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Kanditheemu Alikaleyfaanu, an unparalleled leader

The legend of Ali Mohammed, known as Alikaleyfaanu, stands as a testament to an exceptional leader whose impact is remembered by the people of Shaviyani Kanditheemu even after many centuries.

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The legend of Ali Mohammed, known as Alikaleyfaanu, stands as a testament to an exceptional leader whose impact is remembered by the people of Shaviyani Kanditheemu even after many centuries.

 

It was a world grappling with the shadows of World War II, 84 years ago, and in the midst of the Great Depression, with Hassan Noor-ud-Din as the reigning king of the Maldives. The era witnessed the end of the harrowing Second World War, marked by the passing of Hassan Noor-ud-Din, leading to the ascension of Mohammed Amin in 1952 AD.

The people of Kanditheemu recount the years under Amin’s rule as a time of great hardship. Approximately seventy years ago, Amin took the helm of Kanditheemu’s leadership, though the exact date of his coronation and the duration of his reign remain uncertain.

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Here, we recount the life and rule of Alikaleyfaanu in Kanditheemu, as narrated by his sole surviving son, Abdullah Rameez, and the island’s elderly residents.

Dawn would find him already awake at four o’clock, diligently preparing for the morning prayer. As the call to prayer echoed through the island, he and the community would rush to offer their devotion. With the sun’s first rays, he would be out inspecting the fields and the boatyards, his punctuality being unwavering.

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In those days, the storage house, or Kaaduge, served as the repository for the islanders’ belongings and functioned as an early form of the island office, opening its doors promptly at eight each morning.

Before the day’s end, he would make his rounds through every household on the island, meticulously checking each one. He noted any fallen roof tiles or damaged walls, ensuring that the necessary materials and labor were promptly dispatched from the storage house to effect swift repairs.

When visiting these households, he ensured that no one went hungry. For those in need, he would provide millet and grains from the storage house, understanding that it was vital to alleviate immediate concerns. However, these provisions were not free; they would be repaid because they came from the collective resources of the people.

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At that time, Kanditheemu had about twelve fishing boats. Alikaleyfaanu made it a daily routine to inspect each boat thoroughly. If a single boat failed to set sail, he delved into the reasons and resolved any issues to ensure that not a single boat remained idle. If there was even one person who couldn’t embark, he would arrange for a substitute from the island to ensure that the fishing expeditions continued.

Post-World War II, the Maldives faced a dire food shortage, forcing people to resort to consuming bitter leaves and the like. Tragically, some succumbed to hunger in those trying times. Yet, thanks to his wisdom and hard work, Alikaleyfaanu played a pivotal role in providing sustenance for the people of Kanditheemu. His leadership saved countless lives, ensuring that essential activities such as fishing remained uninterrupted.

Alikaleyfaanu was a man of many talents; he was responsible for boat construction on the island. From wooden boats to fishing vessels and those making the journey to the capital, Male’, he oversaw it all. He personally navigated the boat to trade dried fish and other goods with Male’ and bring back essential supplies to the island. In an impressive display of resourcefulness, he even refurbished an old decommissioned dinghy into a ship that ventured on foreign voyages under his expert guidance.

His only surviving son, Abdullah Rameez, recounted the maiden voyage of the “Naainfaru,” a ship he journeyed on with his father to Sri Lanka, lasting five nights and five days. He vividly described how these voyages were dictated by the winds, setting sail in the southwest monsoon and returning when the winds shifted. The second voyage took them to India, a journey that lasted 29 days due to days of calm winds.

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During this voyage, Alikaleyfaanu transported 650 handharu Kufra from Kanditheemu to be sold in India. Handharu Kufra referred to dried coconuts separated from their shells. The proceeds from these sales went predominantly toward acquiring tin roofs and clothing, items that were then distributed to every man and woman on the island.

Under his leadership, the people of Kanditheemu found employment and prosperity. He allocated a portion of the profits from their work to the storage house to cater to the people’s needs, fostering a sense of community and unity that was notably active and harmonious in the island.

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His son, Abdullah Rameez, described him as a loving father to all his children, never discriminating among them. Even in his old age, when illness had taken his sight, he was taken to India for medical treatment, financed by the people. Ali passed away at the age of 63.

Ali’s legacy as a responsible leader is unmatched. His tenure ushered in a time of contentment and happiness for Kanditheemu, marked by progress and prosperity. His leadership fostered friendship, unity, and diligent work. To this day, the elders of Kanditheemu speak of him as a leader without equal.

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