#HaamaKurey & its Contentious Politics

haamakurey

Mahibadhoo Council’s Vice President campaigning for #HaamaKurey – Source:Twitter

On a good day, Maldivian politics and its politicians deserve a passing glance or a laugh or two at best. However, days that require mirth to fill in the ugly patches are far and few in between, especially with the introduction of democracy to a people who were barely ready for the characteristics that it exhibits; good governance, transparency and accountability from public officials to name a few.

Where the thread of corruption runs deep in the veins of the public, one of the prime examples that attests to this fact being the resignation of the first democratically elected President, who failed to hold office and complete his term amidst a police and military backed coup d’état. Those that knew the value of what was lost that day, the resounding blow that landed on the country and its fragile hold on people’s power, wept tears of grief. Those that didn’t know any better, well, they celebrated.

Come today, the Maldivian people has seen a lot happen in the span of a few years. How incumbent President Abdulla Yameen literally twisted the arm of the Supreme Court and related institutions until he got the result that he wanted from the presidential elections held in 2013. How the Parliamentary elections unfolded in 2014, where accusations of corruption and bribery were hurled towards government aligned parties from Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the main opposition party in the country.

2014 also saw the first publication of the special audit report on Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Company (MMPRC), where President Yameen’s most revered cabinet member, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb was implicated in a US$ 6 million corruption scandal. On the very same day the report was published, the Parliament passed an amendment to the Audit Act that later saw the removal of then Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim from office.

The people also witnessed the landmark constitutional amendments that saw incumbent Vice President Dr. Mohamed Jameel removed from office, the whispers of the dirty deals that exchanged hands between the ruling coalition and the opposition that saw the influential Mr. Adeeb  assume the Vice Presidency position, with 70 votes in favour!

The people also saw the way the elected officials failed the country by voting in favour of an amendment to her Constitution that saw Maldives open up its doors for foreigners to own land. The fact that the main instigator of all this change, Mr. Ahmed Adeeb, is now languishing in prison after one of the shortest stints in office any vice president in Maldives has seen to date, is one that didn’t escape the people’s notice either. All of which pointed towards one fact. The corruption that ran deep in the institutions of the country that should safeguard its interests.

With his Vice President in prison, President Yameen, hard pressed to come up with reasons to send him away to jail for a long, long time came up with another special audit report on MMPRC, this time concluding that MVR 1.2 billion has been lost to the public as a result of the corrupting activities carried out with Mr. Adeeb at helm.

Since then, the President, the ruling party and its counterparts have been making one blunder after the other. The President has confessed on public podiums that his party MPs had indeed received cash from Mr. Adeeb for party activities, and no, he had not asked nor being aware of where the money had been coming from.

Just yesterday, all of this took a more “humiliating” turn. Parliament Member for Hoarafushi, Mr. Mohamed Ismail of the governing party, the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) admitted on the parliament floor, on live TV, that he had carried around the sack of money that every MP is guilty of benefiting from.

More evidence failure of the government and the system needed? I think not.

Extent of Corruption & Lack of Confidence in Key Institutions

One of the surveys carried out by Transparency International in 2012 saw that out of the 1,001 people in Maldives that were surveyed to capture public perception on extent of corruption in the country, an overwhelming 90% of people saw the parliament to be the “most corrupt” institution in the country.

2013, another survey conducted saw that once again, the parliament was perceived to be the most corrupt institution, which was followed closely by political parties and the judiciary – which isn’t surprising, at all.

In 2015, Transparency Maldives conducted another survey, this time to gauge public views on the future for democracy in the Maldives. Lack of confidence in key institutions which once again included the Parliament, the courts and political parties were echoed across its vividly coloured charts and graphs. The survey hinted at a cynical and disillusioned people that believed readily that politicians would lie easily to get elected.

Need there be said more? I think not.

Asset Declaration as a Constitutional Requirement

In a bid to create a semblance of transparency in the chaotic and insanely corrupt political waters that are churning in the country, an initiative that came to life just recently and has gained momentum has been the #HaamaKurey campaign, which actually calls for asset declaration of key public figures as required by the Constitution and respective laws.

