“On March 13, former President Mohamed Nasheed began the first day of a 13-year prison sentence on charges of “terrorism.” For those of us who witnessed the birth of democracy in the Maldives in 2008 and its desperate battle to cling to life, news of his sentencing sounded more like a death knell than a court ruling,” writes Mariyam Shiuna, executive director of Transparency Maldives, in an op-ed for the New York Times.
“The Maldives, an island chain off the Southern coast of India, is home to nearly 400,000 people. It attracts tourists and climate change activists (ours will be one of the first nations to sink if the world keeps warming), but few foreigners stay long enough to learn our history or about our struggle for the freedom affluent visitors often take for granted.
“Our hard-won freedoms are now slipping through our fingers. When Mr. Nasheed, an eloquent dissident who had spent several years in prison and in exile, was elected president in our first free and fair elections in 2008, his victory renewed hope for a future in which we could have a say in how the country is governed. Instead, political persecution has intensified, civil society is silenced and media intimidation has become the norm. The United Nations, several Western governments and many local observers have expressed grave concern over the unfair process followed in Mr. Nasheed’s case as well as legal cases involving other politicians and warn that our democracy is rapidly eroding.”