Comment: Maldives 1984

Like Orwell’s 1984 society in which people ‘could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them,’ a large chunk of Maldivian society remains convinced that what happened on 7 February is nothing more than the replacement of one leader by another.

People are not wholly to blame for failing to recognise the ongoing authoritarian reversal for what it is. The new-old regime’s propaganda apparatus is a force to be reckoned with; at least in terms of audacity, if not professionalism.

It is clear, from the armed takeover of state broadcaster MNBC One by rogue police early on 7 February to the shutting down of on Friday and the continuing efforts to revoke Raajje TV’s permission to broadcast nationwide, that using propaganda as a totalitarian state uses the bludgeon is a key strategy in the plans for regime change.

No facts, only interpretations

The only message the new-old regime allows in the media is: ‘what happened on 7 February is a good thing.’ Thus, Mohamed Nazim, Abdulla Riyaz and Mohamed Fayaz, the three civilians with no status, rank or right, who commandeered the country’s security forces and enabled their mutiny against the Commander in Chief become not traitors but heroes. Nazim is on video, Fayaz standing beside him, announcing his success in forcing the country’s first democratically elected president to ‘resign unconditionally.’ What law of the land sanctions such an act? Yet, their treason is valorised as patriotism. Nazim becomes Defence Minister, Abdulla Riyaz Police Commissioner, and Mohamed Fayaz Minister of State for Home Affairs. If the new-old regime is to be believed, these three men are the Three Brothers Utheemu reincarnated.

Mainstream media are glad to take up the theme. Here’s how Haveeru newspaper introduced Mohamed [Thakurufaanu] Nazim in a recent article: ‘Nazim, who played a lead role controlling and establishing order in the confrontation between police and military before President Nasheed’s resignation.’

In case rogue elements of the media refuse to convey the message as packaged, Nazim has taken it upon himself to explain his uncontrollable acts of ‘altruism’ via a personal blog. It is a fascinating world where has-been soldiers taking control of a country’s armed forces becomes ‘answering the call of duty’, and astrological signs are rendered vital for discerning a serviceman’s calibre. Nazim, people should be glad to know, is a Pisces. In the Maldives of 1984, knowing the country’s armed forces are in the hands of a patriotic peace-loving fish is all the reassurance people need that everything is all right.

Comical Ali comeback?

Adding to the surrealism is Dr President Mohamed Waheed’s increasing resemblance to Saddam Hussein’s Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, or Comical Ali, as he came to be known in 2003. As al-Sahhaf continued to deny American troops were in Baghdad even as they were clearly visible behind him, Dr Waheed denies any knowledge of a coup even as evidence of it circulates freely around him.

Beginning with the classic: ‘Do I look like someone who would carry out a coup?’ Dr Waheed’s protestations of innocence – and his actions – have only become increasingly incredible and inherently contradictory with time. He says he was not party to the coup, but there is an unbroken chain of evidence linking him to its planning, at least from 31 January onwards.

Then there’s the diplomatic doublespeak. Indian mediators left the Maldives mid-February with the impression there will be ‘discussions with all relevant parties to conduct elections by an early date’, but Dr Waheed’s office has since made clear Delhi was mistaken. All calls for early elections since, from all international actors, have been met with muted consent that translates into non-action at home.

When the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) suspended the Maldives until the outcome of an enquiry, Dr Waheed’s ministers told Maldivians no such thing happened. CMAG did not use the word ‘suspend’. It said the Maldives was being ‘held in abeyance’. For the layman, a small sidestep in vocabulary, for Dr Waheed’s government, a giant leap in interpretation.

When CMAG suggested international involvement in investigating the events of 7 February, Dr Waheed said he had already established such an ‘independent’ commission (with members of the old-new regime) for the purpose. Only it could decide whether international mediation was required or not.

On Thursday, Dr Waheed made such a mechanism redundant by announcing he, and his defence minister, already knew exactly who was behind it all: Allah.

Since then, it seems as if a new persona has taken over Dr Waheed. Where he was diffident before, he now pumps his fists in the air with anger and pelvis pumps in front of thousands. He is not only happy to share a stage with Gasim Ibrahim, Thasmeen Ali and Abdulla Yameen, opposition leaders whom many have accused of playing a pivotal role in the events of 7 February, but welcomes them with open arms and unhesitatingly hugs them close, pot-belly to pot-belly.

