MDP calls for investigation into alleged unexplained wealth of PPM MP

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) branch in Haa Alif Dhidhoo has called for an investigation into the finances of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Abdul Latheef Mohamed over alleged unexplained wealth.

The ruling party lawmaker has has spent between MVR3 million (US$194,552) and MVR5 million (US$324,254) in the Dhidhoo constituency during the past year, the MDP claimed, but he does not have business interests or “any other legitimate [sources of] income” apart from the parliament.

An MP earns a monthly salary of MVR62,500 (US$4,050) in addition to a committee allowance of MVR20,000 (US$1,300).

Since winning the parliament seat in March last year, Latheef has funded an MVR100,000 (US$6,485) Quran competition, an MVR100,000 football tournament, and an MVR500,000 (US$32,425) music show in Dhidhoo with the Olympians band.

Latheef has also donated an MVR700,000 (US$45,395) laboratory machine to the Haa Alif atoll hospital, offered scholarships worth MVR2 million (US$129,701) for two constituents to study medicine overseas, and organised an MVR200,000 (US$12,970) Quran competition this Ramadan.

“As the above-mentioned expenses could not have been made from the one-year salary of a People’s Majlis member, many citizens of Dhidhoo have been asking the MDP Dhidhoo branch to find out how he is getting the money,” the party’s Dhidhoo branch said in a statement on Thursday.

The statement added that many Dhidhoo constituents allege that Latheef has amassed wealth through bribery and corruption.

The Dhidhoo branch called on the Anti-Corruption Commission, the auditor general’s office, and other relevant authorities to investigate Latheef’s finances.

The constitution requires MPs to submit “a statement of all property and monies owned by him, business interests and liabilities” annually to the parliament’s secretary general, but the financial statements are not publicly disclosed.

Latheef told Minivan News today that he did not wish to comment as he had “no interest” in the MDP Dhidhoo branch’s statement.

The MP previously told opposition-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV that allegations of corruption should be filed with the relevant state institutions.

Government, private, and foreign companies have provided assistance for charitable activities in Dhidhoo, he said.

The MDP meanwhile noted that both domestic and international organisations have expressed concern with bribery and illicit enrichment in Maldivian politics.

Last week, anti-corruption NGO Transparency Maldives called for the criminalisation of illicit enrichment and urged the government put in place a comprehensive framework for identifying and prosecuting cases.

The United Nations Convention Against Corruption – which the Maldives acceded to in 2007 – defines illicit enrichment as a “significant increase in the assets of a public official that he or she cannot reasonably explain in relation to his or lawful income.”

Ahead of last year’s parliamentary polls, Transparency Maldives also noted a lack of transparency in political and campaign financing.

“When political parties and individual candidates do not fully disclose where they get their money from, it is not clear who funds them, what their potential conflict of interests are, and, thereby allows vested interests to override public interest when elected as MPs,” the NGO observed.


Opposition calls for tourism minister asset freeze

The opposition coalition has called for the tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb to face an asset freeze and an investigation over allegations of corruption and bribery.

Defectors from the ruling coalition have in recent weeks accused Adeeb of a series of offences, including using rogue police officers to frame the former defence minister, employing gangs to harass opponents and buying gifts for the First Lady with ill-gotten money.

But Adeeb has dismissed the allegations as defamation. He denies giving first lady Fathimath Ibrahim a car, saying she bought it with her own money.

He was unavailable for further comment at the time of going to press.

Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla claimed Adeeb was in debt when he first assumed the tourism portfolio in 2012, but was now capable of distributing US$100,000 gifts such as a diamond ring for the first lady.

Addressing Adeeb at the opposition’s daily protest on Monday, Imran said: “You, more than all Maldivians, know you cannot buy all these gifts with your ministerial salary.”

He said individuals seeking an appointment with the tourism minister were asked to pay thousands of dollars, and alleged that Adeeb was taking millions of dollars under the table from investors interested in doing business in the Maldives.

Adeeb’s corruption will “very soon isolate you, make you destitute, without anyone to care for you,” Imran warned.

In response, Adeeb said in a tweet: “It’s funny that anyone who has uttered filth to President Nasheed & MDP in past, now need to shout my name to get MDP’s acceptance and support.”

The Adhaalath Party, which played a key role in president Mohamed Nasheed’s ouster in 2012, allied with his Maldivian Democratic Party after charges of smuggling weapons were brought against former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail on terrorism while Nazim was sentenced to 11 years in jail last week.

