Democratic Maldives an important global symbol: US State Department

The Maldives is a powerful symbol of a tolerant and democratic Muslim society, US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said yesterday during a visit to the country.

Steinberg was responding to a question regarding the extensive US interest in a such a small and isolated island nation in the middle of the Indian Ocean – an interest apparently not extended to nearby countries such as the Seychelles.

“We have very practical interests in common, such as dealing with the challenges of climate change and piracy – security in this region is of enormous importance to us,” Steinberg said, in likely reference to US military interests in Diego Garcia, south of the Maldives.

However as importantly, Steinberg said, the Maldives’ embrace of democracy showed that convictions such as democracy and freedom of expression “are universal values that transcend culture, history and religion.”

“The Maldives comes from very different traditions and history, but people here aspire to the same goals that people around the world aspire to. That’s a powerful symbol, and shows that these are not just American ideals or Western ideals, but universal ideals,” he said.

Such a symbol, he explained, was of great value to the State Department.

“As I travel around the world and see the different ways in which different societies and cultures interpret democracy and human expression, I can point to the Maldives as an example – that’s as important as the practical cooperation.”

The Maldives, he explained, represented an emerging model for “a tolerant and democratic Muslim society”, and “could have enormous influence in the thinking of countries around the world, as you try to build this new model.”

Steinberg expressed admiration for the “remarkable efforts” on the international stage “for such a small country at the early stages of economic and political development.”

The upcoming local council elections, he said, we an “important step” in building that democracy, “and we have confidence that they will be calm and respectful.

Speaking to press assembled at the American Centre in the National Library, Steinberg noted that freedom of expression was “the oxygen of democracy.”

Challenged as to whether this moral position contradicted the US government’s pursuit of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who published hundreds of thousands of State Department diplomatic exchanges in a call for greater political transparency, Steinberg replied that the State Department “has a legitimate interest in protecting the confidentiality of some of the conversations we have, not the least of which [concern] human rights when we engage with people who are persecuted.”

“We place high emphasis civil society – unlike in the Maldives where I can meet freely with civil society, there are other far more repressive countries where we have to meet in confidence. People take great risk to meet with us and share their ideas. There is a responsibility to protect those confidences – there is an appropriate place for confidentiality in government but we also believe in the maximum openness that can be achieved. We have a strong commitment to freedom of information, and President Obama has worked hard to reduce our reliance on classified information. That’s very important to us.”

Concerning the State Department’s listing of the Maldives on its tier two watch-list for Human Trafficking last year, two weeks after the Maldives was given a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, Steinberg reiterated that “we recognise there are challenges, particularly labour trafficking and making sure people seeking economic opportunity are not exploited.

“This region, quite frankly, has particular challenges in dealing with forced labour and related issues on trafficking. What we are looking for is a road-map and a way forward. The watch-list is not intended to punish, but to motivate efforts to go forward.”

Specific areas raised with the Maldivian government by the senior US diplomat included the challenges of economic development, the need to strengthen education and build educational opportunities, as well as the challenges of confronting growing extremism “and how we can help promote tolerance in the Maldives.”


22 thoughts on “Democratic Maldives an important global symbol: US State Department”

  1. Its a shame that the highest level official diplomat to ever visit the Maldives did so with such little awareness. Its good to know that we actually are on the US's radar now though.

  2. Awareness meaning public awareness. No media outlets really covered his speech, nor were people allowed to go and hear him speak, etc..

  3. I do not believe that Maldives is any kind of Global Symbol as the US official asserts.

    I am also deeply suspicious of so much US interest in the Maldives.

    Beware of USA.

