“My romantic ideas of how to deal with a dictator were wrong”: Nasheed

Allowing former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to live in peace following the 2008 election was a bad decision, former President Mohamed Nasheed has told Time Magazine.

The Maldives’ experience with the remnants of autocracy should serve as a lesson for other countries in the Arab Spring said Nasheed.

“The lesson is we didn’t deal with Gayoom. That’s the obvious lesson. And my romantic ideas of how to deal with a dictator were wrong. I will agree with that,” Nasheed told Time, in a striking reversal of his magnanimity in 2008.

Nasheed observed that “you can get rid of a dictator, but you can’t get rid of a dictatorship. You can get rid of a person very easily, but the networks, the intricacies, the establishments — you have to flush them. And to do that is not an easy thing. We have to be mindful with other countries going down the same line — for instance, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya. They’ll have good elections, they’ll probably come up with a better leader. But then the dictatorship will always try to come back. And it’s going to be impossible to hold them from coming back from within the system.”

Gayoom stepped down peacefully in 2008 after losing the country’s first multi-party elections election to Nasheed, a former political prisoner who was quickly dubbed ‘South Asia’s Nelson Mandela’ by international media outlets. The peaceful transition from autocracy to democracy was held up as a model for other countries by human rights and democracy organisations, including the Commonwealth and UN.

Nasheed, despite heavy resistance from key supporters, pledged to leave Gayoom in peace, acknowledging his contribution to the development of the tourism industry and encouraging him to assume a role as a respected elder statesman.

“Be magnanimous in times of victory, and courageous in times of defeat. The test of Maldivian democracy will be how we treat our former President,” said Nasheed at the time.

His sentiments were echoed during a state visit from the President of Timor-Leste, Jose Ramos-Horta.

“I prefer to be criticised for being soft on people who committed violence in the past than be criticised for being too harsh or insensitive in putting people in jail,” said Ramos-Horta, during a visit to the Maldives in February 2010.

“Our approach fits our reality, an approach the president of the Maldives and I share – the need for magnanimity. Immediately after our independence in 1999, I said: ‘in victory be magnanimous. Don’t rub the wounds of those who feel they lost. Make them feel they won, also.’”

Exactly two years later Ramos-Horta would become the only world leader to condemn “the obvious coup d’état”, and the “unsettling silence of big powers”.

After the 2008 election Gayoom continued to lead his Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), but in January 2010 announced his intention to bow out of politics ahead of the DRP congress, anointing Ahmed Thasmeen Ali as his successor and become the party’s ‘Supreme Leader’.

“The Maldives is a young country, and only will progress if youth become involved in politics and leadership,” the 72 year-old said during a live press conference on January 25, 2010.

“I am not young any more. I have spent many years in office, and I want to spend time with my family. I need to give the younger generation the opportunity [to lead the party] – they are capable,” Gayoom said.

A senior government source at the time observed that Gayoom’s announcement was not met with celebration by the country’s leadership.

“There is no jubilation here. It was very hard on some people when Gayoom publicly denied he ever harmed anyone,” the source said.

With Gayoom absent from the DRP, a power struggle quickly erupted between the vigorously uncompromising faction of Umar Naseer, a former policeman, and Thasmeen’s mellower, more conciliatory approach to opposition politics. The struggle came to a head with the expulsion of Naseer from the party in late 2010, a decision that sparked Gayoom’s return to active politics with a dramatic attack on Thasmeen’s leadership in a 12 page open letter.

Backed into a corner by the party’s Supreme Leader, Thasmeen did not respond, while the infighting – occasionally violent – culminated in Gayoom’s faction splitting from the party and forming the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), backed by the People’s Alliance (PA) of his half-brother, MP Abdulla Yameen.

The PPM actively led protests in the lead up to Nasheed’s downfall on February 7, opposing everything from the “idolatrous” SAARC country monuments in Addu to Nasheed’s detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed, an ill-fated last-ditch attempt to reform the judiciary.

Speaking to Time Magazine this week, Nasheed said he had pushed against a “witch hunt” after coming to office: “We didn’t want to purge the military, we didn’t want to purge the police.”