The Maldivians Against Brutality coalition – made up of Adhaalath, MDP, members of the Jumhooree Party (JP) and members of Nazim’s family – today alleged corruption by the government relating to a recent deal to build a new commercial port in the Malé area.

The opposition would not accept such deals, Sheikh Imran said.

MDP chairperson Ali Waheed said the party has conducted a study of the “economic crimes” involved in Thilafushi, and south central Faafu and Dhaalu atolls.

Supporting an asset freeze, MDP spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy said Adeeb had hijacked the state’s watchdog institutions to ensure they would not investigate his corruption.

Former auditor general Niyaz Ibrahim was sacked by the PPM after he released a damning report implicating Adeeb in US$6million of corrupt transactions, Fahmy noted.

In the report, Adeeb is accused of funneling money from state companies to a company owned by his family and pocketing money paid by an Italian investor for a resort lease.

In Niyaz’s stead, the PPM appointed a family member of an individual implicated along with Adeeb by the report.

Adeeb at the time dismissed the report as baseless and said Niyaz had been influenced by PPM MP Ahmed Nazim, who he claimed had a personal grudge against him, to write the report.

Nazim was sentenced to life in jail last week over corruption charges in a case dating from 2004.

Fahmy said the government had tied up the hands of judges, the prosecutor general and anti-corruption watchdog by awarding them discounted flats in a luxury apartment complex.

President of the Anti Corruption Commission Hassan Luthfee is now residing in the Rehendhi flats.

When asked if the ACC is investigating any cases involving the tourism minister, the body’s vice president Muaviz Rasheed said it does not comment on specific individuals.

The Auditor General’s Office was not responding to queries at the time of going to press.


Ruling party wins Alifushi by-election amid bribery claims

The  ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has won a council by-election in Raa atoll Alifushi amid accusations of vote-buying and a high-profile handout of air-conditioners to the local school.

PPM candidate Aminath Ali won 685 votes at the by-election held on Saturday, while Ali Hameed, the candidate from the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), received 490 votes of a total 1175 valid votes cast.

However, the MDP said it had not been a fair fight, as members of the PPM had donated air-conditioners and cash to the island school shortly before the vote. They also alleged that vote-buying had taken place.

The MP for Alifushi constituency, Mohamed “Bigey” Rasheed Hussein, told Minivan News: “PPM did not campaign. They bought votes and used tactics of anti-campaigning.”

A government delegation that included ministers and parliamentarians visited Alifushi two weeks before the by-election and handed MVR 10,000 from First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim to the island school, while presenting the donation of air-conditioners.

Asked about the air-con systems, Ahmed Nihan, leader of the PPM parliamentary group, said: “The ACs were gifts from Abdul Raheem Abdulla [vice president of the PPM].”

“Members giving out gifts is not intended for corruption or to influence the election,” he added.

Nihan said that MPs being socially involved and helping citizens did not constitute a reason to accuse them of corruption, and denied any connection with the vote.

The PPM’s election win in an opposition stronghold parliamentary constituency indicated the growing support for the government, despite the recent coalition between MDP and former PPM allies, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party and Jumhooree Party.

“This is a government win over the MDP, Adhaalath Party and the Jumhooree Party, over all opposition parties. We are very proud since we won this election at a time when all of these parties were on the island campaigning against us,” PPM deputy leader and tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb said.

A landmark study by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) found last year that more than one in three Maldivians were offered bribes for their votes or witnessed vote buying in the March 2014 parliamentary polls.

It said vote buying in the Maldives had assumed “alarming proportions”.

Accusations also surrounded a visit by Ahmed Sulaiman, president of the elections commission, to Alifushi, with the MDP claiming he was involved in door-to-door campaigning for the PPM.

According to, the elections commission said Sulaiman was at Alifushi on an official visit and that they had no knowledge of wrongdoing.

During the campaigns, the two parties traded blows over the unfulfilled promise of a sewerage system for the island, with PPM representatives blaming Rasheed, the MP, who voted against the overall government budget in parliament.

Rasheed said, however, that it was down to the government to fulfil its promise of a sewerage system. “They should work according to their word,” he said.

Rasheed said he did not believe vote-rigging could have taken place on by-election day, as observers from both parties were present at polling stations.

