Come Saturday, the whole of Maldives will be going to the ballot box to decide who the President of this country would be for the next 5 years; a change from the “norm” that was accepted when the police and military with the help of religious extremists and a handful of hate mongers ousted the elected President Mr. Mohamed Nasheed from power on February 7, 2012. A lot has happened since then, and the Maldives has come a long way since Nasheed stepped down from power to prevent the country from swimming in the blood of its own people, a step he took for his country, a step he says that he is grateful to have taken in the light of the events of today.
There was a time when Nasheed was chased away from stepping onto islands to say his piece, to ask people to consider voting for him. Times have certainly changed and he has a fan base that rivals that of any pop star or musician of this day and age. And those who hate him, well they continue to do so with a vengeance, even with all the facts to be seen right in front of their eyes, hanging onto their reasons that lets them cling onto their hatred for him just a little longer.
Why vote for Mohamed Nasheed, Candidate Number 4 you ask?
Well, I ask you, isn’t February 7, 2012 reason enough? Yes, everyone voted for a change, some with humongous expectations in the need to move away from the autocratic and dictatorial leadership of President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom who ruled this country with an iron fist for 30 long years and stuffed his coffers with wads of cash stored in offshore bank accounts never to be seen ever again.
As history has shown time and yet again, Maldives is a nation that is prone to coup d’état. From the time when kingdoms ruled this country to its first Republic, the leaders in power have been toppled through nefarious planning on those hellbent on achieving the highest position of authority in this country through any means possible. President Ibrahim Nasir barely escaped this as he sought to leave the country after handing over the reins to the overly capable soft hands of Maumoon, who then was in the role of rabble-rousing. Fast-forward to 33 years down the line and we see Maumoon working behind the scenes once again to ensure that the defeat he faced in the 2nd round of Presidential Elections in 2008 would indeed come and bite the country’s arse in the form of a coup to oust the elected President.
The Constitution of Maldives is very clear on the aspects of who would rule the country and how a person would be chosen from the masses to be represent us. It is also very clear on the rights that is given to the President, more so because we opted for a Presidential system of governance in 2007. After the historical 2008 elections that changed the whole face of this country, through the missteps that Nasheed and his leadership took, Maumoon and his cronies gained a stronghold in the Parliamentarian elections in 2009 which kick-started the chain of events that led to Nasheed’s demise from power.
My point here being everyone who took part in the protests that called for his resignation hold onto the fact that Nasheed acted in defiance of the Constitution by imprisoning Judge Abdulla of the Criminal Court who had pending ongoing investigations at the Judicial Service Commission which is again under the stronghold of the Kaaminee clan (Maumoon’s family). The coup was the icing on the cake on the activities that were pre-planned and executed in style to rip us off of our votes and discard our say in who is to lead us, as if we were mere nothings, which is exactly how Maumoon and his family thinks of Maldivians. Puppets to do their bidding, with no abilities to think on our own in making sound decisions to choose a leader for the country, unless of course the leader happens to be someone approved by the man for all islands aka Maumoon.
For me, the coup alone is reason enough to vote for Nasheed. The rest of the 3 candidates namely Mr. Gasim Ibrahim from Jumhooree Party, Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, the incumbent President running as an independent candidate and Mr. Abdulla Yameen from People’s Progressive Party whose leader is none other than Maumoon himself; all of them have been important elements of the coup. While Gasim funded the whole shebang, Yameen worked through the nitty-gritties and planned the whole thing to a T while Dr. Waheed stepped up with that brilliant eye gouging smile of his and added, “Do I look like someone who would bring about a coup d’état?” Quite convincing the argument he presents don’t you think?
For those who are hellbent on protecting Islam and think Mohamed Nasheed to be the “devil” in disguise, take a step back and think to the era of Maumoonism where learning religion outside the sources of information approved by the state was considered illegal and earned people jail time in the prisons notorious for dishing out various forms of cruelty on its prisoners, just for the fun of it. Do you guys remember the time people’s beards were shaved off and applied a potent mix of chilli just because they dared grow their beard to follow the teachings of the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH)? Do you recall the time during the 90’s when wearing the veil was considered something for older women, when school children and I myself was harassed because we dared to cover ourselves up when we ventured outside? Do you remember the people who gave their sweat and blood to ensure that their children could follow the teachings of Islam the way you see fit to bring your children up in? Yet most importantly, do you remember a time during the 3 years of Nasheed’s presidency when you couldn’t do any of the above for the fear of repercussions from the State? Nasheed might have asked hard questions from all of us, not surprising in a society rampant in abuse of every kind. But then again, he has never gone against the will of the people in those matters and has always stepped back and taken the higher road where necessary. Look inside of yourself and seek answers, not from any of the hate mongering channels or newspapers, but just think through the incidents and decide for yourself; who is it that makes a real mockery of the religion.
Next, lets talk about the elephant in the room aka, the Maldivian Judiciary. It was Nasheed’s attempt to clean up the judiciary and install judges who are able and fit to serve the country that seemed to be the final straw for the coup perpetrators. Justice ensured means Yameen wouldn’t be able to operate his gangs and fatten up his coffers with the money from the large sales of drugs that runs amok through this country and has ruined this society enough to make one weep. A fair judiciary would mean Maumoon and his cronies too would find themselves in front of the system, answerable to their actions, no matter how revered a man he might be amongst his supporters. And for those who hate Nasheed, it’d also mean that he too would have to stand in front of that system to answer for his actions. A fair judicial system would also ensure that men like Gasim, who are rich beyond any Maldivian’s imagination would not be able to escape without paying his due to the State in taxes and otherwise, that would enrich the people of this country and develop the far outreaching islands and enable people to move back to their home islands instead of living in cramped quarters in the capital of Male’. Most of all, it would pave the way for implementation of Islamic Shariah, enable Maldives to implement the death penalty, which seems to be the highlight of everyone’s agenda since MP Afrasheem’s murder, as it would mean that the Judiciary is one that is rid of corrupt individuals and most of all would make sure that JUSTICE is done, no matter who is on the receiving end of it.
