The Amendment that Brought the Opposition to its Knees

Placard used in one of MDP's rallies. Brings home the truth? Photo from Haveeru

Placard used in one of MDP’s rallies. Brings home the truth? Photo from Haveeru

2008 saw a new beginning for the people of Maldives. Or so we thought. At least that’s what happened when President Nasheed first assumed office. People were free of the shackles of fear, intimidation & dread that had bounded them, some even for their entire lifetimes. But it was a short lived happiness. All that changed when deals within the parliament and out of it, to go ahead with developmental projects, as the opposition then which was today’s government, remained stronger even then than the MDP government, which made it practically impossible to proceed if otherwise. Velezinee’s outcries regarding the judiciary, the composition of the Supreme Court went unheeded, the aftermath of which we are living through, even today.

Fast forward to February 7 2012, a day that marked the beginning of the end of the democratic process that had gained little momentum, and had started its inevitable descent into chaos. It wasn’t just MDP and President Nasheed that suffered in the aftermath that followed. Countless Maldivians who actually believed in the concept of ‘aneh dhivehiraajje’; we all suffered, mourned and were debilitated by the loss of the government we all believed would serve the people than the cronies that surrounded them. Some cried, others held them back because President Nasheed stood up and showed that there was fight still left in him. The people rose, to fight, to get back the rights that they’d fought for so hard, so long, only for it to slip through the fingers just like that.

Commonwealth intervention after the coup brought forth the report by the Commission of National Inquiry set up by Dr. Waheed’s government. Hard as it was to swallow the results of the report, the blatant untruths in it, the sheer audacity behind its justifications, we bucked up and dealt. It was frustrating, it was a blow to the solar plexus of the people who believed. But once again, I believed in the wisdom behind President Nasheed taking the higher road. Just as I’d believed that had President Nasheed not stepped down on the day of the coup, this country would’ve had the blood of its people shed on its soil, something we would never have been able to move past from. And after months of protests, people had to focus their energies on something that’d give them hope. And that was the election of 2013.

Come election time, people were jubilant. Their voice was once again going to be heard, their votes the very thing that’d break apart a government that had been put together by mutinying forces within the police and military. The tick that they’d place on the ballot paper being the one that would smash to smithereens the belief held by the corrupt circle of politicians that had financed and backed the coup that had ousted a legitimate government.

2013 yet again proved to be one that tested the patience and endurance of MDP as well as those that believed in them. Supreme Court’s high handed tactics, all well orchestrated by the people in power today, with the help of business tycoon Qasim Ibrahim who himself is cowering somewhere outside of the country at the moment, is one that continues to haunt us. People were literally and figuratively fed up by the time the last round of elections were held and once more, I believed in the path that President Nasheed chose to walk upon when he conceded defeat and allowed President Yameen to assume office. It irked, it rankled and it put a huge damper on our hopes, the sheer effort that MDP had put into its campaign enough to show who had been the most deserving of the title of Presidency.

Since then, a lot has happened. President Nasheed decided on his own volition that to be born again, one had to die and that he’d face the consequences of the corrupt judiciary that stands ready to legitimize every single unjustifiable deed that is done by the incumbent government. 13 years in jail was what he got out of it, once more a blow to the hearts of his supporters, the people who believed in him. That President Nasheed chose to stand his ground and fight, rather than go into hiding was one that resonated within the hearts of even those that were reluctant to give him any credit. But sadly, today I find myself having difficulty reconciling with what the opposition, MDP, the party whose basic principles I have believed in, how utterly and effectively defeated they seem to stand, the values they’d preached on podiums with vigor all but lying tattered beneath their feet.

As I write this, parliament will be taking the vote that’d decide whether the constitutional amendment which would mean the age of the President and Vice President be capped between 30 and 65 would go through, meaning the current Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed would be ousted and most likely, as rumors have it, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb be brought in as our new Vice President.

None of this can happen without MDP choosing to vote yes, with 3/4th majority of parliament members required to bring amendments to the constitution. What is supposed to be the ‘sacred’ rule book that should govern the affairs of the country is now being amended at whim, to suite the political ambitions of a certain group of people, and MDP is complicit in the very act, at last bowing down to the whims of this tyrannical government that rules and maintains its hold through corruption, coercion and pressing on the pressure points that’d yield them results.

I remain in a state of chaotic contemplation, my mind unable to accept the gravity of MDP’s decision to align itself with this government, the way it so silently folded, in the face of whatever the government dangled in front of them. If one were to deduce things from what has been on the forefront of the news, MDP hopes to secure the release of President Nasheed, and perhaps foresee him contesting in the 2018’s election.

I hold no such hope. In my naivety as some people put it, I see the incumbent government for what it is. A state ruled by the corrupt rich, gangsters a part of its core, the sort of people you never ever sit down to make deals with.

