Comment: A method in madness

One of the most painful, overused cliches of modern times is the saying that insanity is the act of repeating the same action over and over again and expecting different results.

The Maldives, then, can be considered to be suffering from a bizarre national lunacy.

On elections day a little over two months ago, some of us thought we’d finally return to stability. We then also kept our fingers crossed two weeks later – in vain, as it turned out. On October 19, optimistic souls believed Maldivian voters would be a third time lucky. And yesterday, some hoped we would be a fourth time lucky.

And now, some are praying we’ll be a fifth time lucky sometime in the indeterminate future. But as this writer comfortably predicted months ago, there remains a zero percent chance of any free, fair or credible electoral decisions being upheld under the present Maldivian regime.

Foolish assumptions

There is a method in this mad optimism, and it is based on a number of foolish assumptions – the very first being that elections will somehow defuse the two year long crisis.

On the surface of it, it seems rather logical that an election would lead to stability. But perhaps we forget too easily that we did have an election on 7th September 2013.

The elections were scheduled well ahead. The parties campaigned. The observers arrived. Citizens registered to vote.

The elections were even widely praised by experts and international observers as being free and fair. 88 percent of the people voted. The democratic candidate won with a handsome margin.

Except, the Gayoom-controlled judiciary then threw the results right into the trash can on what can only be described as exceedingly tenuous grounds. The third placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim alleged widespread fraud, and the court happily agreed – while doing away with the need to accommodate such inconveniences as any actual admissible evidence. Instead, the judgment was based on a “police report” so confidential that not even the defendants or their lawyers were allowed to have a peek at it. (Our Supreme Court, ladies and gentlemen!)

The elections were annulled. The international community expressed concern. Millions in public funds were wasted.

Having apparently decided to completely ignore the existence of a constitution, the Court then went on to issue a 16 point “guidelines” to the Elections Commission, including a provision requiring the candidates to sign the voters registry before voting could commence – essentially granting a veto to the candidates, who could now permanently hold the country and the electorate to ransom.

A runoff election was scheduled for September 28. The parties campaigned. The observers arrived. Citizens registered to vote.

But any hopes of an election were quickly dashed when the powerful Gayoom controlled militia – unwittingly referred to by the poorly informed as the “Maldives Police Service” – kidnapped the Elections Commissioner and laid siege to the commission. The elections were stalled.

The international community expressed concern. Millions in public funds were wasted.

Amid much drama, yet another runoff election was scheduled for October 19. The parties campaigned. The observers arrived. Citizens registered to vote.

But then, mere hours before voting was scheduled to commence that morning, the Gayoom militia intervened yet again and laid siege to the EC. The election was stalled yet again.

The international community expressed concern. Millions in public funds were wasted.

Then as recently as this week – when the international community threatened and arm-twisted the PPM and JP candidates into signing the voter’s registry at the last minute – another election was scheduled for November 9th.

The parties campaigned. The observers arrived. Citizens registered to vote.

An election was even allowed to take place this time, and declared to be free and fair. 86 percent of the people voted. The democratic candidate won handsomely again.

A runoff was scheduled for today.

You would never guess what happened next.

Mere minutes after the interim results were announced, PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen announced in a press conference that he would not sign the voters registry, thus preventing the run off elections from taking place.

The elections are likely to be stalled. Millions in public funds have again been wasted.

Curiously, it appears the parties will campaign again. The observers will return. Depending on when Abdulla Yameen decides to be benevolent, citizens may yet again need to register to vote.

Even more curiously, it appears many citizens remain inexplicably confident of somehow arriving at a different outcome.

The EC has said it will cost about MVR 25 million in public funds for each bout of this insanity.

The myth of a democratic election

Democratic elections are held between democratic parties i.e., between registered groups that aim to win over people to some vague political philosophy. The elections in Maldives are a different beast altogether.

If it wasn’t already painfully clear to even passive observers of Maldivian politics, the battle in the Maldives is between democratic and anti-democratic forces; between one group that seeks a public mandate, and another that seeks to permanently disenfranchise citizens and has publicly called for military rule. Between one group that wins elections and another that has no use for them, thanks to its control of the judiciary and a state funded militia.

On one side is the only democratically elected President in the history of the Maldives and who now has two further unfulfilled electoral victories to his credit since then.

On the other hand is a motley coalition of a former dictator, his cheerless half brother who is noted in leaked US State Department cables as being notoriously anti-reformist, a network of their fat-cat cronies, and to complete the picture, the far right religious extremists.

Gayoom’s party is not an agent of democracy, nor are its allies. If anything, the PPM is a panic-stricken response to democracy and to democratic reforms that threaten to shake the Gayoom network’s foundations. And that hostility towards a democratic exercise is exactly what has been on shameful public display in the last few weeks and months.

There are no difficult questions here. No moral ambiguity. Surely, to use the words of the great English rockers Pink Floyd, the international community can tell a green field from a cold steel rail.

The international community

In a moment of surprising candour, PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen admitted that he was forced to sign the voters registry against his wishes by the international community. The implication was that he wouldn’t have proceeded with yesterday’s elections – which he wasn’t ever likely to win – had he not been arm twisted into doing so.