PPM president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was president of the Maldives for 30 years until 2008, congratulated the PPM candidate via Twitter, saing: “Warm congratulations PPM candidate Aminath Ali on a resounding victory in Alifushi council by-election today.”

The councillor’s position on Alifushi became vacant when Abdul Latheef Abdul Raheem, also with the PPM, resigned.

PPM will be holding a firework display, its customary celebration, on Alifushi tonight.


MDP accuses government-aligned parties of corruption and bribery in Majlis election

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has condemned alleged attempts by government-aligned parties to influence voting in the recently held parliamentary elections through coercion and threats.

“The MDP expresses concern and strongly condemns the actions of government-aligned political persons to buy votes, threaten people with losing their jobs, and instruct some voters to make a special marking on ballot papers – thereby compromising the confidentiality of votes cast,” a party statement read.

The party’s allegations are said to be based on what it calls “valid complaints” it has been receiving – actions it beleives constitutes corruption and bribery.

“Furthermore, it is also a breach of law to coerce the revealing of confidential votes, and to act upon such coercion,” the statement continued.

The MDP accused the ruling parties of threatening that individuals would lose their jobs, and requiring these people to specially mark their ballot paper in order for observers and party representatives to see how the vote was cast.

“The recently completed parliamentary elections is one which many citizens claim – and has been proven – to have been tainted by corruption, threats against job security, compromising of the Elections Commissions independence and legal mandate, large amounts of dirty money being used as bribery, and vast cases of vote buying.

The MDP will therefore further investigate these claims and take possible action against them. We further call on the Elections Commission and and other relevant state authorities to look into the matter,” the statement concluded.

The parliamentary elections held on March 22nd were observed by local NGO Transparency Maldives, as well as delegations from the European Union and the Commonwealth.

Following the conclusion of the election, Transparency Maldives stated that while it was well-administered and transparent, “wider issues of money politics threatens to hijack the democratic process”.

As well as previous suggestions of undue influence from the MDP, the Adhaalath Party has also blamed its poor showing on bribery and coercion – accusing both sides of such practices.

“We saw it both from the ruling party and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party but we really did not want to buy votes –  instead we tried to change the way people think,’’ party Spokesperson Ali Zahir told Minivan News last week.

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives MP Ahmed Nihan and President’s Office Spokersperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali were not responding to calls at the time of press.


Majlis elections: “Money politics threatens to hijack democratic process”, says Transparency Maldives

Yesterday’s parliamentary elections were well-administered and transparent “but wider issues of money politics threatens to hijack [the] democratic process,” NGO Transparency Maldives (TM) has said in its preliminary statement on the Majlis polls.

TM revealed that a survey conducted prior to last year’s presidential election showed that 15 percent of respondents had been offered “money or other incentives” in exchange for their vote.

“Admissions about illegal activities such as this are usually underreported in surveys. TM’s long-term observation indicates that vote buying may be even more widespread in the parliamentary elections than other elections,” the statement read.

“Inability of state institutions to prosecute vote buying due to gaps in the electoral legal framework, lack of coordination, and buck-passing between the relevant institutions have allowed rampant vote buying to go unchecked.”

The NGO recommended that vote buying should be monitored, investigated and prosecuted “through implementation of the existing legal provisions” in addition to parliament considering “urgent reforms to the laws to better address the issue.”

While voting was ongoing yesterday, police arrested an individual near a polling station for allegedly distributing cash.

Police also revealed two days before the polls that it was increasingly receiving reports of vote buying.

Cash and gifts were allegedly being handed out on behalf of candidates for parliament, police said.

Meanwhile, speaking at a press conference today, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb – deputy leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives – categorically denied allegations that candidates representing the Progressive Coalition bought votes.

Coalition supporters have submitted complaints “with photo and video as proof” to the Elections Commission (EC) about the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party distributing cash for votes, Adeeb alleged.

Campaign finance reform

TM also noted a lack of transparency in political and campaign financing ahead of elections, which was exacerbated by “deep flaws in the standards, practices and poor oversight”.

“When political parties and individual candidates do not fully disclose where they get their money from, it is not clear who funds them, what their potential conflict of interests are, and, thereby allows vested interests to override public interest when elected as MPs,” TM observed.

It added that Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer surveys for the Maldives “continue to indicate a crisis of public trust in the parliament.”