Now I ask you, isn’t that what Islam is all about? Having all of our rights secured, and being content in the knowledge that even if tomorrow we were to lose our rights regarding one thing or the other, that the Police, Prosecutor General and the Courts would do their damnedest to give us a fair hearing and make 100% certain that our rights are protected at all times? Look around the 4 candidates. Who from them has so far talked about cleaning up the Judiciary? Gasim refuses to even think that the likes of Ali Hameed who sits on the Supreme Court bench should be even investigated, let alone removed from position. Yameen barely mumbles along the issue as he controls a large number of judges in the Judiciary. But one thing mind you, you should take notice of when he talks is that he believes that the “Walliyul Amru” or the Head of State should be able to ascertain that justice is done and if not take swift actions regarding the matter to ensure that law and order remains in the country. His only problem? Nasheed being the Head of State who started on the venture. Next up is Dr. Waheed who is a negligible candidate at best, who doesn’t even want to think about the Judiciary and would rather turn his head to the other side on matters regarding the system. He is the man who said he would decide on the matter of Mr. Mohamed Fahmy Hassan, who as the President of the Civil Service Commission sexually harassed a female employee, upon which the Supreme Court with its residing porn star Mr. Ali Hameed decided that Fahmy should stay and perhaps the Civil Service Act also be rectified to insert that Mr. Fahmy should ALWAYS remain as the President of the Civil Service Commission as long as he lives. Point made?
Next, lets look at social welfare. Maumoon did start out on the health insurance scheme during 2008 which targeted only employees of the state. Nasheed came to power and ensured that each and every individual of the State received MVR 100,000.00 as their health insurance every year. Mind you, there were several problems with the system, mostly the health sector which even Nasheed’s presidency failed to tackle. What should be understood is that the health has been an ailing sector for far too long, and to put it upright just like that and will take a lot of time, determination and the effort of not just the President, but the employees who work in the sector themselves. Calling the system “Aa Sandhoah” meaning “New Casket” instead of “Aasandha” was the then opposition’s way of trying to belittle the system in front of its supporters, but truth of the matter is, be it which color you chose to vote for in 2008, the State did ensure that you received that amount of money as health insurance. And that it was the start of something that could have only gotten better with more stringent policies put in place with time.
So what about the allowances that were initiated for single mothers? An influx of single mothers did not just come into existence on November 11, 2008. They have been around for so long, most of them not receiving even the state ordered minute sum of money that the father is required to pay to the mother of his child for their upbringing. Nasheed ensured that this system be put in place and that a little hope be given to those mothers who had lesser hope than futile under the circumstances. If you are a mother, just think, if you were to turn into a single mother tomorrow, the State ensures that at least you wouldn’t have to run around the streets begging for food, which might just have been the case if otherwise.
What about the sum of money received by those older than 65? Lets be honest and say here that like any other society, the Maldivian society too is remiss in its responsibilities towards the old and the disabled amongst us. We have no special programs in place for either of these categories of people, and yet we spout the importance of all of this and beat our chests with pride because we are Muslims and that should count for something right? Either way, during that long run of 30 years, no one even dared think about giving a sum of money to the old so that they may also have a sense of pride in being to have something to spend, something that is given to them without begrudging on their children’s parts. While Waheed has promised to prepare the uninhabited islands for the old, Yameen has determined that he would rehabilitate the old, perhaps thinking that they might be fit and able to work to earn their own keep by the time they get out and not depend on state welfare? Gasim mumbled something along the lines of preaching Islam upon being asked the question and that was the end of his policy on the old. And all I am asking is for you to THINK.
Last and not the least, what about this wonderful right of being able to talk freely, of being express our opinions without the condemnation of the law and the state coming down upon us? No one can point at Nasheed and say that during his Presidency, so and so were abused and undeservingly put into prisons to serve extended upon extended sentences never to be heard from again. I believe imprisoning Judge Abdulla was long overdue. Nasheed could have carried it out better, but a Judge who asks a sexually molested child to recount the events in front of the perpetrator is just sick and wrong on so many levels. Not to mention the tales of the countless cases of suspected corruption upon him, the role he has played in releasing criminals to “teach” the state a “lesson”, all hinting at the lack of professionalism on his part. The precedent of freedom of speech just like that of a Presidential candidate going from door to door to meet his voters has been set. It would be hard to shake that off for the next generation of candidates to follow. And that was done by none other than President Nasheed himself.
In my opinion, Nasheed does all of it because he WANTS to do it. Not because he NEEDS to do it. And in that people, lies the difference that sets him apart from the rest of the candidates which I believe that truly earns him his vote next Saturday.
Lets all join our hands to rise against the coup regime, the people who thought our votes didn’t matter when they toppled the elected government. Why then I ask, should we vote for a group of people with such a lack of regard to our say? Who even tomorrow can come out with armed forces and topple the elected President from power if they want to? Pointless venture is it not?
Vote for Candidate number 4, Vote for Your Vote!