Where he once kept his faith to himself he now appears intoxicated by the same opium of the masses that has made his supporters so pliable. ‘This change in government is Allah’s will!’ he shouted on Friday. ‘A blessed triumph!’ And verily the pious were persuaded. They flocked to the sea to perform their ablutions and dropped to their knees in prayer then and there. It was as if by some miracle the tap water in Male’ suddenly ran dry, and the doors of all mosques all of a sudden jammed shut. And, from atop the mountain of love that grew for him among the supplicating people, Dr Waheed delivered unto them a special message—fear not beloved Maldivians, for blessed is this government of mine.

Lies, damn lies and statistics

Now that the strength of the dollar and military might have been ruled out as culprits and divine right confirmed as solely responsible for the ‘inevitable’ events of 7 February, what remains between facts and the ‘truth’ of the new-old regime are those refusing to surrender their right to choose their leader.

Thus began the numbers game—how many people want us and how many want them? There is a time-honoured instrument with which to accurately count how many people want a particular leader. It is called a ballot box. In the Maldives of 1984, however, where democracy is but another name for oligarchy, there is a new way of garnering how much support a leader has.

Watch the gatherings of those who demand democracy, estimate the daily crowd, and gather together—by whatever means available—a comparative number. This can be done by appealing to all who want ‘anything but democracy’ and may include supporters of theocracy, autocracy, monarchy, plutocracy, anarchy, etc and those who could not care less. Pen them all into a small area, take photographs using angles and lenses which best exaggerate crowd density, and compare with pictures (preferably taken when crowds are at their thinnest) of those who want democracy. For best results, enhance digitally. When doing an overall head count, if the numbers are less, add or delete a zero or two at the end as required. And there it is: Dr Waheed’s support is bigger than Nasheed’s. Ergo, Dr Waheed’s government is legitimate.

A coup? What coup? Since when was a coup necessary to bring about a divinely ordained government supported by the majority?

Azra Naseem holds a doctorate in International Relations.

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]


35 thoughts on “Comment: Maldives 1984”

  1. People who go to MDP protests are the ones (and their families) who stood to gain financially when dictator nasheed was in power, people who go there for free food (coz due to dictator nasheed inflation has gone so high that a family can sustain themselves for two weeks only with the meagre salary they get), and people who dream oF the utopian world wherE booze and drugs are legal coz dictator nasheed talks of freedom (which never prevailed in his autocratic regime).

    Bless you, Azra, for trying to pull wool over our eyes. References to Orwell doesn't make this credible. Too bad you didn't learn that starting with a quote is a sign of weak writing.

  2. First we had the 'diplomatic doublespeak' of MDP.

    Now we have the same thing by the Ithihaadhu.

    Either way it is reality distortion. It is sad that this Madam who holds a Doctorate in international relations actually believes in one of the versions. Academics are supposed to be impartial and they have an intellectual responsibility not to distort the truth.

    What you have written is nothing but a reflection of your self.

  3. Ok Azra. As you say this is a coup. Waheed planned it. So what do we need to do? Whats are the next steps?

    1. Do an independent investigation (MDP has strong support intenrationally. So they can get multilateral and bilateral support to this.

    2. Depending on the outcome number 1 above remove waheed and reinstate Nasheed. (with the overwhelming support from the international community the police or army cannot do anything to prevent this happening)

    Only 2 things need to happen. So why are we throwing this nation into chaos? Whats the point of oranizing mass rallies on both sides and use edited photos to show 'my side is bigger than your side'? Whats the point of writing all these silly opinions. We need to do only 2 things. thats all.

  4. @LOL

    Looks like this academic has seriously blurred vision. 'kula yellow' is all that she can see.

  5. Using the phrase 'intoxicated by the same opium of the masses', the famous phrase of Karl Marx used to denigrade religion is not a wise idea.

    This is a majority Muslim country where Islam is a sensitive issue.

  6. The solution? Quick polls.

    Let the next government investigate this bloody mess and decide on an appropriate course of action.

  7. Nasheed was a dictator who was ruling the country as a puppet of Mariya didi, Sarangu Adam and Rekko Moosa! Its a real shame most MDP hard core are worshipers of Nasheed and just building a cult worship like Gayoom! Nasheed never cared about law, justice and citizens! He only cared for his girl friend Mariya and other cronies around him! There was all the reasons for his fall! specially the wine and spa girls for fun which lead to another and the fall! The fall was not because of the strategy of opposition. They are as stupid as him. This country needs a blow on the head to wake its intellects and reform. Nasheed always wanted power and it distroyed him! He is still drunk of power!