According to the Auditor General’s Office website, “The Constitution of Maldives and Laws regarding JSC, ACC, EC and Prosecutor General requires the President of Maldives, Vice- President of Maldives, Cabinet Ministers, and Members of Judicial Service Commission, Members of Anti-Corruption Commission, Members of Election Commission and the Prosecutor General to declare their assets to the Auditor General.” The Auditor General’s Office has also devised an ‘Asset Declaration Form’ which is available for download on their website.

#HaamaKurey and the ugly side of party politics

“Transparency maybe the most disruptive and far-reaching innovation to come out of social media.” – The New Influencers by Paul Gillin

The #HaamaKurey campaign which has been targeting parliament members up till now, has drawn a lot of criticism from the main opposition party, MDP. Things got interesting and quite revealing when parliament members of MDP engaged and challenged those that were calling out for public asset declarations.

MP of B. Kendhoo, Mr. Ali Hussain was the first to publicly publish his financial statement, which put other members of the Parliament in a pickle, especially the ones that hail from the party that echoes the rhetoric that calls upon the public for engagement and always talks of the rights of the people over its government and elected officials.

The reasons put forth by senior members of the party varied from pointing out the loopholes in the current system which would serve no purpose to calling out for implementation of the income tax which would be more revealing to the public, to expressing concerns on the culture of intimidation and imprisonment of elected officials of the opposition party by the incumbent government if MPs were to declare their financial statements so publicly, all in order to create a vacuum that they can take advantage of.

Valid concerns of course, which doesn’t detract from the reason why this came to being. Why it was necessary that the people be shown a way forward out of this gigantic mess, which just seems to grow more massive by the day. It was a way for a disengaged public to demand their elected officials to show to them they have been walking on the straight and narrow, that they have been true to the terms of the oath they all took when they assumed office. It was also the way to address the areas of concern that had been identified in not one, but three surveys carried out to assess public perception on government institutions which had seen a shameful view of the People’s Majlis emerge out of it.

The Ridiculous Side of Politics

The sentiment expressed by some, that this was a way to divert attention of the public from the more grievous scandal that is the MMPRC, the extent of this thread of corruption going deeper than one would imagine, was one that is utterly ridiculous to me. I am pretty certain that I would not be the only person to hold this view. The ex-auditor general Niyaz Ibrahim disclosed that a figure close to MVR 3.5 billion has been lost to the people because of the failure of the government and its institutions, independent and otherwise that had neglected to execute their duties to the people. Admissions by the President himself, that the parliamentarians occupying the house today were on the receiving end of the money that was siphoned off, is the glaring reason why the focus on MPs is a very valid, reasonable and much wanted one.

What is worrying to me are the actions of many of those who support the sentiments of democracy actually making fun and light of an initiative that has at least given back a semblance of “power” to the people. A campaign that actually allowed the people to exercise their constitutional rights as the Constitution affords them to. A first step that was taken in the right direction after years of “enslavement” by those in office.

What I fear is that these ripples of barbed references and jokes at undermining those that are driving this campaign would gain popularity amongst the members of the public that mostly exercise the “follow the herd” mentality. That it would get its job done and make the public once again question the need for this piece of paper, which has been published after much campaigning on the part of the “twitter politicians”.

This undermining campaign of sorts, might see the public ease off the current members of the crop that makes up the Parliament, but it would make it doubly tough for MDP to follow this path once again, if it were ever to have the fortune of leading this country forward. Because while a campaign that calls for transparency from public officials that are as corrupt as ours is difficult to get across, it would be quite easy to bring down the fragile beginnings of an initiative that has just barely taken its very first steps.

What MDP should do in all honesty is to help carry the campaign forward. Use this to drive the point forward in making the government and its institutions accountable, a tough a job as it is, given that governing party holds the majority at the Parliament. What MDP’s sentiments should be is to welcome this move by making elected officials accountable, especially from their own party and lead by example, to root out corruption, to make public at large aware of their rights on elected officials as citizens, and perhaps in the long run, make this campaign one that’d reach even the highest figure of authority in public office. MDP has the numbers and the means to work with interested parties to come out with something that would address the loopholes in the current system, to push the agenda forward, to give it their best shot, which is all that we, the voting public ask from them.

