Dhivehin – Always Maldivian, Forever Independent

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Official logo used in marking the Golden Jubilee of Independence of Maldives. Source: Twitter

President Abdulla Yameen’s speeches since he assumed office in 2013 has always been about issuing thinly veiled threats targeted at the public. The dissenting voices of the public of course. The public that keeps fighting against the rising tide, the insurmountable odds being stacked against them with every day that has come and gone since then. The official function and banquet to celebrate the Golden Jubilee since the independence of Maldives from the British was held just tonight. President Yameen spoke at length, delivered a speech more or less of the same caliber and tone. This time around though, there was a slight difference. The public weren’t the only ones that were targeted.

The public indeed did get an earful on the differences of opinion that has divided society so much. According to the President, all the woes that exists in society today, the social problems that seem to grow worse by the day, all of this is due to the rising voices within us for freedom, democracy, good governance, accountability & transparency. In other words, the fight for freedom has left a huge gaping hole in our society that needs to be plugged – and fast. In a nutshell, the President seems to be talking about the multi-party system of governance that Maldives saw come to light with the Maldivian Democratic Party coming into being in 2005.

If there is one thing that the current regime knows how to do, and they do it very well, it is to operate under the guise of law and do whatever it is they need to do to stifle the movement of the people, to shut down the voices of the people; the people who see through the thin veil of legitimacy that their actions are shrouded in and are not happy about it. What I believe that the President was hinting at tonight was the ultimate move to abolish the political parties that operate in the country. The new anti-terrorism bill that has been submitted to the Parliament recently hints at the ultimate weapon that would be utilized in destroying the last vestiges of the democratic movement that exists within us.

New anti-terrorism laws while needed to curb and take action against the rising extremist elements within societies are being used by despotic governments across the globe to stifle the opposing political movements within their countries. Malaysia was one country that passed such a bill recently, all under the guise of taking action against those with extremist ideologies within their country.

A closer look at the bill drafted in the Maldives, as per an article on The Diplomat reveals that certain offenses listed in the newly submitted anti-terrorism bill contains offenses that can be attributed to political activists. Offenses such as murder, causing bodily harm, damaging property, causing suspension of public services, for instance, if carried out under the guise of (1) “unduly” influencing the government, (2) creating fear, or (3) promoting “unlawful” political and religious ideologies, can be charged under terrorism and thus pose a highly worrisome threat to our already ailing democracy, if one can even call it that now.

With the parliament having become an organization that just basically rubber stamps what the government requires of them, I have no hopes of anything in contrary happening. The government will push this bill through, most likely citing the statistics that they’ve been refusing to reveal up till now, the numbers of the droves of people from our country who have fled to Syria to fight in the “global jihad” that is being waged. Once the bill goes through & becomes law, which I believe would happen before this year is through, will signal the death & destruction of every political party & ideology that exists in Maldives. Either conform to the governing party’s mentality or be ignored or perhaps worse.

Moving back to tonight’s speech, while the people got off a tad “easily” this time around, since the last time I watched the President deliver a speech it nearly burnt my ears off, President Yameen’s criticism tonight was also targeted at the international community. That’s right. The meddling international community that wants to judge whether our installed government is actually constitutional. Whether our trials are being conducted fairly, whether due process is being followed and so on and so forth. The President’s hardline stance tonight suggests that leaving the Commonwealth is a foregone conclusion, the Parliament having debated on the issue on just the 20th of this month. The President with his speech is issuing a threat at the international community at large, that he’d play hardball with any and every organization, country or agency that is willing to make this country conform to the accepted norms of democratic governance in the world. Civil societies & organizations such as Transparency Maldives that work towards educating the masses on their rights, on making their governments accountable to them? Well lets bid sayonara to them.

That brings me to the newly drafted law on freedom of expression that is yet to darken the doorways of the Parliament, which is set to criminalize four types of “expressions contrary to national interest” as per a report published on Maldives Independent. According to the article, “free expression can be restricted on the grounds of national security only if the following circumstances arise: if there is a need to protect the nation or its territory, if Maldivians or foreigners threaten national security with the use of force, and if the government’s ability to defend the nation is endangered.” The President’s whole speech tonight was more or less targeted towards just the above. Protecting our nation, territory and national security. Rhetoric that governments like ours are famous for using to thwart all forms of dissent.

While the above said laws would definitely curtail our freedom & civil liberties, it would also move towards rendering the Article 4 of the Constitution utterly and irrevocably useless. That all the powers of the State of Maldives are derived from, and remain with, the citizens. The government is smart enough not to do too much at once. Rather, they plan & strategize carefully, this “war” being waged on our freedom & liberties that are guaranteed on the piece of paper that we call our Constitution. I say a piece of paper because it becomes just that, an easily perishable piece of paper if the governing forces that be aren’t willing to protect the basic principles and tenets of the document.

