Comment: So long, and thanks for all the democracy

On the night of August 29, groups of uniformed officials of the Maldives Police Service were observed going around Malé in trucks, singing songs and mocking opposition MDP activists – the same ones they brutalised in a nationally televised theatre of violence during the events of February 7th and 8th.

The next morning, large groups of uniformed police were huddled together on the streets in their riot gear, their faces concealed by balaclavas, while the country awaited an announcement from the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) appointed by the Waheed regime to ‘investigate’ the controversial transfer of power.

The announcement surprised exactly nobody; the council of pigs had found in favour of Napoleon. There was no coup, it ruled. In fact, there wasn’t even a police mutiny. And if there was one, it didn’t quite break any law, the report found.

By evening, the Waheed regime’s Police Service – now apparently empowered to make their own laws – had declared that calling them ‘traitors’ was now a crime, and any person indulging in the act would be arrested.

The declaration followed in the footsteps of two citizens being arrested in recent days for the offence of calling Waheed a ‘traitor’. Journalists witnessed one lady being taken away on 30th August, allegedly for the crime of taking photographs of the police.

Over the course of the day, scores of MDP protesters would be detained by the police in ancticipation of large scale protests against the findings of the report, and the continued demands for early elections.

With the international community apparently eager to wash its hands off the Maldives, there will be plenty of time and opportunity for the police to deal with troublesome critics over the remainder of Waheed’s rule.

The CoNI Report

Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed, the sole representative of President Nasheed on the 5 member Commission, resigned the day before the report was to be made public. In a press conference following the publication of the report, Saeed pointed out what appear to be serious lapses in gathering evidence and recording testimony in preparation of the final report.

Among them, he highlighted that CCTV footage was provided for only 3 out of 8 cameras around the MNDF area, and even those had hours of footage edited out. No sufficient explanation was given by the security forces.

The Commission was not provided any CCTV footage by the Police and the President’s office, according to Saeed. Nor was CoNI granted access to information gathered by the Police Integrity Commission.

Furthermore, no interviews were held with any official of the notorious ‘Special Operations’, the highly trained riot control force that played a crucial role in the ouster of the first democratically elected government, as well as the subsequent targeted attacks on civilians, MDP leaders and party activists. Also missing was the testimony of Umar Naseer, the Deputy Leader of PPM who has publicly declared his role in the overthrow of the elected government, and revealed the existence of a ‘command centre’.

According to Saeed, other prominent interviewees alleged to have played a role in the coup d’etat appeared to have been coached, with all of them giving standard, non-commmital responses.

None of these alleged lapses or limitations were highlighted in the final report.

Illegal duress

Section 4F of the report, defining ‘Coercion in Law’ begins as follows:

“Coercion, as used in the Decree, refers to the American legal concept of illegal duress or the English legal concept of intimidation. This is a real threat delivered by one or more wrongdoers to another to harm and injure the latter or his family if the victim does not do something as demanded”

But surprisingly, the report makes no mention of the leaked audio recordings, first aired by Australia’s SBS Dateline program, that clearly reveal the President pleading for the safety of his family in return for his resignation on the morning of February 7.

There were a few other sections of the report that raises eyebrows. Regarding an allegation about an SMS purpotedly sent by the then Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Environment, allegedly asking for the disbursement of 2.4 million Rufiyaa to the mutinying cops, the Commission had this to report:

“[Mr. Saleem] debunked the message effortlessly, claiming that he did not recall sending such a message. After hearing him, the Commission would not invade and investigate the privacy and personal affairs of all and sundry…”

While the first sentence suggests some truly extraordinary levels of trust placed by the Commission in the testimony of the accused, the second reveals an inexplicable reluctance in pursuing every possible avenue of inquiry to uncover all relevant facts behind the power transfer – which, by definition, was the Commission’s job.

Furthermore, the report seems to paint a picture that the President was completely secure and faced no threat inside the MNDF HQ, when in reality it is undisputed that sections of the already outnumbered military had broken ranks and joined with the hostile police and opposition protesters in rioting outside.