“Increasing campaign financing transparency in parliamentary elections is crucial to hold parliamentarians to account, in order to prevent the hijack of the institution by vested interests and regain public trust in the parliament,” the statement read.

In addition to identifying and addressing “the gaps in the electoral legal framework,” the NGO recommended “implementation of existing provisions to facilitate public scrutiny, ensure periodic reporting and an effective oversight mechanism for political finance.”

Among other issues that the NGO highlighted included the abuse of state resources “by successive regimes,” which allows campaigning on public funds, and lack of effective longterm voter and civic education.

TM also noted “uncertainties arising from the role of the judiciary in elections,” suggesting that the 16-point guideline imposed on the EC by the Supreme Court last year did not “improve upon the technical aspects of the election”.


TM observed that yesterday’s polls were peaceful, transparent and generally well-administered “with just one reported incident of violence inside a polling station.”

Among the NGO’s key findings from its observation of the voting process, TM noted that 83.52 percent of polling stations closed within the first hour of the normal closing time of 4:00pm and that the eligible voter registry was “overall very clean, with a very few cases where people were not able to vote because their names were not on the voter registry or their details did not match.”

Candidates from the opposition MDP were represented at 89.4 percent of polling stations and coalition parties at 88.8 percent, the statement noted.

“Unresolved disputes were reported at only 5.3 percent ballot boxes at the time of announcing results,” it added.

TM noted that voting was temporarily halted in 2.4 percent of polling stations, of which 75 percent were “interventions at the direction of the Presiding Officer while 25 percent were interventions by an unruly voter.”

“We note that the police entered 12.35 percent of polling stations. However, in 100 percent of such cases, interventions occurred at the invitation of the Presiding Officer as the rules allow.”

Meanwhile, according to the EC, a total of 115 complaints were submitted in writing to the national complaints bureau, including 18 concerning the voter registry and 33 complaints regarding negative campaigning, behaviour of election officials, and campaigning during polling hours.

In addition, 59 complaints were made via telephone, EC member Ali Mohamed Manik revealed at a press conference last night.

Manik explained that the complaints would be addressed before preliminary results are announced today.


Chief Justice Faiz previously alleged bribery in interim Supreme Court: Nasheed

Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz alleged in 2010 that judges on the interim Supreme Court “openly accepted bribes”, advising then-President Mohamed Nasheed to “bring the interim court to a halt,” Nasheed has claimed at a campaign rally in Male’ last night.

In 2010, then-interim Supreme Court Justice Faiz requested an audience with the president, Nasheed explained, noting that it was the first time he had met with a sitting judge.

“Faiz came and said the judges on the interim Supreme Court were openly accepting bribes and that Faiz knew of it,” Nasheed said.

He named the judges who were accepting bribes, Nasheed added.

“Faiz told me that the work that went on in the interim Supreme Court was not establishing justice but buying and selling. He said the court must be brought to a halt,” he continued.

Faiz advised the president that he was obliged to rein in the interim court, Nasheed said.

Interim bench

Nasheed referred to the five-member interim Supreme Court – headed by interim Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed – declaring that it was permanent ahead of the constitutional deadline for the interim period on August 7, 2010.

Apart from Faiz, the interim bench sworn in on September 18, 2008 consisted of Justice Abdulla Saeed, Justice Mujthaz Fahmy, Justice Abdulla Areef, and Justice Yousuf Hussain.

Nasheed noted that the then-ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) did not have a majority in the People’s Majlis, through which the permanent Supreme Court was to be instituted.

Referring to Justice Ali Hameed’s sex tape scandal, the former president revealed that his first seven nominees to the apex court did not include “disgraced judges.”

The original candidates included sitting MPs and a relative of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, he added.

Nasheed alleged that Jumhooree Party Leader Gasim Ibrahim offered an unlimited amount of money to MDP parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in exchange for confirming Ali Hameed to the Supreme Court bench.

On August 7, 2010, when the constitutional interim period expired, President Nasheed ordered the military to confiscate the keys of the Supreme Court after the interim court declared itself permanent.

Three days later, parliament hastily passed the Judges Act and approved Nasheed’s nominees to the new Supreme Court bench in a deal reached with the then-opposition parties who controlled parliament.

The president’s member on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), Aishath Velezinee, described Faiz at the time as “a well-respected man amongst the judges. I have never heard anybody question his independence or impartiality. He is a learned man and amongst all the politicking and hanky-panky going on, he has maintained his integrity.”

