Minivan News spends 15 Minutes with Dr Waheed, who is standing for president of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in the upcoming leadership election, set for 15th December.
MN: Are you planning to stand for the Presidency of the MDP in the forthcoming party congress?
W: It is my intention to run for MDP party leadership.
W: There comes a time in every ones life when they have to reflect on what they want to do with their lives. I have now reached a stage where my children are all grown up and I need to do something that brings meaning to my life. I have had a long and successful life as an international civil servant and enjoyed every minute of my work. However, I have always felt a sense of duty to my country because I am what I am only because of my country. I had a good upbringing and an excellent education. At this time in history Maldives needs people with education and experience to take it to the next level of political and economic development. Maldives is going through an historical period of transition which has come about largely due to developments in education and the economy. We need a new generation of leaders who are capable of leading this country into the 21st century. I believe that I am part of that new generation.
I believe that Maldives is ready for an open democratic society. We need leaders who understand the complexities of creating a new political system. My training in political science, international development and education provide a unique combination of skills. I have also gained invaluable experience as an international civil servant working with people of different backgrounds and opinions and in different countries. I bring unique skills in building relationships and mediation.
Anyone who aspires to lead a democratic country must go through a democratic process to qualify for leadership positions. I believe in the process that has been set by the Maldivian Democratic Party. I have been in an elected position as a Member of Parliament for Maleâ€™ and won the largest number of votes in the general election. The people in this country know me because of my unique background. I was the first television anchor in the country, the first to receive a doctorate of philosophy, the first to run an open political campaign, and the first Maldivian to attain a director position in the United Nations. Although not as a minister, I have also headed a government ministry and contributed to the establishment of the current education system in the country.
Most of all, I strongly believe that only a democratic and open society can foster the optimum development of human beings. The greatest contribution we can make to others is to give them the space, the resources and the freedom to be the best they can be. Removing the shackles of political oppression and freeing people, both men and women, to think and express their intellectual and creative energies would be the greatest contribution one can make towards his fellow human beings.
MN: MDP has said the party needs to develop a policy manifesto following the leadership election. What sort of policies would you like to see the party develop?
W: We need to develop a concise policy document very soon. It should be a framework document which outlines the partyâ€™s basic policies. First, it needs to affirm the principles of democracy, human rights and Islam. Secondly, it needs to outline the fundamental issues we as a party want to address. Based on that analysis, we need to come up with general policy directions for each sector of the economy and society. I believe that a more detailed election manifesto can be drawn up later as we face a general election.
The general policy direction I would like to see the party develop is a strong commitment to an open democratic society while pursuing a policy of economic growth and balanced development between Maleâ€™ and the atolls. Due to the historical opportunity presented to us, MDP must outline the political reforms we propose. These will include constitutional reform to achieve effective separation of powers and the establishment and development of democratic institutions. MDP must commit itself to introducing and maintaining free and fair elections, creation of independent election and civil service commissions, and a free press. MDP policy should be to promote civil society and their role in the development of the country.
Tourism must continue to be the backbone of the economy with fisheries becoming a more viable alternative for employment and income generation. MDP should commit itself to a policy of knowledge intensive development with education becoming a more effective tool for full employment and economic growth. Education and heath sectors must put the emphasis on the development of the full potential of every individual and the not on the propagation of a particular system. The role of the state in the provision of social services should be one of setting policies and standards, oversight and guidance. The private sector should take a more effective role in service delivery.
In Maldives, public policy needs to reflect the Islamic foundations of our spiritual development. True democracy rests on foundations of connectivity to nature and spirituality. As Peter Senge of MIT states, only a deep connection with nature provides the inspiration for genuine democratic thinking. â€œAs we loose those connections, isolation, fear and the need to control grows and democracy inevitably deterioratesâ€. A sustainable vision of social organization needs to consider environmental constraints and the potentials for development in harmony with nature.
MN: What do you think the MDP needs to do to dig the country out of the political hole it is currently in?
W: MDP is facing an extremely difficult choice. Our chairman is in political detention and the party leadership has decided not to discuss reforms with the government until he is released. There seems to be no willingness on the part of the Maldivian government to find a negotiated settlement. There is deep skepticism regarding the governmentâ€™s sincerity about the reform process. If in case the government decides to pass a sentence on Nasheed despite the statements by international lawyers and observers that the process is deeply flawed, MDP will be put into a very serious position. Such a decision by the government would be a slap on MDP and it would be extremely hard for the party to sit down for talks.
I believe that our friends in the international community need to impress on the Maldivian government to find a more conciliatory approach. MDP will be ready to begin talks immediately after the release of Nasheed. At this point a third party intervention seems to be necessary. MDP needs to make a formal request to a third party, preferably the Commonwealth Secretariat to make this contact.
MN: What should the MDP be doing to ensure those arrested following the 12-14 August unrest are released, including the current Chairperson Mohamed Nasheed (Anni)?
W: The question has been partly answered above. Within Maldives, MDP must continue its call for their release and further intensify the peaceful protest against their continued detention. MDP supporters will continue to call for their release, the black ribbon campaign will continue, and MDP must use all legal means to pressure the government to relent. It will be in the interest of all, including the government to find a peaceful solution to the impasse.
The best option would be for the government to take leadership and start a process of confidence building with the main opposition. A government that has been in power for 27 years must surely have the experience and maturity to deal with this situation in a more peaceful manner. It is the future of this country that is at stake, not just Anni.
MN: Some people have criticised you for staying away from Maldives for the past few years. What is your response to this criticism?
W: I have addressed this issue on several occasions. Frankly, I think too much of a fuss is being made for political reasons. I have no regrets for having taken good care of my children, given them a good education and taken the time to recover from the political injustices my family was subjected to by this government. I have returned with an open mind, much better prepared for responsibility than I was when I was last in government, and most of all I have retained my integrity. I have been consistent in my struggle for democratic reforms in Maldives and have not compromised my principles.
It is precisely the opportunity to remain abroad and work in the United Nations that has given me the skills that are so badly needed in the political processes of reform we are about to embark. I believe that I am the best candidate for MDP leadership and that I can assist the party to successfully challenge the current government in a free and fair election.