Video recordings aired on National television showed military officers refusing to obey the President’s orders. Retired colonel Mohamed Nazim, in the video clip where he is seen addressing the mutinying forces outside, talks about being received warmly inside the MNDF HQ.

Indeed the CoNI report itself quotes him as saying “When I entered the military headquarters I was given a very happy scene. Everyone within the military lifted me up and very completely revealed their support for me. God willing, things will happen today as we want”.

If one is familiar with the fate of former Maldivian rulers facing chaotic mobs, then one realizes that guns were not necessary to threaten the President’s life. All that was required was for a solitary soldier to throw open the gates.
The report itself states elsewhere that all command and control was lost.

All of this appears entirely contradictory to the conclusions of the report that asserts that President Nasheed remained in control and had legal options to employ force to deal with the situation, which he refused to do – and therefore could not claim he resigned under duress.

This lends some credence to President Nasheed’s claims that the report was prepared with the political situation in mind, rather than with any serious ambition of uncovering facts.

Options before the MDP: Way forward

It is unrealistic to imagine that ordinary civilians, no matter how numerous or passionate, can topple a regime that is protected by a modern, trained, unsympathetic – and in this case, hostile – police and armed security forces.

The police have superior training, equipment, strategy, organization, intelligence gathering and other resources to counter and defeat any move that civilian protestors could possibly make. The same forces that protected the dictator Gayoom against an overwhelming tide of unpopularity can sufficiently protect his alleged puppet.

Given these realities, it is wise that President Nasheed has chosen to make a major concession and accept the findings of the report, while calling to implement its much welcome recommendations that include the strengthening of various institutions such as the HRCM, Police Integrity Commission, JSC and the Judiciary while also calling for swift action to be taken against rogue cops, who the report acknowledges had engaged in acts of brutality towards civilians.

While there remain serious injustices to be addressed and plenty of reasons for the MDP to be rightfully outraged, the path forward necessarily involves having to break the political gridlock that has paralyzed the nation since late last year.

It is clearly in the best interests of the public that the All Party talks resume and the daily business of running the nation and fixing the economy take centre stage again.

There are important lessons to learn from February 7. President Nasheed and the MDP need to introspect and reflect on their own considerable mistakes and poor judgments. The most important among them, perhaps, is committing to uphold the rule of law without any compromises, no matter how morally justifiable it may be.

With under a year left for the next scheduled elections, the MDP would be well advised to direct its efforts and resources on going back to the people and rallying them behind larger ideals.

Ultimately, one must remember that it was the people who handed a mandate to President Nasheed in 2008, and despite the ugly precedent set by the police and military, it will hopefully be the people once again who will make the decision in 2013.

So long, and thanks for all the democracy

With the publication of the CoNI report, and the apparent willingness of the international community to confer the same legitimacy on Waheed that it once granted the iron-fisted Gayoom – ostensibly with ‘stability’ in mind – the clocks have effectively been turned back a few years.

The Maldives’ unprecedented democratic revolution that began in the early 2000’s has ended prematurely, and many of the gains made since then have now effectively been reversed.

After three years, the Police have once again become an entity to be feared and loathed. The familiar intimidation of the media, and bullying tactics that were so widely prevalent during the Gayoom dictatorship is also back.

Waheed’s regime has been outright hostile to the free media, repeatedly barring the only opposition-aligned TV station from covering President’s office press conferences, and permanently withdrawing police protection for the channel’s reporters – despite explicit constitutional safeguards upholding media freedom. There is plenty of visual evidence of Raajje TV’s reporters being harassed and pepper sprayed at close range by the police; targeted attacks on the station by pro-government goons in August forced the station to interrupt services.

Citizens now face arrest for merely calling Waheed and his police forces ‘traitors’, whereas his regime regularly and unapologetically refers to citizens demanding early elections as ‘terrorists’.

The runaway judiciary remains weak and ineffectual, and there is no longer an elected President in power with any interest in fixing this crucial, but broken third leg of the base on which the country’s democracy was built to stand.

