Comment: Our future is bleak

This article is by Sighpad Mohamed, who writes the the blog

Vote a government in. Give them a year of two. Take to the streets. Mount pressure, topple the elected leader and change the government. Rinse and repeat as needed. Maldivians seem to have taken to this formula like a duck to water. This has to stop.

When former president Mohamed Nasheed was ousted in a coup d’état on February 7, 2012, he warned of more unlawful changes of the government in the Maldives’ future. Take in to account the events of May Day’s mass antigovernment protest #EkehFaheh15.

President Abdulla Yameen denied he was under any pressure, but the record number of press conferences he appeared in and tweets by officials indicate otherwise. The government was indeed jittery. But president Yameen’s disregard for the people was blatant when he appointed his tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb as his representative for negotiations, when the opposition had accused Adeeb of corruption and had called for his resignation.

Despite intimidation and harassment, tens of thousands of people took to the streets on May Day in the largest antigovernment protest in a decade. Protesters hoped president Yameen would relent. But the police cracked down brutally and hundreds were arrested and injured. It was clear the police were targeting vocal social media critics with the arrest of Yameen Rasheed, Waddey and Hamid Shafeeu. But unlike February 7, 2012, the government remained unchanged, and the ruling party held fireworks the next day to celebrate its “victory.”

Maldivian history is rife with examples of coup d’états, and they will continue unless the elected governments listen to its citizens’ concerns, and work for their development, not for the benefit of a handful of loyalists.

I do not support coups, but when the commonwealth backed commission that investigated president Nasheed’s ouster in 2008 ruled the transfer of power legal, despite a police and military mutiny, it has opened the doors for citizens to once again resort to the same means to topple a government. But deep in our hearts, we know this is not right. The power lies with the people who cast their votes to elect a leader for five years, not one, two or even four, but five. Let us not forget that. But the elected government must not forget they are elected to do right by the people. Not to fulfill their own agenda by pocketing the taxpayer’s money. And if the government does not rectify its mistakes, there will be more coup d’états.

Prior to 2008, Maldives weathered through 30 tough years of torture and fear, where individuals who simply expressed the desire to see a different president were jailed and tortured. They came out from jail only as a shell of the person they had been. I weep over the many accounts of torture that remain untold to this day, of the various ways former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s regime ruined the lives of many families by rendering their loved ones incapable of taking care of their personal needs after being “reprogrammed” at the infamous Dhoonidhoo jail.

But Maldivians rose up and they embarked on a nonviolent struggle. It was not easy, but we persevered.

Little now remains of the democratic changes we fought so hard for. The government is out to silence all dissent. With all the leaders of the opposition now behind bars, the Maldives is on the verge of becoming the next Egypt, where a revolution was undermined and a former general continues to consolidate his power by massacring his people and jailing all of his opponents.

The fear and intimidation we thought were a thing of the past is now back. Ruling party MP Ahmed Nihan has threatened to dismiss opposition supporters from civil service jobs, and urged the government to cancel the licenses of the scores of boats that had carried thousands of islanders to Malé for the protest. I for one, have a foreboding feeling that we are once again headed towards the era where Maldivians huddled in fear at every second of every day.

The Maldivian government is adamant that its foreign policy reflects its domestic tyranny, and that’s exactly what’s being conveyed through the diplomatic channels. But the single flickering light at the end of this dark tunnel is the international community and its sanctions.

President Nasheed calls for perseverance from his jail cell, where he is to spend the next 13 years of his life, all because he fought for dignity and equality for the people of the Maldives. My wish for the Maldives and my people is simple, one that aligns with the vision that president Nasheed has for this country. That we be a prosperous nation, a just and able society, one in which the government serves all of its people, regardless of their political ideology, and one where the government listens to our concerns without declaring war on us when we oppose the government.

Our future is bleak. The people continue to struggle, they continue to raise their voices, despite the fact the government celebrates the brutalizing and jailing of hundreds with fireworks. But if this tyranny continues, a civil war is not far off. The scars of the 2012 coup may have scabbed over, but the wounds are deep, festering with hatred, resentment and a deep disillusionment with a justice system that continues to fail us. Only time alone can tell if those of us, who are fighting for human rights, justice and democracy will emerge victorious, or whether we will be browbeaten to embrace a culture of corruption, nepotism, injustice and brutality for years to come.

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]


President thanks soldiers who fought for Maldives’ sovereignty on Victory Day

President Abdulla Yameen has extended his gratitude to soldiers and members of the public who have fought for the sovereignty of the country on the occasion of Victory Day.