  8. @ Rome, so everyone who goes to the pro government rally and those who support the current government are those who were getting hand outs during Maumoon's regime and those who are being paid by gasim and yameen during the current government? Wow, such logic eh!

  9. Goerge Orwell!haha madam,hit the nail on the head!Does 'The animal farm' ring a bell?.Nasheed is nothing but Napolean reincarnate with him reducing the constitution to just one maxim:"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others"....just realised what a farce this democracy he was talking abt was!Nasheed's rule was communism at its peak!!!

  10. Well researched and well written, Azra!
    It is obvious Waheed is in violation of the constitution! He takes over as President of the elected Government. He does not form a new Government, that only happens when we vote for it.
    The truth will come out. Already Umar Naseer has bragged! Waheed's Advisor has spoken his mind and it doesn't look good for Waheed!

  11. Maldivians, Go... ,get Waheed out and put him safely in Jail.! That's where he belongs.There will be No election for a loong time. You will be having Military Rule instead.

  12. @Rasge Fern: what international support? clearly there has been little international backing for Nasheed, atleast from the bigwigs. this makes the picture all the more bleaker i suppose. mikamuga kolheh neiy fen naakah.

  13. "Clear stream of reason has not lost its way to the dreary desert sand of dead habits" ..... Azra deserves praise for candidly bringing forth truth and facts staring at each one. How many Maldivians will understand it immediately ??. But one thing is clear... there are sensible people around here and they understand reality..than being carried away ... how long will people with myopia pretend they don't see and hear..TRUTH!!!!

  14. @LOL
    did you see the disclaimer at the end of the article "All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. "
    - so you are right, it is a reflection of the writer as you say. So what's the big deal? Can't cope that someone has a different opinion than you dho?

  15. You know what your trying to say is mostly lost in your supposed lavish style of writing. Work on your writing skills, reread before posting.

  16. In my opinion this is a very well written article by somebody with an open mind and objective outlook. I see here that @rome (seriously Khaulath... who do you think you are fooling?) cannot identify with anything that demands an intellectuality beyond that of a five year old.

  17. @Wargath bin Naufal - you should really have taken your own advice to reread before posting... your or you're?

  18. Waheed is learning to use the "nuclear" option in Maldivian politics, i.e. Islam. This is a well rehearsed pattern perfected by the old fella Gayyoom. As a regime gets more and more cornered, the more Islam laden vitriol will flow out of it.

    Waheed stopped short of saying he was sent by Allah, but very soon we will hear words to that effect. The pious will be asked to defend The One sent by Allah to defend the country from "infidels".

    Waheed was punching the air with his fists and claiming of martyrdom. Waheed has shown he couldn't care less for what the international community or the citizens of the country are asking for. Since he has been handed power by Allah, no one can dispute his legitimacy! Need we say more?

  19. Hi @Wargath bin Naufal
    Maybe you should work on your writing skills. I think perhaps you meant to say "You know what you're trying to say...".

    I agree with you though, what she's saying is lost on people like you that obviously don't understand it, which is a shame really. You should learn to think about the topic you read and not use of the English language, that's not important right now.

  20. There is a wise old saying: Do not throw pearls in front of pigs.

    You know what this means?

    It means that your intended Maldivian readers are too stupid to understand you.

    Get it?

  21. The incumbent government cannot only be blamed for the wrongdoing. Nasheed ordered many unconstitutional orders to the police and the security forces such as barring of the country's Supreme Court, unlawful arrest of senior judge of criminal court... Even the policemen who were gathered in front of their headquarters repeatedly noted that they merely want to get an assurance from their Commissioner of Police that he would not give any more unconstitutional orders, which he had failed to give that had lead to all this chaos. The constitution of the Maldives necessitate Dr Waheed to uphold the constitutional obligation and the UN, EU, US, India, China have all recognized the his administration.

    Its time Nasheed should give way for another leadership, even within his own party. This country deserves a better life than this and we have more serious issues that needs to be dealt with. We had already suffered enough.

  22. Strong and objective article Azra.

    Personally, I think this current regime are more akin to Arthur Miller's - The Crucible, by using religion as a justification for outrageous selfish behaviour and the division of harmony. That partiicular classic novel demonstrated the mass hysteria of a nation duped by a society / government obsessed at fooling the masses and retaining control.

