Maldives cabinet rehearses underwater meeting

COLOMBO: Ministers in the Maldives dived in their final rehearsal today ahead of an underwater cabinet meeting this weekend aimed at drawing attention to the dangers of global warming for the island nation.

Wearing full scuba gear, they held two practice dive sessions at a depth of 20 feet near Girifushi island, 25 minutes by speed boat from the capital Male, event coordinator Aminath Shauna said.

“All arrangements are now

in place and we are fully prepared to have tomorrow’s cabinet

meeting underwater,” Shauna told AFP by telephone.

She said the ministers would sign their wet suits which would then be auctioned on the website due to be launched tomorrow, to raise money for coral reef protection in the archipelago nation.

“We had two very successful

dive sessions today and all are

looking forward to the half an hour underwater cabinet meeting tomorrow,” she said.

The government has arranged a horseshoe-shaped table at the bottom of the sea for ministers to hold Saturday’s meeting during which they will communicate using white boards and hand signals.

The Divers Association of Maldives (DAM) said the ministers, who had trained over the past two months, felt confident about the unprecedented meeting.

“The ministers are fairly comfortable in the water particularly

given that they’ve just started

diving,” said Zoona Naseem, president of DAM.

From the 14-member cabinet, three ministers will not take part

in the dive, officials said, adding that two of them had medical

conditions while the other was away in Europe.

The underwater meeting chaired by President Mohamed Nasheed, 42, will be attended by his deputy, Mohamed Waheed, the 11 ministers and the cabinet secretary. The military will deploy expert divers to protect the politicians.

The Maldives, located south west of Sri Lanka, has become a vocal campaigner in the battle to halt rising sea levels.

In 2007, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that a rise in sea levels of

7 to 24 inches by 2100 would

be enough to make the country

virtually uninhabitable.

More than 80 percent of the country’s land, composed of coral islands scattered some 850 kilometres across the equator, is less than 3.3 feet above sea level.