Following the launch of the government’s civic education programme today, Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has said a “special campaign” was needed to address a dearth of civic values that are often overlooked when pursuing societal or economic gains.
“There is a general erosion of values and discipline among young people. We are one society, one nation, one religion. We subscribe to certain values as a civilised society,” said Jameel.
“This has been the key to surviving as a small society. There is a worrying trend in politics that we can’t sit down together,” he added.
Speaking at the launch of the campaign, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan is reported to have said that the principles of democracy had been decimated to a point at which the true meaning of the word had been lost.
President’s Office spokesman Abbas Adil Riza explained the president’s desire to spread the message that democracy is an ongoing process. Abbas explained the president’s message that the process is continuous and did not end in 2008 after the nation’s first multiparty elections.
The programme was inspired by a paper submitted by the Ministry of Home Affairs to the cabinet. It will be coordinated between the Home Ministry, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.
The programme’s main aims are listed as follows: creating a peaceful environment, strengthening civil society, creating awareness on the right to information, creating awareness on human rights, rehabilitating inmates, making the police more responsible, and making the public more responsible.
Summarising, Abbas said: “It is about educating people on the services of the police, schools, on the responsibilities of teachers and to create awareness of the rights of the individual.”
Abbas said that the Ministry of Education will be involved in bringing civic education into the curriculum and also that the programme will work to raise awareness of the rights and responsibilities of the police and non-governmental bodies.
This education drive comes as the Waheed government faces continued pressure domestically and internationally to legitimise itself democratically after a controversial transition from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)-led government under Mohamed Nasheed to a coalition of former opposition parties under the new president.
Dr Waheed argues that his move from the vice-president’s office was in accordance with the constitution, while Nasheed claims that the circumstances under which he resigned need to be investigated. Nasheed has also called for fresh presidential elections to be held by this year at the latest to ascertain Waheed’s democratic mandate to rule.
The government’s proposed education programme will place a premium on the development of safe communities and will implement neighbourhood watch campaigns in local communities.
“It is the only way they can bring down crime rates,” said Abbas. At today’s launch, President Waheed emphasised the importance of just punishment for those found guilty of crimes.
Home Minister Jameel stated that the programme was intended to address “escalating crime trends,” mentioning “crimes among juveniles” in particular.
Statistics of crimes logged by the Maldives Police Service (MPS) in the first quarter of 2012 appear to show a rise in the level of vandalism. This rise -81 percent – was found to be particularly high when compared with the same period in 2011, while robbery and vandalism had risen 41 percent and 50 percent, respectively.
The statistics, available on the MPS website also suggested a fall in the rates of assault (9.9 percent) and drug offences (35 percent).
The rehabilitation of prisoners, one of the programmes main areas, is a topic that has come under scrutiny recently after Jameel announced the termination of the Second Chance Programme.
He argued at the time that the programme had been implemented for political reasons and the Nasheed government has used it “to release unqualified criminals under political influence and without any clear procedure”
The scheme involved the early release of prisoners should they attend programmes to promote reintegration, increase their employment opportunities, and prevent the likelihood of re-offending.
With regards to the current civil education programme, Jameel said that convicts “should not be alienated from society. While serving sentences they should be rehabilitated.”