Maldives Time Zone UTC+05:00

 Capital City Malé

 Currency Maldivian rufiyaa

National Day  24 January

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Her Excellency Dr Farahanaz Faizal 
Embassy of the Republic of Maldives
22 Nottingham Place
London W1U 5NJ
T: 020 7224 2135
F: 020 7224 2157

THE AMBASSADOR OF the Maldives is happy to be back behind her desk. She returns as Head of Mission for the second time, after her first stint from 2009 to 2012. She recalls how after the Maldives had its first multiparty elections in 2008, “we had a democratic country for the first time and President Nasheed was elected. But three and half years down the line, a coup turned everything upside down. It was a sad day when the first democratically elected government came to an end. I resigned because of the brutality that was on display in the Maldives.”

She continued to live in the UK with her husband and daughter who have dual nationality. “There was a time that I couldn’t go back to the Maldives  – things were really bad.” Dr Faizal found herself reciting her poetry about the more painful periods of Maldives’ history at venues like the Southbank Centre. She’s also been taking karate classes. “It was intense training, and I had just one more belt before the black. Sadly, I don’t have the time to train as much as I’d like at the moment.” But when the new government was elected in November last year, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih took office. She went home in January before taking up her posting in May. “I’m glad I’ve returned to complete my term.”

An academic by trade, the Ambassador previously worked as part of the democracy movement pre-2008, when the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) was formed. “My desire to get the Maldives on a democratic path has led me to where I am today.” Soon after her resignation, she became the European spokesperson of the Maldivian Democratic Party. “It was a difficult time for the Maldives, with human rights violations and police brutality. Almost all our political leaders were arrested and jailed with sham trials. My role was to lobby the UK government and human rights organisations trying to get these activists out of jail.” She continues, “We are very grateful to our UK and EU partners for their help.”

Then came a role as a member of the party’s Foreign Relations Committee. “Our discussions were focused on the Maldives’ relationships with other countries. The former government had kept the Maldives very isolated; their President never visited the UK, EU or UNGA. Our role was to keep those partnerships alive, continuing talks with our key allies, making sure they didn’t forget the Maldives.”

Back in the Embassy building in London that has been owned by the Maldives government since the 1980s, Dr Faizal was immediately put to work. “We found it moth-infested and there was no hot water or heating. The last government had moved the Ambassador to Brussels and downgraded the mission substantially. My first task was to get the mission physically up and running.”

The major difference between this posting and her last is the fact that previously she was a High Commissioner, and this time, Ambassador. “One of the first directives of the current President was stating the Maldives’ intention to re-join the Commonwealth. This is my number one priority.” She explains that there have been two missions from the Commonwealth Secretariat to the Maldives to assess the situation. “We have had positive feedback and enormous support from member countries. We hope to be back in our rightful place at the Commonwealth table by CHOGM 2020 in Rwanda.”

Why is becoming a member state so important? “The Commonwealth has given us a lot of support, with scholarships and educational opportunities for our students, technical assistance, plus a forum to discuss climate change, the blue economy and small island states. Our athletes can compete in the Commonwealth Games. It’s an organisation that helps all its member states – especially the very small ones!” she declares.

The UK is also a key tourism market for the Maldives. “Guesthouse tourism has sprouted in recent years. Everyone knows the Maldives is a luxurious destination, but now we cater for all budgets, so everyone can enjoy it.” Another priority is the country’s fishing industry. “For 2,000 years we have fished using the environmentally friendly method of pole and line, no nets. We want British people to become aware of the nature of tuna that they are eating.”

How does she expect the UK-Maldives relationship to change post-Brexit? “We will negotiate and rebuild our trade relationship with the UK separately from the EU. But I think the UK-Maldives relationship has reached a new level. It’s not only The Maldives who have upgraded the London Embassy to a resident mission, but the UK has sent its first resident ambassador to the Maldives. We are very happy about that.”

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