FARUMAN RIYAL COMPANY
In the most horrific maritime disaster in the Maldives, 22 died and 103 survived when a ferryboat capsized in the Suvadive waters on the 17th March 2004. The ferry carried football fans after a match in Villingili Island. The boat was full of men, women and children, overdoing its capacity, when it hit into a belly of waves created by a passing speedboat. One year later, only the captain of the ferry paid visit to the graves of the buried dead. For good reason, two years after the incident, he formed his own football club and chose the name of the vessel to commemorate the tragedy.
Enama Football Club (EFC) did well in the first quarter and arrived at Malé to play in the First Division after achieving first place in the zone. EFC was seeking better players and Mehdi’s business firm bought 80% of its shares and financed the team.
Those dancers wore fàli wraps and brocades of blue petals with white boarders around the hips, bare chests drawn in white paint of skeletons, carrying bodu-beru (drums) and dancing around a māli or an effigy. In this case it was a dark skinny figure with a fisherman’s hat, a kothari, and remarkably the effigy wore a pair of white shorts with an obvious bearing of an erection to point out the fact it was made of stick. A typical māli dance eventfully took place by tradition and habitually in the northern islands. Traditional dances, including a māli thing, got ways and reasons they perform.
On a football field it could perhaps be a mascot but it wasn’t arranged for such purpose. Only few weeks since the māli got introduced here by the dancers in traditional clothes. A group of dopers, popularly known as parté, did the dance and it turned out to be entertaining for children as well as spectators. Meanwhile, its intent was heating the fans and often grew violent, some football fans tried to introduce plentiful other forms of māli but nothing proved powerful as the one from the folks in fàli.
For many years, New Radiant, Victory, Valencia, Hura and Lagoons football clubs won numerous cups at the National Stadium in the capital. These clubs applied various means and gamble to trick and treat supporters and in fixtures. One convincing method was fanditha or black magic applied in football; to slaughter a rooster in white feathers right next to the playing field. Another powerful instrument was circulating journals that bring about football news and gossips that turned passion into fury. One exacting paper that circulated was called ‘Folhi’ meaning ‘tortilla’ or even a slang word referring to ‘vagina’. Officially, the man-of-the-match was chosen by the Football Association of Maldives (FAM) at the end of each match.
Islanders loved football. Every World Cup was watched by 100% of the population and the government spent hugely to install base stations in the atoll regions to receive and transmit satellite signals and purchased a package from ESPN for US$600,000 to watch the World Cup – Germany 2006. While the oil-rich Gulf States only paid US$40,000 to obtain this package.
What Mehdi arranged the parté boys to do with the māli was entirely different. Instead of picking a man-of-the-match, he asked to commend a king-of-the-pitch. The last scorer in a winning match became the king-of-the-pitch. Then the māli dummy got replaced with the scorer’s jersey, name and number. At the end of the day this māli remained on display in pubs and outlets where Mehdi observed a connection and in islands around the capital. The king-of-the-pitch felt like king-of-football and this exercise grew very popular it became big talk in media and television shows.
It lifted the spirits of the players and acquired a great number of supporters filling the stadium now to watch the dancers around the māli tear down its jersey and a new king take over the football kingdom.
Soon the māli fervour took to other islands and a king-of-football was hoisted on a māli stick even with stronger erection and bigger balls. One that appeared in Addu stadium with its head shaved in pattern of a football. Fan clubs and taverns that couldn’t afford a jersey to represent each team wrote their name and number on a piece of paper and pasted on a scarecrow.
Thus Folhi introduced ganna-māli or literally a bid for māli. It required filling a coupon on Folhi journal and dropping it with five bucks into the boxes placed at the stadium. Mehdi was angered to hear of the gamble going on.
It was Enama Football Club playing against New Radiant Sports Club. In the second half, New Radiant scored to level Enama’s lead by 3:3 and somehow the dancers delayed changing the jersey of the māli-king. NRSC supporters rushed over the crowd and grabbed the māli tearing its jersey. Curtly this uproar settled and the māli was reorganised with a blue jersey of the new king belonging to New Radiant.
Close to the end of the second half, a bright red sun angled to the horizon, the score remained 3:3 and the folks in fàli thumped their drums around an NRSC king rather cynically. People knew that the dancers and the māli were paid by Mehdi who was the boss of Enama Football Club.
Like a miracle Kaggé scored for Enama to take lead by 4:3 and a yellow jersey replaced the new king: No. 9, Kaggé – EFC. The thumping grew louder and their tone changed from mockery as to praise the NRSC king to songs of triumph. Somehow the ball hit the goalpost and incongruously reflected to the keeper who managed to bungle with it on top of the goal line and the referee pointed out a goal assuming the ball crossed the line. This escalated a row.
