In the Maldives, there are three levels of governing. At the grassroots level is island administration. Every citizen is registered at one of the 199 inhabited islands and each family is given a plot of land. The inhabited islands are ruled by Chiefs (Katheeb) and Deputy Chiefs (Kuda Katheeb) who are responsible for controlling political factions, reporting extraordinary occurrence and managing nearby uninhabited islands.
For administrative purposes, the islands are grouped into 20 ‘administrative atolls’ (the administrative atolls differ completely to the geographical atolls), with Male’ as the capital. These administrative atolls are ruled by Chiefs. The Chiefs are responsible for politial and economic welfare while the judges (Gaazee) attend to judicial matters and religious queries. Daily reports are sent via walkie-talkie from the island Chiefs to the Atoll Office. The Atoll Chiefs relay relevant details via radio-telephone to head office in Male’. Facsimile services are currently being installed in many Atoll Offices to enable faster and easier communications between the atolls. In this way, the national government is attuned to day to day affairs through-out the archipelago.
The basic law code of the Maldives is Shari’ah or Islamic law, handling criminal, civil, religious and political cases. The attorney General’s Office examines all cases sent in from the atolls before passing them on to the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs. Banishment is the most common form of punishment.
At the apex of the political system is the President, elected every five years by national referendum after being nominated by the Citizens Majlis (Parliament). The Citizens Majlis is a body of 48 members, consisting of two representatives from each atoll, two representatives from Male’, and eight Presidential nominees. A single candidate for President is nominated and the people simple vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’. In the 1988 elections, Gayyoom was re-elected by a 96.37 per cent majority. The 1993 election saw him elected for a fourth term by a 92.76 per cent majority.
The national flag is a green rectangle with a white crescent in the centre surrounded by a red border. The green rectangle donates life, progress and prosperity. The crescent represents the Islamic faith of the nation. The red border symbolizes the blood of the national heroes who sacrificed their lives for the independence and sovereignty of the nation.
The national emblem consists of a coconut palm, a crescent, a star and two national flags, crisscrossed and bearing the traditional state title: Ad-Dawlat Al – Mahaldheebiyya. The coconut palm illustrates the nation’s livelihood, while the crescent, star and flags embody the nation’s Islamic faith.