Nasheed meanwhile went on to severely criticise Faiz for issuing a harshly worded statement condemning international partners who expressed concern with the Supreme Court’s controversial removal of the Elections Commission’s chair and deputy chair.

The Supreme Court was “destroying the future of generations to come,” he said.


ACC to probe Civil Court Judge bribe claim

Read this article in Dhivehi

The Anti- Corruption Commission (ACC) is to launch an investigation into a Civil Court judge’s claim that she was offered a US$5 million bribe.

Speaking on Maldives Broadcasting Corporation’s (MBC) Friday afternoon show ‘Heyyambo’ Judge Aisha Shujoon Mohamed said there was some truth to the belief judges accepted bribes in the Maldives, revealing that she had been offered a US$5 million bribe herself.

“I became angry and shouted at them. Then they left,” she said.

Speaking to Minivan News, ACC President Hassan Luthfy said the ACC had decided to launch an investigation as Article 4 of the Anti Corruption Act requires the penalisation of anyone offering bribes to judges. Any individual convicted faces a 10-year jail term.

Luthfy said that judges must inform the ACC of bribe attempts immediately and that keeping such a case hidden is in itself a crime.

“Concealing bribe attempts is an offense, even by the code of conduct for judges. It is an offense not to inform this commission,” Luthfy said.

According to a study conducted by governance NGO Transparency Maldives in December, the judiciary is perceived to be among the most corrupt institutions in the country.

Approximately 55 percent of those surveyed believed the judiciary to be most corrupt, while 60 percent and 57 percent believed the parliament and political parties to be most corrupt, respectively.


Speaking on ‘Heyyambo’, Shujoon said she could not say whether judges had or had not accepted bribes, but that it may happen given the salaries allocated to judges.

“It [bribes] can be very appealing if its sets you up for life, given our pay and the amount of work we have to do. So I cannot say there is no truth to that. That is because something like that happened to me,” she said.

There will always be individuals who are unhappy with verdicts, but judges can only decide on what is presented in the courtroom, Shujoon said.

“Verdicts are delivered on what is presented. Sometimes I wonder if I have truly delivered justice. But that is the way it is in front of the law and in front of me,” she said.

Shujoon is among the first female judges in the country. She said she had accepted her appointment in 2007 to prove women too can serve in the judiciary.

Shujoon further revealed that she considers her purpose fulfilled and is now deliberating on retiring from the judiciary.

The UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, in March 2013 expressed concern over the gap in equal representation of women in the judiciary, stating that the country’s eight female judges had “reached their positions through sheer determination and dedication since there is no policy or strategy to increase women’s representation on the bench.”


JSC discusses probing bribery allegations against two judges by former Adhaalath Party President

Members of the state’s judiciary watchdog the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) have discussed probing allegations of bribery levied against two sitting judges by former President of the Adhaalath Party, Sheikh Hussain Rasheed.

During an opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally held last Thursday, Sheikh Rasheed said that last year he had met a Maldivian businessman in Saudi Arabia who had alleged to him that two Maldivian judges had accepted a sum of MVR 12.3 million (US$ 797,148.41).

A JSC spokesperson told Minivan News that after the allegations were made public, members of the commission had discussed an investigation.

“The matter was discussed during the last JSC meeting,” the spokesperson said. Asked whether a decision was reached, he replied “there were many items on the agenda.”

Rasheed alleged the businessman had paid one judge a sum of US$700,000 while other was paid US$50,000 on two different occasions.

The businessman gave the money to prevent his rights being harmed by the other party in the case, whom he alleged had also bribed the judges, Rasheed said.

Rasheed was not available for a comment when contacted.

President of the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) Hassan Luthfee said he had also heard of Rasheed’s allegations and would giving the matter a high priority.

“The ACC will for sure look into any cases of corruption, regardless of whom it involves. We too have heard of the allegations through the media. We will in the coming days look into this,” he said.

Luthfee said there were no legal barriers to the ACC’s investigation of judicial misconduct, and that the ACC had the jurisdiction to look into any corruption matter even if it involved judges.

“The case will officially be investigated by the ACC,” he said.

Former President’s Member on the JSC, Aishath Velezinee in her book The Failed Silent Coup: in Defeat They Reached for the Gun extensively highlighted the watchdog body’s undermining of judicial independence, and complicity in sabotaging the separation of powers.

