Comment: Master or puppet?

This article first appeared on DhivehiSitee. Republished with permission.

The Maldives does not have a leader and is currently under the control of an unidentified shadowy ‘group of leaders’, according to… the President. It is an astonishing statement for any leader to make.

There is much to suggest Waheed is as helpless as implied by his public whingeing. He does not, for instance, seem to have any authority to keep his own house in order. There are several examples.

Very early on in his presidency Waheed’s Special Advisor Hassan Saeed was secretly recorded describing Waheed as: “politically the weakest person in the Maldives.”

In the United States, decorated Army General Stanely McChrystal had to resign after his aides were reported mocking Vice President Joe Biden. In the Maldives, Saeed, with his Jekyll and Hyde personality, remains in position.

Same with Abbas Adil Riza, the President’s Spokesperson. Riza’s ‘emotional outburst’ against the Indian High Commissioner left Waheed with diplomatic egg on his face. Yet, Riza remains authorised to speak for the President.

Would Waheed get rid of them if he had a choice? Judging from how quickly he fired his Transport Minister and Human Rights Minister, the answer is ‘yes.’ Abbas and Saeed made Waheed look an even bigger fool than did Shamheed and Dhiyana.

Waheed is a man particularly fond of his reputation. He recently wrote:

If he had a choice, it is unlikely Abbas and Saeed would ever be gainfully employed again, let alone be his closest aides.

When Waheed fired Shamheed and Jamsheed, supporters cheered the President’s ‘decisiveness’. But firing them exhausted the extent of Waheed’s authority. This is why: after February 7, like generals divvying up the spoils of a war, each party in the so-called Unity Government claimed for itself ‘slots’ in the Cabinet.

This dodgy power-sharing agreement is what has come to be known as the Coalition Government and appears to be the cabal of equal leaders Waheed was referring to.

Under the new system, cabinet portfolios can only be given to individuals nominated by a particular party. If a close aide or a cabinet minister offends the President beyond his tolerance, he is free to fire them (depending on which party’s nominee it is). But he cannot hire the replacement. Only Party Greats have the authority to do so.

Party Greats, the elected leaders and leading personalities of various parties in Waheed’s Unity Government, are also beyond Waheed’s influence. This applies regardless of how often they mock, patronise or harm Waheed’s presidency.

Among these petty generals, Sheikh Imran Abdulla stands out. Imran is currently heading one of the stupidest political campaigns in history—a ‘Jihad’ to take back the ‘Maldivian Airport for Maldivians’. For God’s sake.

Imran is the President of the Islamist Adhaalath Party and runs a lucrative Rent-a-Sheikh business. That is, in exchange for the right sort of political or financial returns, he agrees to bring his religious ideology to bear on whatever issue is causing headaches for his paymasters.

In the last two weeks, Imran has given the President not one but two ultimatums. Currently, the President has until the end of the month to fulfil Imran’s demands, or else.

Even under such circumstances, Waheed poses for pictures with leaders and nationalistic paraphernalia of Imran’s ‘Airport Jihadists’.

Hard to believe any President would willingly look such a fool.

Maldives Police Service also seems well beyond the reach of Waheed’s leadership. In the early hours of last Friday the 16th, it ran what has been named an  ‘Intel-led Drug Bust Operation’ resulting in the arrest of two MPs and several senior members of MDP. It involved scores of officers swimming onto a desert island in the dark to ambush the targets at a weekend getaway.

Police found a hefty stash of alcohol on the island, and kept the arrested in handcuffs for hours. Family members are alleging they were badly beaten up in custody.

Waheed appeared as ambushed by police behaviour as were the targets of their Operation. Commissioner of Police Riyaz Abdulla said:

Such operations are not carried out by Police after informing the President or the Home Minister. This institution does not have any political influence.

For a president with any real authority, there would have been at least a courtesy call from the police, not a flippant explanation like Riyaz’s.

Is the President a puppet? Not according to…the President. In the same letter cited above, he wrote:

Nasheed accuses me of being a puppet of the former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. This is an accusation I reject.

There is currently a no confidence motion pending against Waheed in the Parliament. Last monday, MPs were due to decide whether or not the impeachment vote could be kept secret. The general opinion seems to be that if MPs are allowed to vote secretly, they will choose to get rid of Waheed.

MPs were ambushed in Operation Alcohol just two days before the vote. With the desert island debacle still fresh in everybody’s minds, the motion to put the impeachment to a secret vote failed narrowly.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has said it is difficult not to see the arrests as politically motivated. It really does not take a conspiracy theorist to link the arrests with the no confidence motion.

If Waheed is pulling the strings, then he ordered the arrests. And, if the arrested MPs’ families are telling the truth, he also ordered them humiliated, intimidated and beaten up. No puppet can pull strings like that.

There are more ways to see Waheed than suggested by Waheed. He is neither puppet no master but the curtain behind which the show was planned. He was the fig-leaf that gave the appearance of legitimacy to a coup. In return for ‘ascendency to the Presidency’, Waheed promised he will not resign until 2013, not matter what. Even if it means looking like a right puppet.