  4. oh, look how noble the americans are! spreading democracy, freedom of speech, and all the other good stuffs which they hold dearly to the world.
    oh, how good of them to liberate afgahanistan where there is democratically elected Hamid Karzai as president now. well, all the allegations of vote rigging is baseless. simply not true! the thousands of women and children who are being killed by US troops are just colletrial damage, that cant be avoided, right? the tourture & killing of Afghan prisioners are just baseless stories cooked up by terrorists.
    Then there is iraq, they occupied, i mean liberated the country of weapons of mass distruction, umm wait.. those stuffs are not found, but well.. they liberated it from Saddam- the dictator dhw. oh, see how nice the iraqi democracy is now. all those iraqis killed in checkpoints and by drown attacks are just millatants, see.. that video in wikileaks named "colletral murder" is just propaganda. nothing else. and about the torture in Abu garib prision.. well, one US female soldier is already found guilty of the crime & shes in jail, only she did that and no one else even know about the tourture, especially, i repeat especially the higher ranking officials.
    the first democratically elected government in palestine, i.e hamas are just very very bad guys, so they deserve to be bombed and distroyed with thousands of Gazans through the american weapons by friendly israel. Fathah, the loser in the election is the partner in America, because they want peace. the recently released documents about fathah is absolutely false.
    see how, good the americans are, they support the democratically elected goverments in Egypt and Tunisa & jordan. America loves presidents like Mubarak and Ben Ali, because these guys are the best of the best, and anyone and everyone who oppose them are radical-fundamentalist-islamo-terrorists.

    well, thank you America. we love you for doing such a nobel job of spreading democracy to the world. and we like you to strengthen our tiny democracy in maldives as well!

  5. Wikileaks-----maldives, leaked today, just now:
    The following is the meeting minutes between the president of the republic of maldives Mr. Anni and US state department secretary Mr.James. on 29-01-11

    Anni: Errr.. errr.. you see the big picture in maldives is that the religious people in the country are gaining more and more support and power..splatter..splatter... i have a policy of directly confronting them with policies like bringing zionists, making alcohol legal and available in the corner store withing reach, mixed-sex education and optional dhivehi-islam subjects,etc.. but these religious people are holding big big demonstrations and i'm just scared.. to prevent this Err err.. I am formally requesting the US to invade our country
    Mr.James: invade the country??
    Mr.Anni: yeah, sort of like fighting terrorism, you know that kind of stuff..see you can use it like a military base like that british Diego Garcia, you can drive away all the natives like the british did.
    Mr.James: sir, i will see what i can do


  6. What we ask from our American friends is to help us with the education of our children. We do not want to see our children grow up to be intolerant extremists with a singular view of the world.

    Education is the oxygen and water of democracy. Without that democracy will not survive. Sadly, our children do not have adequate access to a good standard of education to take this country forward.

    If there's one thing our American friends can do for us, that will be it.

  7. Dear Mr Steinberg,

    Are you sure it is the Maldives you visited? Are you certain there hasn't been an out-of-character mistake in the American geographical imagination?

    Surely the Maldives you visited is not the same Maldives populated by Maldivians. Was it a resort island that you went to where everyone had the freedom and the right to be themselves?

    I'll let you in on a secret, Mr Steinberg, if that were the case: those islands are as far removed from the Maldivian reality as Glenn Beck's thinking is from sanity.

    The Maldives we live in is intolerant - xenophobic, homophobic, fanatically religious, patriarchal and misogynistic. Hardly the ideals espoused by the City on the Hill, are they?

    We do not have an independent judiciary, and we have a parliament that cannot see anything deeper than members' pockets.

    We have an executive that is hindered at every point by the other two branches of government populated by corrupt and criminal megalomaniacs.

    And you, Mr Steinberg, after one visit [and perhaps a quick read of Wikipedia plus a cable of second-hand gossip from an embassy one ocean removed], can oh-so confidently describe us as "a powerful symbol of a tolerant and democratic Muslim society"?

    I hope this type of flattery is not a new strategy for getting your 'soft power' back - it won't work. And frankly my dear Mr Steinberg, it is causing more harm than good.

    How can we fight to consolidate our democracy when the world's self-appointed champion of liberalism holds us up as a shining example that has already achieved many of its ideals?

    What purpose does this serve other than to patronise us, and belittle democracy itself?

    Or is it that as a non-Western, under-developed and 'Islamic' state we only deserve a watered-down version of democracy?

    The goal of many within the current Maldivian government is to ensure the failure of our democratic transition, and assure an authoritarian reversal.

    One of their main strategies is to fool an un-knowing population into accepting and believing such a reversal to be 'democracy'.