The holiday is celebrated annually on November 3 to commemorate the failed coup by Maldivian political dissidents and Tamil mercenaries in 1988.

“The President said that the key to victory in the November 3rd terrorist attack was unity and harmony among the Maldivian people,” read a statement from the President’s Office.

President Yameen urged Maldivians to foster the spirit of cooperation and to defend the nation’s independence and sovereignty against enemies within who would seek to allow outside forces to influence the nation.

He also called upon Maldivians to stay away from irreligious activities and “disruptive” influences.

The attempted ousting of then President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – President Yameen’ half brother – 26 years ago was repelled with a combined effort from the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) and Indian troops.

November 3, 1988

The attempt to overthrow Gayoom’s then-ten year regime was formulated in Sri Lanka by two Maldivians – Abdulla Luthfee and Sikka Ahmed Ismail Manik – who requested assistance from Tamil secessionist organisation the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE).

PLOTE reportedly provided the Maldivians with a raiding team of 80 mercenaries with which they sailed to the Maldives in sea trawlers, arriving in the capital Malé in the early morning hours of November 3, 1998.

After securing Hulhulé airport with little to no opposition, the rebels landed in Malé in front of MNDF headquarters where they met heavy resistance from Corporal Hussain Adam, a young officer who was guarding the main gate that morning.

Corporal Hussain Adam died from multiple gunshot wounds in a small guard post on the side of the gate from where he laid defensive fire, weakening the offensive until he ran out bullets. Corporal Adam died after calling out for more bullets so he could lay covering fire in order to enter the safety of the headquarters.

Meanwhile, President Maumoon requested assistance from numerous countries – including India, the UK and the USA – after having himself escaped a group of rebels sent to capture him. India was the quickest to respond to the distress call, deploying 1500 paratroopers to the Maldives.

The rebels quickly fell into disarray after the resistance from the MNDF gate and began looking for ways to escape the island. They eventually seized the vessel, MV Progress Light and started sailing towards Java before changing course towards Sri Lanka. They took with them a group of hostages, including the transport minister and his wife.

Progress Light was soon intercepted by Indian Navy vessels INS Godhavari and INS Betwa. After some resistance – including the murder of 5 hostages to discourage the strong offensive from the Indian Navy vessels – the rebels surrendered after their vessel sustained irreversible damage.

Prosecution and disappearance of Luthfee

Luthfee, along with the other Maldivians involved, was captured by the Indian Navy and handed over to the Maldivian Government who charged them with terrorism and sentenced them to death. The sentence was later amended after pressure from the Indian Government, with those charged receiving life imprisonment instead.

In 2010, however, Luthfee disappeared while in India for medical reasons. The home minister at the time, Mohamed Fayaz, told Minivan News that Luthfee was authorised to go to India in 2009 and was supposed to return by January 2010.

The Progressive Party of the Maldives, headed by former President Gayoom, accused then President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration of setting Luthfee free.

Current Home Minister Umar Naseer today expressed his confidence in finding Luthfee, suggesting that he was currently residing in Sri Lanka under a false identity.

“What happens is it’s different to hunt him down because it’s a foreign country. Our police officers have to go there and work. As far as I know, Luthfy was last seen in Lanka,” said Umar.

The Maldives Police Service has previously placed a bounty of MVR75,000 (US$4,870) on Luthfee’s head – to be given to anyone who aids the police in finding him.

In a testimony made public today by Haveeru, Luthfee accused the Senior Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry at the time of the 1988 coup attempt, Ibrahim Hussein Zaki, of having prior knowledge of the attacks and of providing information of Gayoom’s travel schedule.

Zaki – also special envoy to President Nasheed – has denied the allegations, stating that he did not have any prior knowledge of the attacks and that he would hand himself to authorities for imprisonment if proven otherwise.


Settling disputes – The Weekly Review

June 14th – 20th

The government’s legal and political tussles grabbed headlines this week, with past, present, and future disputes all making the news.

This week’s biggest story came courtesy of spurned Indian infrastructure giant GMR, who revealed a Singapore arbitration court had deemed their terminated airport development deal “valid and binding”.

Being requested to pay US$4 million in procedural costs while the court determines the amount owed to GMR, the government interpreted the outcome as a success, predicting that the damages owed would be far less than the US$1.4 billion sought.

After the issue of a warrant to enforce the appearance of Home Minister Umar Naseer at his disobedience to order trial, the minister appeared at the Criminal Court of his own volition upon his return from his official trip to Europe.

Naseer promptly refused to cooperate with the trial until his procedural objection – already rejected by the judge – had been appealed.

