The country is broke and the price of living is going up every day while the standard of living is going down.
The price of a can of tuna is now 20 percent higher than it was a few months ago. A valhoa mas kiba, part of our staple food since time immemorial, is now beyond the common person’s reach. A bottle of water was Rf10 just a month ago; it is Rf14 this month.
Electricity bills, water bills, gas bills, are all hugely more expensive than any other country in the neighbourhood. A majority of people are living hand to mouth.
A vast chunk of the country’s youth population are either addicted to drugs or recovering from it. They are unemployable, and out on the streets, committing crimes big and small or looking in vain for another chance at life.
The standards of teaching in public schools are abysmal, and private schools remain an unaffordable dream for the majority. To say that public schools are free is to lie through one’s teeth; for people are paying through their noses for private tuition – a parallel education system that exists in a parallel universe. It is the elephant in every classroom that nobody in authority wants to talk about – the government cannot regulate it without first acknowledging the massive failings in the education system; and a majority of the teachers do not want to talk about it because it is the cash cow that supplements their meagre incomes.
Children from other islands are having to migrate to Male’, boarding with host families or packed into small rooms the rent of which they share; paid by parents who break their backs working on farms or on fishing boats, just so their children can get an education. The housing crisis and social problems related to overcrowding increase.
The health system is too weak to cope with any unexpected outbreaks of disease; Maldivian doctors are still the minority and are offered less pay and benefits than their expatriate counterparts; and infant and adult mortality rates are needlessly high. It was all too clear to see with the recent dengue fever outbreak.
Unemployment rates are sky-high while trafficked Bangladeshis are bought and sold by the planeload. They live in their scores of thousands working and living on building sites; existing in an alternate realm of worker drones, buzzing away in the background, building, serving, cooking, cleaning, maintaining; jobs that Maldivians consider themselves too good to be doing.
Their presence is acknowledged only when the buzzing gets annoying; when their levels of ‘civilisation’ are deemed not to match our allegedly impeccable manners and faultless social graces; and when foreign governments chastise the Maldives for its cruelty for putting a price on the heads of human beings and selling them to the highest bidder.
Longstanding traditions of peace, friendliness and cleanliness have disappeared; replaced with avarice and aspirations of grandeur achieved by any means possible. Basic civility, let alone friendliness, is conspicuous in its absence: the smile; the queue; the exchange of niceties; respect for the elderly; the weak and the vulnerable; the knowledge of belonging together – what are they? People push, shove and climb over each other to get to an undefined ‘there’ faster than anyone else – literally and metaphorically.
It is all there to see in the pantomime that the Majlis is enacting, fiddling with democracy as society burns. What is the purpose of these theatrics? Are we supposed to be impressed with his behaviour? Are we supposed to admire this display of ignorance as ‘people power’? Is this to be seen as standing up (or sitting down) for the rule of law? Are we supposed to applaud these MPs for their ‘valour’ in forcing a needless confrontation between legislative and military power?
Are we supposed to cheer in adulation or tremble in fear when one MP who was only recently bought by one party now shouts at the party he had just left?
Are we to ignore the fact that if such members did indeed have an ideology, or a set of deeply held political beliefs or values they would not be so easily bought and sold?
Are we supposed to laugh with them and chuckle at the smirks on their faces when they are being led away by the army? Are we supposed to let our children hear the filth that is sprouting from their mouths into our airwaves on daytime TV? Are we to appreciate as media savvy the manner in which, like a bunch of schoolboy bullies in a playground, they are taking photographs and videos of each other being bundled away by men in army fatigues?
Are we supposed to be appreciate as role models of feminism the female voices heard screeching like cockatoos at the spectacle of MPs being carried away like chimpanzees by zoo handlers? What exactly is being celebrated here? What state will our nation be in the coming years if these are our highest representatives, if this is the pinnacle of success that our children as future leaders can aspire to?
Whatever destruction that three decades of dictatorship could not unleash on our society with its ruinous policies, society is wreaking upon itself. We did not have a transition to democracy, we just changed one supreme power to which we subjugate ourselves for another: Mammon for Maumoon.
The Majlis should be where the people turn to for solutions to their problems. It is, however, both the representation of all our problems as well as their nucleus and their source.
What a sham.
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