All around the western world posters of long-sandy beaches and blue water aim to entice those who can afford it into a holiday on the Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean. But the locals who live on the islands have a different outlook.

Decades of political oppression, a heroin epidemic and income levels of less than two dollars a day hardly qualify as paradise.

Reporter Juliana Ruhfus with released political
prisoner, Ahmed Abbas

The government says things are changing.
Following a series of violent street protests since 2003, the ban on the opposition was lifted and MPs within President Gayoom's government began to label themselves the 'the New Maldives'- calling for reform from within.

But just how new are the 'New Maldives'?

Is this a country in a carefully managed transition to democracy or are Maldivians ruled by a government which grows rich on tourism whilst window-dressing autocracy?

People & Power reporter Juliana Ruhfus travels to the Maldives where she meets the president, opposition MPs, human rights activists and a people impatient for change.

This Special aired 08 August 2007.

Source: Al Jazeera News