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Page last updated at 13:46 GMT, Thursday, 22 July 2010 14:46 UK
Maldives opens Consulate in Salisbury
Consul of the Republic of Maldives
Salisbury's Consulate of the Maldives

A tiny cottage, tucked away in the backstreets of Salisbury has become the unlikely home of the Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Maldives.

At an opening ceremony at the beginning of July, attended by the Maldives High Commissioner Dr Farah Faizal and local MP John Glen, Flora Cottage in The Friary was officially inaugurated.

And, to the accompaniment of the country's National Anthem, officially joined the address list of Maldivian Consulates in capitals around the World.

But Flora Cottage is also the home of local businessman and recently appointed Honorary Consul David Hardingham.

"Salisbury is the home of Maldivian democratic struggle abroad," says David, "Maldivian exiles came to live in Salisbury during the time of Gayyoom's dictatorship - he was the president of the Maldives for 30 years.

"And based in Salisbury they were able to really exert some pressure on the dictatorship from the UK."

Among the political exiles, fleeing from the Maldives in late 2003 in search of asylum in Salisbury, was the current president and close friend of David's - Mohamed Nasheed:

"We both went to Dauntsey's School," says David, "and because we both lived in the same village in West Lavington he became a regular feature of the Hardingham household.

"And because I was here it was logical for them all to come here."

Living in rented properties around the city and based at the offices of the Friends of the Maldives, an organisation founded by David, the Maldivian activists lobbied the UK government, the UN, the Commonwealth and Human Rights NGOs for over five years for democracy in the Maldives.

David Hardingham and President Mohamed Rasheed
David with school friend President Mohamed Nasheed

It was a campaign that also saw radio broadcasts being transmitted from the city, via Germany, to the Maldives:

"We broadcast on shortwave from Fowlers Road in Salisbury to the Maldives," says David, "and it was really the first independent news - independent from the government - that Maldivians had ever heard.

"It was quite a historical thing for the Maldivians and it was very exciting being a part of setting that up."

In 2008, following the first free elections in the Maldives, Nasheed became president and in May 2009 in recognition of his work - David was appointed as Honorary Consul of the Maldives in Salisbury.

But despite it being an unsalaried position there are, according to David, some perks:

"A business card is about all that I get with it," says David, "I don't accept any remuneration from the Maldives at all.

"But I am allowed to put flags on my car so if you see a Maldivian Flag on the bonnet of a car going through Salisbury you'll know that it's the Honorary Consul of the Maldives in Salisbury."

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