The match ended. By now in common practice they took the māli to demonstrate its king at the Market Square and the southwest harbour ending the rally at Fiyafen Restaurant, a large service bistro in Mafannu where usually the māli stood on display. It occurred the next match would take place after three days and Kaggé would be king until someone scored on the pitch.
Mehdi was in conference with the senior staff on the seventh floor at Mookai Hotel. His private phone buzzed and EFC manager on the line said, “New Radiant supporters are out on the streets with a māli claiming victory. They don’t believe in our goal making their man king. I’ve been around Malé to see every outlet in their hands exhibit a New Radiant king sticking with Nafi, their last scorer. He’s not even the ganna-māli because Victory fans put their money on Saud. This is referee’s blunder, they say, Mehdi paid him. Now this is going to be huge talk tonight.”
“Let them have it. I want my boys to go in every outlet and tore them down before shops close. I’m fed up with this ganna-māli making money. That’s no way in sporting spirit. It will not happen again. Māli thing is ours. Show them nobody plays māli besides us.”
Halym replied, “I have arranged with the paper guy, Adim, to write some crap about it.”
“Make it big. Bring about media front page and headline news tomorrow,” Mehdi demanded.
Tore them down, he said. He got no idea what Halym got in mind. Halym arranged nine parté groups; two in Hulumalé, one in Villingili and six mobs in Malé. One o’clock midnight as observed by the high command all businesses should close, parté mobs entered several pubs in support of New Radiant and broke the dummies that displayed the ‘New’ king representing New Radiant in blue jersey: No. 10, Nafi.
Ten minutes after one, a band of New Radiant supporters entered Fiyafen Restaurant and looted the entire place, breaking furniture, smashing glasses and destroyed the māli. Right outside the restaurant they confronted parté mobs supporting EFC. Violence grew in stabbing and tearing clothes, cutting flesh with box-cutters. The streetlights smashed. An infuriated crowd stopped the police from passing through. Police vehicles rocked and torched.
Street fights took to other areas of Malé. They were shouting, riding motorbikes, beeping horns in the narrow lanes. By four in the morning injured parté were hospitalised. It took hours to bring calm to the city.
Mehdi woke up at 3:15 in the morning. Halym urgently called to say things turned bad. There would be no more māli on the ground. Two dozen outlets in three islands were ransacked by parté mobs overnight. Eleven admitted for serious injuries, rather nasty.
By dawn Mehdi was back in his office suite at Mookai with Fiyafen owner Hameed and EFC Manager Halym, sipping black coffee from the red coloured mugs placed on the table. A rough estimate, he was told, over three hundred thousand in loss. Mehdi agreed to fix the restaurant back in business before the fasting season commenced next month.
In the early light they took a ride around Malé to see the destruction it caused.
Mehdi was a skinny, fair person, thirty-seven years old, unmarried and tacit, with a French beard and acquired riches from his father who maintained a fleet of six cargo ships transporting goods within the Indian Ocean to India, Singapore, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. In Mehdi’s chair, he increased the fleet to eleven vessels and reached the ports of China, Africa and Thailand. His company called Riyal Shipping Limited was located in Hulumalé.
Mehdi’s connection with a business tycoon in Bombay, the Suresh Brothers & Co (SBC) with links to South Africa and Brazil, opened new doors in his career. In 2005 the Government of India banned manufacturing low-quality medical supplies with an ambition to obtain international standards. India deemed to test the global economy to win its race to compete with world markets and achieve a new status of recognition and power. In this regard a ban on tobacco seemed imminent although urinating on public roads and cows on the streets sum up its heritage. Several micro-firms and pharmaceutical companies lost a great deal of trading partners. Meanwhile, Asian countries of Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and China took over markets selling substandard goods. Suresh Brothers & Co allied with Riyal Shipping Limited and obtained license in the Maldives to produce drugs, established laboratory and storage warehouses on Kela Island in Thiladummathi Atoll and named the newborn company Faruman Medical Products & Laboratory.
Mehdi’s business took a new name as Faruman Riyal Company (FRC) with a triangular sail and jib mast of a doni as its logo in blue and white boarder; colours that matched those brocades worn by the fàli dancers.
Cheap drugs and medical utensils produced in the outskirts of Indian cities were transferred in Mehdi’s vessels to the Maldives where his storage houses packed them in Faruman Riyal labels and shipped to African and Asian markets. In progress of this illegal trade in distribution of low-class medical products, there was an unsighted accusation on FRC trafficking narcotics.
In April of 2006, lobster hunters diving in Ari Atoll waters near Gangehi accidentally discovered 50 bags of cannabis stacked neatly in depth of eight metres in the lagoon, covered with a tarpaulin to camouflage in the sand and coral. The stock contained 1.6 tonnes of cannabis estimated for a street value of 1.5 billion in Maldivian currency (roughly US$10 million). One of the ships reported in these waters was an FRC vessel. Sea-going vessels and drug peddling yachts used a thousand shallow reefs in the archipelago to stockpile narcotics.
