|Maldives history is shrouded in mystery and very little known
is about its early years.
However, archeological evidence uncovered recently suggests that the Maldives had been inhabited since around 1500 B.C., with the practice of Budhdhism prevalent in the country prior to its conversion to Islam. It is generally believed that the first settlers on the Maldives came from southern India and Sri Lanka. Lying astride the eastern trade routes, many Arab and Persian traders were also attracted to the Maldives by abundance of pearls, spices, coconuts, dried fish and, in particular, cowry shells (which were accepted currency from Africa to China until the sixteenth Century). These traders profoundly influenced Maldivian society and culture, with perhaps their most significant impact being in the religious sphere. Over the centuries, the people of the Maldives, bound by unity of religion and language, and assisted by the relative isolation of the country, has emerged as a generally homogeneous people.
Following the conversion of the country to an Islamic state in 1153 A.D., the Maldives rulers became known as Sultans. King Koimalaa, the then King was renamed Sultan Mohammed-bin-Abdullah and his Maley dynasty ruled the Maldives for 235 years under 26 different Sultans. Maley rule was followed by the Hilali dynasty which lasted for over 170 years under 29 different Sultans. The Hilali dynasty was ended by the advent of Portuguese occupation of the Maldives, which lasted for about of fifteen years in the mid 16th Century.
The Portuguese occupation of the Maldives was ended by Mohamed Thakurufaanu, considered to be the greatest hero of the Maldives, who established the Utheemu dynasty. The Utheemu dynasty ruled for 127 years under 12 different Sultans, ending in the early 18th Century due to the repeated attacks from the Malabars from the south coast of India. Following the collapse of the Utheemu dynasty, the Huraage dynasty emerged under the leadership of Ghazi Hassan Izzaddeen. The Huraage dynasty represents the last of the Maldives ruling dynasties and prevailed until 1968, when the country became a republic for the second time.
(The Maldives had a short-lived experience of republican government in 1952-53, led by President Mohamed Amin, who had been serving as Prime Minister till then. However, only after 9 months or so, the country reverted to being a sultanate following political upheavals).
After the Malabar attack, the Maldives established diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka - an alliance that continued throughout the latter's Dutch and then British colonial periods. In 1887, the Maldives signed a formal agreement with the British, ceding the country's defence and external affairs in return for protectorate status.
The Maldives obtained full independence from the British on 26 July 1965 and soon joined the United Nations as a full member, opening the gateway for other small states to join the Organization in subsequent years. In 1968, following a public referendum the Maldives once again chose opt for a republican from of government and abolished the sultanate. The then Prime Minister, Ibrahim Nasir was sworn in as the first President of the second Republic on 11 November 1968 and served two successive terms of five years, before deciding to reti re and not seek re-election for a third term.
From 1978 to 2008, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was in office, ushering in an era of domestic development and more active engagement with the larger international community. The Maldives joined a number of International Organizations such as the World Bank and IMF, ADB, IDB, the OIC, NAM and the Commonwealth. The country also began to widen its bilateral contacts through establishing diplomatic relations with other friendly countries. Maldives became a founder member of SAARC in 1985, an organization established by the South Asian countries to pursue regional economic
In November 2003, former President Gayoom declared his intention to introduce multi-party democracy into the country and to this end announced a Reform Agenda in June 2004 which called for the adoption of a new Constitution granting greater freedom and accountability through separation of powers of the executive, legislature and the judiciary.
Under the new Constitution, H.E. Mr Mohamed Nasheed, the new President of the Maldives was elected in the run-off held on November 28, 2008, with over fifty percent of the votes (54.21%). His opponent, then incumbent, President Gayoom gained 45.79% of the votes in the historic elections that marked a milestone in the country’s transition to a modern and liberal democracy.