gayoom Ibrahim (Maafaiygey Dhon Seedhi) and Khadheeja Moosa. His father had 25 children by 8 different wives and Gayoom is the 10th in his family. His mother died when he was studying in Cairo, Egypt. Gayoom's father who died in 1982, at the age of 87, saw the first term of his son's presidency.His father was appointed as the chief judge for sometime.

Much of Gayoom's early life was spent in Egypt. He was among the 15 students selected at the direction of the then-president Mohamed Amin Didi for special education overseas. At the age of 10, he left to Egypt on September 15, 1947, but was to stay in Ceylon for few days. However his departure from Ceylon to Egypt was delayed for two and a half years, because of the Arab- Israeli conflict. When the situation improved, with the end of war in the middle-east, he left for Egypt in March 1950 along with other Maldivian students. He spent almost 24 years outside the Maldives except for the brief period he once came to Maldives in 1964. After sometime in the Maldives, again he left for Egypt to begin studying for Diploma of Education. He completed his MA degree in 1966, but could not complete his PhD due to funding issues (See sub-section, Education). After completing his MA degree, he worked for the American University in Cairo, in 1967, as research assistant in Muslim History under professor Marsden Jones. There he worked for almost 2 years and left for Kano, Nigeria.

In 1965, Gayoom met Nasreena Ibrahim, a student who had just arrived in Cairo from the Maldives for her studies. She was 15 then and Gayoom was 27. Four years later, they married in Cairo, on July 14, 1969. Just few weeks after his marriage, he joined Ahmadu Bello University in Kano, Nigeria, as lecturer in Islamic Studies and moved there with Nasreena. In March 20, 1970, at the age of 20, Nasreena gave birth to twins, Dhunya Maumoon and Yumna Maumoon. When Nasreena got pregnant for the second time it was arranged to send her to Malé. She gave birth to their first son, Farish, in Malé, on March 31, 1971. Nine years later, during Gayoom's presidency, Ghassan was born on June 12, 1980.

During his time in Egypt he was particularly interested in Egyptian political affairs. He was closely following the revolutionary movement accelerated by the Muslim Brotherhood and Free Officers Movement of Gamal Abdel Nasser. He attended several public meetings of Muslim Brotherhood where celebrated orators like Sayyid Qutb railed against Britain, imperialism and King Farouk's Government. In July 1952, Gayoom was at Muslim Brotherhood camp, on holiday, when Gamal Abdel Nasser took over the power in a bloodless military coup. In his book A Man for All Islands, biographer Royston Ellis wrote, "Maumoon regarded it as a privilege to be able to hear Sayyed Qutb".

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom acquired his education from Al-Azhar University of Egypt. He went to Egypt in March 1950 when he was 12. In Egypt he spent six months learning Arabic in order for his enrolment in the Faculty of Sharia and Civil Law.

In 1966, he obtained his Bachelor's degree and Master's degree in Islamic Sharia and Civil Law, with the degree of excellence with honors. In addition to his MA from Al-Azhar University, he obtained a second Masters Degree in the same field from the American University in Cairo. Gayoom came out first in the Faculty of Islamic Law and Studies, at Al-Azhar University and was awarded his graduation certificate by Gamal Abdel Nasser.

The Maldivian government decided to stop the grants for Maldivian students at Al-Azhar University for their attempted interference with then Prime Minister, later president, Ibrahim Nasir's decision to establish diplomatic ties with Israel. Fourteen Maldivian students on Gayoom's direction, including Gayoom himself, sent a signed letter to Ibrahim Nasir to reconsider the decision. Consequently their grants were stopped. The students were then financed by the Egyptian government. By the time Gayoom acquired his MA degree, the Egyptian government decided to stop the funding. As a result of being "black listed", by the government for his attempted intervention, Gayoom decided not to go back to the Maldives. Financially, he was prevented from completing his PhD. Later with his marriage he decided not to go further with his studying.

Career and politics
Before returning to the Maldives, after his studies, Gayoom worked for American University in Cairo in 1967 and Ahmadu Bello University in Kano, Nigeria as lecturer in Islamic Studies for two years from 1969. When his two year contract with Ahmadu Bello university ended, he decided to return to the Maldives. After almost 24 years since he first departed the Maldives for studies, he returned to the Maldives in 1971?. Three weeks after arrival, he joined Aminiyya School as a teacher where he taught English, Arithmetic and Islam. In 1972, he was appointed as the manager of the government shipping department.

