The economy is controlled by a handful of big, powerful dons who have extensive business interests in all major industries. The dons supplement their income through the illicit supply of drugs, prostitutes and other contraband. They have corrupted the institutions of state through bribery and inducements, and their violent street gangs deal with anyone who dares stand in their way.
Sound familiar? Welcome to ‘Sin City’: Las Vegas in the 1960s.
The parallels between post-war Las Vegas and today’s Maldives are stark. We may not have the casinos of the Nevada desert town but we have plenty of our own vices: street gangs, people smugglers and the king of crime: Brown Sugar.
In recent weeks, it has become clear that many of our own state institutions have also been corrupted by powerful businessmen who made their illicit fortunes under Gayoom’s iron-fisted autocracy.
For ordinary folk, Gayoom’s reign often spelled poverty, misery and torture but for a cunning few, close to the dictator. Vast personal fortunes could be made through lucrative oil contracts, drug dealing and racketeering. The friends and family of the former President were effectively above the law.
Things started to go wrong for the dons, though, in 2008, when a new sheriff rode into town. President Nasheed vowed to clean up corruption and cronyism and sell off rotten state assets to private corporations, threatening the dons’ control over the economy.
The criminal king-pins are fighting back. Secret telephone recordings, aired in the media earlier this month, strongly suggest that a handful of powerful MPs, who made their fortunes under Gayoom, have woven a web of corruption around the People’s Majlis and the so-called independent Commissions in order to protect their vast personal wealth.
The police have arrested MPs Ahmed Nazim, Abdulla Yameen and Gasim Ibrahim for allegedly bribing fellow MPs, such as Kutti ‘I need some cash’ Nasheed, to vote against government bills that threaten the dons’ interests. Now the judges, who were appointed by and owe their loyalties to Gayoom, have freed the powerful MPs and barred police lawyers from court.
President Nasheed is engaged in a bitter fight to try and clean up corruption and stamp out organised crime but has few allies outside his own party.
Las Vegas’ history may, though, provide him with hope. In the 1980s, huge corporations moved into town. They bought up the mobster’s gambling dens and replaced them with glittering skyscraper mega-casinos.
The Las Vegas mafia fought tooth a nail to protect their empires – corrupting policemen, bribing judges and murdering opponents to keep the corporations out. They spun a propaganda war, warning that Las Vegas would lose its ‘soul’ if faceless companies took over.
But in the end, the corporations won. Today’s Las Vegas is hardly a testament to moral purity. But the gangsters have been forced out of town and the corruption, drug dealing and the criminal gangs have largely gone with them.
Whether the Maldives’ will win its fight against the mafia remains to be seen. The $400 million upgrade of Male’ International Airport by GMR & Malaysia Airports bodes well – not only will it boost the economy, it will also stamp out a dodgy airline fuel racket allegedly run by companies close to powerful MPs.
The future of the country, and its democracy, hangs in the balance. Will the mafia win out? Or will President Nasheed finally force them into leaving Las Vegas?
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20 thoughts on “Comment: Leaving Las Vegas”
Yameen will never leave maldives. his business empire is as large as it is invisible. keep him in aarah... no, send him to Dhoonidhoo, I say
Aren't you supposed to take the US as an example of a corruption free democratic system? Now where did you get this idea about Las Vegas..
very interesting read
what we need now is masked vigilante hehe just kidding
but many hopes lie with anni's cause. mine aswell.
I think the writer is mentally retarded. Majority of maldivians don't like to see another dictator created. The so called democracy is thriving ... Let's enjoy this.
Las Vegas and Maldives?
I am lost!
The mafia in Las Vegas paid the Mormons to do their accounting work, as well as the servicing contracts for the casinos.
Who does the bookwork and catering for our local guys?
Rehehndi, awesome stuff, well done, loved it
Khadeeja, I agree there are some similarities between Las Vegas in the 1960s and the Maldives today. However, I think that your article glosses over certain things and make President Nasheed look like the hero that he is not. Yes, everything that happened during Maumoon's regime was wrong, but a lot of things that are happening under President Nasheed's presidency are also wrong. The political drama that is unfolding in the Maldives right now is a new episode in the saga of struggle for power and wealth between two major powerful families in the Maldives. We have seen other incarnations of this even before. Its just that right now everything is more intensified, there is more at stake and there are more new faces and side kicks. Yes Maumoon's family members and friends do have business empires in the Maldives, but please do reminded that President Nasheed's extended family is not a poster sign of poverty and struggle either. His family members and friends also do have business interests in the Maldives. So you see what I am saying? With the dawn of democracy in the Maldives, the faces have changes, but for the most part it is still the same old game. Nepotism and corruption. In the end the real losers of this feud are the common Maldivian people.
I truly support President Nasheed's promise to fight corruption, but I say that he should not stop with the parliament only, he should also fight corruption in his own administration and his own party.