There’s no point in being principled if you can’t walk the talk. There’s no point of honor if you can’t show it to the people when they need to see it the most. And there’s no point of hope, when the very party that acted as the beacon of it has just switched itself off, and not a flicker of it remains to visible to the naked eye.

PS: As I was set to publish this, the amendment was passed with a whopping 77 votes from the 85 member parliament. MPs of Kendhoo constituency Ali Hussain and Galolhu Dhekunu constituency Ahmed Mahloof were the only ones who seemed to have listened to the sentiments of the public that didn’t want the amendment passed. Thank you for listening to the people. Thank you.

#EkehFaheh15; The Rising of the People

Ibra's tweet when the protests began on 1.5.15. Moving!

Ibra’s tweet when the protests began on 1.5.15. Moving!

Vote in a government. Give them a year or two. Take to the streets. Mount the pressure. Topple the elected leader. Change government. Rinse and repeat as needed. This is a formula that Maldivians seem to have taken to like a duck to water, and it has got to stop. This is exactly what President Nasheed warned us about when he was toppled from power through a coup d’état on the 7th of February of 2012.

Government MPs threaten the public via social media

Government MPs threaten the public via social media

Believe it or not, pose your various excuses or not, it was indeed a coup, brought about with the aid of the mutinying police and military officials. This sentiment becomes fact when you take into account the recent MayDay rally or #EkehFaheh15 as it was referred to in social media circles. Government vehemently denied that there existed any pressure, but press conferences and tweets from government aligned MPs and bots attested to fact that government was indeed jittery.

Government MP Nihan threatens boat owners who ferried people to MLE for the protest.

Government MP Nihan threatens boat owners who ferried people to Male’ for the protest.

Yet, after brutal crackdowns on protestors, the rally ended with the state marking its victory with fireworks the very next night. The government remained unchanged unlike the culmination of events of 7th February 2012.  MP Nihan called out to terminate those that are sympathetic to the oppositions cause from their government jobs & for the boats that carried people to the protests from the islands to Male’ be cancelled of their permits to travel. But there definitely was no pressure.

The art of changing governments via coups is not something that is new to the Maldivian history. This has happened many times before and is set to continue unless the elected governments are ready to listen to its people and work with them to ensure harmony and development that is beneficial for the people, not just to a couple of ‘loyalists’ to the leader in power. The blatant disregard to the people is shown more so when the opposition continues to talk about Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb’s corruption and stronghold on the government & the President telling the opposition that Adeeb would be the one who would represent him in any negotiations or meetings that would take place with the opposition movement.

Prior to 2008, Maldives has weathered through tough 30 years of torture and fear where if your family member even expresses a desire to see a different leader take over was jailed & tortured, coming out from the experience a shell of the person he or she was before. Oh how well the people have forgotten. I weep over the many accounts that remain untold even today, of the many ways in which President Maumoon’s regime ruined the lives of families by rendering a person unfit to even take care of personal needs after being taken in for reprogramming at the infamous jails in Dhoonidhoo.

All that changed through nonviolent political movements that wasn’t easy, and yet Maldivians persevered. Yet again today we are sliding rapidly into the same rut, unless the government acts to rectify their mistakes & the people raise the collective voices to end this tyranny. President Nasheed calls for perseverance from his jail cell where he is set to spend the next 13 years of his life, all because he wants a life of dignity and equal rights for the people of the Maldives.

President Nasheed's message to the people.

President Nasheed’s message to the people.

It was quite obvious that during the MayDay rally, the police targeted the vocal on social media and otherwise, the ones who dare criticize the government and its actions or lack of without fear. A prime example would be Hamid Shafeeu, a staunch supporter of democracy and its values, whose wife was snatched first which ultimately led to his arrest during the next couple of minutes. Arrests numbered in the 100’s before the night was through and none of it was easy to watch.

Sentiments of a government supporter; their government doesn't have to warn protestors before pepper spraying!

Sentiments of a government supporter; their government doesn’t have to warn protestors before pepper spraying!

The fear and intimidation that we thought ourselves rid of is back, and if I have to put my money’s worth on it, I would say it is back to stay. Accounts of civil servants and other government employees being threatened with dismissal or worse if they took part in the protests continue to pour in and I for one have this foreboding we are headed towards the era where we would have to huddle in fear every second of the day.

Coup of 07.02.2012; still afresh in our minds

Coup of 07.02.2012; still afresh in our minds

I can never be a supporter of a coup d’état that topples a government. But just like the CoNI report that actually legalized this form of government change if there exists the weight of a couple of hundreds of citizens behind the movement, then I guess there’s no reason that a government cannot be changed legally in the said manner.