So, on this day where which we are supposed to be celebrating with glee the Golden Jubilee of Independence of Maldives, where the government has spent an excess of MVR 150 million (a figure equivalent to or greater than US$ 9 million), I really wonder at what we are celebrating. As per the 2006 census, 1/3rd of the country’s population lives in the crowded capital of the country Male’. The numbers much have shot up exponentially since then, exacerbated by the expatriate employee population that resides within as well. With zero opportunities available in own islands & atolls apart from working in the tourism sector, most are forced to leave their homes and live in crowded apartments and rooms costing their entire salaries for rent. Yet, we call ourselves independent, clapping with glee when millions of MVR of taxpayers money go up in flames at every single fireworks festival that has sort of become the norm since this government took over.

So whose independence are we really celebrating? Corruption runs rampant, organizations are held hostage by those with zero integrity and our police and military lie dormant, content with a couple of badges & promotions that alleviate their difficult standards of living, albeit be it even briefly. The judiciary has become a place where injustice is dolled out at will, and the parliament, well the parliament is the place that passes every bill that is sent by the government, without so much as a thought to the consequences on the freedom, sovereignty & rights of the generations to come.

I think we would be forced to bid farewell to the freedom that we’ve enjoyed for a brief period of time. It was good while it lasted, though it might not have been perfect. Shortly will emerge the campaign by the government to make us submit or be of those that perish in the government’s greed and ambition to squeeze every bit of revenue they can from this land of ours until there’s nothing left. Let us never forget. Hitler did what he did under the guise of laws passed in his country. So will we learn the bitterness of it all, in the years to come.

Dhivehin, always Maldivian. Forever independent. Or so it goes.

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#Adeeb4VP; Cause and Effect – Ripples in the Unknown

Ahmed Adeeb being sworn in as the Vice President - Source CNM

Ahmed Adeeb being sworn in as the Vice President – Source CNM

So all the talk of the town during the past month or so has come to its fruitful conclusion. A new Vice President was sworn in just yesterday, none other than Ahmed Adeeb, our former tourism minister, who practically swore that he wasn’t looking to fill in the position of the Vice President. He is the man behind the ousting of the former Auditor General Niyaz. The most corrupt youngster that we’ve seen in the Maldivian political scene in recent times. PG Leader Ahmed Nihan hails him as the man who collects “fees” from businesses to keep their party PPM (Progressive Party of Maldives) afloat. I call it blatant corruption.

I’ve got so many things I want to say about what has gone down within this week. Nothing nice, mind you. About how MDP (Maldivian Democratic Party) got into bed with the devil & seemed not to care an atom’s worth of what the public’s sentiments were on the matter. I’ve ranted so much on Twitter this afternoon about this that I felt like I should just take a break from all this & let this wash over me. Like I’ve done when encountered with every disappointing facet of Maldivian politics in recent times.

For one thing, the sheer audacity of the MPs who’ve been supporting every amendment that has been proposed left & right by the governing party aka PPM has been nothing short of nauseating. The response from most MDP MPs has been that ‘this is for the common good’ or ‘you wouldn’t understand this right now’ or the mother load of excuses ‘the only thing that matters to MDP right now is freedom for President Nasheed’.

And then there’s this. The confrontational mindset which refuses to back down even when they themselves know what they are doing ain’t right. ‘Why don’t you come out to the streets & protest?’ Or ‘Why don’t you elect some other person to represent you?’ Or ‘We are your elected representatives. So let us make these decisions for you’ or so it goes. Basically, all this boils down to one simple statement. We, the elected representatives aka the upper echelon know better. You, the stupid constituents know not what you’re talking about.

There’s also this group of supporters that rally behind MDP saying this. ‘This is the result of selling off your votes for MVR 500. So why blame MDP now?’ I mean seriously? There’s shifting blame & there’s blaming the constituents for the shit that MDP has been wading through ever since they lost the 2013’s presidential election.

For whatever reason, the how’s & why’s behind President Yameen & co winning the election of 2013 is a topic that requires a separate discussion. President Nasheed opted to accept the election results when they were finally announced, wanting to lead by the democratic example. It is not even two years since President Yameen took office & so many things have gone wrong since then that one can hardly keep count.

The latest fiasco began with the transfer of President Nasheed to house arrest from prison, where he was carrying out the sentence on terrorism charges that was meshed out by the Criminal Court of Maldives. Don’t even get me started on the sheer injustice of the “trial” that was carried out. I’ve ranted about it enough, written about it on the blog itself enough for people to know that I would never believe that justice was the basis of President Nasheed’s entire trial.

