Comment: International community’s inaction may lead to carnage

The Maldives is beautiful. It is an archipelago of 1200 islands with pristine beaches, blue lagoons and thousands of coconut palms. It is one of the world’s most exclusive tourist destinations. It is a honeymooners’ haven and diver’s paradise. It is a hideaway for over-exposed celebrities and a sanctuary for the stressed. A string of islands nature intended as a playground for the rich and famous. Somewhere where Western billionaires come to have spa treatments underwater and the famous can relax without being photographed. A picture postcard.

Well, here’s a news flash. The Maldives is home to 300,000 people. They may not appear in the photographs, they may not be serving you your cocktails, they may not be cleaning your $4500 a night room, they may not be serving you the $1000 dinner on your golden plate under the full-moon, and the hands massaging your body in the spa under the palm tree may not be theirs, but they exist. They live, they talk, they walk, they feel, and they have the same silly notions about human rights, justice, equality and the rule of law as any other people in the world.

Last week, the Maldivian government was overthrown; its first democratically elected president held at gunpoint and forced to write a letter of resignation. It has been reported that ‘tourists barely put down their cocktails’ on the beaches of their exclusive holiday resorts just a few waves of the ocean away, so far removed is the tourism industry from the reality that Maldives is for Maldivian people.

Despite the tourists, and the rest of the world, being kept in deliberate ignorance, video evidence exists of the coup right from the planning stages to its successful execution. The only missing footage, so far, is that of the deposed president sitting down to write the letter. Everything else, from the violent take over of the state broadcaster by armed ‘policemen’, the beleagured president trying to control military and police personnel who were involved in the coup, coup leaders commanding the defecting officers, extreme brutality by the police against the public in the aftermath of the coup – it is all there, if you want to see it. ‘Want’ being the keyword here.

The ‘international community’ has not wanted to do so. British Prime Minister David Cameron, who had only months before described the deposed Maldivian President Nasheed as his ‘new best friend’, refused to lend him any support.

India, the supposed leader of democracy in South Asia, was the first to congratulate the new government and pledge its allegiance to its leader Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.

Sri Lanka, despite Nasheed’s ill-judged support of President Mahinda Rajapaksa while the intenational community condemned him for alleged human rights abuses, followed suit.

It would come as no surprise for any observer of China’s recent foreign policy decisins that Beijing had no qualms over the legitimacy of the new government in declaring its willingness to carry on with business as usual.

Australia, home to many Maldivians and supposedly a close friend, found the Maldivian situation to be fodder for political jokes; the violence that its people endured in the aftermath of the coup nothing but material for double-entendres to be lobbed between parliamentarians on opposite sides.

And, of course, given the manner in which the United States has sought to spread democracy in the world in the last decade, it should come as no surprise that it finds no room to exercise its soft power in assisting Maldivians establish the truth about how their democracy was derailed last week.

The international community is making a huge mistake in ignoring the current crisis in the Maldives. The foremost reason being that the Maldives is incapable of conducting its own independent investigation into the events of the day as the international community is recommending. Like a small community in which twelve impartial people cannot be found for a jury in a trial where everybody has a stake in the verdict, there can be no tribunal of truth held in the Maldives where the majority is not biased one way or another.

The United States and others have rejected the deposed president and his supporters’ calls for new elections on the basis that there are no institutions capable of holding a fair and free one. What makes it, and the rest of the international community, then think that there can be an independent institution capable of conducting an impartial enquiry into the facts of 7 February? If any of the international teams that have been so active in the Maldives in the last week have done any homework at all, they know the biggest impediment to consolidation of democracy in the Maldives has been failure of the so-called independent institutions have been unable to free themselves from political influence.

It is not just the Maldivian people that the international community is betraying by leaving them to their own fate. It is also the ideals of democracy they have espoused so stridently, not to mention violently, for the last decade. By refusing to help the Maldivian people establish the truth of how its first democratically elected president was deposed, it is allowing the burial without ceremony of the role that anti-democratic forces – including radical Islamists – have played in bringing the fledgling Maldivian democracy to its knees.