In her book, she recounted her experience as the outspoken whistleblower as she attempted to stop the commission from re-appointing unqualified and ethically-suspect judges loyal to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, after it dismissed the professional and ethical standards demanded by Article 285 of the constitution as “symbolic”.

That moment at the conclusion of the constitutional interim period marked the collapse of the new constitution and resulted in the appointment of a illegitimate judiciary, Velezinee contended, and set in motion a chain of events that ultimately led to President Mohamed Nasheed’s arrest of Chief Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed two years later.

Current Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed – himself a former judge and Justice Minister – has admitted the quality of services delivered by the judiciary remains disappointingly gloomy while writing in an op-ed article in Haveeru.

“Our judiciary has some bright minds, but that does not exempt it from scrutiny; the judiciary in the Maldives, with the exception of few courts and judges, the judiciary as a whole has earned a deservedly bad reputation for its inconsistent judgments, lack of leadership, lack of competency and being out of touch with modern laws and views of the society,” he wrote.

In 2004, a report by judicial expert Professor Paul Robinson assessed the country’s criminal justice system, and found in his report that “serious efforts” were required to increase the quality of judges.

“Serious efforts must be made to provide substantial training to current judges in order to ensure that all have the background they need in both law and Shari’a. Perhaps more importantly, no judge should be hired who does not already have the needed training,” he wrote.


Letter on freedom and the Maldives

Dear Maldives,

I would like to share my story with you guys, to reflect on the prospect of freedom in the Malsdives.

In July 2001, as a student of Humanities at Curtin University in Western Australia, I met, fell in love with and married a Maldivian woman, an ‘overseas student’ from my Political Sciences class.

Due to certain painful complications, although pregnant with my first ever child, the Australian government was threatening to send my wife back to the Maldives.

Preparing myself to live and work in the Maldives to be with my wife and baby, I looked up the Maldives on the net. I wanted to learn something about the ‘culture’ of the Maldives so that I had an idea of how to go about fitting in.

Guess what came up.

The Maldives Culture website and its terrifying tales of a nation run by a murderous dictator who brutally imposed a rigid, mental strait jacket on his people through the control of the religious thought of his people enraged me.

Images of murder and torture imposed on any who dared to think with their own minds, or exercise an ounce of independent thought, religious free thinking or existential creativity caused me to tremble with indignation that a people could be so repressed. I felt this with a particularly fierce intensity seems I have always deeply cherished creative religious thought. My own background involved personal rebellion against the church I had been brought up in, so I was an individualistic oddball even by post-modern western standards, you might say.

Yet, still believing that for love, the sacrifice of self was noble, I decided I would be conformed to whatever I had to be to make sure I could be with my wife and child-to-be. I would allow this Maumoon to control my mind if it meant I was given a visa to be with my family in the Maldives, as it seemed at that stage they had to go back to Maldives. I felt I had no choice.

The next set of complications started when it became difficult to get our marriage registered in the Maldives. Although one particularly kind Maldivian gentleman tried hard to submit our marriage registration papers to Maldivian authorities and get our marriage validated so that I could get a visa, we kept on getting feedback such as, how can I prove my conversion to Islam was not just for marriage purposes? I received letters from the Imam to verify my revert status, certificates, yet the Maldivian Government still was not satisfied that I was genuine.

I began to panic.

I had nightmares of my wife being whipped for adultery and my son being brought up as a half-caste, illegitimate, ostracised nobody in the Maldives, a “bastard’ to use the term in its technical sense. I was told that this was a particularly grave shame in the Maldives. My hatred of Maumoon, who I believed would do this to my family, my fear of him became so intense, that I nearly had a nervous breakdown.

For the sake of my wife’s health, I put on a brave face as though nothing was wrong. When my son was finally born, my wife fell unconscious. I held my newborn baby son in my arms, loving him, so protective. Not knowing if I would keep him or lose him, I clung to him like a desperate madman. In front of everyone, I broke down and wept all over him, I loved him so much; I could not hold my pain inside me any longer. He was so beautiful, and here was I, his Daddy, who loved him so much, yet felt so completely helpless and afraid, so utterly powerless, and the grief was tearing my soul apart.

It took another six difficult years to have this issue resolved. I was in hell, not knowing whether Australian immigration or Maldivian immigration were going to come through. These were years of panic and immense stress. In that time, we had another child, and my interest in Maldivian politics became deep and personal.

