The following is a translation of a speech given by President Mohamed Nasheed on December 17.
“When I spoke in Maafannu [on December 15], I said that we have been somewhat contemplating on what everyone is talking about in the Maldives today. This party or the government is, in no way, worried about the instigation of a mega protest [on December 23].
However, if any of the citizens spread fatwa, or talk about beheading or killing other citizens, I see it as a severe disruption of our social stature.
We all have been accustomed and have accepted moderate policies for our daily lives. I see that it is time for all those who support our traditional methods and believe that those methods are not wrong, to come out for its defense.
Lately some people, including political parties and NGOs, have been very vocal about the implementation of specific verdicts. Those that they identify include harsh religious verdicts which we don’t practice today, such as half-buried stoning, beheading and killing.
From the beginning, this government has been seeking and following the advice of religious scholars.
Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari is the Minister of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, the institution responsible for disclosing and implementing the government’s religious policies. Dr Majeed would agree that the government has always respected their decisions on religious matters, and has in no way attempted any reservations or objections on such decisions, even in my own capacity.
And Dr Majeed clearly knows that, quite often, I accept his word as the final word on certain type of matters, even at Cabinet discussions.
We have been able to hold our religious identity and its values at a par, for hundreds and hundreds of years. I don’t see a reason for us to get ourselves drenched arguing over different sectarian perspectives and intricate religious vocabulary today. Since ancient times we have been living in a harmonious Islamic culture, unlike those Islamic nations who are known for defending specific religious perspectives. I would rather stand up and show Maldives’ Islam as an example for them to follow.
We Maldivians are a nice lot. And we love Islam. Not this government, nor the people, nor myself, would allow room for the spread of another religion in the Maldives.
We or the government have never – never – endorsed for such. If some are of the view that the current religious situation is not better than before, I wonder where are all the scholars who were in the cells that surrounded mine?
They are here: because they pray; because they preach; because they clarify religious matters. Today, our people have the blessings of God, for all scholars to speak their will, and guide the public, within the rightful boundaries of religion.
Using [religion] to deceive as such, I believe, could be very perilous to the people. It could be very perilous to the Maldives.
While harsh religious policies are being defended; in reality, they can only be implemented through the Constitution.
To conduct half-buried stoning, cutting off limbs, beheading, flogging or to implement any other such verdict, it can only be done when it is deemed so in the Penal Code. Those responsible for doing this are the parliament members.
I always prefer to seek religious advice from religious scholars. They need to clarify it plainly to the public. What is it that they are so vocal about? What is it that they are seeking? Is it the same as what we have been practicing so far? I feel that we need to speak about these matters very clearly. All political parties need to spell out clearly what they prefer to include in the Penal Code.
What verdicts do they want to include? We also have many other not-so-clear matters in addition to these verdicts. And many other matters of dispute among the people. One such dispute would be about music. Many of us has a passion for music. Many of us Maldivians listen to music and like to play too. When some start to preach against it, we the people, need to know what the actual truth is.
Traditionally, Maldivian women have strongly participated equally both at work and at home, similar to its male counterpart, in raising children, in social and economic activities. We need to know what the social role of women is. Are we asking to change what we have been practicing for so long? Or are we only hearing from the loudest? Is this from the opposition’s TV and radio channels, trying all that they can to promote anti-government sentiment, in the heated political atmosphere? I believe that the public needs to have clarity.
We are the leaders of the people. We are elected by the people. According to this political system embedded in our constitution, we cannot part away from the people. We brought in this system, because we wanted to execute it. By God’s virtue, we are doing it. While we are at this, most political leaders would be swindling to comment or not to comment on my words here tonight, basically without expressing their perspectives at all, and remain deceitful to the public. They need to express, to the public, very clearly and specifically their views and perspectives on relevant matters. If the public don’t agree, it is their right to seek other leaders. We will continue to conduct free and fair elections.
I will say, I have been raised by my parents on the principles of Islam since childhood. I dearly believe the principles of Islam. I shall not let my conscience be affected by the worldly waves, or breach my own ways: the ways my teachers and my parents taught me.
