Today marks one year since Abdulla Yameen was sworn into office as the 6th president of the Maldives, stating that his government was to be “one of results”.
Twelve months on, the government can certainly claim the result of a strong majority in the People’s Majlis, positioning itself well to enact an ambitious legislative programme.
Yameen’s administration has taken a tough line on illegal immigration as well as pushing through legislation with the potential to change the country’s economic landscape.
Less clear, however, are the results regarding the removal of the Maldives from the “deep economic pit” in which the president found it.
Additionally, the decision to re-implement the death penalty has not resulted in a reduction in the number of violent crimes, and the intimidation of journalists and politicians has resulted in international concern.
The foreign policy of the Yameen administration has been the result of a combined desire to attract foreign investment and an oft-stated determination to preserve the country’s sovereignty and religion – a combination it assures is compatible, depending on the partner.
Yameen’s recent acknowledgement of a turn away from “western colonialists” towards the east has been preceded by a year of growing Maldivian-Chinese relations, culminating in the historic visit of President Xi Jinpeng to Malé in September.
The visit of President Xi saw agreements signed on the development of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) and the iconic Malé-Hulhulé bridge, which China will “favorably consider” financing should it prove feasible.
Should Chinese favor not fall upon the bridge project, however, there appear few takers for investment – despite the introduction of the administration’s landmark Special Economic Zones Act in August.
While a number of ‘mega projects’ had been pitched to investors in Singapore in April, Beijing continues to be the only investor calling.
Perhaps a more significant development for investors was the June decision by a Singapore arbitration court to rule in favour of ousted Indian infrastructure giant GMR, with damages owed for the 2012 termination of the INIA development deal currently being determined.
The fate of pre-existing foreign investments this year will have done little to attract new business, with the Tatva waste management deal terminated in September and the GulhiFalhu Global Green City project having recently stalled.
Tourism has continued to drive economic growth this year, assisted by the rapidly expanding Chinese and Russian markets – though the latter will not have aided by the handing over of alleged hacker Roman Seleznyov to US security officials in July.
Twelve months in office
Bills combating torture, human-trafficking, money laundering, and the financing of terrorism have also been approved – the former two being passed prior to the ruling coalition’s success in March’s parliamentary polls.
The steady stream of defections to the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives prior to the elections continued afterwards, with the party soon turning a 33 seat haul at the polls into a 43 seat majority in the Majlis.
Cracks that had appeared within the ruling coalition during the Majlis election campaign grew wider as the vote for a new Majlis speaker approached. Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim’s decision to defy his coalition allies and stand for the position prompted the dissolution of the alliance in May.
Within the government, aside from President Yameen himself, Minister of Defence Mohamed Nazim and Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb appear the most prominent figures.
Deputy leader of the PPM Adeeb also heads the SEZ investment board as well as being co-chair of the Cabinet’s Economic Council. Implicated in a US$6 million dollar corruption scandal last month, Adeeb labelled the auditor general’s report a smear campaign.
Defence minister Nazim, whose remit includes immigration, has overseen the removal of nearly 8,000 undocumented workers in the past 12 months, the majority through a voluntary repatriation scheme.
Nazim is also acting minister of health – a position vacated in August when Dr Mariyam Shakeela failed to gain the approval of PPM MPs following a ministerial shuffle.
Shakeela had previously weathered a number of storms within her ministry – most notably the transfusion of HIV infected blood to a pregnant patient at Malé’s IGMH.
52 weeks on the street
The past twelve months have seen a deterioration in public safety, with a number of high profile incidents unresolved by police.
While vigilante gangs have abducted and assaulted a number individuals based on political affiliation or sexual orientation, a spate of inter-gang violence in the capital has left two dead and more than a dozen injured.
The hundredth day since Rilwan’s suspected abduction has coincided with the PPM’s celebrations of one year in office. The police’s failure to progress in the investigation has prompted Rilwan’s family to lodge a case with the Police Integrity Commission.
Beginning with reports of a Maldivian jihadi being killed in Syria in May, three more Maldivians have reportedly been killed, while couples and even whole families have migrated to ISIS-held territories.
Demonstrators marched through the Malé with the ISIS flag in September, shortly after foreign minister Dunya Maumoon condemned the Islamic State’s atrocities in Iraq and Syria, while the Islamic minister advised against Maldivians travelling for jihad.
The prominent role played the Supreme Court in President Yameen’s November victory continued to impact upon the electoral environment as novel ‘suo moto’ proceedings were utilised to dismiss prominent members of the Elections Commission just weeks before the Majlis vote.
A subsequent report by the Human Rights Commission to the UN, detailing the continued centralisation of judicial power, has also prompted the initiation of ‘suo moto’ proceedings, which in turn has sparked concern abroad.
More fortunate in his legal wrangles has been Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed, whose alleged appearance in a series of sex tapes could not be proven by either the police or the Judicial Services Commission.