The government’s disputes in the political arena also continued this week, with ejected coalition partner, the Jumhooree Party (JP), striking a conciliatory tone after the recent break-up.

The JP maintained that the coalition agreement had not been breached, while the party continued to haemorrhage members to its former ally the Progressive Party of Maldives – the economic development minister and two more MPs being the latest to switch allegiance.

The Progressive Coalition’s fast-growing majority in the Majlis resulted in what the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) interpreted as excessive representation in the Majlis’ standing committees, leading to the cancellation of sittings and threat of street action.

While taking pains to distance his party from such maneouvres, MDP leader Mohamed Nasheed suggested President Abdulla Yameen’s fate would likely be the same as his – predicting his eventual removal in a future coup.

Brigadier General Ahmed Nilam this week submitted a case to the Human Rights Commision, suggesting his suspension and subsequent dismissal were linked to the events of Nasheed’s chaotic departure from office in February 2012.

The second UNDP Human Development Index report raised questions as to how equitably economic growth was being distributed, with research revealing glaring disparities opening up between progress in the capital and the atolls.

Phase two of expansion of Malé’s suburbs continued regardless, with a US$50 million dredging contract awarded to a Belgian company for phase two of the Hulhumalé expansion project.

Despite expressing continued reservations about the Maldives’ public account imbalances, the World Bank this week anticipated continued development of the economy with 4.5 percent GDP growth predicted.

Meanwhile, Hope for Women this week predicted unwelcome growth in the workload of female civil servants during Ramadan after the alteration of working hours for the month of fasting.

The World Cup in Brazil – for which the government has already allowed extended trading hours – was suggested as a possible reason for the adjusted working times, though the President’s Office maintained that the change was intended to facilitate late night prayers.

This week also saw the Islamic Ministry hold a closed conference with scholars to discuss reports of Maldivian jihadis journeying to Syria, while Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon called on the Umma to assess the persistent association with terrorism and intolerance.


“President Yameen’s administration will fall in a coup,” says Nasheed

The presidential system of government in the Maldives is unstable and will result in more coup d’états, former President and opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed has said.

“The presidential system in the Maldives has not brought about a secure government. There is no doubt of coups in the Maldives. President [Abdulla] Yameen’s administration will fall in a coup. It will be overthrown,” he told Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters at a rally in Malé on Sunday.

Nasheed, the first democratically elected leader in the Maldives, claims he was ousted in a coup just three years into his term in February 2012.

However, a Commonwealth backed Commission of National Inquiry  (CONI) called the transfer of power “legal and constitutional.”

The MDP subsequently expressed concern over the exclusion of key security personnel testimony while legal experts accused CONI of selectively gathering and acting upon evidence.

Nasheed said he was not suggesting the MDP would carry out the coup, but that those in power should not rule out a coup given the legitimisation of the February 2012 change of power and the Supreme Court’s silence on the matter.

“I am not by any means suggesting we will carry out a coup. The legitimate means of changing regimes has been demonstrated in 2012. The Supreme Court has demonstrated how to interpret the constitution. With that legitimacy, both ourselves and those in power, we should not rule out the possibility that another group may overthrow the government,” he said.

Nasheed once again proposed amending the constitution of the Maldives to a parliamentary system of government, especially in the aftermath of the dissolution of the ruling coalition.

Yameen’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) came to power with the backing of third placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim in November’s presidential polls.

Gasim had won 23.35 percent of the vote in the first round of presidential polls last year, and his eventual backing was crucial for the PPM’s win in the second round.

The PPM had gained 29.72 percent of the vote in the first round and narrowly won the election against Nasheed with 51.39 percent.

Gasim’s Jumhooree Party (JP) support was contingent on a 35 percent stake in government and a pledge to jointly contest March parliamentary polls.

The coalition fell apart in a dispute over which party should control the Majlis speaker position. Gasim narrowly lost the vote to PPM’s Abdulla Maseeh.

Nasheed himself required the backing of the JP and a number of smaller parties to win the presidential election of 2008. The coalition led by Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) also fell apart shortly after Nasheed assumed power.

Speaking to private broadcaster Raajje TV in May, Nasheed said he would work through the new parliament to amend the constitution and facilitate a transition to a parliamentary system.

“It is time for the system of governance in Maldives to be changed into a parliamentary system. When we move to a parliamentary system there won’t be any need to have a cabinet,” said Nasheed.

“The cabinet is very costly, we can cut down that as well [by moving to a parliamentary system]. What I want to say to President Maumoon is to think about how the Maldives has been governed in the past and what happened during the drafting of the constitution,” he was quoted as saying.