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]

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18 thoughts on “Comment: Master or puppet?”

  1. Oh the depths to which you have sunk Azra.

    There was a time when I respected you for your qualifications and intelligent analysis but that was back when you still had a modicum of integrity and journalistic ability.

    Now not only are you a propogandist resident abroad commenting on our affairs, your skills at journalism has severely detiorated. This piece reads more like a gossip column rife with cheap allegations and slander.

    It reads like something written by a schoolgirl. Not by a woman with a PhD.

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  2. The question is purely acedemic. It does not matter whether W is a puppet or the master.

    At the end of the it is W who is in the seat and he is our president. As a proud graduate of Stanford, the US also seems to like W.

    Best to waste your time on a real issue.

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  3. why do we need azra to write about it when the vice president is asking the same thing.

    http://www.haveeru.com.mv/dhivehi/news/130517

    in your face tsk tsk and academic.

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  4. Perhaps Azra, you do not have the relevant information in your hands.

    Apportioning "slots" in the government was introduced to the Maldives in 2008 when a coalition by the name of Wathan-Edhey came to power by backing a politically weak individual by the name of Mohamed Nasheed.

    Then, powerful interest groups such as the Champa Clan, Universal, Qasim Ibrahim etc. represented by their respective political outfits (DQP, JP, Adalat etc.) divided up the government reserving seats on the Cabinet for nominees from each group. Nasheed often clashed with his Cabinet members leading to the resignation/termination of several. Nasheed's "decisiveness" led to the sorry state of affairs that underscored the better part of his rule.

    After expelling the power base on which he came to power, Nasheed became the spokesman for a weak band of interests who struggled to buy out support from several corners while facing losing moral and actual authority in the country.

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  5. The Old Pelican is waiting to swallow all fish in the Majlis Bowl...come next year!!

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  6. Oh and also, the first comment is not mine.

    I suspect it was either written by the author, who has reacted emotionally to a post of mine before, or young Yaamyn who always takes offense at someone who offers a view other than his.

    Anyhow, the attempts at mimicking my style seem to be getting better. Kudos to the trolls for their efforts.

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  7. waheed's actions since he came into the scene is closer to that of the leech (i mean hirudo medicinalis) than a president. its true. he needs a host to suck on to remain fed, n without the host he's knows hes nothing but a CV inside a room with that Toby. He was on Nasheed back sucking away as VP when Nasheed was president, the moment he resigned, the leech attached itself to the next fattest party PPM..hoping that one day the leech coud become a real president. But sadly as azra has pointed out, Waheed still is not real. He's not taken control. He's not on top. Which now forces me to compare the physical attributes of the leech and Waheed as well. They both don't have [email protected]//5

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  8. Sorry to gave written something cheap minivannews, but we really need someone presidential to overcome the extremely volatile situation we are in. And it is frustrating to note, Waheed is unable to play a tough game as Anni did to keep the country progressing amidst all the pressures from party leaders to claim the throne they all so badly wanted

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  9. Waheed, if you are reading this, I want to ask you..where's that cool dr.waheed who won the hearts n minds of many in male' with the unforgettable "thumbs up" campaign way back when you returned after your phd? Where is that guy? wheres that energy? Really Waheed you've just lost your charisma. You've lost your mojo. For me today, Riyaz Rasheed's mustache has more charisma and mojo than you. When I think of you even now, the words lame, kattala, baggy pants, adult nappy springs to mind. What happened?You need to do something about it. You r the first phd n the very few who've gone to an Ivy League school ever from Maldives. N now this fellow Phd students lazra is dishing you out asking whether u r a puppet or not. You really need to do something about your image coz end of the day, presidency is much to do with popularity than policy. Don't forget that.

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  10. Things are getting better and better, the plot is getting thicker and thicker and boy oh boy aren't we having a ball?

    It's NOW obvious we have Tsk Tsk & a counterfeit Tsk Tsk. I wouldn't be surprised if we will be told that the article was not penned by Dr Azra PhD but like Tsk Tsk's shadow a counterfeit Dr Azra.

    1. As has been noted Dr. Waheed is leader of a coalition of disparate coalition partners. It comes as little surprise because Dr Waheed - the VP came to power only because the then President could not handle the consequences of his ignoring this fact- that he came to power on a coalition ticket. The successor too is burdened with coalition partners.

    I dare say that there is nobody in the Maldivian political  spectrum who could have survived very long the incredible pressures brought upon Dr Waheed's Govt by our international partners & a Nasheed hell bent spilling blood on the streets not to mention arson and calls for civil disobedience.

    The fact that he not only only weathered the storm but also won the respect and acclaim of foreign Govt's is testimony to the fact that he is a statesman of the highest calibre.