But deep in all of our hearts we know that ain’t right. We know that the power lies within the people who cast their votes to decide who their leader should be for the next FIVE years. Not ONE or TWO or even FOUR, but FIVE. Let us not forget that. Nor should the government ever forget that they are elected to do RIGHT by the PEOPLE. Not by those that work their own agenda, filling their pockets with the taxpayers money, making the best of it while their government thrives.

My wish for the Maldives and its people is a simple one. One that aligns with the vision that President Nasheed has for this country. That we be able to live a life of dignity regardless of our ideological differences. That we be a nation that prospers amongst a just and able society wherein which the government doesn’t serve its people based on their political color of choice. A government which listens to the concerns of the people who put them there, without openly challenging them and calling for war.

From the manner in which things have proceeded since the elected president was toppled from power back in 2012, little remains of the democratic changes that were brought about owing to the new Constitution. What remains or is in the process of happening is silencing the voice of dissent, the vocal who are not swayed by the threats this government, it’s MPs & associates seem to dole out on a daily basis. With the leaders of the opposition behind bars, perhaps to be prosecuted & doled out with equally horrific sentences as given to Nasheed, Maldives is on the verge of becoming the next Egypt. The government is adamant that its foreign policy reflect this tyranny and that is exactly what’s being conveyed through the diplomatic channels. The single flickering light of hope at the very end of the long winding tunnel remains on the international community, the actions that they would be willing to take to put this tyrannical government to bed.

Future of the country looks bleak, no matter in whichever direction you look at. The struggle that is currently ongoing, the people trying to let their voices be heard to a tyrannical government that not only actively challenges the people, but also celebrates with fireworks their “victories” over the people doesn’t seem promising. Inevitable seems the breakout of a civil war, rendering this country totally unlivable. On the surface, the scars left over by the coup might have scabbed over, but inside the wounds are deep, festering with hatred, resentment and a deep disillusionment over a country whose justice system continues to fail the public over and over again. And as every infamous quote tells us, only time alone will tell whether those fighting for rights, justice and democracy would emerge victorious or whether we’d all be browbeaten to embrace a culture of corruption, nepotism, injustice & abuse for years and years to come.

May God help us all.

The Fear of the Ballot Paper VS Democracy

Where is My Vote?

Where is My Vote?

Practically everyone who gives a thought about the future of this country and its people are waiting with bated breath, even with hope at its lowest, for the Supreme Court to prove them all wrong and vote justly for everyone who cast their votes in good favor on the 7th of September 2013. Just like the sexual harassment issue regarding the President of the Civil Service Commission that unfolded late last year, the Supreme Court’s affair with the voting process has got almost everyone confused and some equally determined to exercise their right to vote. While the Chapter IV of the Constitution is pretty clear on the most important aspects regarding the Presidential Election, the Supreme Court on the other hand seems to be vested with the power to totally annihilate any laws as they see fit.

Moving on from the legal aspect which I certainly am not the most proficient person to analyze and talk regarding, my musings lie in the practicalities of what would unfold and I believe that there are going to be implications in holding the second round of voting this Saturday. If the entire opposition in terms of Nasheed is to judge the havoc these people can create, and if the Supreme Court does NOT issue its verdict by tomorrow and the members of the Elections Commission somehow grow balls of titanium coated with diamonds to even then go ahead with the second round of voting; just imagine the reaction from those who are afraid of this little piece of paper that civilized societies use to elect and reject those that are voted into various offices of the government.

Multiply the likes of Ilham, Riyaz Rasheed, Abdulla Abdul Raheem, Umar Naseer, Marz Saleem, Imran etc and their assisting rabble-rousers by a 1,000 fold plus the different gangs under their control that would certainly be deployed; one can just imagine the mayhem these people can create if you look at the level of vandalism the so-called prestigious members of the Parliament resorted to during the last couple of days.

With the Police Commissioner already vying towards the unannounced decision of the Supreme Court regardless of what the Police Integrity Commission has stated today which was to assist the Elections Commission in the voting process, it seems very likely that most police officers wouldn’t do anything much to uphold the Constitution they so claimed to love and adore when Nasheed was the President. The Constitution that they were devoted to upholding so much so that they could not sleep because of their need to topple the President from his position in their aim to show their respect to the document that forms the basis of all laws of this country. Add into this the various atoll and island level councils that are controlled by the opposition who’d refuse to cooperate with the Elections Commission without which the logistics of holding the run-off elections would be an impossibility.

Now, the question of the hour remains to be what the military would do if & when push comes to shove? Will they assist the Defense Minister Nazim to execute the ‘Operation Black Cobra’ or whatever ridiculous codename that it is called, that was circulating throughout the social media all of yesterday and help remove all vestiges of the democratic processes established in this country by opting for a military ruled dictatorship? Or will they rise to the occasion and for just once, serve for the betterment of this country and its future without being wusses about it?