Speaking to Minivan News in February, Nasheed said: “Coalitions work in parliamentary systems where you can actually have ministers coming out from the parliament and therefore it’s possible to come to an arrangement. But when the cabinet is not in the parliament, an alliance doesn’t necessarily work.”

“The shuffling or the portions given to different parties are given from the cabinet, and the cabinet is a very superficial layer on the government. The actual essence is the parliament where you make the laws.”

Nasheed had raised the same issue during his presidency in July 2010 in response to difficulties in governance. At the time, Nasheed’s MDP controlled a minority in parliament while the then-opposition opposed and blocked several flagship laws.


Ministry of Foreign Affairs issues Thailand travel warning to Maldivians

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has alerted Maldivian citizens of the potential risks of travel to Thailand, particularly Bangkok, due to ongoing political and social unrest.

A statement released by the Ministry yesterday (May 24) explains that Maldivians should take extra care due to the Royal Thai army seizing power on May 22.

“The situation may evolve quite rapidly”, the statement warned. “Maldivian citizens are cautioned to avoid protest sites, demonstrations, and large gatherings.  Foreigners who join the anti-government protests face risk of deportation.”

“Be alert and aware of your surroundings and pay attention to local news media reports. You should allow extra time when travelling throughout the city or to/from airports.  Consider using public transportation.”

The statement goes on to advise all Maldivians travelling to Thailand to take all necessary precautions for personal safety, and purchase comprehensive travel and medical insurance.

In addition, the Ministry asks Maldivians who are in need of consular assistance while in Bangkok to contact the consulate-general of the Maldives or the Maldives’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On May 20, the Royal Thai Army imposed martial law in Thailand, giving the military expanded authority to take action it deems necessary to enforce law and order.

Furthermore, the army have announced an overnight curfew during 10pm – 5am local time.


Malé City Council to bring back 24 hour shops and cafes

Malé City Council has decided to bring back the 24 hour service at cafes and shops, seventeen months after it was banned by Dr Mohamed Waheed’s government.

The proposition was passed unanimously by nine members present at yesterday’s council meeting (March 18), though the government has suggested that it does not have the authority to make such decisions.

Councilman Shamau Shareef said that the council decision came in response to a number of request from Malé City residents.

“This is what the people want. The former government discontinued the permissions to operate such places citing criminal activity and instability in the city. But now we have an elected government, and we think it should be reconsidered now,” said Shamau.

He noted that council have now been tasked with issuing trade permits for the city and it is in the council’s mandate under the Decentralisation Act to address this issue.

But the Ministry of Economic Development has today said that the issuing of trade permits was delegated to the council under a memorandum of understand with the ministry, which does not allow issuing 24 hour license.

“The government decided to end the running of 24 hour businesses. From that point the procedure for issuing trade permits were changed. City council have been tasked with issuing permits under those procedures,” the ministry’s Director General Usman Shakir was quoted as saying in Haveeru.

Shakir said that the government has not yet changed it’s position on allowing 24 hour businesses, and warned that the ministry will take action if any such permission is issued.

Responding to the ministry’s statement Councilman Shamau said that there are “some barriers” in implementing the decision, but the council is willing to overcome these issues by discussing it with the ministry.

“We will do whatever it takes. This is the capital city, and there are 24 hours ferries operating, people coming from other islands, people are working round the clock. There should be some way for them to eat or buy things they need. We are talking about basic necessities of the people,” he said.

President Mohamed Nasheed’s government decided to issue permits for 24 hour businesses in December 2010. After the change in government, Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration in October 2012 decided to put an end to these opening hours.

The ministry’s official reason for decision was national security concerns. There was a high level of concern about increasing rates at the time, particularly with political instability and the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali within the same month.

While it is not known whether the decision had any positive impact in reducing crime rates, the parliamentary national security committee at the time suggested impact it had was negative.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party at the time described the decision as an attack against small and medium businesses which ‘left thousands of people unemployed’. Resuming the permits was an election pledge of the party’s presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed in 2013.

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives was at the time a coalition member of the government, and President Abdulla Yameen was elected as president, the party has maintained support for the ban on 24 hours businesses.

When the permits were revoked in 2012 there were forty four businesses with permit in Malé city, now all shops have to be closed at 11pm and all cafes at 1am.


Comment: Talking of another possible coup

Former President and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supremo Mohamed Nasheed has given what may be seen by some as a timely warning to the nation and incumbent, Abdulla Yameen, about ‘another coup’.

