Thursday night saw the UK Premier of “The Island President” as part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London. After the screening Mark Lynas, former Climate Advisor to the previous President Mohamed Nasheed, helped make up a panel of experts who fielded questions from the audience.
“The debate was very much focused around what has happened since the film was made, with the coup and the new government being installed. People were very concerned about the former president’s welfare, and what it means for him to be back in opposition fighting for democracy after having apparently won the battle earlier in the film,” said Mr Lynas.
Human Rights Watch, the independent human rights organisation describes its film festival thusly: “Through our Human Rights Watch Film Festival we bear witness to human rights violations and create a forum for courageous individuals on both sides of the lens to empower audiences with the knowledge that personal commitment can make a difference.”
The personal commitment on display was that of former President Mohamed Nasheed, whose efforts to win the Presidency and to raise international awareness of climate change were documented in the critically acclaimed film.
The film debuted to packed audiences in the Maldives in November and is scheduled for showings across the United States throughout March and April.
The expert panel also included the former Envoy for Science and Technology, Ahmed Moosa; and the Guardian’s Head of Environment, Damien Carrington.
As with most public events concerning the Maldives recently, home and abroad, the event was accompanied by opposition lobbyists who dispensed pro-democracy literature outside the theatre.
After the sold-out audience had seen the film, the ensuing discussion revealed their concerns about the effects that political turmoil would have on the Maldives’ environmental ambitions.
Current President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan recently reaffirmed his commitment to environmental projects during his opening of the People’s Majlis, and also at a ceremony celebrating a renewable energy project supported by the Japanese government.
“We have been campaigning for the last couple of years that we would like the world community to come to an understanding, an agreement, to reduce emissions so that the CO2 levels in the atmosphere would be reduced to 350 parts per million,” said President Waheed.
“We will work with other small island countries, and low lying countries, to keep the low carbon development agenda at the forefront of the international developmental discourse over the next years as well. Our commitment to this will continue to be strong and unwavering.”
Lynas however expressed great concern to Minivan News about the likelihood of similar investments in the Maldives continuing to flourish in the current political climate: “Donors will turn away because of the political instability, and investors likewise.”
Such opinions appear to be supported by the Economic Ministry’s unexplained decision to halt any new Public Private Partnership (PPP) schemes one week ago.
Lynas lamented the negative effects the change of political power has had on such projects.
“Back in February we were literally days from signing a major investment plan with the World Bank before the coup happened – this would have leveraged potentially hundreds of millions of dollars, and we were about the begin the process of transforming several islands towards renewable power from the sun,” said Mr Lynas.
“This whole unfortunate saga could set the country back 10 years or more, and undo most of the work that we have all devoted years of our lives trying to pursue.”
Nasheed is hortly to head to the United States, where the film’s release is sure to draw significant media attention to the Maldives political problems as much as its environmental ones.
In an article posted on the website of the NGO Responding to Climate Change, the author posits the question, “Could they have chosen a better time to release this film?”