The constitutional deadline of November 11 looms large, and the country will fall into a legal void with no political or legal consensus on what happens next. As such, it will fall upon Gayoom’s uniformed militia – ostensibly also the country’s security services – to decide the course of events.

Gayoom’s militia, of course, is likely to use the excuse of the Supreme court ruling to continue to prop up Waheed – perhaps the first incumbent ruler in history to win a mere five percent of the votes in a public election.

This miscarriage of justice only promises further chaos and – one cannot stress this enough – it is absolutely absurd to expect any different outcome.

The Maldivian citizens have protested, and petitioned and voted multiple times – all to no avail.

Perhaps, then, one way to force a different outcome is to force a different reaction from the international community.

In the last two years since the elected government was overthrown, the international community has made endless, meaningless public statements of “concern”; statements that have done precious little to impede the repeated, systematic abuse of human rights and mockery of justice in the Maldives.

In the meantime, police brutality has been richly rewarded with promotions, perks, housing and medals. A runaway judiciary is trampling all over the constitution like a crazed pachyderm. What little accountability had existed before has long since vaporised. The Maldives’ press freedom rankings have fallen like a brick and returned to pre-democracy levels. And that’s before they made the country’s only opposition TV station disappear in a giant ball of fire.


Perhaps, just perhaps, now would be a good time for the international community to make good on its threats.

The Maldives hasn’t had a legitimate government since February 7 2012. However, after the constitutional deadline of November 11, even the fig leaf of legitimacy granted by the CoNI report and the benefit of doubt granted by international community, purportedly in the interests of stability, will vanish.

Crucial powers such as India, UK, EU, the Commonwealth and the United States, who are in a position to enforce change, must recognise their responsibility to protect the fundamental authority of the citizens of the Maldives over themselves, especially when attempts to exercise a democratic mandate have been repeatedly and so publicly frustrated.

If instead, the international community should choose to acquiesce to this daylight mockery of the public, and recognise the Supreme Court’s blatantly unconstitutional ruling propping up a loser with five percent mandate as the country’s leader, or accommodate the hijacking of the Maldives electoral process, or turn a blind eye to holding to ransom the rights of an entire population, then it very likely that the hopes of democracy will fade from this tiny nation and the Maldives might end up a failed state.

It is trivial to put pressure on the Maldives – a country that depends almost entirely on foreign income and aid to feed and clothe itself. Cut off military and financial aid to the rogue regime until an elected President is sworn in. Halt exports of local fish to European markets. Stop sending tourists to luxury resorts that line the pockets of the Gayoom fat cats. Impose restrictions on foreign travel of regime figures on diplomatic passports. At the very least, stop sending consignments of tear gas, projectiles and weapons that are being used to subjugate an entire population and choke off its citizen’s rights.

The international community could continue to stick to the routine of issuing public statements of concern and privately trying to negotiate backroom deals between the wolves and the sheep on what they’d like to have for supper.

But unless the world powers can be convinced to make much sterner interventions, we are all mad as hatters to expect any change in trajectory in the Maldives.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


20 thoughts on “Comment: A method in madness”

  1. The international community is doing the best they can. If they take more measures against Maldives it will be the common citizens who suffer the most in the long run, and not Gayoom's political elite who started this crisis. That's why the international community is holding out to some extent while taking small diplomatic steps to send a message to the sleazy, anti-democratic political forces running the country.

  2. One of the biggest problems in these kinds of analyses is the question: how do you know? None of the commentaries on Maldives elections, including on this site, appear to be peer reviewed. Are they even fact checked? Where are the references?

    You can't build a democracy and a country unless public intellectuals start being more accountable.

  3. Excellent piece. Freeze a few bank accounts and - voila - one would be happily surprised at the turn of events.

  4. Yameen Rasheed,

    You are spot on.

    The international community is not interested in the welfare of Maldivians. They may be interested in what you can offer in terms of benefits.

    Offer any of them them a permanent military base and you will have billions poured into your election fund. Do you think the people will have a chance after that?

    So dear Maldivians, do it by yourselves. Show the world that you can.

  5. We dont care for the International community. The whole world is in a crisis and they have no time for a nation with 300 odd thousand people. Besides those who mattered have a price. Like Sir Donald. They can do nothing.They have committed to our cause and they dont dare for they been taken care of. Sanctions will not harm us. It will only harm the stupid poor fishermen and their families which they deserve for voting this pest Nasheed, Qasim is now out but he is trapped to stick by us. Just like the puppet Waheed. Then la la la

  6. Real madness is when you try to escalate an already bad situation with gossip journalism

    At the moment, any good Maldivian should try not to spread rumors at least

  7. Great article .. I really hope the international community will fulfil their commitment to democracy .. The root cause of all the mishaps in this country is accepting an illegitimate government. The fat cats n cronies will keep harassing the democracy loving ppl n rip us from our rights unless an urgent action is taken,

  8. @Hear Ye Its All So Supreme on Sun, 10th Nov 2013 11:44 AM

    You are 1000 percent right

  9. Let's not ignore the Elephant in the room. The people, were disenfranchised once, twice, yet if they were indignant, they did not show it in the polls. If in another country Yameen would have been destroyed in the polls, yet here, he actually gained more votes.