In doing so, he has implied that there is an urgent need for institutional reforms if such a course is to be averted. In an interview to MDP-supported Raajje TV, he claimed that some Supreme Court Judges were also behind what he reiterated was a ‘coup’ to oust him from office in February 2012 – but did not elaborate or provide substantive evidence.

That there is an urgent need for ‘institutional reforms’ in democratised Maldives is conceded readily by all sections of the nation’s polity. Most leaders now in the fray were also members of the Special Majlis that drafted and adopted the current 2008 constitution. For them to concede that they may have blundered, without actually having the courage to acknowledge it as such, should be welcome.

There is, however, a need for urgency in pursuing these issues within a more substantive and meaningful national dialogue. Such a dialogue may have to wait for a new parliament to be elected in the 22 March polls. It will be equally interesting to observe what various political players have to say on such issues during the current campaign period.

The various political positions that could be taken by different political parties will in turn be based on their own experience with the existing constitution (as they perceive it), and their expectations (as they conceive it). There is no guarantee that they would not err again, but ‘dynamic societies’ like the Maldives would always have to make constant and continuing compromises – either now or later.

It may become more difficult under different circumstances and under newer players on a distant day to attempt such changes.

Mis-reading, mis-leading

The present reference to ‘another coup’ apart, this is the second occasion in almost as many weeks that former President Nasheed is hinting at a change of national leadership. On the earlier occasion, media reports quoted him as saying that the MDP would move a no-confidence motion against President Yameen in the post-poll parliament, and have him removed at the first available opportunity?

Such reports will sound credible only if the MDP is able to muster the required two-thirds majority in what will become an 85-member parliament, up from the current strength of 77. It also implies that all MPs belonging to the party would stand by the leadership and its diktat, to vote out the incumbent. Whether it would have to be accompanied simultaneously by a no-trust move also against the incumbent vice-president – if the political strategy was to ensure early polls to the office of the president – is a moot question.

Alternatively, the MDP – which is still the single largest party – both within the People’s Majlis and outside, could muster those numbers if, and only if, MPs belonging to the ruling coalition led by President Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) were to cross floor, either as constituent parties or individual members.

In a country where ‘defection’ has been a password for political survival, both before and after the advent of multi-party democracy, such a scenario is not unimaginable.

In this background, Nasheed’s caution towards the incumbent and the nation is likely to be mis-read and hence misunderstood. Whatever the scenario one were to look at, such a scare has the potential to destabilise the nation’s polity and political administration all over again. In political terms, it could become an electoral tool in the hands of the adversaries of President Nasheed and the MDP, in that order, during the run-up to next month’s polls.

In the ensuing melee, both the MDP and former President Nasheed could be dubbed ‘over-ambitious’ and politically greedy – which need not be the case. The two will have to remember that within the high vote-share for Nasheed in the final-round poll in the November elections, a substantial numbers were ‘non-party’, non-committed voters. Given the turbulent, and at times violent, turn that multi-party democracy has taken since inception in 2008, this section of voters in particular could feel ‘uneasy’ and ‘uncomfortable’.

Going by the second scenario, encouraging defection can cut both ways. The present parliament saw both the MDP losing and gaining from defections. To an extent, it also dependent on the ‘incumbency’ factor. It was among the various factors that helped the MDP become the single largest party after coming second in the 2009 parliamentary polls, and later going on to become the ‘majority party’ as well.

Cross-voting, if not outright defection, also worked against the party’s diktat when MDP parliamentarians more recently helped ensure the mandated Majlis clearance for President Yameen’s cabinet.

It is the third of Nasheed’s possible apprehensions about a ‘possible coup’which should be of greater concern. It is here that his reassurance that he “will do everything” in his “personal capacity” to prevent a coup from taking place assumes significance. Given the context, and the MDP’s claims to his losing power to a coup in the past, it has now become morally, if not legally, binding on both to share whatever details that might come their way, now or in the future, with the nation and the government of the day.

In the same vein, however, Nasheed has possibly reiterated his past reference to a no-confidence vote when telling Raajje TV that “we will work within the legal ambit to ensure that the transition of power takes place through an election”. This may have made the earlier ‘reassurance’ as unsettling as it may be untimely – not only for the nation but possibly for the MDP too.


Q&A: Former President Mohamed Nasheed

With two years having passed since his controversial removal from power, Mohamed Nasheed – Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) figurehead, and runner-up in November’s presidential election – speaks with Minivan News about past controversies, the present government, and the future of Maldivian democracy.