“There were mistakes,” he confessed. “One thing the international community finds it difficult to understand was the arresting of the judge. He asked a child to re-enact a child-abuse case in the court. The whole country was disgusted by it. The very next week, he gives an order for a murderer to be released because the Ministry of Health didn’t have a death certificate. And then [the released man] goes out and murders again. It was like releasing a hit man so he could go out and make another hit. The whole picture was getting very, very clear with gangs, drug dealers and with Gayoom and his cronies,” Nasheed told Time.

The government had begged the international community for assistance after detaining the judge, Nasheed said.

“Unfortunately, I kept on asking everyone – the Commonwealth, the EU, the Indian government – to assist us in reforming the judiciary. But they were very late in coming. And we didn’t get the necessary help from them,” he said.

“Also we were bringing in reforms very rapidly. We were liberalising the outlook of the country very, very rapidly. Especially with Islamic radicalism. Our ideas of moderation, the moderate Islam — there were some small, entrenched sections that reacted strongly against me. I thought they were odd people here and there. But there was a core of radical Islamists who fueled the coup through media and harping on about how un-Islamic I am. I must confess, I’m not the most pious of the people. But I am a strong believer.”

Nasheed predicted that Gayoom would make a move for the presidency “when he thinks it’s in his hand, when he feels the field is skewed enough in his favor.”

“His designs are to have a stronger hold on power. He would avoid an election. I am sure he would avoid the scheduled election in 2013 as well. He’d try to push back the elections as much as they can. He would talk in words that the international community will like. We had elections in 2008, 2009, 2011 that were all free and fair. But suddenly the US government is saying, ‘Oh Gayoom says, there might be a problem with the election commission.’

“This is very strange. At the same time, [Gayoom] will start running things through the military. My fear is that we’re not going back to pre-2008 Maldives. We’re going back to pre-2008 other countries, to Pakistan, perhaps, where the military becomes so strong that they call the shots.”

Nasheed said he was “shocked” at the speed with which the US, India and other countries recognised the new government, especially after “we did so much to encourage internationalism, encourage liberalism, to bring Indian investment — to get rid of anti-India phobia. We tried to have good relations. But when push came to shove, we ended up in the wrong. Somehow we were not the right people to talk to. If you want to be a regional leader, you must be sensible. And consistent. And you should lead. They should protect democracy, and they should be on the side of democrats and human rights.”

Nasheed said they tried to encourage him to form a national unity government, “but my point is, why should we try to unify the dictatorship? The coup is not unifying the country – it’s bringing back the old dictatorship. We didn’t want to have a part in it. We beat them in the elections. It’s wrong to talk about governing with Gayoom because he was rejected by the people.”

The international community had slowly begun realigning itself after realising that the ousted government was refusing to be supressed, and had backed early elections – “they should have been the first to say it, not me,” Nasheed noted.

India in particular “has the means” to push for early elections, Nasheed observed.

When those are held, “I am very, very confident that the people will decide upon us. And the thing is not who wins an election – it’s the fact that you have to have one. It’s the fact that a government is formed through the people.”

Read the full interview in Time Magazine


22 thoughts on ““My romantic ideas of how to deal with a dictator were wrong”: Nasheed”

  1. Your romantic ideas of how to deal with the people of Maldives was very very wrong....it's awfully sad that you have come back..in your absense it as peaceful here...

    Havnt you learnt anything from your own wife? Please go and never come back

  2. If you have done anything wrong with Maumoon, the current situation would be much worse.

    Bdw when did you let Maumoon to live peacefully? You and your people gathered near his house and attacked his people. Don't you remember your cheap acts?

    I am not a supporter of Maumoon. I still believe in MDP but not in you.

  3. I'm glad he realize he has disobeyed rule 7 of a revolution.

    Rule#7: Upon toppling a dictator, you are to hijack their illicit wealth and land, and distribute it to the people, dismantle and destroy their security apparatus and secret police, and either kill or exile all their supporters.

    His humanity was the weakness they used to stab him in the back.

