Military Message

Before moving on to Germany, I wanted to share these photos from my workshop with the top brass of the Maldivian National Defense Force. The top commander was one of four generals in attendance! MNDF is now a separate force, with the mission of defending the country, while the police have the duty to keep law and order in the streets. This is a big change from the historical role of law enforcement here: Dhivehi only had one word for either “cop” or “soldier.” A “sifain” basically translated into “armed guy in a uniform who exercises government power over the people.” MNDF is training with US and NATO forces to deal with terrorism and Somali pirates. They also do heavy construction on “safe” islands and other public service. India recently donated a helicopter, and it’s the beginning of a badly needed Air Force in these spread-out islands. They also have video equipment to record training workshops for internal use.The lack of professional news media is a major reason why MNDF hasn’t engaged in strategic public relations in the past. Top commanders are divided on whether to ignore reporters who “ask stupid questions.” I showed examples from the US Coast Guard’s media campaign, and some high ranking officers embraced the idea of pro-active public relations, including more video news releases, embedded reporters during missions and a presence on blogs and social networks such as Facebook. At the end of the session, the newly appointed communications officer asked that I pass on a request from MNDF for public relations training from the US. I hope that these officers will continue to define their message and help Maldivians develop pride in their national defense which goes beyond party politics.