The problem became harder when Abdullah Yameen Abdul-Gayoom came to Perth for a week to settle his son into studies. Trying all I could to get things done in the Maldives, I met up with him and tried to patronise him to use him to get some help for me. Sadly, that plan backfired on me viciously.

During these years, I found myself inspired and encouraged by reading about one particularly brave hero, Mohammed ‘Anni’ Nasheed, and the sufferings and the torture he went through fighting a non-violent struggle against this ruthless dictator Maumoon. This Nasheed character was embedded into my imagination as the archetype of courage, freedom, strength, justice, compassion and liberty.

Though I had never met him, he became something like a cult figure to me. I believed that he was suffering so that all oppressed Maldivians could be free. I believed that he was suffering for me. In my confused, anxious, distressed mind, I felt a deep spiritual bond with this guy, although, at that time he would not have known that I even existed.

Just as the endurance, the non-violence and the suffering of Mohammed Nasheed became the hope of oppressed Maldivians, he became my hope as well.

When my issue was finally resolved, I went to the Maldives for three months. The first thing I did was march into the MDP office wishing to offer my support. Anni and a host of other high profile MDP characters were there as there was some important MDP conference coming up. It was about a year before Anni became President. So I met Anni, and the most embarrassing thing happened. All my stress and anger at Maumoon and Yameen flew out of my mouth in that second. I exploded with rage, sadness, I was trembling. Years of pent up pressure, fear, confusion and anger was released onto Anni. I have no doubt he thought I was a total mad man, and he would have been right. Before I could explain myself to him calmly and plainly, I was whisked out of that MDP office as I had a sea plane to catch. Though I tried desperately hard to meet with Anni again to explain myself clearly, it was never meant to be.

Although my hero ‘Anni’ no doubt remembers me as a mad man, to this day, I still revere him for the sacrifices he made to oust a dictator.

This is why it is so hard for me to mentally digest it if it seems that Anni may have been involved in shady deals (bribing MP’s for example) even if they were deals done in desperation to secure the common good of the Maldives. My education and rational mind tells me, Ben, you know what politics is, don’t be so damned naïve. My rational mind is screaming, you know the way that reality works Ben, get the hell over it, power corrupts, and the path to power is corrupt.

My rational mind knows that the MDP is not entirely a bunch of humanitarian martyrs. I know that MDP has the support of both the liberal thinkers and the previously disgruntled businessmen whose motives may not be national interest. Yet my imagination, my creative mind says NO, not Anni, not he, my hero. It hurts me to digest the truth, but, I am a man, so I am digesting the truth, as unsettling as it is. I went through this same painful loss of faith when I left my church, and I am doing it again. I will be less naïve with my comments from now on.

However, if ever I met Anni again, I would like to remind him, that he is still the hope of many Maldivians for freedom and justice.

President Mohammed Anni Nasheed, I would like to remind you, that for many painful years, you were the hope of the freedom of the people of the Maldives. Your people were lead to believe, through Sandhaanu, through the Maldives Culture website, through Dhivehi Observer website and through Minivan Daily and later through Minivan News, that you would free the people of the Maldives from fear.

This includes the freedom from the fear of being used by corrupt politicians, freedom from the fear of gangsters, freedom from the fear of homelessness, freedom from the fear of hunger and want, freedom from the fear of mind control, and freedom from the fear of the loss of freedom of speech.

For the liberties that you have already given, I am deeply grateful, thank you very much. I am appreciative for all that you have done, and I am sure many of your people are as well.

Again, thank you.

But please keep in mind dear President, that many Maldivians still live in a state of fear, and that it seems that when you made the people believe there would be no more fear of the type they experience, you still have a lot of work to do to fulfill what you have allowed people to believe you would do.

It is less painful to have not hoped, than to have hoped and to have been disappointed, dear President. It seems you have been the source of that hope, you will also be targeted as the source of the pain should the people’s hopes remain unfulfilled. I am sure that you are aware of what that means. You will be punished by the electorate, and in how you will go down in memory, if the hopes of the people are betrayed.

So please, from now on, do everything in your power, to realise your people’s hope, dear President. Put all unnecessary things aside; waste no money on non-essentials, and just GO FOR IT!

Despite the recent disappointments, we still believe in you. Our love and our prayers will help you.

Your Sincerely,

Ben Plewright

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