It is also turning its back on a valuable opportunity to increase its own knowledge of how Islamists can radicalise not just a small Muslim community, but an entire population. Available evidence shows that without a clear pact made with Islamists, the coup could not have been successfully planned or executed. By refusing to help join Maldivians’ efforts to establish the truth of the events of 7 February and the conspiracies that led up to it, the international community is doing what it does best: ignore a threat until it escalates to the point where there is carnage on the streets and thousands of lives are lost.

The most significant characteristic of the days that have followed 7 February in the Maldives is the deafening silence of the Islamists. They helped incite hatred and anger towards Nasheed when he was the legitimate president; they were the loudest and the most vocal of his critics. In the week that has followed his ousting, they have been ominously silent. And, judging from how they have conducted their operations in the Maldives for the last decade, the silence is not due to pious reflection and quiet contemplation of God’s greatness. It is a silence of anticipation, the calm before the storm. The conspirators who financed the coup have done a deal with them, and they are waiting in silence because they are sure their grand chance is about to come. That is, the chance to impose Sharia rule in the country, the chance to crackdown on the women and turn them into inferior human beings and citizens, the chance to bring the Maldives back to the early days of ‘pure’ Islam and turn it into the newest region of the Islamic Caliphate that bin Laden envisioned.

Unfortunately, we live in a world of realist international politics where until a state’s own ‘national interest’ is threatened or one’s own self-interest is at risk, there is no ‘legitimate’ reason to act. As long as the anti-democratic activities in the Maldives pose no geostrategic threat to the ‘international community’, as long as foreign investment in the Maldives is safe, as long as tourists can keep sipping their cocktails under the palm trees, and as long as Maldivian blood does not spill on the pristine white beaches that the rich and famous lounge about on, paradise is not lost. Until then what prevails will be accepted as what passes as ‘democracy’ these days – government for the rich by the rich.

Azra Naseem holds a doctorate in International Relations.

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]


34 thoughts on “Comment: International community’s inaction may lead to carnage”

  1. I think we should continue these protests overseas to ensure the international community is aware of the military coup.

  2. Great article. Sad no one takes notice. Maldives will sadly be the next Pakistan, if the destruction of the Buddhist statues are anything to go by. Good luck and brave reporting.

  3. One of the mistakes President Mohamed Nasheed made was that he took the Western Powers too seriously.

    Even India and Sri Lanka do not know anymore about Maldives than Western Powers do.

    The tragedy of Maldives is that Maldives is only a fool's paradise. Not a real one.

  4. @ Zulfa. Intervention is not called for. Help with establishing the truth, mediation, and holding back from recognising the new government as legitimate are all things the international community can do.

  5. Azra Naseem talks of constitution. She should know it is the constitution and therefore the will of the people which installed the elected vice president as president.
    We know she was given chance to study in Ireland by dictator Gayoom unfairly while better qualified students were ignored. Just because Azra happens to be a relative of Madam Gayoom. Now Azra supports judge kidnapper, Nasheed. Nasheed use his military to arrest opposition leaders and judge illegally. He taught the military to disrespect the laws and Constitution. So, there!

  6. For someone who holds a doctorate in international relations, this article is so shallow.I am afraid Azra Naseem, the rhetorics of democratic activism,and oversimplifications of complex deep rooted issues, vis a vis the change in international politics and geopolitics have eluded you, and deluded you into thinking that the international community is NOT AWARE of what is going on in MALDIVES.This is nothing more than an article to rouse up english speaking middle and upper class public support for the supposed defender of democracy in this region (apparently Mohammed Nasheed) in EU and UK communities, who are unaware of the underlying currents and politics of this fragile young democracy.The "Islamist danger" , has been the card played by you guys for so long , there has already been a good assessment done by those professionals who are in the frontlines facing the brunt of islamic terrorism, and we know what is real and what is not.You seem to conevniently forget that it was under Nasheeds govt. that radicalism spread in the Maldives and all your efforts without hindsight or calculation has actually fanned the flames of extremism, and all you do is keep blaming the 30 year old dictatorship.Do you think the law enforcemnt agencies around the wolrd are unaware of what had taken place before and after nasheed took office? Do you think we have been blind into seeing who the MDP govt. had performed in combatting islamic terrorism and how effective the previous regime was?
    Maybe its time take a closer look at your own handiwork before you start blaming the "international community" for all its "vices and evils".After all, you are begining to sound like an islamist your self.