  4. Finally Nasheed says what i thought all along. Leaving dictator Gayoom to plot away and be active in politics was a recipie for disaster. As long as he is able he will not allow Maldivians to live in peace.

  5. I allways thought that gayoom will come back again.i also was once arrested for just posting a letter against gayoom when i was 18y old.naseedu he him self was beaten by police during gayooms dictatorship decided not sue gayoom was a grate example of forgiveness.it is a shame that we could not help a friend in need i thought India was our grate friend

  6. But it's no good blaming the EU, The Commonwealth and the friends we have, it's always good top have their support but they would not be able to deal with our internal politics.

    We need an honest leader that will engage with the pubic and help to grow and learn together, as a nation, to build more capacity and wealth than we currently have.

    Sadly, no one person is emerging as capable of such a leader right now, they are all seemingly unable to trust this small nation to help them create something for us all. Only when we get beyond the shouting of others mistakes and boldly state what they will do and stick to it will we hopefully move forward.

    A coup was never the answer, these people must go and they must be brought to justice in a fair and free state.

  7. Nasheed was giving peace a chance and we rejected it.

    Next time different!

  8. It’s wrong to talk about governing with Gayoom because he was rejected by the people.”

    Nasheed you are still living a fantasy. Can we remind you that even in the election 2008 Gayoom won over you big time. you won only 25% while Gayoom won 40+%. It is the coalition thta brought you to power. If there was a poll today Nasheed Vs Gayoom, there is no doubt Gayoom will emerge as the clear winner. Thats what we dread Gayoom back as president. To avoid that we need you to pack and go let MDP bring forward a capable candidate. Certainly that can't be you.

  9. I would not have made that same mistake.

    Under my sagacious rule, democracy would be dismantled, the false cults of evolutionism and neurologism would no longer be imposed on our children, our women would become virtuous, the rule of God would reign supreme and all deviants would be rounded up and garrotted on the spot immedieately!

  10. Nasheed & Gayoom are both dictators... What we have to discuss is which one is less evil

  11. i guess there is no peaceful transition to democracy. there never was. there must be a brief moment of anarchy and total annihilation of traitors. it is inhumane, maybe the greater good argument is too often abused...but i dont see any other way.

  12. “The lesson is we didn’t deal with Gayoom. That’s the obvious lesson. And my romantic ideas of how to deal with a dictator were wrong. I will agree with that,” Nasheed told Time, in a striking reversal of his magnanimity in 2008.

    Nasheed you were still bitter with Gayoom. You sent thugs to his residence to create chaos. You tried to frame him for 800 Million Dollars fraudilant and yet you were not successfull.

    The statements you have been making proves to us you are liar and a hypocrat. The real dictator is Nasheed.

    We find you are a sick person suffering from Antisocial Personality Disorder and really need treatment. You have destroyed your own party. You should leave Maldivian politics and go back to UK join with your good friend Hardingham & Jude show your stunts to the British.

    I really want to see MDP reform without this dictator Nasheed. Its the only change for MDP to come back. With Nasheed hanging around MDP will fail.

  13. well. nasheed we appointed you to clean up the mess,every child in this country knew it was a 30 year old dictator ship , but you failed , becoz u replaced the dictators with uneducated , uncivilized morons , at least you could have appointed educated people , that is the reason why you could not hold up , this is 2012 and still your best mp's are talking about road justice ,lol

  14. Dear Nasheed! Making silly mistakes is not uncommon with self conceited arrogant egoists like you. You bunch are so uncompromising so undemocratic despite your rhetoric to the contrary. The so called “ “democracy” is a set trap pushed forth by the ILLUMINATI to control the whole world and to indoctrinate everyone with their ideology . The theme of this philosophy is “religions hinder civilization scientific and social advancement.” In other words , if you want to be an advanced people , you have to be atheists.

  15. A.Ahmed, the Illuminati are not atheists, but are in fact zionists.

    I have prior spoken of the trade links between the Aegan and the South-East mediterranean. It is unquestionable that the idea of "demo-kratos" was transferred from the semitic communities contained therein to the Athenian Greeks, who merely popularized it through usage; which means that the true of authors of democracy were none other than the ancestors of the zionist oppressor, may Allah (swt) curse them!