With a spineless media, a lethargic civil society, an incompetent Judiciary, weak institutions and watchdogs, a heavily politicized Police and military, not to mention the overarching influence of money and corruption in the whole process, the gargantuan task of achieving practical democracy in the Maldives appears forbidding, if not downright impossible.

To sow the seeds for a new revolution, the MDP needs to go back to the grassroots and educate the public.

February 7: the legacy

February 7 has left in its wake some very unwelcome precedents and niggling questions.

First among them is the newly acquired role of the police and military in determining the transfer of power, which the constitution had originally envisaged as being the sole prerogative of the voting public.

Will all future governments of the Maldives be required to buy the loyalty of the uniformed services with a range of perks, pay hikes, unprecedented promotions and turning a blind eye to their excesses and brutality in order to remain in power, as demonstrated by the Waheed regime?

Shall the Maldives follow in the footsteps of Pakistan that, over 65 years since independence, has failed to see a single democratically elected government complete a full term?

Finally, will the Maldivian judiciary ever become a house of justice for the public? Or will it remain perpetually overrun by incompetent fools, resistant to any external attempt bring them in line with the ideals enshrined in the constitution?

Does the Maldivian public really stand a chance to complete the democratic transition process we embarked on nearly a decade ago? Or will the next guy to attempt this Herculean task also pay the same price that Mohamed Nasheed did?

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: So long, and thanks for all the democracy”

  1. Do you really have any brains? You should ask that first. Even the independent observers concluded that "GAS" Saeed was incompetent, unprofessional and totally biased. You MDP dogs really think that only your voice is loud? what a joke. We have tolerated your rants and cynicism long enough. Take your sob story and tell to your girl friend and mom. maybe they might believe you.

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  2. I think young Yaameen and all of us in this country must read this summary of our current condition. It provides us with an outsider's objective views of where we are and where we should head.

    This document is a must-read.

    http://www.coni.org.mv/coni/wp-content/uploads/AppendicesXVI.pdf

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  3. The dirty islamists who stole our young democracy and gave country’s leadership to Golhhabo and his thieves. We can be good muslims, but don’t follow these politicized money hungry Islamic popes.

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  4. frack international community, we know what we saw. this report will go into history as a cover up of the coup and nasheed's acceptance of it will be a sacrifice for the nation, just as he declined to use guns to control the baaghee forces on 7th february 2012.

    thank you yaamyn, my thoughts exactly. and dont mind "tsk tsk" he think this was not just a perfect document, but also something he can learn from. which is not surprising considering he the kind of "wise old" lawyer/lawmaker without a conscience who see people as numbers, social issues merely as challenges to prove himself without considering the human element of it. "young yaamyn" you maybe, but at least you are human and rational.

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  5. We must eliminate all the influence of Ksmeneegs family power as well Andherimaage vagun. Ge.

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  6. a biased report cannot erase the memories of Feb 7,8. We saw and experienced so many things not included in the report.
    Video clips of police brutality towards a political party, how those uniformed dogs attacked the people and the property of MDP.

    "I need some cash" but not everyone is for sale.

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  7. a good insight in to the engimas of the good governance coup we got! not easy to define whether the nation was raped or nation was murdered! In any case atrocities were committed against the nation and her people by the very forces sworn to protect her! Wonder if we can hear the cries of this nation! Islamists in the name of religion used us and stole the hope of freedom and democracy!

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  8. This report will go into history with a doomsday for Anni political carrier.

    This report had clearly explained what had happened really on 6th and 7th Feb. and also before 7th Feb. and after 7th Feb. too.

    This report had given insight of the fEb. 7th incidence and we majority of Maldivian will remember this day as the victory day for our young democracy.

    This day had helped the majority of Maldivian to convince the international community about the truth of 7th Feb.

    This day had help all the people who values the democracy to start to feel the real democratic values and was the day where we have started to be proud of to be a Maldivian.

    Today we have gained the confidence that international community was not going to tolerate the lies coming out from Anni and his members but they will be more responsible in thier action.

    This day is a sad day for Anni and his associates since all their lies are being exposed to international community .