There were rumors of supposedly a faction of soldiers within the military who believed that the coup was wrong, some whose egos were severely bruised by the extent to which the police force made them stand down so easily. Apparently this faction of soldiers believe in upholding the laws of this country and respecting the democratic process and if word on the street is to be trusted, they’d definitely come out in support of whoever the majority of the citizens of this country vote for and elect as their President for the next five years.

And in the meantime, the clock continues to tick towards the nth hour. And the question continues to loom larger than ever as the time of reckoning draws closer; will they or won’t they come out in support of the people of this country and its Constitution come Saturday, the 28th of September 2013.

The Movement, the Philosophy, the Icon & the Legend

Hard as it may be to believe for those who “hate” President Mohamed Nasheed and what he stands for, he would go down in history as the instigator of democratic change in the Maldives. Anyone who has closely monitored the struggle for people power that this nation has gone through, though it may not have seen widespread bloodshed as in most Middle Eastern countries today, there were those courageous few who dared to stand up against the dictatorship that was in reign for 30 long years. President Nasheed was the man whose spirit the regime could not break, the man who withstood each and every form of torture and overcame obstacles of all sorts that hindered his journey towards democracy, justice and freedom for the people of Maldives.

The term “Anni Zindhaabaadh” is one you would hear frequently if you have ever witnessed any of the multiple peaceful mass gatherings that have taken place in the capital Male’ after the 7th of February 2012. For me, the term which loosely translates into “Long Live Anni” makes sense in an ethereal manner such that the journey of change that Nasheed started has turned into a movement which has gathered enough momentum to sustain it through the long and hard battle that we the people have to once again fight in order to obtain the right to choose a leader through the ballot boxes and not through bullets. This momentum and movement is what must have scared the perpetrators of the coup that took place on the 7th of this month, toppling the first democratically elected leader of the country while the public watched on, most with disbelief while the rest cheered on, not even wanting to think beyond the euphoria of the moment to go to that point of realization where the gravity of what took place on that fateful day would sink in.

My personal experience was one of utter devastation. I grew up with a father who has always spoken against the many inhuman atrocities committed by Maumoon and his cronies while in power. On top of that, I have a strong sense of revulsion towards misuse of authority by anyone and thus the historic election in 2008 which saw the end of an era in the Maldives was one I wholeheartedly approved of and worked for. To see practically more than half of my work mates cheer on that day when it was announced that Mr. Nasheed would resign within the hour, something just broke inside of me and I don’t think it has healed since then. Well, lets just say that the whole day after his resignation was a blur of mixed emotions, a deep sorrow that was barely kept in place because of the support of family members and friends on social networks who believed that democracy and people power should rein supremacy over mutinying armed forces and the influence of the rich and corrupt in the society.

But what the then opposition must have once again underestimated is the power of the sheer determination of the one man whose vision of a democratic Maldives was what forever changed the face of Maldivian politics. February 8th showed the overwhelming support that Mr. Nasheed has behind him, the sheer number of people who took to the streets on a peaceful walk outnumbering any mass gathering that had taken place as a political rally in the Maldivian history till then. And I would say it was that sheer number alone that triggered the act of violence by the police towards unarmed civilians, which then set off the events of unrest and violence throughout the country, a blame which the Maldivian Police Service to this day tries to shove on the head of the Maldivian Democratic Party. But regardless of the scare tactics employed by the Star Force of the Police Service to ensure that video footage of their inhuman acts would be far and few in between, the rare video clips that have surfaced tells a story on its own.

Rather than hindering the momentum of people’s outcry against the coup, the sheer scale of brutality shown by the Police in itself increased the number of supporters for the ousted leader, perhaps the biggest mistake that Dr. Waheed’s government made since he took over being never once acknowledging or apologizing to the public for the events that took place on the 8th of February.

What Dr. Waheed and his partners must know beyond a shadow of doubt is that a man who has even for once tasted the sweetness of freedom would never revert back to slavery and accept it as his due without giving the fight of his life. Multiply that with the number of people in this country who do not want to see a corrupt and inept judiciary, who do not want to hear tales of police brutality and who want to exercise their right to choose their own leader and you get the biggest movement in the Maldives to-date fighting for their rights as the citizens of this country.

In my opinion, President Nasheed would go down in Maldivian history as the icon behind the freedom movement and would remain as the legend who even now remains undeterred in his fight towards gaining the rights of the Maldivian people against those who are power hungry enough to use every weapon available at their disposal. The philosophy of a Maldives where people have their due rights as per the Constitution would continue to fuel the movement that today seems unstoppable, that gains strength even as I write this and would continue on until the government relents and gives an early election date which would be for once a step taken in the right direction since Dr. Waheed took over.

Long live democracy. May the legend of a single man’s fight to gain the rights of his people live on, the movement never slow down and the philosophy of the due rights of the people of this country create the momentum that would in the near future give the people the justice that they deserve!