Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
(pronounced "moh-MOON ab-DOOL gay-YOOM")
"We may lack in numbers; we may lack in material wealth; we may lack in technological advancement; in fact, we may lack in many of the material criteria by which progress is measured in the present day world. But, my country, the Republic of Maldives does not lack the courage to speak out freely according to its own convictions."
The Republic of Maldives (pronounced "MALL-deeves") comprises a chain of 1,200 small islands extending north to south for 764 km (475 mi) and 207 km (129 mi) east to west in the Indian Ocean. Cape Comorin, India's southernmost extremity, 482 km (300 mi) to the northeast, and Sri Lanka, 644 km (400 mi) across the Laccadive Sea to the east, are the nearest land masses. The islands have a combined area of 298 sq km (115 sq mi), yet only one-sixth of the islands are inhabited, and some are as small as football fields. The population was estimated at 320,165 (July 2002). The unit of currency is the rufiyaa. In 2001, the per capita gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at US $3,870. Dhivehi, which is related to Sinhala, is the official language. With a traditional culture and closely knit society, Maldives is comprised of South Indian, Sinhalese, Dravidian, and Arab ethnic groups. Islam is the state religion; most Maldivians belong to the Sunni sect. Processed and raw fish make up 95% of the country's exports, although shipping and tourism have increased in importance.
Office of the President