President Waheed’s hand “almost impossible to play”: Mike Mason

Former Energy Advisor to President Nasheed Mike Mason has published an open reply to President Mohamed Waheed, following a letter Waheed sent to key international supporters of Nasheed seeking to justify his decisions and establish the legitimacy of his leadership. Mason, a former mining engineer and expert on renewable energy, carbon finance and offsetting, was the architect of a US$3 billion renewable energy investment scheme cut short by the events of February 7. Mason subsequently resigned. This letter first appeared on his blog.

Dear President Waheed,

Thank you for your letter setting out the position as you see it. Let me in turn set out my stall, before replying to the substance of what you say.

As you know, you and I have always had a cordial, even friendly relationship. I have always thought you a reputable and straightforward person and continue to believe in your personal integrity.

It is also the case that I am not Nasheed’s man. I have tremendous respect for him as a democrat, and a man of high principle and great vision, but I have disagreed with him very strongly on issues in the past, and believe he made many mistakes in his Presidency. That said, I suspect my assessment is fairly unreliable as I am sure he had pressures on him, as I am sure you have on you, which were invisible to the outside world.

I hope therefore what I say can be taken as offering you a helpful perspective from an outsider who came to like the Maldives and its people very much, and who made many friends there in the short time I was involved. The information I have about events in the Maldives, therefore, comes not only from the ‘Nasheed camp’ but from a range of sources with quite different perspectives.

Now to the substance of this response.

I have no reason to question that part of your letter which sets out the extent to which you personally were, and continue, to be committed to the Maldives, and democracy – or to the extent to which you put yourself and family at risk to support Nasheed. However I fear that your personal views and beliefs are not the driving issues here. It is the perception, not the reality, which matters more.

The key issues, I believe, are:

  1. The Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) was set up in the hope of setting the record surrounding your accession to power straight, and dismissing the smell of coup and corruption. Unfortunately it failed to do this.Two reasons come to mind: firstly the choice of Judge Selvam does not seem to have been designed to allay concerns about bias. The Burma/Singapore/Maldives/Oil/Heroin rumours and the Judge’s close connections to the ruling elite in Singapore make anything he does look suspect – especially when the former chairman of the STO is quoted in ‘The Week’ as allegedly saying he has friends in Singapore who would have told him if the police were investigating. Whatever the truth, and I cannot judge that, choosing Judge Selvam was guaranteed to create more dissent than agreement. Secondly, the rumours I have heard about the pressures that led to Saeed resigning from the CoNI will not make it easy to see the report as unbiased and complete – even if the substance of the content is correct and the rumours are false.
  2. The second issue is the perception that the courts and judiciary in the Maldives are corrupt and incompetent, and politically tied to their old masters. Judge Abdullah is, I fear, widely seen as a travesty of a chief justice, and if he represents the rest it is not surprising many have lost faith in the system.

Thus the circumstances of the transfer of power as seen on numerous videos, coupled with the handling of the CoNI and the actions of the judiciary, means that I fear there is no way you will ever remove the taint of corruption and coup from this government – however clean, honest and transparent you personally may be. Unfortunately that’s life – perception counts more than reality – whatever the reality is. There is, I believe, almost nothing that you can do as President to heal the country’s ills however hard you try, or however good you are.

Note though that I said “Almost Nothing”. There is, in my humble opinion, one way out of this which would set you up as a President to be remembered – whether or not you win the next election, and it is this.

It is quite clear that, in any future election, the MDP have to be free to campaign as they wish. It is also clear that Nasheed MUST be free to campaign also. Only if he loses a genuine, free and fair, election in which he was openly given every facility to campaign, will the world (and I dare say many Maldivians) put the doubts about the 7th Feb behind them. Indicting him in a court whose authority is being challenged will simply make things worse.

It is also clear that a real leader must recognise publicly the issues surrounding the judiciary, and I suspect some fundamental issues of a faulty constitution and legal system.

A secondary, related issue, is the wide perception that drugs and gross corruption are in some way related to politics in dark corners. Is it coincidence that Burma is a major heroin producer? It will take a brave man to sweep out the taint of past corruption which runs a real risk of becoming a current problem, and even fatally tainting the next election.

Now to something I do really know about – money, oil and energy. The Maldives runs the risk of becoming bankrupted by its oil use – at the very least its economic development will be curtailed and people will eventually become poorer. The solutions are there and both affordable and financeable – or rather they were. You will never attract the level of finance needed to wean your society off expensive oil unless you have an environment where contract law is sacrosanct, the threat of nationalisation is removed, and you have transparent and predictable government and structures. Even the talk of nationalising the airport will set the country’s investment plans back decades.

In summary – I think you have an almost impossible hand to play. There are some cards you can play – but I fear that your advisors and political colleagues may hold you back from the rather brave decisions needed to play them. Play them, though, and the world will sit up and notice.