    With your falsehoods, audacious to anyone who lives here, you are not only helping to perpetuate a myth, but helping to accelerate democracy breakdown.

    It is entirely possible that your flattery - whether a result of ignorance, bad research, or "national interest" - were not intended to cause harm.

    But you seem Mr Steinberg, it's like this: your being with us is against us.

    Would you mind, therefore, not harbouring such benevolence towards us?

    And please, could you refrain from drawing us into your finely crafted web of “diplomacy”?

    We will let you know when he have a tolerant democracy.

    Thank you, and please call again.

  8. what we need from the Americans is to erect and harden our democracy which is currently very flaccid and soft.

  9. Steinberg... Are you a Jew, because your name sounds like one?
    And you are very wrong inb your statement. Democracy came to Maldives but we still don't have the freedom you mentioned. Practically there is not freedom of anything in this country. The country is been looted just like the way Maumoon did. I guess an Iran like revolution in Maldives would not be surprise if things go like this in the future.

  10. @Affronted.."The Maldives we live in is intolerant – xenophobic, homophobic, fanatically religious, patriarchal and misogynistic."

    Excellent description Affronted..and hopelessly wishful thinking on the part of Mr.Steinberg.

  11. Tolerant? Certainly not religious tolerance. Maldives prohibits conversion out of Islam. Is that tolerance?

  12. @ Wine & Pork Lover on Mon, 31st Jan 2011 5:36 PM

    here are some of the extracts from the maldives constitution which was passed by all the members of the democratically elected maldivian parliament.

    “The Maldives is a sovereign, independent, democratic
    unitary State, to be known as the Republic of the
    Maldives.” says article 2 of the constitution.

    “(a) The religion of the State of the Maldives is ISLAM.
    (b) NO LAW CONTRARY TO ANY TENETS OF ISLAM SHALL BE ENACTED IN THE MALDIVES” says article 10 of the constitution.

    “Despite the provisions of article 9(a) a NON MUSLIM MAY NOT BECOME A CITIZEN of the Maldives.” says Article 9 of the constitution.

    “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought and the
    freedom to communicate opinions and expression IN A MANNER THAT IS NOT CONTRARY TO ANY TENETS OF ISLAM” says article 27 of constitution.

    so, everyone please follow and respect the constitution of the country which was passed in a democratic process.

  13. Ok so we are constitutionally bound to be intolerant and in the dark ages still!

  14. It is sad despite all the possibilities Maldivian students ignore the offers from US colleges and and universities. There are plenty of opportunities. We have a Maldivian Ambassador in New York USA, who is nothing but a Gayoom loyalist. A real pig head, who is only interested in having a good time with his family. Replace him with more pro active Ambassadors like Dr. Shehnaz in Islamabad, who is working everyday to find opportunities for the Maldives.

  15. you little Zionist fart, perhaps why don't you puhleez teach Obama what democracy and freedom means and perhpas i would be good of you to share with us some of the grievances that the Americans have when their freedom is ripped apart under the holy hoax of terrorism. these f**king zionists are unbelievable

  16. @Derek Postance that is his view. Dont get over joyed caz maybe that fella is removed from his high paying job. We are very free.

  17. yes, don't use our airports to bomb our brother in middles east, if you don't change US f... foreign policy the solution will emerge within your own nation, we will elect "Ron Paul" for a replacement.

  18. They think we are fools, we learn from your mistakes. Now trying to jeopardize our affairs, one thing is at least good in them is that, they will eradicate Indian & Chines or British interests in Maldives. Already our airports have been hijacked, gave painted lego helicopter, installed Radars everywhere all in's an out's, even between the legs .... etc...they are the gatekeepers, now we are the puppets with sweat lollipops made of bills.
    I've just posted this with all comments to the American puppet media and officials. This is operation "white beach sands".

  19. I think we need more American and Europian involvement and investment to the Maldives, in order to achieve real freedom in the country wins people mind. Today we have a freedom and most of the peoples are free minded but our constitution has not given the required freedom. International comunity must see the constitution need to address all that wrongly was stated which hinder the democratic values and movements.



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