  7. ... Please have a look.

  8. azra naseem wrote:
    "It(international community) is also turning its back on a valuable opportunity to increase its own knowledge of how Islamists can radicalise not just a small Muslim community, but an entire population. Available evidence shows that without a clear pact made with Islamists, the coup could not have been successfully planned or executed."

    Are you kidding me...? And how the hell did the "islamists" radicalize an entire population in 3 years of Mohamed Nasheed's rule? any light on that....I mean counter terrorism experts and analysts all over the world would LOVE to know their methods inorder to pre- empt it..!!!!

    Did you forget to mention your little pact with radical islamists to bring down the former regime who by the way,had a tight control of radical elements.I am not justifying his dictatorship nor am I saying there should be no dialogue with islamists, but this constant theme of abandonment of international community is just appalling.Have you forgotten the support given to you for democratic change in the first place? Have you even looked at the issue of handing over islamic ministry so carelessly to certain individuals, and then promoting liberal values in a semi conservative Maldivian society who were being constatntly told by islamists that their religion was under attack? And when the islamists were allowed a free hand in their propaganda, have you forgotten the unpopular measures you took , which gave strength to radical arguments and rhetoric? Thats right azra naseem, we may not be as foolish as you think, who knows, we may even have our own sources in Maldives, constantly updating the situation in a country so close to one of our most important military bases....u think!!???

    Did you also forget to mention that president nasheed was advised by certain friendly governments that the information being fed to the "grid" on counter terrorism issues is not accurate and this compromises many ...."things"....not to mention the wasting of valuable time.

    And then lastly , but not the least , the detention of the infamous judge....surely , one would have thought that a "Champion of democracy" would have heeded the UN call to release him..I mean..charge him..or release simple can it get.But NO..NOOO NOO's the international communities fault, if president Nasheed is not supported.I mean...Jesus.."held at gun point"...funny how the story changed when confronted in HARDTALK (BBC).

    I am amazed, that calmer, and more prudent individuals in MDP , are not voicing their opinions and making the change within the MDP , which they desperately need.They didnt seem to mind talking frankly with certain foreign indivitduals from the "international community" , but, all of a sudden, i find the silence of these , more...intelligent and practical individuals to be more destructive to democracy in Maldives, than foreign entities.By the way, as honorable Robert Blake suggested, Maldivian internal matters must be solved by themselves.Stop whining about it and get on with it.We have our own problems to deal with in our respective countries.

    By the way, The only evidence of carnage so far has been police high handedness towards the public (victims being MDP supporters ) and the Arson attacks perpetrated by MDP and related people.Thats right..your police service has shared their evidence for those who wish to formally investigate.

    Next time you want to appeal for international support, maybe try and limit (preferably STOP, as suggested by British 'Tory' party allies of yours)the loose uncontrolled arsonists and convicted criminals released from jail by Mohammed Nasheed (400 according to current president Dr.Waheed)

  9. Great piece Azra! I especially like the bit :

    "Well, here’s a news flash. The Maldives is home to 300,000 people. They may not appear in the photographs, they may not be serving you your cocktails, they may not be cleaning your $4500 a night room, they may not be serving you the $1000 dinner on your golden plate under the full-moon, and the hands massaging your body in the spa under the palm tree may not be theirs, but they exist. They live, they talk, they walk, they feel, and they have the same silly notions about human rights, justice, equality and the rule of law as any other people in the world."

