President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is, in both origin and style, very much a man of the people. Never was this more apparent than during his February 1979 address to the Citizens' Majlis (Parliament) just three months after assuming the Presidency, when in what constituted a major policy statement he declared that his administration would govern in an atmosphere of "openness", would accord the press its basic freedom and would be guided by the principles of universal adult suffrage.
From that time onwards the governance of the Republic of Maldives has been conducted in a style and manner compatible with these ethics. President Gayoom has indeed, in a manner which has preserved and enhanced the country's spiritual and cultural heritage, ushered in a hitherto unknown period of social and economic progress and political stability.
Born in Male' in 1937 to a middle-class family, he quickly demonstrated a sound academic potential and, following early schooling in the capital, went first to Al-Azhar University in Cairo and later to the city's American University; he obtained an M.A. in Islamic Studies at the former, where he also studied law and philosophy -- academic disciplines in which he continues to have a keen interest. Indeed, President Gayoom, the politician and national leader, is every bit as much an intellectual as he is an able practitioner in government.
His Degree in Islamic Studies earned him an academic appointment as Lecturer in that discipline to Nigeria's Abdullahi Bayero College, a faculty of Ahmadu Bello University, a post he held from 1969 to 1971.
However, he returned home to the Maldives soon and began his career of service to the Republic. His first important government appointment was that of Manager of the Republic's Shipping Department, which quickly led to his becoming Director of the Telephone Department. By 1974 he had well established his reputation as an able administrator and, consequently, was appointed Special Under-Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister.
His first overseas appointment was to the diplomatic post of Deputy Ambassador to neighboring Sri Lanka. This was followed in two years by his appointment as the Maldives Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
At his recall to Male' in 1977, he was appointed Minister of Transport, and then in November of 1978 was nominated as Presidential candidate by the Citizens' Majlis winning a record 92.9% of the popular vote in the referendum which confirmed him as the undoubted choice of the people.
He assumed office on 11 November of the same year and on completion of his first 5-years term as President, was re-elected on 30 September 1983 for a second term of office polling a record 95.6% of the popular vote. On 23 September 1988, he was re-elected for a third term of Presidency by the overwhelming majority of 96.4% of the popular vote. Again, on 1 October 1993, he was elected for a fourth term of office winning 92.76% of the popular vote.
He is both a man of the people and a family man. Madam Nasreena Gayoom takes a keen personal interest in the public life of her husband and appears with him on many public occasions. They have four children, two girls, Dunya and Yumna, and two boys, Faris and Ghassan.
President Gayoom is a member of the Constituent Council of Rabitat Al-Alam Al-Islami (Muslim World League). He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Literature by the Aligarh Muslim University of India in 1983, Honorary Ph.D. in Political Science by Marquis Guiseppe Scicluna International University Foundation in 1988, Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) by the Jamia Millia Islamia of India in 1990 and Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) by the Pondicherry University of India in 1994. He was also awarded the Global 500 Honour Roll by the United Nations Environment Programme in 1988 and the Man of the Sea Award for 1990 by Lega Navale Italiana in 1991.
His leisure interests include astronomy, calligraphy, badminton and cricket.