I wish you all the best,

Your friend,

Mike Mason

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]


27 thoughts on “President Waheed’s hand “almost impossible to play”: Mike Mason”

  1. The corruption has gone up during Anni three years and worse much worse the previous dictator regime.,

    Reading this letter, I realized that this person only want to hear what he want to hear and do not bother whether it is right or wrong . He is openly saying that his much more interested in the perception of the situation rather than the reality.

    This clearly explain that he is not a genuine person and he may have some hidden agenda towards Maldives. If he was so much in love with Maldives , i am sure he could have done a lot during those three years .

  2. Mike stick to renewable energy and keep your nose out of Maldivian politics - which you seem to know nothing about! Its too late for you and your govt to help the Maldives. You missed the opportunity.

  3. Waheed is deaf dumb and blind, no use trying to appeal to his good senses. All he ever wanted was the presidency n that he has got by participating in a coup and messing up the country and its economy..

  4. He is pretending to know a lot but from this piece it is clear he has no idea what he is talking about! it is doubtful whether he was an energy advisor or a political advisor. Talking about a climate of respecting contracts, what about making corrupt and unfair deals? Corruption can put off investors as much as a weak judiciary. Nasheed's administration was as corrupt as that of Gayyoom...

  5. is this that renewable energy guy again.

    How much carbon neutral did he achive and how much he pocketed?

  6. Mike Mason seems to be in a similar place to many Maldivians: finding it difficult to reconcile the reality of what Dr Waheed is now with what he was before the coup.

    As President Waheed the man has not been 'honest', 'transparent' and he has most certainly not been 'clean'.

    It is understandable wanting to be balanced, especially when there are so many paid 'commenters' as above ready with their vitriol against anyone who dares express a negative opinion about Waheed.

    It is also very difficult to doubt all that you believe about a person that you think you know.

    But to know Waheed the President, one must un-know Waheed the Vice President.

    President Waheed is not the man he may once have been.

  7. Mody, junta lover. So ignorant. So stupid. People like you will also set the Maldives back decades.

  8. Mr Mike Mason has this to say in his penultimate paragraph...

    "Now to something I do really know about – money, oil and energy."

    Surely it makes no sense to give ear to subjective observations and arguments by Mr Mason on "things he really know little about".(by his own admission, not mine).

    As for his area of expertise he has this to say
    "You will never attract the level of finance needed to wean your society off expensive oil unless you have an environment where contract law is sacrosanct, the threat of nationalisation is removed, and you have transparent and predictable government and structures. Even the talk of nationalising the airport will set the country’s investment plans back decades."

    Mr Mike Mason's message is clear "Get your paws off GMR". The Gentleman who so loves Maldives and its people is not moved by the fact that the GMR contract was entered into and sustained in the most dubious of means & that Maldives has been given a rotten deal that's now forcing Maldives to actually pay GMR for actually signing the contract.

    It looks as if a whopping majority in this country would say "No thank you Mr. mike Mason".

  9. Mike Mason knows a lot about Maldives. Maldives is corrupt as hell. Well, the country is already bankrupt because of the Burma/Singapore/Oil/Heroin/Selvam/Uchchu/Morcum/Kaaminee Budhtha!

  10. Then a whopping majority are ignorant. It's hilarious reading comments from the retards on here taking the typical maldivian attitude that they are better and know more than everyone else.

    Particularly responses to articles writen by foreigners.....all it demonstrates is just how STUPID some of you actually are.

    Immediately the masses contradict and disclaim what he/she has to say without actually thinking about it.

    I mean really, if the GMR contract is annulled....WHAT MESSAGE DOES THAT SEND TO FOREIGN INVESTORS?

    The fact is that NONE of you KNOW if there was corruption or not. All you do is speculate and believe whatever hype is popular.
    The fact that the deal was passed by an international body that has more experience in analysing deals of this magnitude than all of us put together x1000 is totally ignored.

  11. @Oho:

    Oh yes by all means. We know nothing when it comes to our own country. We should all be good third world citizens and listen to what our lords and masters in the West have to say about our country and our condition.

    Yes suh, Massah!

    If we dun wrong den giv us da boot in da backside. Lash us please and wash away the sin of insubordination.

    No @Oho it is not anyone but you who is displaying the typical sadomasochistic inferiority complex that is common to certain sections of society in third-world South-East Asian countries. We tend to think foreigners and foreign institutions as beyond reproach. It is not typical of any Maldivian, let alone those in the English-speaking literate community to defend local views. It is rather the exception to the norm.

    For people like you, I have but one message. Don't be ethnically-specific or selective when being suspicious and critical of other persons. We must try to read behind the lines no matter who is doing the writing.

  12. Do you really expect me to believe Maldivians (in general) see themselves as being on the same social and intelligence level as Indians and Bangladeshis?

