Comment: Breaking the rules of democracy

Given the events of the past three years it is fair to say that we are still a democracy in principle rather than in practice. The existing authoritarian and undemocratic enclaves prevalent within our socio-political system support this argument. By authoritarian enclaves I refer to the prevalent corruption, the lack of respect for the constitution and the rule of law, and the continuous stifling of our civil and political rights by the so-called political fanatics, ‘vanguards’ of democracy and religious scholars in the Maldives.

It is true, old habits die hard. After 30 years of repression and authoritarian rule we still continue to focus on personalities; our institutions are not independent of specific personalities and as a society we continue to limit each other’s political freedoms. We need to liberate ourselves from our traditional, personalised patronage politics. We need to liberate ourselves from the old habits.

To be democratic we need to understand that the rule of law precedes everything; civil liberties such as freedom of expression should be exercised with responsibility and as a society we need to make informed and responsible decisions in selecting and electing those who represent our voice.

President Waheed was right when he said on Hardtalk that “we have come to this point because we have not respected our constitution. We have not respected the rule of law. The last thing I want to do is to circumvent our constitution”. So when and where have we circumvented our constitution? Without going into the details of Gayyoom’s 30 year authoritarian regime, if we begin with the dawn of our democracy following the election of Mohamed Nasheed, when and where have the laws of the land been flouted? Where have we failed at democracy?

The rule of law was flouted when the Supreme Court was locked down under the order of Nasheed. The rule of law was flouted when a senior judge was ‘judgenapped’ and arrested. We failed at democracy when projects or investment opportunities were given to political party aides and cronies without declaration of ‘conflict of interest’ or without a fair bidding process. We failed at democracy as the number of family ties increased within the top brass of the state institutions. We failed at democracy when we failed to listen to public protests for 22 consecutive days, regardless of whether they were 200 people, a minority, or 100,000 people.

During Nasheed’s regime, the opposition too failed at democracy because they refused to accept the rules of the game of democracy. Over the past couple of years the opposition have been hell bent on creating parliamentary deadlocks which delayed the enactment of key legislations; used religious fervor to rile up anti-MDP sentiments and backed questionable characters to achieve their political goals. Democracy is not the only game in town if the losers of an election do not accept their defeat. If we see democracy under the axiom of a game, it will only continue to work if the losers in the game want to play/try again within the same institutional framework under which they lost.

Our constitutional sins reached a new level on February 7, 2012. The constitution of our country was punched in the face when our democratically elected leader was ousted in a coup. If Nasheed was such a failure, his removal should have been by the rule of law, by the people and by the ballot. Whether by the fate of circumstances, by Nasheed’s own making or by advanced planning the removal of an elected President by force, has set a very dangerous precedent here and in my opinion this constitutional sin is worse than anything Nasheed ever did.

I am willing to accept that politicians from all sides have failed to uphold the rule of law in the past, move forward and draw lessons from it. So I ask President Waheed, since he holds the reigns now, what is his plan to uphold and maintain the rule of law? The current government’s commitment to democracy will continue to be tested and judged by the disgruntled opposition until the next election. Until then I hope our fragile democracy will continue to withstand the pressures and shocks without abandoning the electoral process ever again. The lesson for all of us is, never again should the constitution and rule of law be abandoned under the guise of upholding democracy.

I am not really concerned about ‘who’ is in power as long as the person in power is there through legitimate means and is concerned about implementing positive change. We have intellectuals on both sides of the political spectrum. Our infant democracy was born by the work of several people. For every protester there was an intelligent and energetic policymaker creating the rules of the game. For instance, Nasheed is a great orator and a true torch bearer for democracy. While Nasheed carried the torch, there were policy makers behind the table such as Dr Ahmed Shaheed, Dr Hassan Saeed, and Dr Waheed who rigorously used other channels to bring democracy to our country. All of them should be credited for their contributions regardless of which side of the table they are on.

Some of our MP’s display appalling behavior, ignorance and a lack of professionalism. Some are borderline criminals. When the next election confronts us, we as the electorate have a moral responsibility to select and elect leaders who are competent, crime-free and open-minded.

One of the fundamental components of democracy is freedom of expression, because without it, free elections mean nothing. We do enjoy ‘freedom of expression’ in the Maldives but without any responsibility. Freedom of expression is an abused freedom in the Maldives because religious extremists use it to spread their religious fatwa’s, war-mongerers use it to spread their hate, politicians use it to create division and the media uses it to spread half-truths. Where is our sense of social responsibility when we exercise freedom of expression?

We need to remember that before the 7th of February there were thousands of people who opposed MDP and exercised their fundamental right to criticise. The coup was not undertaken by the opposition supporters, therefore, why should they be labelled as ‘baghees’ (traitors)? The level of cyber bullying evident on social media towards anyone associated with the current government is one example where freedom of opinion is violated. The number of people that tell me that they are afraid to show their support to the parties they supported prior to 7th February due to fear of being labelled as ‘baghee’ is proof enough that freedom of opinion and expression is no longer a given. Without proper freedom of thought, opinion and association we will never be able to safeguard the integrity of our elections.