Loopholes would always exist for exploitation, in any system, no matter how perfect it is deemed. There is no doubt about that. A thief would think up of a thousand ways to get his or her share from the state coffers that most public officials believe they have a right to. But what we, as a country and as the public have is the right to demand that these loopholes be addressed, that better laws and regulations be put forth which can actually do some good than bickering about the fact that this is not the most perfect way to start making public officials accountable.

Because when have we, as a country, ever put our best foot forward?

“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” – Dalai Lama

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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!

RIP The Maldivian Opposition

Vice President Dr. Jameel (Source: Internet)

Vice President Dr. Jameel (Source: Internet)

I’d be the furthest thing from being a fan of the current Vice President Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed. His arrogance, the hate pamphlet that he produced to undermine Nasheed’s presidency etc. are huge factors contributing towards my avid dislike for him. Bashing Jameel is quite the thing. He makes it easy. By being him. But right now, what I don’t understand is the need to undermine him as the Vice President, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and its supporters joining hands with hat of the ruling party, Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) & its ally Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) to lay the “groundwork” that would oust him from his position.

This brings to the mind the episode in which MDP wanted to oust the previous Prosecutor (PG) General Muizzu from his position back in 2012 for whatever reasons. Muizzu resigned without giving MDP the satisfaction. The ‘devil’ that came to replace Muizzu has become the instrument that has been playing to every tune of the current regime, prosecuting everyone left and right with charges of terrorism, even the revered President of MDP President Mohamed Nasheed himself, who was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment, currently transferred to house arrest while some obnubilate deal goes through with the government. Ah. How ‘lovely’ is it when these obscure ‘ha kulhi kuriah’ (six steps ahead) maneuvers tends to blow up in MDP’s face. Point; MDP never seems to learn.

Vice President to-be, current Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, lesser evil? (Source: Haveeru)

Vice President to-be, current Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, lesser evil? (Source: Haveeru)

This time, it’s the case of Dr. Jameel vs Ahmed Adeeb, the tourism minister of the current regime. Unlike last time with the PG, MDP knows PPM’s game plan. That Adeeb would be the one that would be the most likely to replace Jameel. With all of Jameel’s faults, and those are numerous if you ask me, I still don’t see how Adeeb is a better catch compared to Jameel.

Adeeb did as much and was as damaging to Nasheed’s presidency before the Feb 7th coup. One has only got to bring to the mind the anti GST campaign Adeeb launched in 2011, one of the many efforts to cripple Nasheed’s government. Coming to the present, the vast allegations of corruption that Adeeb holds to his name, the abuses of power he has been accused of, accusations of his involvement in the disappearance of the Minivan News journalist Rilwan etc. are all reasons enough to believe that when it comes to Adeeb vs Jameel, there really is no lesser evil.

MDP seems to be guided by reasons such as Jameel threatening MDP and its candidate Nasheed during 2013’s presidential race by stating that even if Nasheed were to win the runoff, he would not be allowed to assume power. Thus the rationale, he refused the toy that belongs to us & therefore we are entitled to our petty revenge, regardless. Regardless of the chaotic future this deal might unearth in the coming future.

They say tyrannical people will be replaced by people who are more tyrannical than them. And they do say karma will come and find you and slap you on the face, six ways till Sunday, wherever you maybe hiding. Perhaps it’s a case of all of that for Jameel, since the party that was founded upon the principles of democracy, transparency, people’s rights etc. seems to have turned their backs on all of it, to accept a deal of which no details have been forthcoming, to make their supporters understand the reasoning, if at all, behind any of it. Thus. I just have one thing left to say.

May the Maldivian opposition rest in peace. Amen.

“And do not incline toward those who do wrong, lest you be touched by the Fire, and you would not have other than Allah any protectors; then you would not be helped.” (Hud: 113)