    Indeed I have some artefacts that can corroborate these statements, which I stumbled upon while I was onboard an Iranian battleship with my binoculars, hunting deviants to have garrotted, all those years ago during my days of service within the Basij-e Mostaz'afin, (my rank will remain undisclosed). Insha'allah, I will reveal them to the world community when the time is ripe.

  16. @Ibra, you are very correct. Both are dictators. Both came to power through the ballot box. Nasheed in 2008 Qayoom in 1978.

    There is no doubt Nasheed was overthrown by a coup. Nasheed created the perfect opportunity for the coup and Qayoom and his supporters grabbed it and succeeded. When a coup occurs it success depends on its recognistion by the people and the foreign governments. Only MDP supporters had objected. The rest of the citizens seem to embrace the coup. The internation community has recognised the government the coup leaders installed. The coup leaders were clever enough to portray it as a successtion to the leadership by Mr. Waheed when the incumbent resigned.

  17. Read Gramsci on hegemony, cultural hegemony.

    Anni was betrayed by the West, but he was a fool to expect so much from them. Freedom and power cannot be given back to Anni by the West, any freedom which is given is ultimately enslavement to whoever gives that freedom. Freedom which is not won through your own personal struggle is false freedom.

    Yet at the same time, I wonder, what motives did Anni have for appealing to the West for support in promoting human rights etc. Was it just to gain their economic backing, their help in case he gets in trouble. Why the hell does Anni want to be a President, knowing fully well that as a President he has
    no hope of implementing the ideals he professes to believe in?

    The maintenance of executive power is dependant on the repression of humanrights in the Maldives, due to the particular social-politicaldynamic of the nation. The hunger for power on many sides of the political divide is so intense, like a furious force of explosive lust for the ecstasy of worshiphood. Ppl burn for power with such rage, that they will inspire violence if they are allowed to speak, you have to shut them up. People are so desparate for power, they would crush whoever the hell gets in their way, power is miles above love and humanity in the hierarchy of values of many politicians.

    Maumoon had to become a monster and repress certain elements of Nasir's backing to maintain executive stability, Anni has admitted now he wouldhave to do so also, he would have to become a monster and repress Maumoon which would lead to human rights abuses, if he needed to do everything he needed to do to really get the evidnce of the abuses. Anni is basically saying, in other words, if he becomes a President, he would not respect the contitution, the rule of law, the ideals of forgiveness and unity, as they are all 'fantasies...'

    Message to Anni. These are not fantasies, or romantic ideals, these are realities, but they are realities which cannot be realized from a positionof wanting to win, maintain executive power, the blood of the oppressed is the power of change, becauseit transforms people'es hearts by breaking them. When youlose a loved one, you gain thefire of love for humanity, you gain anger at injustice. The power for change is not the executive sword, it is the power of resistance.

    Anni now admits that human rights cannot be implemented top down in a Maldivian political-social context, a President cannot give human rights, it is taken through the power of resistance, it is won through the refusal of the oppressed to give up resisting. You achieve human rights through resistance power, bottom up power is liberating of humanity, top down power (executive power) is belittling of humanity.

    Anni has to choose, if he wishes to fight for human rights, he will remain in resistance, andstop trying to implement top down power as a President. As a resistor, he can help force the Government to bend to the will of the wave, and he will wield more power than a President anyway.

    In my opinion, if Anni chooses to chase the Presidency before the constition is changed, judiciary reformed, renewed, he is a total and complete fake and us who have loved him so deeply for his liberal character will feel deeply betrayed and wounded.

  18. the truth is that he tried to get rid of maumoon and failed. anni's lies to the international media are revealing him to be just as bad as the rest of them.

  19. With Gayooum we had autocracy and after that we have theocracy. Maldives never had and will never have democracy.

  20. Maumoon has to go behind bars that man should be responsible everything he destroyed a generation and destroyed a nation for bloody thirty years


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