President Nasheed was the first democratically elected president of the Maldives who was sworn into office on the 11th of November 2008. He was a man who came forward with a manifesto that promised a lot of things that most of us did not believe in, because lets face it, 30 years of most of our lives had gone by and nothing for the betterment of our lives had really been done by President Maumoon through that long period of time. Though President Nasheed worked 24/7 to deliver on his promises, there were glaringly obvious mistakes that his administration made as well. So what gave the then opposition the fodder that they needed to spin their tales into gigantic proportions, to make people lose faith in Nasheed’s administration and finally gave them the “courage” needed to topple his government?
As it turns out, this morning I found myself having a discussion with my Twitter peeps, the first time I guess I have had a meaningful discussion with people who had different views on Nasheed’s administration and his time serving the people as the President. Opinions varied on different matters but it was both invigorating and informative at the same time and I really enjoyed the different viewpoints that came into light throughout the discussion. So, here are some of my thoughts borne out of the discussion as to why Nasheed’s administration started going downhill, perhaps a lesson to be learnt for anyone and everyone who aspires to lead this country one day.
1. Nasheed’s policy of being “hiythiri” or too forgiving for his own good. Perhaps this trait of his is a double edged sword that somehow got him into the “tight spot” and also the reason why thousands of people rallied behind him after he was forced to step down. I was someone who vehemently opposed Nasheed’s way of turning a blind eye towards the atrocities committed by the people in power before him. In my opinion, the major reason why people wanted a change and voted for one was because they wanted justice. And justice they did not get because Nasheed decided to do the “kind” thing and forgave and forgot everyone who basically made life a living hell for anyone who did not agree with Maumoon’s presidency. Nasheed had the right to forgive people for the torture and punishment that he received at their hands, but he had no right to forgive and forget on behalf of the rest of us, of whom I still believe that we deserve justice from the perpetrators of the atrocities that were committed then. If Nasheed cannot deliver that even if re-elected, I don’t foresee a different ending to his next “term” as well.
2. Lack of good PR from Nasheed’s administration. President Nasheed was a man who was always focused on achieving his dream of a better Maldives for the people of this country. Maybe it was this reason that caused him to experience “tunnel-vision” when it came to all the bad publicity that his administration was receiving from left and right. Yes, President Nasheed remained steadfast in delivering his Friday radio speech religiously to update the public on his take on events related to governance and well being of the general public, and I guess he believed that people would see what his administration was so busy trying to accomplish even with most of the media channels trying to label him as the next Mugabe in line. Nasheed should have invested a bit more effort in good PR, in answering those questions that flared to life whenever accusations were hurled at him across the table, some of which when went unanswered caused irreparable damage to his administration.
3. Creation of too many political posts in the government. This could be argued in favor of him as well. Since I am in a position where I am able to observe the “attitude” of civil servants and its governing body towards Nasheed’s administration, which I should add is not a very favorable one; needless to say there were conflicts between Maumoon loyalists who remained at the top level posts of the civil service layer and the political appointees loyal to Nasheed’s administration. I am one who will steadfastly believe that the Maldivian civil service is not a very professional one, because to put their differences aside and work towards accomplishing the mandate of the government in place is not a concept that many civil servants adhere to or understand. Tabling that for a whole other discussion, I will point out that Nasheed was at times “forced” to put in place people he could trust to deliver and not drag their feet, because lets face it, Nasheed certainly didn’t have 30 years to sit around and discuss road maps while the country falls apart at its seams. But the truth of the matter is, there were appointees that didn’t serve any purpose, that just reflected Nasheed’s “poor” judgement and inevitably directed a lot of criticism towards him as he was one who advocated for a small administration to run the government during his campaign for presidency.
4. Tackling the issues about the incompetent judiciary. Ms. Velezinee was President Nasheed’s appointee in the Judicial Services Commission and her many outcries regarding what was taking place wasn’t dealt with very effectively. There might not have been much Nasheed could have done, but in my opinion, the administration could have put in a bit more pressure on the judicial governing bodies as well as its Attorney General Husnu Suood who at the time must have been snoozing through the whole thing. Nasheed’s swift response in ordering the arrest of Judge Abdulla Mohamed came too late, and by that time, the opposition had already stated their point and brainwashed the people with the concept of “upholding” the very constitution that they refused to abide by. So in the end, the one thing Nasheed did to “save” the judiciary or rather the people from an inept and corrupt judiciary was the pivotal reason behind the events that took place on February 7th, 2012.
5. Too many policies, too little time. As humans, we always resist change whether it be good or bad. Very few of us embrace change wholeheartedly. When Nasheed’s administration came into place, a lot of new policies came into effect, some of them which the general public weren’t very much aware of. With most of the media controlled by the opposition, there was perhaps little that the government could do to drive their message across. And so as it happened, people continued to receive information on the undesirable effects of such a policy being put into place and thus the resistance to change became multiplied by tenfold which sometimes led to conflicts between the governing body and the people.
6. The religion card. In my opinion, religion is always the best way to stir things up and play with people’s emotions most effectively. There is nothing that would enrage a collective society more than being “mocked” for their beliefs and in my opinion, Nasheed should have let the sleeping dog lie. His message that radical elements were growing within the Maldivian society was one that wasn’t well received, and this in turn brought about the December 23rd Alliance which played a very major role in the coup that was executed to bring down Nasheed’s administration. The concept that “people” would understand the message that Nasheed was trying to drive across didn’t work out so well because how do you teach an old dog new tricks? How do you make someone who has already made up his mind think and come to his own conclusions based on the facts when the facts itself were distorted until nothing remained clear anymore?
7. Raised concerns of increased corruption in his administration. I believe that the government failed to address these concerns whether it be founded or unfounded allegations which still remains to be seen. But Nasheed’s policy was what would have worked in a country where all the governing bodies and watchdogs of a democratic nation do their jobs and exercise their authority with fairness and integrity which lets face it, is not the case in the Maldives. So Nasheed being at the helm of the government should have addressed these concerns, once again, this also pointing towards the government’s lack of answerability in issues of this nature.
8. The issue of MNBC. Again this is an issue that could be argued in favor of Nasheed’s administration as well. I say this because, a democratic nation ensures that its citizens are entitled to free and fair media in the country. With that in mind, Nasheed certainly never imposed any restrictions on any type of media that was circulating in the country. However, halfway into the 1st year of his government, DhiTV owned by one of the richest resort owners loyal to Maumoon decided to campaign against Nasheed’s administration and from then onwards there was nothing good that the government did for the people. It was all about negativity, spreading half truths that would embed themselves into the brains of its audience which would create discord amongst the people. And soon VTV followed suite, once again a TV channel owned by another notorious resort owner loyal to the previous regime. With media in the opposition’s stronghold, what possibility was there for Nasheed other than to “exploit” the media that was at his disposal? But that also proved to be one of the major points of criticism that the opposition had for Nasheed’s administration, and we all saw how the military and star force “freed” MNBC which was in the clutches of the “bad men” all along, which is again a “discussion” for another time perhaps.
I guess I could go on with a few more, but in my opinion these are some of the key reasons why people rallied behind the December 23rd Alliance, which then gave rise to the elements of a coup which was executed on that fateful day of the 7th of February.
There are lessons to be learnt always from our mistakes, and I hope that Nasheed has learnt his and would come out as a stronger and a better leader in spite of and maybe because of the continuous pressure within which he had to operate both during his presidency and now as the leading force behind those that cry out for democracy, elections and a competent and unbiased judiciary.
Long live democracy!