    I think the international community just needs to man-up instead of trying to fulfill their vested interests by cooperating with the coup leaders who dismantled the entire social fabric of the society, let alone democracy.

    Also Azra, if you were given a scholarship for being Madame Nasreena's relative, why have you always been the number one critic of dictator Qayyoom? Hmm? Naughty girl!

  10. Mickail Naseem wrote:

    "I think the international community just needs to man-up instead of trying to fulfill their vested interests by cooperating with the coup leaders who dismantled the entire social fabric of the society, let alone democracy"

    Tell you what padre'...since we already contributed in Libya,and are tryin hard in syria...(where actual genocide is going on!!!!) and our boys have already sacrificed everything in iraq and afghanistan...why dont you maldivians, solve your own goddamn problems, and clear up your own goddamn mess!!! We've done enuff...and stop blaming the "international community" for "tearing up the fabric of....blah blah blah....last time I was in your capital male' wasnt the U.S or the british..or the Indians who were involved in gang fights and lighting up places...y'know..those sticky little dudes with the amazing hairdo......'nuff said!!!

  11. "The foremost reason being that the Maldives is incapable of conducting its own independent investigation into the events of the day as the international community is recommending."

    Well, exactly. A very poignant example is the resignation of Naushad Waheed, who is the brother of the leader of the current regime, Mr Waheed. That goes to show how deeply divided the country is.

    Of course, Mr Waheed and his band of allies will try to stage an "investigation" which will be anything but impartial. Mr Waheed has already said that he's waiting for advice from Achima Shukoor, his newly found Attorney General. That's like asking Saif Gadhafi to investigate the brutality of his father's regime!

    Waheed should realise that the irony is not lost on us. We are watching, but we won't wait for long.

  12. In my opinion this article is not helping the situation in Maldives. Rather distorted and exaggerated account and blaming. If Maldivians cannot change their own situation what can the International community do? The hatred created among people due to the irrational thought and actions of some Maldivians (Political leaders and irrational followers) have brought upon this situation. It is easier to find fault of others than oneself.

    The fires that was started in the Southern island in Addu destroying public buildings is a set back to the development of the Maldives. This particular example shows that the island communities are divided and further devastate the situation in Maldives. It is public properties that got destroyed that belong to the people and not to a certain political party.

    I hope the Maldivians start thinking and take action and be proactive to be united to bring peace within the country. Stop blaming, self evaluate and do something constructive.

  13. Dear Mr. Naseem. What a beautiful article you wrote and so true it is. From Europe all my love for your country and for the Divehi people. From Spain, my country, I have been doing as much as I can and the university community is with the democratic Maldives. I wrote to newspapers and the Avaaz association will help, provide they receive enough requests from Maldives. Their web page is and I have contacted them already, they are waiting for you all Maldivians to write them and an international campaign might take place. I encourage you all to write urgently to Avaaz. Europe or more likely Europeans are concerned. Nice articles have been published here in minivan from different people in Europe; some did not harvest very nice comments from readers. Nevertheless we are with you, we are with democracy. It is important to keep fighting, it is important to keep the faith that old ghosts will not make it through again. If needed be I’ll send you the mail addresses of the most important newspapers in Europe as well as universities in order to start a campaign, but there must be a request from the Maldives. I am other colleagues are ready to help as long as the aims is to help the Maldivian people and not a particular political party. Please make me know via this same web page if you wish to have some help and write urgently to Avaaz.

  14. Some factual errors in the article:

    President Nasheed was not held at gunpoint at any point, he was in fact quite free to move around inside MNDF HQ

    President Nasheed was not forced to write his resignation letter, he wrote it on his own free will

    Mahinda Rajapaksa is not the prime minister of Sri Lanka but rather the President

  15. Cogratulations Azra for turning something political to something religious. Naturally Minivan team doing what they do best, Islam bashing!