I don’t see why some people should disapprove me for this reason. We all should be able to live together. We have spelt out the constitution for different circumstances.
Some people raised concern about the monuments placed by the SAARC countries in the city and the atoll, when Addu transferred into a city. We find a lot of commemorative monuments in Maldives. Male also has such monuments. This time, when it was requested to send in their country’s monument, the specifics had probably been subject to miscommunication.
I don’t think, under any circumstances, any of us intended to place an idol of worship, when it was placed there. It was only a commemorative monument sent in by the leaders of SAARC countries, placed by the mayor with the workmen from the islands. I only saw it when I was told that it had been vandalised.
This is not a government who will try to do anything that hasn’t been done before as far as religion goes. What we are trying to change are the social standards, economic policies and political philosophies.
We shall never denounce the religious policies and standards accepted by the people. We shall neither provide space for such a spirit to infiltrate into Maldives. But I shall repeat, I cannot speak against music. I cannot stand against cheerfulness. We require them as part of our daily needs, to sooth and calm our souls. I am sure; our youth population is not tiny. We cannot let them be demoralised or leave them to become useless. We need to provide them with modes of entertainment and other activities to fill their time, for if not, the outcome would be devastating.
When we rolled over in 2008, I myself was witness to the youth in street corners, being victims of strong addictive drugs. Some would say that I don’t see them now because I am not out there on the streets. I am actually looking for them now. We are implementing and managing different activities. We are taking care of them. When we took over the government, not a single month passed when there had not been a fire attack in a jail or vandalising of property. However, today they know they have the opportunity to come out on parole with an effort on their side. They know that this government is working on it. That is the society we want to establish. To find a way to bring them back in to their families and the society as productive good citizens.
We need shelter. We all know the obstacles we face in the Maldives. We know them now. I still remember around one and half years ago, what someone had told after some calculations. That if we were to build the number of flats that we promised, we were to erect a specific number of flats per minute. And that is exactly what we do: we erect a number of flats per minute. The waiting time, planning time, designing time is sometimes not considered as part of the project implementation time. During my visits some would ask when the physical implementation work would start. Physical work is considered only that from which you sweat. Or which can be physically seen on site. With God’s grace, we shall deliver our ‘shelter’ campaign pledge. We shall deliver our ‘health’ pledge. We shall deliver our ‘anti-drugs’ pledge.
The only one we would question would be the ‘price’ pledge, understanding exactly how much we can reduce the prices. Prices will reduce somewhat on January 1. However, we should consider giving serious thought as to whether it is possible to reduce the prices to match the levels that we initially wanted.
We shall not stop. We shall try all possible methods. We shall twist and tweak all possible economic options to find a balance. With God’s blessing, we are trying to achieve our goals of a ‘neater’ life, beautiful and happy: without serious worries; not having to beg for medical assistance or text books for school children; not having to worry about red notices. We are seeking to get beyond these. All the same, I would like to tell you, I shall not let go of any of these beliefs for any political reasons, and I will not keep quiet about them.
I believe that our citizens are very much aware. Misconceptions shall dissolve. And they know how things are moving ahead. What is being spoken about on a regular basis would be clear to all. However, some of us are concerned, that there are those citizens who only believe what they are made to hear and see by specific radio and TV stations. Not me. I know they are not misguided. I am leading a people that I know about. They are not strangers to me.
Most time, I would know. Those issues that aren’t rectified for you, are not unknown and not left without attendance. It is the current situation that is not allowing us to get in it on the right track. I believe we have achieved several objectives during the past three years.
Before I end my words, I would like to stress that, on December 23, as many of citizens as possible should come out to express themselves and to take a stand. This is the purpose of rallies under a democracy. To express your view and to show which views you stand by.
Some keep asking me why we should stand up.
We have to. Let me tell you this. On that day, when you happen to see a group of people on Male’ streets, who keeps a certain look, dresses in a certain way, and calls for certain calling, you will ask me where I was, if I wouldn’t be there. By God’s grace, I shan’t be lost. I shall be there where I should be.
My prayer is that we are blessed with a better tomorrow.”