As a society that aspires to be democratic we all have a social responsibility to respect the rule of law, exercise our freedoms with responsibility and empower politicians for the right reasons. We are the drivers of change and politicians are only the mediators we select to implement the change we want.

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]


19 thoughts on “Comment: Breaking the rules of democracy”

  1. Fear of being labelled a baagee does not amount to restriction of free speech. Public opprobrium is not the same as coercion by the state.

  2. From a political party member's point of view, it would be equally difficult to maintain a "Centrist" view. A large number of people suspect if there is one! It is not uncommon to have Baageen and the undecided "centrist" lumped in together, perceived together within public opinion due to the sensitivity of the issue. Perhaps a fact of life that remains unchanged be it due to social media or not.

  3. I beliv we need a mechanism to protect or be the guardian of the constitution- a position independent of the executive,judiciary and legislature and largely symbolic.i.e for eg-the president of India,Monarch of U.K...the only mandate of such a mechanism should be to make sure that neither of the 3 organs of the state cross the limits prescribed in the constitution, thus making sure that no individual having assumed the post/duties of a public servant act against any act of the constitution....this mechanism could comprise of an individual or group of individuals elected through the parliament/electorate or alternatively its time to establish a symbolic upperhouse of parliament consisting of academics and experienced notable figures of the country who do not represent any political parties and having the mandate to only ensure that all activities of the state and bills passed from the lower house are in accordance with the constitution and rule of law.
    Until the truth of the doctrine of seperation of powers has properly sunk into the heads of the poeple who are to govern us we need a mechanism that will act on behalf of the constitution as its guardian.If not we will have to restart from where we started every 3 years.All 3 organs of the state today are in disarray, with all of them acting supreme at the expense of the people of the country and deriving authority from everywhere except the constitution!

  4. can i tell you a secret. Democracy and religious dogmatism aka 100%muslim nation by divine decree (constitution) does not and can not co-exist and flourish at the same time. Its one or the other. you may argue over semantics, but Maldives and its recent past stands as proof of this. Democracy, power of people and their liberty and subsequent creativity and progress is by its very nature designed to a secular society. NO im asking for a secular state here, but don't give me the democracy and religous card at the same time.

  5. That is an admirable goal! Democracy is vile and disgusting, and must be destroyed.

    For those Muslim brothers and our harlot womenfolk who yearn and long for it, I ask you to take into consideration that the Greeks who devised this most loathsome form of government had trade links with the southern medittaranean, and thus with the substantial numbers of semitic peoples contained theirein. Thus, it is reasonable conjecture that the original authors of democracy were none other than the ancestors of the zionist oppressors of today, who plot and toil daily to bring calamity and destruction upon the Muslim faithful ad turn our women into harlots! Woe unto them! Whereas the principles of Sharia are bestowed upon us by the divine creator himself, and remain unsullied by the impure words and machinations of the infidels.

    As a great scholar of our holy texts, and of the works of the Ayat'ullah Khomeini, may his name ever be praised, I hereby declare a fatwa outlawing this repugnant form of government forever! All those who advocate for it must be rounded up and garrotted on the spot! Alhamdulillaah!

  6. Good article - I think a lot of people will agree with this, especially around the 'you are either for us or against us' attitude of some people now.

    We do need constitution and rule of law to be upheld before we can move onto talk about a true democracy, and the current situation is making it difficult to have the rule of law upheld because of the behaviour of the current politicians on both sides.

    We need a new centrist politics in the Maldives, which takes the best from both sides and removes the worst (corruption, cronyism, party-politics and personal-politics).

    I was an MDP supporter in 2008, but cannot see how Nasheed (or Waheed) can unite the country after the past few months. We need a president and party which is unsullied by the past few months and who does not have baggage attached to them. MDP will never accept Waheed, and DRP will never accept Nasheed. An election is needed, but it needs an alternative to Nasheed/Waheed for people who want something new! If either of them win the next election, there will be even more problems in the future I think, just because politics is so divided at the moment.

    I would not vote for Waheed or DRP after this, but I will not vote for Nasheed either, as he has not lived up to expectations after he was elected.

    We need people like this author to be the ones who take us forward and investigate the coup independently without bias, and to take Maldives politics forward.

    And I don't think religion and democracy are incompatible! This is just nonsense some people are saying to cause trouble and it is clear to see why this is being said.