     On the local scene the fact that Dr Waheed was able to maintain his coalition - with partners with different party interests WITHOUT kidnapping judges, arresting political foes sans due process, using bribery and corruption, and winning over criminals by prematurely releasing them SPEAKS VOLUMES of his capabilities as an administrator par excellence. These abilities makes Dr Waheed stand out compared to his predecessor who we saw was a novice in comparison; often a tragic joke.

    Also the real PhD Azra would have noted that in a Democracy the head of state does not run the day to day operations of institutions such as the Police.

    Any fool can see that the fact that the President is not directing police operations IS PROGRESS in the right direction on the road to a Democracy. Dr Waheed made it clear on assuming office that he had every intention to make Democracy work & his handling of the legislature, the judiciary, the independent Commissions & the security services is proof that he has kept his promise. thank-you Mr. President.

    It's the hallmark of a great leader that he gives ear to good counsel. It looks as if Dr Waheed has done just that and what better counsel could he have than from Dr. Hassan Saeed with his appreciable foreign contacts and one of the chief architects of Democratic  reforms that xPresident Gayoom implemented. Dr. Saeed's observation that politically Dr. Waheed is the weakest in the cut throat politics of Male is spot on; and I'm sure Dr. Waheed would be the first to acknowledge the fact. He was stating a fact that All knew. In fact it was a compliment of the highest order.

    The Genius of President Dr. Waheed is just that! - in spite of being the weakest politically that all politicians big and small turned to him to extricate the Maldives from the disaster that Maldives was in after 3 years of disastrous rule by Nasheed & his cabal - well on its way to being an autocracy.

    Dr. Saeed is on public record appreciating this fact. As for Dr Saeed's comments in London to Maldivian students it was the case of a certain Maldivian student in Cambridge and his cronies taking Dr. Saeed's comments out of context and given their pedigree; incredibly missing the biting sarcasm of Dr. Saeed. Indeed for the dimwits Dr Saeed could become a Mr Hyde - when he time and again take the wind off their sails.

    As for Sheik Imran, live with it Dr! Maldives Insha Allah  is not what your ample bosom pal Nasheed planned for it - another North Korea with Nasheed as the "dear cult leader". 

    Post 2008 Maldives is Insha Allah a nascent Democracy. A nation committed to get its nascent institutions running ensuring the rights of all individuals as guaranteed by the Constitution upholding justice and the rule of law. In such a nation how could one with good faith miss seeing that Sheik Imran is exercising his rights. It might not please THE Dr that thousands upon thousands are today responding to his call to kick the GMR. 

    Memories are short. The same Adalath party; then with Sheik Iliyas leading the way literally won Nasheed his Presidency; that which he resigned because he was just not able to handle due to his lack of ANY administrative and political experience. If the PhD's can't come to grips with a new Democratic Maldives ....... 🙂

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  11. Or, was it written by yourself, in a fit of drunken fury, at having your paymasters pulled out of the shadows, 'tsk tsk'?

    See? I can sound intellectual too, just like you.

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  12. tsk tsk (the one who claims to be the real kuttsk tsk);

    so, basically what you are saying is that nasheed did not keep his promises to the rich and powerful people who have always controlled things in this country? they he suffered the consequences for standing up against their control? wow. i have even more respect for Rice Nasheed now!

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  13. T is spot on. Dr. Waheed is proving to be a cleaver political genius who has maintained his stance among all the political turbulence of Maldives.

    Also I congratulated Adaalath for knowing the pulse of the silent majority of the Maldives,

    MDP is a cult extreme libertarian group, like motocyle gangs in US. Anni is the perfect leader for such rowdies. But Anni needs to be tattooed peirced to be more like the rest of the MDP group.

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  14. Minivan this is ridiculous. All I need to do is write any name I want at the top and suddenly I can be tsk tsk for the day.

    Please set up user sign in with a password so this cannot continue.

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  15. @genocidal_maniac:

    Rich and powerful interests are the driving force behind democracy. Democracy, in my opinion, is modeled towards a free-market economy with open opportunities for a strong and growing middle class.

    While a lot of us mistake democracy for mob rule, communism, anarchy or a utopian model of their own dreams, this is not the truth.

    In most democratic states political parties exist as a combination of business interests. These business interests then look for an ideology and a person who would be acceptable to the public in order to secure the government. This person is used as a PR guy while these interests shape their policies for their own benefit and also in ways that would get them re-elected (the useful part of democracy).

    President Nasheed, due to his youth and perhaps because of the self-interest of his advisers is blamed for the poor judgment and floundering of the interests that backed him after he unofficially announced the end of the Wathan Edhey coalition.

    Perhaps you can romanticize this as a case of a well-meaning idealist who was punished for his ideals. By all means please do so. Please use whatever reasoning that makes you happy and please support the candidate of your choice, Nasheed in the 2013 elections. That is your right and it is also mine not to support him and not to vote for him and also to go on believing my reasons for doing so. This is democracy.

    Also in a democracy, the competitiveness and party spirit is most pronounced during an election. The political polarization seen in this country is more akin to a tribal clan-based conflict.

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