I have no doubt that all of these guys have been into some kind of bribery etc...but what I , what this struggle needs for victory, I think, is proof of the allegations of the link between those close to Maumoon and gangs and drugs,,, I think PROOF OF THAT would pin it... Everyone says everyone knows it to be true, but just saying everyone knows it is not enough...come on... why the hell is it so damn hard to get proof seems everyone seems to "know it..." Is it because, maybe some in MDP are not entirely innocent perhaps, and there is some mutual blackmail going on? Well, if youre hands are a bit dirty, I am sure that if you come out and confess and do Tawba (repentance), and then tell us what you know about gangs or drugs in the opposition camp, I am sure you would have made a big sacrifice and that many would respect that and forgive...please someone make the sacrifice necessary?
Or, are people scared? Could the Government guarentee protection and anonymity for anyone who comes forward...
GET THE EVIDENCE OR THIS THING IS JUST GOING TO LOOK LIKE A CAMPAIGN OF VENGEANCE PLEASE!!!!
Did all this start in 29 June?
Believe it or not, Rehendhi Khadeeja is right...
Heyambo...I think you are the one who is retarded... our problem right is all about eliminating the network of the old dictator... they are the threats to democracy in Maldives.
You are so scared of it, aren't you?
Oh, you should have been to the Artificial Beach last night to listen to DRP... such lost people!
I heard the Secretary General of Yameen's Party PA speak there. He was formerly a teacher, a supervisor and the principal of Majeediyya school.. One can now see the reason why so many students have to fail.
DRP has no new ideas, no innovation.
Now that they cannot be as free as they used to be, they are into drug promotion - which they do by associating it with the President...
Such sad asses...
So you are Rehendhi khadeeja, huh? What are you trying to prove? We know who controls the street gangs and smugglers and we all know who the kings of crime are. We know for what reason they are doing. Dont try to hood wink people by projecting this as a DRP vs MDP thing where DRP is always the evil. We know Gayoom and his cronies were into serious criminal activities. Thats why we voted for change. But what anni is doing now has got little to do with delivering justice for the Maldivian people. This is all about cheap and insanely ugly politics. What happened to Redwave, Lolly, Ahmed Abdulla the moment they 'changed' their political affiliation? We are not fools Mr. Rehendhi something.
What's missing is the firearms.
How long will they be missing?
heyanbo... only retards will deny the similarities between current situation and whats described here..
Rehendi Khadeeja must be author of "A Man for All Islands". A great work of literature. This article summary from me: Maldives has crime. So did Las vegas in 1960s. Criminals not good for democracy. Anni loves democracy and also to dress like cowboy Sheriff. Criminals not happy because Anni annoying. Anni is so great he breaks laws to keep bad people away from society. Judges are bad because they are rapists. Police are useless so they are give cheap haircut for young boys. Yameen so bad he eats babies for breakfast. Viva Anni, Viva Las Vegas.
well written, but i also have to agree with Khadeeja Hamid.
at the grandest scale though, if you are able to look at all "this" (not just our society, but the human plight as a whole) from an outside perspective, perhaps an observing alien from a distant planet, you would probably be stunned by us. by our trivial wars over power and wealth in a society and system we have created over the centuries by valuing what is scarce and promoting greed and hatred.
Look closely at our own condition here in this beautiful islands. a whole lot of people are just wasting their life's precious hours, days and months to an imaginary wealth and power of few individual who have managed to get to the top of the shitty ladder we have build in the monetary system. and sadest thing is every little guy's dream is to be one of the Yamyns and gasims or anni's. what a waste of human potential, creativity and love.
we are barely out of the jungle.
@ Khadeeja Hamid on Thu, 22nd Jul 2010 7:03 PM
Whether you like it or NOT, President Nasheed's name IS and still WILL come in the list of HEROS. And Gayyoom and his corrupted peoples' names ARE and still would go in the BAD GUYS list.
Salaam, hehe. (You pathetic lovers of Gayyoom, corruption, drug lords, nation destroyers names will appear in the list of the FOOLS or allies of the BAD GUYS.) haha. Just give history sometime and you'd turn in your silly graves when the sane people of the world and the Maldives laugh and spit on your graves.
hey rehendhi don t get distracted from your cause. be focussed or habees will fiqure out who you are soon
There is no parallel between Las Vegas in the 1960s and the Maldives. Vegas capitalized on vice - tycoons overtook the revenue streams of the mobsters and cut down the violence.
We already have tycoons instead of mobsters in the Maldives, How long are you going to drag Gayyoom as the excuse for the current party's shortcomings? Without compromise, nothing's going to pass...
Despite all the mudslinging going on between rival political factions, the one accusation that has not been levelled against President Nasheed is corruption. Maumoon, Yaameen, judges, the police - you name anyone in this political drama - they are all tarnished with the same brush.They are all thieves!
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