  16. Azra,

    The article is not real journalism. It is biased. It is a shame that you wrote this article holding a Doctorate in International Relations. Where is your ethics and intergrity.
    Another thing is it is President Mahinda Rajapakse. He is not the Prime Minister. So it shows how well you know about the neigbouring country even. The question looms how did you get your Doctorate ??
    The article is just the blind mans truth!!

  17. Dammed good whether President Rajapaksha was not the Prime Minister. As intelligent as the coup d'etat. Keep defending yourselves lads!

  18. Well written Azra. My major concern here is the role India might have played. Given that they are most powerful in South Asia I do not believe that this would have bypassed Indian Intelligence. I believe that they knew about the coup but waited to send military to rescue the government later on so that Nasheed's government too will be indebted to Indian Congress Party the same way Gayyoom's government was after 3 November 1988.

    Shame on you Indian Congress Party. What have you not got to play with Maldivians like this? This will not matter to you at all but I will never forgive you for what you have done to Maldivians, not once but twice.

  19. Dear Azra,

    A lesson or two in international relations might do some good to you.

    Thank you

  20. To Vet again:
    "y’know..those sticky little dudes with the amazing hairdo……’nuff said!!!"

  21. I am ashamed that our Australian opposition thought that the suffering of the Maldivian people was something to joke about, and I am deeply sorry. They were comparing our Former PM Kevin Rudd's replacement (coup?)to what happened in the Maldives. Mr. Rudd, now our Foreign Minster, did actually strongly rebuke the opposition, however, saying that it was inhumane to make jokes about Maldives when her people are being beaten like that!

    As an Australian, I have not felt as Maldivian as I have done lately for a long time. It really hurt me so deeply to see th Dhivehin being beaten like that, blood pouring out. It just hurts me so much that the Dhivehin, a people so gentle and so intelligent could be so treated so brutally! I wore my Maldives shirts to work, and announced to my anti-Muslim work mates that I was proud that my name was also Abdul-Rahman, I wanted to be taunted for it, but sadly, 'political correctness' stops them from verbalizing what they feel, though I did feel their contempt for me. I really wanted to feel at least a tiny bit of the pain you guys have felt, because, I did not know how else to be close to you all right now, but, I am sorry for what you have been through, really I love you all.

    I am sorry that I cannot help, this comment I have written is so damned helpless and pathetic, I wish I could do, or at least say something that would help, but I can't, I am so sorry.

    Yet in our pain, we can draw close, shared pain (Assabiya) can strengthen the bond of love between the Dhivehin, and love can be a powerful force for resistance. So if nothing else, I my Prayers, filled with my love and pain for you all, can add my share of spiritual strength to the struggle, which is not much. yet we all have to give what we can, and every little bit helps.

  22. @Veteran

    'those sticky little dudes with the amazing hairdo……’nuff said!!!'

    Can't help but helplessly agree with u on most of ur points.

  23. An emotional article. An article appealing to regain her loss. English good. But factually flawed and shallow analysis. And not informed of laws and constitution.

  24. Ms Naseem may well prove to be 'a voice calling out in the wilderness' but she knows as well as I do that it is fruitless to expect a saviour to appear from the Western governments unless, and until, someone finds vast reserves of oil in the Maldives. The West's 'interest' in democracy is in direct proportion to the amount of oil available for export from a country.

    As for those commentators who talk about journalistic standards in Azra's article, could they please note that this is a 'comment' piece and, as such, not subject to the same criteria as factual journalism?

  25. India is not supporting anni because he cheated india. they r exp;oiting Indians as slave .indians r trearing like animal there

  26. @Hakeem on Thu, 16th Feb 2012 12:04 AM.

    Dr. Azra, how she studied, who she is related to is immaterial.
    She has studied and she is doing what she see is right.
    She is using her freedom of expression.
    It is her right as a human being, and as a Maldivian it is her Constitution right!
    She does not have to bow down to what is unjust.
    My dear friend Hakeem; you need quick treatment.


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