Stop this nonsense, you can only push propaganda so far.
The people confronting the police on the streets of Male’ everyday are not ‘thugs’. They are people from all over Maldives, they are young they are old. They are rich, they are poor. They are pious, they are indifferent. They are liberal, they are conservative. They are educated, they are fishermen. They are students, they are teachers, husbands, wives. They all believe in one thing: their right to elect their leader as citizens of a democracy.
These are the people who are out on the streets, fighting with the police and kicking up a riot. Because their right to be governed democratically has been taken away from them.
Stop this nonsense about ‘what of the poor police’? There is a fundamental flaw in the argument that ‘they [police] are just ordinary people, too.’ Vast differences exist between a civilian and a policeman on duty. Police are trained to control their impulses, to withstand anger, to repel provocation, to use weapons. Ordinary people are not. The public pays the police not to hurt them but to protect them.
Within twenty four hours of the new regime’s assumption of power, people were being brutally beaten by the police. The force of their violence has been a constant presence since 8 February. It is a threat that hovers in the air, unspoken. Always present.
With every mass protest on the streets of Male’, the police have come down harder, their violence more ruthless. Using pepper-spray and tear-gas has become the norm. The police charge at people with all their might, and without warning shoot tear-gas canisters into the people. They have put one woman’s burugaa on fire, smashed the head open of another and choked plenty.
Stop this nonsense about using ‘minimum force’, there is nothing minimal about the force with which the police come at you. You only have to feel their batons pointed at you and hear the filth they shout at you to know the level of violent force aimed at you by these men in uniform. They come in hordes, they pepper-spray at random, often pausing to take people’s sun-glasses off before spraying them straight in the eye. They crack open skulls without hesitation.
There is wanton cruelty, gratuitous violence. And there is a feeling of ferocious rage emanating from them as they hunt people down. These are not police running after an out-of–control people, these are police charging into people with the intention of intimidating, hitting, hurting, violating. The police are seeking to break them in, make them docile and prime them to be subjects of a dictatorship.
Like in all situations of conflict, women have been heavily victimised and subjected to gender-based violence. Police have partially undressed women on the streets, revealing their flesh in ways that compromise their privacy and mock the Islamic modesty her buruga is meant to convey.
There have been reports of women’s breasts being violently molested, or specifically targeted for physical assault. Unarmed women have been handcuffed and dragged to the island of Dhoonidhoo and detained without charge. ‘Unity Government’ MPs, like Red Wave Saleem, pontificate on television equating the women protesting with ‘women working in brothels.’
Stop the nonsense about this being a democracy, it cannot be one with an authoritarian government in power.
There can be no democracy where senior officials are being purged from government because they belong to a particular political party. There cannot be a democracy where the president is publicly campaigning, using state funds, for a parliament contender that is not even a member of his own party. There is no democracy where the president uses military force to pave his path to the parliament; where the president can only travel within the country by clearing off all streets everyone except his supporters.
Most importantly, there cannot be a democracy where questions remain unanswered about how the first democratically elected government of the country came to an end.
Stop this nonsense about colour, about ‘MDP people’, about whether it is unladylike for women to shout on the streets. The choice Maldivians face today is much bigger, stark. Democracy or autocracy. If early elections are held, it may put the transition back on track back on track, but if we let this government continue in its campaign to legitimise itself until 2013, by hook or by crook, there would be no going back. It will be too late for democracy.
At the rate the new government is reversing all policies that released people from the system of patronage built over a thirty-year dictatorship, people will soon be caught yet again in the same shackles of abject dependency on the Dear Leader that kept us subservient for those three decades.
If people don’t want this to happen, we must join the struggle to ensure this robbery of our fundamental right to govern ourselves is not covered up through false legitimisation. We shouldn’t let political colour blind us to the truth: democracy is in danger in the Maldives. If we believe in it, we must fight for it.
If dictatorship is what you want, don’t do anything. If not, do something.
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