  23. Thomas Jefferson said "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance".

    Here in Canada we must now remember his words too. It seems our election process of May 2011 was seriously tampered by the party that "won" it.

  24. if waheed took over the government by force, why not do two of the following
    1. MDP takes the case to supreme court, if court decides that it was a coup, than Nasheed be reinstated.
    2. if court decides that there was no coup than Nasheed continue his Presidential campaign for 2013.

    I guess It is possible that Nasheed New He is Not Going to Win 2013 elections if he is in the power, as he cannot deliver his promises so he crated situation where he can claim to say that he was forced by military to step down!!! in any case, as usual i think its wise decision. Probability of winning 2013 elections is higher now that the last days in the office. congratulations Nasheed.

  25. WOW..well said azra..! and you know..there are more than 48 mosques in male' city only i think...everyone acting in the name of a religion eh??!!

  26. aren't you a brave girl azra?

    why are there not any boys with balls in maldives?

    i guess....beards make the balls shrink.

  27. kaleymen lo andhiri!! MDP sarukaaru ga aharunna kah nulibey laari eh!! ehenveema kaley menna libunee tha dho laari maumoon ge sarukaaru ga!!! aharun mi thaaeedh kuranee democracy genain meehaa ah!! adhi ves thaaeedhu kuraanan!! kaley menna "hajamu" nuvanee meehun gina kan ingeythee!! democracy ge karu ga hifaafa feyri gai bayeh..dhen koaheh visneynee!! baagee waheed ge video balaafa ves ingey eyna akee hama puppet eh kan!! bo nuvisney bolirondhin thakeh thee!!! kaleymen dhaan vee minikaa raaje akah gos ethaa nappy jassaigen waheed maumoon aa meehun gengulhey!!

  28. I really concur with Michael Fahmy on this: Do not throw pearls at pigs. They will not understand it.

    Azra I have followed your writings on this website and you have written enough articles against MDP policies and actions to show that you are not biased. Please do not listen to these people who are clearly trying to dissuade you from continuing your much needed writing.

    Most Maldivians despite of party affiliation are sure that this is a coup. Nasheed was not the most popular president recently, but he did not lose his power constitutionally, he was ousted by mutinous police and security forces, alongside people with no legal capacity coming into Military HQ and President's Office.

    People who are partied to the coup have also called it a coup ie Hassan Saeeed, so why would it not be?

    Anybody suggesting that MDP take the case to Supreme Court must be joking. The judiciary's partiality towards Gayoom and his family/cronies is what has caused this entire thing, helped by loyalists to the old dictator.


  29. Azra, a beautifully written article and to all those who have dared to call Maldivians stupid, what does that make you? less stupid? or more stupid? name calling is not the 'in' thing, not now, not ever!. No, keep your beautiful language and write as you have done until now. There are plenty Maldivians who will understand exactly what you have portrayed here.
    Yes, there are those blinded by such blind loyalty for their own reasons. I just can't believe that these people are so adamant on giving up their rights, their individuality, progress in the name of a few hundred rufiyaa. that little bit of cash-in-hand' the leftovers of your so-called leaders are what make you happy right? good! then let the more deserving apply for the houses, flats row houses etc, let them benefit from medical insurance, let them benefit from the tax dollars through social services.. I hope you will remember to stay out of the selection processes when the time comes 🙂 You are, as you see yourself, much above the average Maldivian in intellect, financially etc so let the weak and meek benefit for a change! And if many of you who so love these dictators and this self-proclaimed government, I can just grasp the thought of ill thoughts that go through your heads in a continuous stream. You are so afraid of the intellectual rise of the masses aren't you? For then there goes your chance of lording over the mild and the meek. Do you honestly think that is the only way forward in this day and age. Ad if you do, then think again! there are plenty out there who are free to think for themselves instead of supplicating to people you see as 'demigods', which they can never be!

    These people really do get my hackles up but let me say no more, for now.. they will, i'm sure as Azra has said, will talk themselves to their own downfall, and that makes it so much better to watch!

  30. when nasheed was ruling he did the same with the oppositions' tv stations, he tried his best oppressing their service. pretty much the same thing was happening as now...only the sides have changed. people's rights were lost even then and even now. its only the political parties who are benefiting. the poor civilians are being used from two sides. no parties pay any respect to our constitution.
    The citizens of maldives keep calling each other brainwashed.


Comments are closed.