Maldives at a crossroads: Selina Mohsin

“Street protests, unruly mob violence, nightly raids and destructive slogans against the ruling party have put the first democratic government of Maldives in a vulnerable position,” writes former Bangladeshi High Commissioner to the Maldives, Professor Selina Mohsin, in the Daily Star.

“The devaluation of the currency has provided an opportune moment [for the opposition] to protest against the government and create a smokescreen over their own political wrangling. They claim that the government is responsible for financial mismanagement and reckless spending without investing in productive resources. The youth are being used as pawns and the recent unrest has been termed by the opposition parties as youth movement reminiscent of political movements in the Middle East.

“For their own vested interest opposition parties appear to have incredibly short memories. Most have forgotten that in 2008 the World Bank stated that Maldives was in a volatile economic situation. The budget deficit stood at 31 percent of the GDP, inflation at 12 percent and the economy was reeling from massive fiscal expansion with the government’s wage bill increases. When President Nasheed came to power after the first multi-party democratic election, the World Bank noted that Nasheed had inherited the worst economic situation that any country faced since the 1950s.

“Recently, after international media coverage of days of violent demonstration across the capital Male’, countries that have tourists travelling to the Maldives have warned their citizens of security problems. Maldives was identified by Hong Kong as ‘amber’ after several nights of severe protests. This threat indicator now ranks the Maldives alongside Israel, Iran, Indonesia, Russia and Pakistan. China’s Xinhua news agency reported a government spokesperson as saying that those who plan to visit the Maldives or are already there should “monitor the situation and exercise caution.” Chinese tourist constitutes the largest number of arrivals and is a major emerging market. This increase in recent years has offset a decline in European tourism due to global recession of 2008.

“A dialogue was held a few days back by representatives of the government and party youth leaders. It was unsuccessful. The youth leaders demanded further reforms to reforms that have already been undertaken. To ask for the moon is a means of thwarting any useful dialogue.

“It appears that the current unrestrained demonstrations are not merely against a rise in the costs of living but to bring the government of President Nasheed down. Such is the peril of democracy.”

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