    Thousands of misinformed voters sincerely believe that Nasheed (the Christian Crusader) is their tormentor, who only got this far by 'rigging' elections. Let's face the truth, an election can only produce a good government if the voters are able to make an informed choice for their own welfare. A free choice is not necessarily an informed one.

    Yameen and the gang have a pretty cushy setup. The poor(also least educated, most religious and likely illiterate in English) who stand to lose most under a PPM govt, represent Yameen's biggest support base.

  10. The Maldives provide a perfect opportunity for the international community to do something constructive in supporting democracy. However, I am convinced they will continue to produce more and more statements on how the coup government should behave and leave it at that.

    Can the international community help the democratic process in the Maldives? The answer is yes, if they choose to.

    They do not have to send an army, nor tell us which candidate to elect. They can simply make some decisions about withholding financial support until a fair and free elction is held. I do not fully accept the argument that this would hugely disadvantage the average Maldivian. It may for a very short time, but the people have a lot to gain from having the ability to choose their elcted president/government. The short term and certainly long term advantages of empowering the people far outweighs the disadvantages of decisive action by the international community.

    it is a huge pity that the international community misunderstands what democracy means for this nation. It is not about some sort of elevated idea about freedom and dignity. No, it is about having the right to demand clean water, basic health care and the right to an education system where merit and not connections are valued.

    It is a huge pity that unlike vastly populated countries such as India and Pakistan, we need so little to get things right and yet the internatiuonal community continues to avoid committing themselves to grant us - a simple right to vote.

    What I fear the most is that they would avoid doing anything until our society erupts into endless violence and bloodshed. Then, may be then, they will send forces to make sure that we are not killing our brothers and sisters.

    I used to believe in forces of good. I used to believe that just as people have a responsibility to the welfare of other people, bigger and more powerful nations have a resposibilty to help the less priviledged ones.

    The only thing I believe now is that we will be stupid to expect this help. The world is too cynical.We can only depend on ourselves.

  11. @jaggered Is anyone in this country even concerned about fact checking? Is there anyone rigorously committed to the truth - or is it the myths surrounding each party that we are all invested in, too close to the politics to take a broad, independent and peer reviewed approach? The health of the intellectual community and its capacities to check, debate and praise each others' work is paramount. I challenge Yameen Rasheed to repost this article with references. Well, what do you say Rasheed?

  12. With all the antics put up by Yameen and Gasim it was pretty disappointing to see The Burmese Junta Economist gain more votes.

    Expect more of the hell to pour out tonight at midnight.

  13. Spot on, Yo...You could have said Maldivians (most of them anyway) are dumb fools

  14. While some of the issues you raise are very pertinent and agreeable, how can you seriously expect to be taken seriously when you are so obviously biased in your views?

  15. Maldives is a well known holiday resort and several Maldivians have made a lot of money out of it.

    But, otherwise it is still a poorly known country abroad, especially in the countries that matter in world affairs.

    Maldives , as a country, is more than 2,500 years old. That is as old as Sri Lanka, and also as old as the major European countries like Britain, France and Germany.

    But Maldives has little or nothing to show for its long history. Even its most recent history is not documented. It is often even wilfully falsified by its power hungry dictator rulers.

    Some of our brightest young men and women write to this Minivan website. The standard of education and critical thought on show, on www, is disgracefully low.

    People are classified in the Maldives not according to who they are and what they are, but according to who their parents and grandparents are.

    There is also a caste system that distinguishes the royalties and the aristocrats from the general public. There are differences between Male people and non-Male people. It is based on long held prejudices.

    I find it agreeable to read this article and I understand it. But who in the world at large is going to find this article interesting enough to take the necessary remedial action in the Maldives?

    I would like to share with you a thought that has been coming to the forefront of my mind recently. Mohamed Nasheed should have married Gayoom's daughter. That would have helped Mohamed Nasheed in achieving his political ambitions.

  16. Excellent analysis. Tighten the screws. Hit them where it hurts. In their fat purses. They are deluding themselves if they think we don't need the international community. To keep our tourism afloat we need more than arrivals as margins get squeezed. We need the cash to keep those arrivals happy. We cannot function without the outside world, much as some of us would like to. There are things such as credit ratings in the world of lending, we are constantly being monitored on that front.

    We could of course go back to trading umbalakada - and coconuts, bewitched or not.

    So when folk like Yameen hit out at the international committee while doing as they please - they are saying in fact "give me an inch and I will take a big fat mile".

    This is time for the international community, whoever they are, to put the big headed bullies rampaging all over our country and hijacking it - in their place. Wonder if they have the time - and the balls to do so.

  17. R2P? Be careful what you wish for...with certain countries (France, UK, USA) that means and excuse to use military force against whichever president or faction (and their supporters of course)which they happen to dislike.


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