    So this is the day I believe that Anni should retire from the political arena and step down and give the chance for other leaders within MDP like Ibu to come out.

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  9. I am among those who were surprised with the report. I never expected it to state that the transfer of power was illegal, but I did expect it to cover the situation President Nasheed was in more thoroughly. From what I have heard and seen on video I personally believed that he was under duress.

    The part which the writer mentions about the President "begs" for his family's protection is covered in the report, however when the full story is disclosed instead of a small section as leaked in the video, it is clear that he was under no threat from those soldiers and that the response was initiated by his repeated questioning.

    Till today, I wonder why he was not allowed to return back to Muleeaage to freshen up. I also why he did not communicate with the Chief Justice or the Speaker of Parliament or at least any of his trusted people and give a hint after returning to Muleeaage to indicate that the resignation was not voluntary, before the swearing in of the Vice President?

    It is obvious from the report that his security personnel were not able to facilitate his to go back to his home from the Presidential Palace till 6pm. Was he was held incommunicado? If so why has he not stated this till now? Did he state so to the CoNI? If he did and it is not mentioned, he has not raised the issue.

    So for me the report raises more questions than it has cleared.

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  10. If we are in the topic about islamists, then this author Yaamyn is a real kaafir. I know this man because i had many fruitless debates with him. People like him are the real enemies of maldives and islam. there are kuffar everywhere but these locals ones are worse becuase they cannot even pretend to respect our belief let alone stand our views. Anni lost because of kaafirs like them.

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  11. can not thanks the democracy, too much corruption involved. too many activists got resorts, the national debt went from 9 billion to 24 billion rf within three years, and illiterate councilors won't be able to handle national heath.

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  12. At Jamalu: who are u to call anyone kaafir ??? Allah knows best, NOT U ?! Whats in our hearts, who we are Allah knows, NOT U ?? Are u trying to be a god u'r self by telling who n who are not muslim n kaafir. I hope Allah saves you from this wrath, but no one has any right to call another muslim kaafir or not, just becoz someone do not share your values.

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  13. There are none as blind as those who do not wish to see. There are none as deaf as those who do not wish to hear. Nobody could help such people. Such people go about deaf, dumb and blind blundering & destroying peace and the social fabric in society. It is a disease. No amount of medicine or education can cure them because their hearts are indeed sealed. (Forgive me for letting off steam!)

    What we have is two diametrically opposed descriptions of one event – the change of power in the Maldives. The question was if this transfer of power was according to the laws and Constitution of Maldives. The ex-President maintained that the transfer was illegal but did not challenge the transfer of power in the Maldivian courts but instead decided to in effect threaten the Govt with violent street action using what has been aptly described as bully boy tactics.

    The only hope of resolving the impasse was to have a competent independent body decide on the legalities of the change in power. President Waheed went out of his way to ensure that the Commission was constituted acceptable to the protagonists in Maldives and vitally addressing the concerns of the international community. It was refreshing to note that President Waheed lead by example to ensure the independence of the CoNI.

    The whole world awaited the outcome of CoNI. There was never a hint of any problem in the functioning of the Commission, or the functioning of its Secretariat. The Commission had many news conferences and all the Commissioners, Gaha Saeed included gave no hint of any procedural problems.

    The fact that Gaha Saeed chose the day before the release of the CoNI to in effect leak the Commissions conclusions gives people room to reflect negatively on Gaha Saeed’s integrity, impartiality and competence. He thus gave room to accusations of bias and giving a signal to MDP to start preparations for street violence. Once again President Waheed’s foresight and the hard work of the security services prevented violence on the streets of Maldives.

    I believe that the ability of President Waheed to listen to good advice and his ability to foresee consequences of his actions - such a glaring contrast to his erratic, bungling and streetwise predecessor ensured a Commission that could not only be trusted but intellectually relied upon.

    Not only the Commonwealth was allowed to nominate its own Co-Chair but President Nasheed’s rep was appointed a Commissioner. Crucially the work done by CoNI was under the watchful eyes of International advisors to the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) – Judicial Advisor Sir Bruce Robertson and Legal Advisor Professor John Packer.