Daniel Bosley: Looking back, what do you feel are the long-term effects of February 7 – on yourself personally, as a politician, and on the MDP?

Mohamed Nasheed: It’s not so much on what I have personally experienced but I think if you look at what has happened to the country after  the forceful transfer. We had in 2008 amended the constitution after a very very long period of single party dictatorial rule. One of the main difficulties in Maldives politics has been transfer of power – the peaceful transfer of power. In the past, transfer of powers have been mostly violent. It’s always surrounded by an aura of illegitimacy, irregular or all kinds of conflict. In some instances, former presidents are murdered, and in others they are banished or send into exile, so the transfer of power has always been an issue for us, and one of the main reasons for the 2008 constitution was to provide for a transfer of power.

If you have a look at the first constitution of the Maldives in 1932, even then the main reason for that constitution was to see who would assume power after the sultan at that time – Shamsuddeen – would it be his son or someone else. So, while transfer of power has been so fundamental – so important – for our stability and for our development, and while the constitution aims at providing a mechanism for that transfer, in 2012 we saw the state being very violently challenged and the transfer being very forcefully done.

What therefore that leads to – especially when the international community legitimised that transfer – it looks like it is normal. Now, come mid-term, any other group of politicians or any other group of people can again attempt to transfer power because apparently this is legal. I think that because that transfer was legitimised, that this is going to crop up in our political life on and on and on again.

DB: As a historian yourself, how do you feel the last two years will be viewed by future generations in terms of the country’s history?

The two years of [Dr Mohamed] Waheed’s coup government and then the interference of the Supreme Court in the election process, and therefore the ability for them to consolidate power through the facade of the ballot box, has of course installed them in power. But I would still argue that this is fairly temporary. I wouldn’t see this as having achieved long-term stability. This is very early in the day and we can now already see the cracks. [President Abdulla] Yameen with 25 percent of consent would find it very difficult to rule – it’s not going to be possible. And the idea that an alliance of Yameen and Gasim and Adhaalath can be maintained is I think a myth, and you’re seeing this now.

We’ve always argued that this doesn’t work. Coalitions work in parliamentary systems where you can actually have ministers coming out from the parliament and therefore it’s possible to come to an arrangement. But when the cabinet is not in the parliament, an alliance doesn’t necessarily work. The shuffling or the portions given to different parties are given from the cabinet, and the cabinet is a very superficial layer on the government. The actual essence is the parliament where you make the laws.

As long as you don’t have a coalition or an understanding in the parliament then this doesn’t work. So when Yameen and Gasim and Adhaalath cannot decide on sharing all the seats they would share, I think they finds themselves in a lot of difficulties

DB: There have been reports that you ordered the withdrawal of police from the artificial beach area on February 6, as well as the removal of the MNDF cordon from Republic Square the next morning. Looking back, would you have handled things differently in the run up to the transfer?

I was getting reports of a coup from General Nilam, who was intelligence chief of the military, and he’d been reporting the coup since the end of the SAARC summit [November 2011]. Soon after the summit he wrote his first dispatch, his first intelligence reports, and he has sent a number of intelligence reports saying that this was brewing.

Now, the perpetrators of the coup, or those who were scheming it – the opposition and the judiciary were with them. We were not able to investigate General Nilam’s findings – or his intelligence reports – because the courts wouldn’t allow us to do that and therefore, although we knew that this was coming up, we found it very difficult to attend to it or suppress it without forceful means, which in the legislative framework it was almost impossible because the judiciary were hijacked by Gayoom-era judges.

Now, did I ask the police to withdraw the cordon at the artificial beach? First, in our government I don’t give detailed orders to the rank and file of the police. Neither do I do that to the military. Withdrawal of the police at that instance from there, if it was the proper thing or not? If the police hadn’t withdrawn at that instant I think – given the intransigence of the police, given that the police were scheming – the chief of police and a fair amount of us knew at the time that there were elements within the police who were in the coup scheme. So, I think that the police or anyone who was instructing the police there would know the risks of having a hostile police force trying to maintain peace between the MDP supporters and the present government supporters.

General Nilam was sending intelligence reports that were fed to the police and everyone else. The police themselves had a number of reports saying that trouble was brewing up and that this had spread into the police and the military. The extent that it had gone into military I didn’t know at that time – I didn’t think it was to that extent – but to the police, we knew it very well. Those who were in charge knew it very well and, while the police were in the scheme, to assume that they would maintain peace between MDP and the opposition – that was difficult to understand and I think they wanted the MNDF there.

DB: So, essentially, it’s diffcult to think of any way you could have handled things differently?

