Vermillion Maldives
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Government: Highly centralized presidential government, based on 1968 constitution as revised. Islam is official religion; president elected for renewable five-year term by legislature, or Majlis. Unicameral legislature whose members serve five-year terms; combination of elected and appointed members. Muslim sharia law applies to civil and criminal cases; judges appointed by president; courts under minister of justice.

Politics: No organized political parties, but various factions exist. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom reelected president in 1993; also holds posts of minister of defense and minister of finance.

Foreign Relations: Member of Commonwealth of Nations; has particularly close relations with Britain but seeks to maintain cordial relations with all states. Founder of South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (see Glossary) in 1985


Penal System

Maldivians follow the sharia or Islamic law. Occasionally, the courts order convicted criminals to be flogged. Usually, however, punishment is limited to fines, compensatory payment, house arrest, imprisonment, or banishment to a remote island. The country's judicial system includes a High Court and eight lesser courts in Malé. The High Court handles politically sensitive cases and acts as a court of appeal. Each of the lesser courts deals with cases that involve debt, theft, or property claims. On other islands there are all-purpose courts. Maldives has no jury trials; Islamic law judges conduct trials, which are open to the public. The president appoints all judges and has the final word in all legal cases.

Armed Forces

For hundreds of years, Maldives had not experienced security problems and therefore had no need for a military establishment. However, in 1956 Maldives and Britain agreed to the establishment of a Royal Air Force base on Gan, an island on Addu atoll. As part of a 1965 accord, the British gained access to Gan until 1986; however, they pulled out in 1976 because of budgetary retrenchment. In 1977 Maldives rejected a request by the former Soviet Union to lease the Gan facilities. By the early 1980s, Maldives maintained only one security unit, the National Security Service (NSS). This organization, which numbers fewer than 1,000 personnel, performs army, police, and maritime duties. Its mission includes preserving internal security and patrolling the country's territorial waters for illegal fishermen and smugglers. After the 1988 coup attempt, the government expanded the NSS to about 1,500 personnel; by 1990, the NSS had grown to approximately 1,800 personnel.

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