    You need to take your head from the clouds and stop your sanctimonious attitudes.

    The simple facts are, GMR deal was audited by a recognized international organisation. Some people cry corruption, popular support is gained for this view any yet NO EVIDENCE has been seen.

    The world is indeed watching and the message being sent to foreign investors is not positive.

    You Tsk Tsk, with your western education wouldn't really dispute that would you?

  13. The tons of Heroin discovered in the shallow lagoon near Male’ must be the payment for the Burma oil trade.

    Well said Mike, with all respect we really appreciate the work you did here in the Maldives.

    lol... so few comment, where are the paid commenters, Yaameen Gayoom, the paid commenters are sleeping and eating your money.

  14. GMR is deal is a corrupted deal and following basic facts is also proof to that .

    1. Chairman of the board who was there when the deal was initially done resigned on the ground saying that he will not signed an agreement that he has no been involved during bidding process and the decision was taken by the President.
    2. GMR was disqualified in the first round since they have failed in technical terms .
    3. Anni dissolved the existing board and appointed a new board and got the contract signed less than 24hrs from appointment of new board.
    4. The new board would not have any time to read the contract and the fact the previous chairman resignation was a question ?
    5. Parliament and all political parties were calling not to signed the contract and review it further ?

    These are few facts and why then Anni signed the contract. This is clear because Anni and his associates got a huge cut under the table . All other bidders refused to give any cut to Anni and his associates.

    Airport was given to GMR with a hand shake for peanut. GMR paid 70 million dollar in advance in two installment but airport assets were over 200 million.

    Even the fuel stock at the airport was over 27 million for which GMR had not paid a single cents to the airport company.

    Mr. Mason had forgotten about this and he want us to bow our heads to Anni the dictator and say yes " Master"

  15. so now we are to believe the inquiry monitored by un and commonwealth observers, who did not flag any issues with it, was all part of some conspiracy involving selvam and his side business of oil//heroin/ in singapore maldives and burma? Clearly this is the only rational explanation, and I'm sure it did not come out of nasheed's camp.

  16. A lot of what is stated in the article is the truth and it would be good to think about it!

  17. Judge Selvam WAS HIRED AND PAID BY COMMONWEALTH/ FOREIGN REPRESENTATIVE WAS REQUESTED BY NASHEED TO BE ON THE COMMISSION! Get your facts right and go to your own government to raise this issue Mike!
    Nasheed was obviously the source for your international fame so your reaction is expected. Now leave us alone!

  18. Mody. That is not proof. You are speculating again.

    Here's some speculation for you:

    The chairman resigned because he didn't get the cut he was expecting.

    The board were sacked because they too wanted handouts

    The bid was revised after the initial disqualification

    The new board had already read the contract before being installed in their positions

  19. What I'm trying to say is that we don't KNOW there was or wasn't corruption.

    Instead of demonstrations etc. how about having an audit of the contract process rather than the continuous rubbish from the politicians?

  20. @Hashim Amla / @Oho:

    If we are to be all politically correct then by all means shall we?

    If we should censor ourselves from criticizing the IFC in anonymous comments then please refrain from casting doubt over CoNI as well. CoNI has as much standing as the IFC panel instituted to oversee the GMR deal.

    Let us all just tone down the rhetoric on attacking foreign institutions altogether. We, the public have no beef with GMR and should let the authorities handle whatever issue they have. As for the Parliament they should do their duty as elected representatives and ensure that the government does not harm our investment climate by any untoward actions.

    As for foreigners commenting on local politics it is not accepted anywhere in this world. Foreign bodies whom we invite ourselves is another matter. Yet individuals going public with all sorts of allegations against our country and our people is just not acceptable, the way I see it.

  21. Composition of CONI was fine. However they were not able to get phone call recordings which they requested. They relied on perceptions and speculations and some real events. The whole report was a blatant litany, as it was based on what people said in interviews. However the former president was in Army Barracks. Clearly a mutiny was staged by police in front whole public and media. There were people demanding unconditional resignation of president. Police were beating innocent Maldivians on broad day light including their own fellow officers. After such dramatic events, the president resigned saying he fear lot of Maldivians may get their life threatened. We also know his family was not provided with the security granted under laws. When the army moves out of barracks and joins politicians and police move out of their headquarters to support a particular group we call it a coup!

  22. @Barbarian. The 1.6 ton of Heroin discovered in the shallow lagoon near Male’ belongs to Indian Mafia associated to GMR and that's why MDP compensated them by rewarding them our airport for peanuts.

  23. Looking at Imranullah-bin-fahari with his 80 kgs pouch & (Allah akbar on his forehead) one should not under estimate the Maldivian public beef.

  24. barbrian.

    I am paid to comment here by thug Anni but I am not man without a brain to write ever he asked.


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