MN: Oh yeah, we could have shot everyone. It’s essentially very simple to suppress a public uprising, it’s fairly simple, but the question is always ‘would you want to do that’. We didn’t think this was a proper thing to do, We didn’t think there should have been a confrontation between the MDP and our opposition and it was very unfortunate that the police behaved so badly. I still believe that these people must be prosecuted, I still believe that [Mohamed] Nazim, the minister of defense, must be prosecuted.

DB: What lessons did you take from the presidential election loss – about yourself, about your party, about your country?

MN: We’d come from a very small idea – to become the leading political party in this country. When you ask me that question – let’s say this country had a very long history of democratic politics, and let’s say that those who had done the work to democratise the country had passed away and those who were facing the election at this instant didn’t have a knowledge of what happened before. Now because our changes were so recent, and it has been so substantial, it’s simply amazing how 105,000 people of this country decided that they want to change.

I would argue that the ancien regime – the Gayoom regime – lost it. With all the institutions, with everything, the vast majority of the people of this country wanted an MDP government, which would have been a more open government, which would have been more international, which would have been more tolerant, which would have departed from our normal things – far away from what any other presidential candidate would have done.

To have got that mandate – to depart from so feudal a system, I think is just very very amazing and I’m very happy about it. I think we’ve installed the MDP as a political force, as a political party that is here to stay. Gayoom’s PPM [Progressive Party of Maldives] changes – from DRP [Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party] to PPM – but here I think we have been able to maintain.

DB: The religious lobby has been another constant over the past two years’ events, and the slogans used by the now-ruling coalition played a prominent role in the election. How do you see these groups affecting Maldivian politics in the long term?

MN: Again, after all that rhetoric, 105,000 Maldivians simply decided it was rhetoric and there was nothing to it. They were loud but the fact is that they keep losing – Adhaalath party as an idea keeps losing. I think people understand their fabrications.

DB: Looking at the recent MDP primary elections, the leadership has been accused of manipulating certain primary elections to secure seats for more established members. How effect do you feel this affects the reputation of the party and the enthusiasm of its members?

MN: Elections have losers and winners, and very often losers find that they must get time to digest the defeat and therefore there’s always a tendency to blame the process. I think, given the circumstances and the facilities available to political parties such as the MDP, we did very well. We have an elections committee, which functions independently. We have a disciplinary committee and we also have an appeals committee within the party. I’ve seen these three organs functioning very well, and I think the elections were very transparent and there is nothing wrong with that – I’m very very sure of that.

We can’t do that – it’s just not possible. I can’t even tell [close associates] to do it, and then these elections are conducted by hundreds of volunteers. How in God’s name can I ring some fellow down in Maakurath and ask him to fix the ballot? It’s just not possible. It’s too decentralised and it’s too widespread for anyone to fix.

There was an issue for some candidates, with PPM members and Jumhooree Party members and Adhaalath members – previous members – being on our voter lists. Now, the party decided that anyone who joined the party before December 19 would be eligible to vote. Then, if candidates decide to bring in former members from PPM and so on, we increased our party by 16,000 people. Even if they are from other parties – we’ve found that 5000 of them are from other parties. Our experience is that more than 70 percent of them remain even if their candidate loses.

DB: Regarding relations with the new government, you have talked about the MDP acting as a responsible opposition, but also of working to impeach President Yameen. Do you consider this to be a legitimate government with which the MDP intends to cooperate?

MN: The MDP shouldn’t co-operate with any government, the MDP should only co-operate with an MDP government because we are a political party and our position is to contest the opposition – make it accountable. Making it accountable basically really means using the legal processes available to deal with the government. I think President Yameen would very much expect us to make the full use of whatever facilities and mediums are legally available for us. I am sure President Yameen wouldn’t have any other idea – it would be strange if he had any other ideas. [That] we would for instance support their cabinet, we would for instance support their policies – no, we wouldn’t do that. What we would do is we would not do anything illegal.

DB: What are your initial thoughts on the first 100 days of the Yameen presidency and his proposed policies?

MN: One [issue] was slicing the government – distributing government positions among Gayoom families and political parties. Not necesarilly so much political parties, but among their families. [Another is] the number of government positions they have come up with – how huge the government is. I think we are probably now bigger than the Kremlin. It is in fact looking more like a Mughal kingdom. A better comparison would be with Zafar – the last Mughal emperor. Zafar’s government and the number of ministers, the number of courtiers, the number of assistants, the number of everything that they had, and the number of everything that President Yameen is having to have. It’s comical. It’s not really a contentious political issue. It’s sad though because the drain is on the treasury.