    These advisors had this to say as seen in Appendix xvi –“Overview and observation of the international advisers” ….
    1. FOLLOWING THE PRESIDENTIAL DECREE NO. 2012/4, WE WERE APPOINTED AS ADVISERS TO THE RECONSTITUTED COMMISSION OF NATIONAL INQUIRY. WE HAVE WORKED CLOSELY AND HARMONIOUSLY WITH IT. WE WERE INVOLVED IN THE REVIEW AND ASSESSMENT OF THE EVIDENCE WHICH HAD BEEN HEARD BY THE ORIGINAL COMMISSION AND IN THE HEARING OF THE 203 ADDITIONAL WITNESSES. THERE WERE SOME WHO HAD PREVIOUSLY GIVEN EVIDENCE WHICH THE RECONSTITUTED COMMISSION FELT IT WAS ESSENTIAL TO HEAR AGAIN IN PERSON. INITIALLY WE TENDED TO IDENTIFY ISSUES ABOUT WHICH THE COMMISSION MEMBERS COULD ASK QUESTIONS, OR SENT NOTES TO THEM, BUT THIS WAS SOON SEEN AS INEFFICIENT AND WE WERE INVITED TO QUESTION DIRECTLY.

    2. WE HAVE BEEN IMPRESSED BY THE MANNER IN WHICH THE COMMISSION HAS UNDERTAKEN ITS UNPRECEDENTED AND AWESOME TASK.

    The further conclusions of these advisors as reported in Minivan news are worth noting here…….

    1. “Four of the five members acted at all times with independence and integrity in carrying out the important task for the future of the nation,” stated Robertson and Packer, in an appendix to the report. “The other member was not at all times willing or able to act independently and resigned the evening before the report was submitted and published.”

    2. “We have seen nothing but objective and independent professionalism in the institution. The Commission has sensibly and sensitively heard all who wanted to make a contribution. It has firmly and fairly held participants to telling what they had heard and seen for themselves and deflected them from conjecture and speculation without facts.”

    3. “The nation has been well served by the Commissioners and any assertions of bias or lack of objectivity leveled against those remaining have no justification. They reflect badly on those making unfounded allegations,”

    4. “For the evidence collecting exercise to have value all witnesses had to be questioned and challenged about their recollections of events and the basis for them. Equally they had to be confronted with alternative evidence so they had the opportunity to comment on it. Some found this process unsettling. Many were familiar and only comfortable with making assertions and not being required to justify or explain how they had reached their view,”

    In Capitals above are those parts of the conclusions that I haven’t been able to see in Minivan news, but which impressed me very much.

    Thus we can see that Gaha Saeed by his own behavior on the eve of presentation of the CoNI report opens himself to criticism. If he had issues with the manner interviews were conducted and if he saw that causing the report to be biased, he should have resigned immediately and given his reasons. The same applies to his accusations of suppressing evidence, or intimidating some witnesses. This is like a foot-ball player bringing to the notice of the referee an infringement that he supposed occurred in the 5th minute only at the conclusion of the match in the 90th minute.

    His failure to make a more timely resignation stating the failure of the CONI gives us the suspicion that his purpose of embedding in the commission was just to try and position himself as an exit strategy for ex-President Nasheed’s maneuvering, once again threatening to pull the nation back to square 1, plunging the nation once again into crisis. The strategy might have just worked if not for the brilliant leadership of President as a competent democrat. Thank-you Mr. President!

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  14. agree with Ah mad.
    Gahaa Saeed, once a respectable educator, has been sacrificed by Anni and ruined him for life.

    He breached the confidentiality agreement and his contract to sit on CONI for Anni's wishes.

    He is no hero but a traitor!

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  15. Gahaa Saeed should never have been a respectable educator. The man is completely mad. All MDP are mad. They should be fed to an ostrich.

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  16. If you'd played King-of-the-hill as a child, you'll know how hard it is to push the king off unless you hire a corrupt bulldozer.

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