In 2006, Mehdi introduced ethanol and Hybrid cars manufactured in Brazil through his links to Estado Mello Company in Brazil. Hybrid cars were displayed on the ground floor of Faruman Riyal Building in Hulumalé but the prices and new age cars did hardly attract the public sufficiently. With the ethanol storage established in Thilafushi he embarked on to install filling stations in Addu and Haddummathi atolls. He arranged with STO filling stations in Malé to bed in an underwater pipeline to supply ethanol from Thilafushi.
Estado Mello Company dealt with tourism in Latin America and the Caribbean widely. This company was interested to obtain resorts in the Maldives. After the tsunami Maldives Government leased several islands under the scheme of Adopt an Island. But these islands were dispersed and disconnected from proper network of transfers and supplies or an infrastructure validating to run a facility in such isolation. A five star hotel on a remote island would only result in heavy loss if it failed to maintain good occupancy throughout the year.
Estado Mello (EMC) invested on Faruman Riyal Company to run an aviation fleet in the name of Divehi Uduhun (DU) and by August 2007 it acquired 11 Twin Otter aircrafts and deployed the whole fleet in tourist transfers. Two more aircrafts of the Brazilian Embraer model EMB120 in shuttle to the domestic airports were recently added.
Gerardo Mello, the Brazilian billionaire, got ties with Suresh Brothers and South African Express Airways but he never visited the Maldives. EMC and SBC initiated the funding to FRC to administer micro investments to Maldivian interests in India and the Maldives. However, they maintained a firm policy not to fund resorts leased under the Adopt an Island scheme due to allegations of corruption.
The Maldivian Government, in 2006, permitted banks to open branches in regions. Mehdi appealed to open a bank from an Estado Mello investment. In 2006, President Capricorn told him he could have it granted if he fund a government plan of building a bridge between Malé and Hulumalé. A bridge above water of enormous height, stretching two kilometres to cross deep sea and to surface at water level; Mehdi hurriedly withdrew from even to think about it fearfully.
Kela Energy Project (KEP), on the other hand, was rather fascinating. It would take several years for the submarine cables to be laden to all vital islands and supply electricity generated on nuclear fuel from India. Base stations could control and distribute electricity as required from alternative energy sources and hopefully reduce country’s dependency on oil. This project would serve India to produce nuclear energy and safely sell to other consumers.
Mehdi owned important facility on Kela Island; the Faruman Medical Products & Laboratory. Islanders treated him like a lord and he maintained good relations in order to protect his interests and illegal trade. Kela Island also served the military as the head base in the north – QRF5.
Mehdi came from the north. Drastically, he was born on the beach of Nagoshi when the seafarers lost in the northern waters wrecked to the uninhabited island in 1970. His parents belonged to Dido Island; the capital of North Thiladummathi Atoll. It was a crowded small island and probably the reason why Mehdi came up with ideas like MUM; an ideology he felt reluctant to unveil at times. Few kilometres away from Dido lies the island of Utheem where heroes were born; the Utheem Brothers claimed victory over the Portuguese garrison in 1573 after 15 years of West heralded Dark Age. This was the only influential period in history that the Maldives was ruled by a foreign power. These islands located in direct route to China via Malacca Strait faced threats including from the Dutch but all that quite insignificant.
MUM or the ‘Maldives Un-republic Movement’ was equally an opposite brand to AIM or the ‘Australian Independent Movement’. MUM’s ideology was basically to unite the Maldives with India and recognise a parallel society in the two neighbourly nations. Cultures shared, citizenships shared, religious freedom granted, social and economical liberties shared, declare the archipelago belongs to India and surrender to the Indian Flag – give up sovereignty.
He believed a local council should administer the Maldive Islands with respect to human rights and international law and answerable to the capital power in New Delhi. In return the islanders would become Indian nationalities to share equal rights of health, wealth and all nation of India. An Indian would do the same in the Maldives. He believed that there must be free trade and free entry to both countries regardless of race, religion, colour or culture. He believed that the islanders would not be taken to Australia or to the USA, no guarantee of survival in the Middle East, Central Asia or Russia and not likely anywhere. Both geographically and politically India was his mainland.
MUM was formed with a handful of followers and not much interest paid by foreign-blood Maldivian because some believed in western comfort saving the lives of the islanders when their little nation vanishes under the water. He deliberated MUM as a factual and sufficient methodology to grow the nation of thousand islands and several seas to multi-culture. Some argued quitting sovereignty was unpatriotic and undemocratic.
Mehdi witnessed the flags rolled down of small islands, Numara and Firubìdeu, when the islanders were evacuated to new settlements in Farukol Fushi, Miladun Madol Atoll, and years before the tsunami. He thought, one by one each island would roll down its flag and the capital would fall ultimately.
Island folks spellbound to traditional scourges believed that de