We are also looking at how they have honoured sovereign contracts after the transfer of power. They said with the GMR issue, that contract was void ab initio and so on and so forth so we’ll be looking at that. We think that this government is very secretive. We were publishing government income and expenditure every week, they’ve stopped that. We were having a cabinet meeting every week, they’ve stopped that. We were having a press conference every week, they’ve stopped that. We were communicating with the public all the time, and they haven’t done that. We feel that this is a very secretive government.

How they are managing finances: it all looks like how much should we make available for businessman A, for businessmen B. Nothing for social security, nothing for the fishermen, nothing for any of the other people. Taxes keep on coming up but we think that their tax system is again taking the country back to the financial system prior to 2008. They are taking it back to Gayoom’s financial system.

They are not fulfilling any of their pledges. The projects that were ongoing through multinational finance and so on, they’ve all stopped. So we don’t think they are doing a very good job and the people have every right to get rid of them.

DB: What are your initial thoughts on the stabbing of Alhan Fahmy and the safety of politicians?

MN: It’s very dangerous and it’s very worrying. Dr Afrasheem’s murder and the police not being able to do a better job with that, and now Alhan – it’s so sad. So young and so vibrant, and with a bright political future in front of him and cut down in his prime – it’s not good.

DB: Is the MDP’s loss in the presidential election a set back for fight against climate change?

MN: We were doing a lot of international work on climate change and we don’t see that kind of commitment from the present government, and it’s unfortunate. We would like another vulnerable country to pick up the work – someone who is more concerned about these things. I’m speaking to like-minded leaders about this. I’ve just been to Abu-Dhabi for Sheikh Zayed’s future energy prize, which I have been on the jury for the last three years. I did meet a number of heads of state – like-minded people who wanted to do something about it.

DB: What does the future look like for Maldivian democracy? Will you be standing again in 2018?

I’ll be seeking election in 2018, and I think we have a bright future. But the immediate future is bleak, I would argue – it’s difficult.


Parliament approves Mohamed Fayaz as high commissioner for Malaysia

The People’s Majlis today approved retired Deputy Commissioner of Police Mohamed Fayaz (FA) as the Maldives High Commissioner for Malaysia with 39 votes in favor, 8 against, and one abstention.

Following President Yameen’s nomination of Fayaz, his name was reviewed by the parliament’s National Security Committee.

The committee approved Fayaz without interviewing him, stating that he is “in terms of academic qualifications and experience, the best candidate to be appointed as the Maldives High Commissioner for Malaysia”.

Disgraced Civil Service Commission head Mohamed Fahmy Hassan was earlier appointed as the Deputy High Commissioner for Malaysia. In 2012 the parliament dismissed Fahmy as the president of the CSC for sexual harassment of a female staff member.

Mohamed Fayaz has also been criticised – particularly by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party – for his involvement in the controversial power transfer of February 7, 2012.

Fayaz, along with Abdulla Riyaz who is currently running for People’s Majlis, and incumbent Minister of Defense Retired Colonel Mohamed Nazim were seen among the mutinying police officers gathered outside the military headquarters where President Mohamed Nasheed was at the time.

Fayaz negotiated between top generals and the mutinying police officers and was seen beside Nazim when he announced that the president should resign unconditionally.

According to the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) which investigated the events that lead to the power transfer, Fayaz was with President Nasheed when he was taken from the military head quarters to the President’s Office for resignation.

“Nazim and Fayaz went into the President’s Office ahead of the car in which the President was travelling. Following behind the car were the President’s SPG, Chief of Defence Force and Military Operations Commander,” the CNI timeline of events stated.

Nasheed’s resignation letter was later taken from the official dispatch by Fayaz and Riyaz who then delivered it to the speaker of the people’s majlis.

Fayaz served in the National Security Service for fourteen years under President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. He was a lieutenant at the time the NSS was split into the police and military branches.

In December 2008, President Mohamed Nasheed appointed him as the Deputy Commissioner of Police, but he was soon dismissed while on study leave. Within a month of his dismissal, Nasheed appointed him as the deputy minister of civil aviation and communication.

Following the power transfer of Febaruary 2012, President Mohamed Waheed appointed Fayaz as minister of state for home affairs.

In January 2013 Fayaz applied for registration of a political party named ‘Maldives National Industrial Alliance’, though the application was rejected last month by the Elections Commission for failing to reach the minimum number of members required for the registration of parties.

During the first round of presidential elections he entered the Jumhooree Coalition supporting businessman Gasim Ibrahim.