The story of the “deals” that went behind the scenes is what got the people, well, people like myself at least, all riled up this time around. The deal that would see the Constitution amended to allow the Vice President & President to be a person between the ages of 30 – 65; previously the starting age being set at 35 with no capping on the other end. Rumors were afloat by then that the Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb was the one who was going to come on board as the Vice President. But for this to happen, the then incumbent Vice President Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed had to go. With him not in the mood to give in & resign, of course it meant that the ruling coalition had to resort to a no confidence motion at the parliament (People’s Majlis) against Dr. Jameel, which too required that MDP be on board.

With the game fully set in motion, MDP & some of its supporters & people like myself who have supported the principles upon which the party was founded upon & believed in them, well lets just say that it was inevitable that not everyone was on board with “let’s save President Nasheed at the expense of the rest of the country” plan. Couple of months back, in celebration of President Nasheed’s birthday, MDP came up with a video narration of sorts entitled Hayaatheh Jaluga, loosely translated into “A life in prison”, which when I look back upon was perhaps the foundation upon which the aforementioned campaign was based on.

President Nasheed certainly never has used his horrific experiences at the prisons during President Maumoon’s regime as a campaign tactic. So even back then, when this video first came into existence, me being the second guessing sort of person I am, questioned the move by MDP. Although I am all for people learning what President Nasheed has been through & his sacrifices for the country, I am just questioning right about everything that MDP has been doing up till now. Guess that is what inevitably happens when the trust breaks & you begin looking for problems where none exists. But I believe I am not alone in feeling this way. Betrayed & utterly & thoroughly depressed.

The final straw was the bill that PPM put forward hastily on 21.07.2015, the bill that would see to foreign land ownership in the country, this being right after the session that saw the vote that ousted Dr. Jameel from the position of Vice President. Because of the grudge that MDP holds for Dr. Jameel, who has few or more like zero friends left in the political sphere, not many thought anything of the haste and unjust manner in which PPM speedily executed the no confidence motion put forward, with the help of members of MDP of course.

Without researching into the ramifications, the results & effects that a foreign land ownership bill would mean to a country such as ours, an “emergency” parliament session of sorts happened just that night. Debate that took place saw most MPs in favor of the bill, which of course wasn’t surprising. The uproar amongst the people however was certainly huge. You only had to look at the chatter on the social media to understand that people’s frustrations were at an all time high & that MDP acceding to the bill would perhaps become the final straw.

While people were still trying to grapple with the bill that had been put forth by the government, President Yameen appointed his new Vice President, Ahmed Adeeb, swore him in with the Supreme Justice present & of course on the same breathe sent the decision to parliament for approval just yesterday (22.07.2015). Before the day was through, Adeeb had been accepted as the Vice President (70 out of the 84 said YES) & the foreign land ownership bill had also passed through (70 out of the 84 said YES), both with flying colors.

Meanwhile diehard MDP fans & supporters refuse to acknowledge the fact that all this could not have happened without MDP being part of the package, that MDP could have actually walked the talk they have been preaching left & right since they came into existence. For instance, today’s free whip line still managed to garner the votes required for the foreign land ownership amendment, which would still have been the case had MDP opted for a free whip for the age amendment, both being amendments to the constitution. That would have at least meant that MDP “wanted” to uphold its principles but given the circumstances, left it up to individual members to decide how they wanted to vote. That, I believe would’ve showed the public just who & who in MDP are part of the ring of “corruption” that runs rampant in our parliament today.

For a party that celebrated its 10th anniversary just recently, it is a bit disheartening & disappointing that they don’t have an alternative leader in place to lead the party & contest in the 2018 presidential elections. Betting all they have on President Nasheed as the only candidate that they would like to see become President is unrealistic given the volatility of Maldivian politics & public sentiments across the board. My opinion, as irrelevant as it maybe is that this country would no longer give President Nasheed the chance to govern it again, come 2018 or even later on.

If you ask me, President Yameen has proved himself to be a brilliant politician & strategist. What he has achieved since imprisoning President Nasheed has been nothing short of remarkable. With this last piece in place, President Yameen has managed to severely cripple the trust members of MDP & rest of the public have placed in the party as the “savior” that works for the common good of the people. Perhaps as usual, we might forget what has happened today, tomorrow. But I believe that these ripples of mistrust would continue to gain strength, if something weren’t to give in the near future.

As always, what will happen now remains to be seen. There are talks of a new party cropping up, a “Common People’s Party” that would stand & fight against corruption that is rampant in the country, I’d say the root of all our problems to begin with. Like President Nasheed said in an article in New York Times, “The Dregs of Dictatorship“, dictatorships don’t always die when dictators leave office. To root out the corruption, to put to rights the rotten to the core judiciary of this country, perhaps that is what is required now, a third & somewhat different an ideology from mainstream ones. A party that could stir the masses into action, that would be able to walk the talk & perhaps, just perhaps, lead our country into a place where we could experience even a semblance of tthe benefits of a unified & developed nation.

My prayer, as always is that we as a country be able to prosper, without the corrupt dragging us down along with them. Amen!