  7. The so called democracy , which strongly advocates for multiparty system, is a sinisterly designed self-centered one by the globalists who mainly are Zionists. Their main target is to have one world government and one world order i.e JUDAICA LAW but pushed forth as “ international law ".
    you guys are working hard to convince the Maldivians and the world audience that Judaica,Americana and Britannica Law is a system serving for the welfare of the humanity, i.e you call it ” international best practice “. Shame on you!! If you know a little about William Petteson who migrated to Britain from Holland in 1694 and oversaw all arrangements of inaugurating BANK OF ENGLAND much to the discontent of the British of that time. No one knew the shareholders of the bank,save the unethical greedy crooks who made it exist. MAYER AMSCHEL BAUER who was born in Frakfert Germany in 1774 was the guy who migrated to England later and gave the bank a gloss. The so called “international laws ” are formulated and laid down by those greedy bunch and of course later their decedents. Sharia Law is for the betterment and welfare of the whole of humanity wheres the above refereed law is to amass wealth by hook or crook, but at same time ostensibly exhibiting as if they are doing favours to the poor and the developing countries.

  8. The resident loonie Dhivehi Hangyourself has vented his spleen yet again above. It is hate filled sunni muslim fanatics like him that give all of you a bad other faith produces quite the same ranting lunatics that fundamental islam does.....and Maldives seems to produce more that its fair share of these retards.
    If he represented my hindu faith, I'd die of embarrassment.
    As for democracy coming to a sunni muslim nation, especially a 100% sunni muslim nation.....dream on!!
    Even Burma (Myanmar) is now way ahead of you losers.

  9. A.Ahmed speaks the truth! May Allah bless you and may your womenfolk never become harlots, as our are wont to do!

    May they remain forever humble and obedient, and may pious offspring spring forth from their blessed wombs to do battle against the zionist oppressor and their "democratic" colleagues in arms!

  10. @ Indra, The following terminologies, Muslim fanatics, Muslim millitants, Muslim extremists, Islamic fundamentalists, Islamists Muslim terrorists, Islamiphobia are ones invented after the year 1948. Before that year, no one ever hard of them neither have they ever been used in world media. Guess what connotations they have to that particular year. According to researchers,a group of people today known as Ashkenazi Zionists who had been objects of resentment over the years from time immemorial to that particular year, invented these terminologies to divert public attention from their unethical deeds. Ask your self who were behind French Revolution, First World War, Second World War and who benefited from all these wars and who lost.

  11. @earthling

    totally agreed with you since the so-called democracy is common in Zionist countries but necessarily saying democracy literally means "power of the people" thus every law has to be made according to the people. So a full democracy can only exist when most of us become atheist - now we all know, that ain't happening.

  12. I am no "lunatic" you base woman from India, but a great scholar! If you were my wife, perish the thought, you would tremble in my very presence!

    I urge you to embrace the tahweed, convert to Islam, and leave your Oogah Boogah Gods behind, for they will be of no avail to you on that great and terrible day when Allah (swt) will hold us all accountable for our actions and our beliefs!

    Indeed, if the Oogah Boogah Gods had any agency or power, they would not be so helpless when confronted with their imminent destruction; if you do not believe me, I suggest you consult the employees at our so called "national mueseum".

    Do you then not see that your Gods are false, and that ours is true!

    As of now, you are not dissimillar to the fools who worship the zionist authored cult of democracy. And unless you mend your ways, you will have a similar reward to theirs in the hereafter. Innalillahi-wainnailaihirojiun!

  13. A.Ahmed speaks the truth yet again! Rarely ever have I come across a man who matches my intellect and erudition, on this website, filled as it is with its harlots, and zionist sympathizers, woe unto them!

    Indeed, the Rostchild family house great wealth within the bowels of their lairs; wealth that they have amassed over the centuries through the deranged exploitative wars they have initiated for their own personal amusement and financial benefit.

  14. @Tro,
    oh yea! secular state means all atheists?..good grief!
    and when did i say anything about zionism and democracy? if you have any suppressed anger towards Jews and Atheist this is not the place to vent out i guess. or rather could be the perefect place;-) enjoy!

  15. A very good article but even today's news confirms that democracy is dead at least at the Party level.

    MDP supporters of Anni have tabled a no confidence motion against Dr.Didi and Alhan Fahmy.
    The reason? Dr. Didi wants to form a cabinet according to the constitution of the Party. Once the Party is no longer in power, the onus is on the President to form a Cabinet. Right now the elected leader of the Party is Dr. Didi. But he has no authority as power is vested in Kenereege.
    Alhan has told Anni that it is time that he acts the Mandela role and stand aside and let others lead the party.This made Anni furious and he has vowed to destroy Alhan.
    This is the state of MDP, the party who advocated for democracy.
    One can guess the state of other parties.

    Furthermore, Maldivians do not seem to understand the difference between a Presidential style administration and a parliamentary democracy.
    This is a huge issue since we have a Presidential style democracy yet we operate as if we have a parliamentary style democracy.
    In a Presidential democracy, there is no party in power. Presidents stand and get elected on their own while in a Parliamentary democracy, the party with the highest number of seats form the government.
    So the fact of the matter is that the public voted for a Presidential system and MDP or any other party cannot say that they are the government. No party gets elected to be the government.


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