On March 12, 1973, Gayoom was held under housearrest for criticising president Ibrahim Nasir's policies. In May 1973, he was tried in court and by the end of trial he was sentenced to banishment for four years, in May 14, 1973. A week after the sentence, on May 21, he was taken to Makunudhoo island of Haa Dhaalu Atoll. By the time he served 5 months of his punishment, Gayoom was released on October 13, 1973, by Ibrahim Nasir's amnesty following his re-election for another five-year term.

In 1974, Gayoom was appointed as under-secretary in the Telecommunications Department. After ten weeks he was promoted to director of the department. During this period he worked as a part-time teacher in some private schools, teaching Islam, Arabic and English.

On July 28, 1974, Gayoom was again arrested for criticising Nasir's policies. This time he was kept in solitary confinement in a prison nicknamed "China garden", in Malé. The prison was famous by this name because Chinese fishermen were once detained there. This prison was later demolished in Gayoom's presidency and built Islamic Centre on the block. After 50 days in jail, he was set free in September 1974. Six weeks later, he was appointed as special under-secretary in the then Prime Minister Ahmed Zaki's office. The post of Prime Minister was abolished with the removal and banishment of Ahmed Zaki from office, in March 6, 1975. With this decision, Gayoom's position as the Prime Minister's special under secretary was no longer required. He was officially given notice, when he was in Colombo, and told that he would not be needed in government anymore. However, when he returned from Colombo, he was made the Deputy Ambassador of the Maldives in Sri Lanka. In 1975 he was sent to the United Nations, for two months, as a member of the Maldives delegation. Upon his return, he was appointed as under-secretary at the department of External Affairs. After nine weeks he was appointed as the Deputy Minister of Transport. One year later he was tenured at the United Nations, from September 1976 to January 1977, till Nasir summoned him back from UN at the end of the session.

In March 29, 1977, Gayoom was appointed as Minister of Transport, making him a member of Ibrahim Nasir's cabinet. He was Minister of Transport till November 10, 1978.

As Ibrahim Nasir's second term was coming to an end, he wanted someone else running for the presidency. In June 1978 Citizen's Majlis was called upon to declare a nominee for the President. During this voting 45 voted for Nasir and remaining 3 voted for Gayoom. There was another ballot on June 16, in which four people participated. 27 voted for Gayoom, enough for him to be put forward as a candidate. Five months later he was elected with 92.96% of the votes as the new President of the Maldives. The grand reception of his inauguration was held at Majeediyaa School on the night of November 10, 1978. Since then he has been re-elected and still is the President of the Maldives. In 1983 referendum he was re-elected by 96.62%, for the second term. He is currently in his sixth five-year term, making him Asias second-longest serving leader after Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore. The President of the Maldives is both the Head of Government and Head of State, with very little distinction between the two roles, therefore President Gayoom is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Maldivian armed forces, the National Security Service.

Notable visits and participations
The first country Gayoom visited as the president was Libya. His visit in September 1979 to Libya was to participate in a celebration held to mark the 10th anniversary of the September Revolution.
In 1981, Gayoom attended the third Islamic Summit Conference of the Organization of the Islamic Conference held in Saudi Arabia. Since then, he has attended every ISC meeting. These have been in Morocco in 1984, in Kuwait in 1987, in Senegal in 1991, in Morocco in 1994 and in Pakistan in 1997.
In May 1981, he made state visits to neighboring Asian countries, Singapore and Malaysia.
His first visit to a western country, as the president, was on May 10, 1982, to London, England.
In October 1982, he participated in the Commonwealth heads of Government Regional Meetings in Fiji.
In March 1984, he made a state visit to Sri Lanka to repair the cracked relations with two countries.
In 1983, he made a state visit to North Korea. The same year, in October, he made a visit to South Korea. During this visit he was awarded the Grand Order of Mugunghwa, the highest order of the Republic of Korea. He invested the president, Chun Doo Hwan, with the Maldivian order of Nishan Izzuddeen.


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