people then selected one of us as leader and urged him on. We decided to attack
the Gan Liaison office and get Ahmed Zaki. So we ordered everyone, big or small,
to get the dhoanis ready for Gan, and sent another group of 10 people to get
support in Hulhudhoo-Meedhoo because we knew there would be people there who
would want to join us. We also sent a dhoani to Feydhoo to tell the people there
we were on our way to Gan.
We argued over when we should leave. Some wanted to wait until daylight,
but others insisted that it wasn't a good idea because the British soldiers
would be able to see and easily prevent us from landing. In the dark we'd
be able to sneak in. So it was decided to go immediately.'
Meanwhile Abdullah Afeef hurried to the RAF station in southern Hithadhoo
and sent a message to Ahmed Zaki, warning him of the mob's plans. The organisers
of the revolt were unaware of this.
Eyewitness accounts of the revolt's beginnings completely exonerate the British
and Abdullah Afeef from any involvement with the initial violence. Far from
being the rebellion's leader, Afeef opposed the actions of the crowd, and
took no part in the subsequent attack on the Gan Liaison office.
Although he was sick and feverish, Afeef personally escorted the mob's target,
Maldivian Government Representative Ahmed Zaki, to safety aboard a British
naval vessel anchored in the lagoon.
Ahmed Rasheed was a Maldivian government officer sleeping at the Gan Liaison
office when the mob arrived. His account confirms the unprepared confusion
at the base:
'I was deeply asleep in a comfortable bed when my eyes suddenly opened as
the office superviser grabbed my arm and lifted me onto my feet. But my anger
and annoyance dissipated as he softly explained, "Zaki said to put anything
in the office that's breakable or liable to be damaged in a safe place."
Surprised, I asked, "Why? Where's Zaki?"
"A lot of people from Hithadhoo are on their way to Gan. It's a rebellion!"
he explained quickly. "Zaki has already gone to the RAF station in Hithadhoo
with Major Philips."
'I dressed immediately and went downstairs. All the documents and expensive
items were taken into the storeroom, and we took what precautions we could.
The rest of the staff were shocked and worried. No one knew what exactly was
happening. We couldn't really understand.... A little later we went down to
the beach and saw the Hithadhoo fleet approaching...
'It was probably around 4.30 a.m. when the dhoanis headed into Gan harbour.
The shouting was getting louder. I was standing near the wall of the mosque
in front of the liaison office. Soon the mob were jumping from their boats
any way they could and running up onto the beach towards the office. It had
been built on Gan by the British during World War 2, and was still in good
repair, having been renovated to accommodate our needs. Named Maaran'ga, it
was a two storey building, the ground floor serving as an office (fully equipped
to government standards), with an adjacent dining room and storage areas.
Upstairs were the living quarters for senior staff.
The rebels obviously had a plan, because they acted without hesitating. They
went straight into the office and began destroying any expensive equipment
they could find. They grabbed chairs and others things, brandishing them in
the air then smashing them into pieces on the floor. They pushed over the
filing cabinets and broke open the drawers. They did whatever they could to
the tables. As for important equipment like typewriters...Oh, my! In the midst
of this chaos a British military police jeep arrived and trained its headlights
straight onto the office. Somebody shouted out, "OK?" The police
seemed to be encouraging the rebels.
Now the sun is up. Light and brightness come to the earth, and people's faces
become clear... someone ran up to me, grabbed my hand and led me to a dhoani
in the harbour. Once aboard they told me not to argue, just to sit quietly
with the others there. Half an hour later I saw two British policemen remove
their shoes and move towards our boat. They were saying they intended to remove
me from the dhoani. As they got nearer the crewmen moved the boat into deeper
water. Eventually the policemen apologised and waded back to shore!
It was very noisy on the island, and I had no idea what had happened to my
friends. I heard amazing abuse directed at Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir, and
Ahmed Zaki. The immediate aim of the rebels had been to capture Ahmed Zaki.
So it wasn't long before they discovered he had left Maaran'ga for the RAF
station, and gone from there to a large warship in the lagoon...
The rebels hopped back onto their dhoanis and headed towards the warship.
They wanted Zaki! The British must have realised something like this would
happen because suddenly a naval speed-launch began circling around the ship
at high speed. When the sail-powered dhoanis hit the waves created by the
launch they had to tack and change direction. This gave the warship's crew
time to prepare their high-pressure water hoses.
Thwarted, the dhoanis sailed off towards the atoll office at Maradhoo. Mohamed
Zahir, the atoll chief, had been cleverly hidden by the British, so the frustrated
crowd burnt down the whole office, and damaged the atoll chief's residence,
destroying any official documents they found. They even destroyed the personal
belongings of the staff.
Now my dhoani sailed back to Hithadhoo. No one talked much. Most of the people
on board were familiar to me, but the others who I didn't know made abusive
remarks. We arrived just after ten in the morning... They said I wasn't a
criminal, and had actually been brought to Hithadhoo by mistake. Around 5.30
p.m., a Hithadhoo mudhim informed me that I was free to go. He mentioned there
was probably no point in returning to Gan because the office was destroyed,
but if I wished, I could return tomorrow.