Supreme Court further delays election decision

The Supreme Court of Maldives has delayed its ruling on the potential annulment of the presidential election for the second time today.

Originally scheduled for 2:30pm today, the ruling was moved to 5:00pm, before court officials announced the decision to move the ruling back to 8:00pm.

“The Supreme Court can say whatever they want to say. But the constitution must be upheld,” Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed told a crowd of supporters gathered near the courthouse.

The case filed by the Jumhooree Party, alleges systemic fraud in the first round of the presidential election, despite the overwhelmingly positive assessments of all observer missions present.

The concluding arguments in the case were heard on September 25, two days after the court had issued an injunction calling upon all state institutions to halt election preparations until the case had been completed.

Numerous international actors – including the United Nations Security Council – have expressed their alarm at the decision to delay the second round, and the subsequent rising of tensions in the country.

Following the destruction of MDP aligned TV station Raajje TV this morning, party supporters gathered by police barricades on Fareedhee Magu.

MDP Imthiyaz Fahmy called for an investigation of the police’s role in the arson attack.

“[Police Commissioner] Abdulla Riyaz publicly announced previously that police will not provide protection to Raajje TV. Look how it has been absolutely burned down today,” said Fahmy.

Former President – and first-placed candidate in the initial poll –  Mohamed Nasheed addressed a crowd of around 300 just before midday.

“The Supreme Court may say anything at two thirty today. Do listen to their verdict, it will make no sense at all.”

“The letters in the constitution cannot dissolve and protect itself, it cannot come out to war to protect itself. It won’t come to life unless we get strength from it and come out to protect it.”

“We are not here to ascertain presidency for Galolhu Kenereege Mohamed Nasheed. We are here to get people’s rights. Not for the MDP, but for all citizens,” he added.

The area – close to the Supreme Court – has been the focal point of MDP protests for 10 consecutive nights following the Election Commission’s decision to abandon preparations for the September 28 run-off, in the face of government and judicial intransigence.

The integrity of the Supreme Court was a persistent theme during early protests, with frequent – often visual – references to the Justice Ali Hameed’s purported role in a series of sex tapes.

“We are demonstrating here and won’t stop until we hear a verdict,” Nasheed’s running-mate Dr Mustafa Lutfi told the crowd.

Police have reported “no tensions and no arrests” during today’s demonstration.


Development is our only objective, Nasheed addresses pre-election rally

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has estimates that over 10,000 supporters were in attendance on Thursday night as it held its final major rally prior to the Saturday (September 7) presidential election in capital city Male’.

The rally started with a set of video interviews with members of the general public, who shared their reasons for supporting MDP presidential candidate, and former president, Mohamed Nasheed.

As the first speaker at the rally, the MDP’s vice presidential candidate Dr Mustafa Lutfi stated that “Saturday will be the historical day when we citizens re-establish the democracy that was taken away from us”.

“Nasheed is neither a relative, nor an old friend of mine. He used to be just a name I heard. However, today I have for him the deepest respect and love I would have for a hero of the nation.”

“He has been working since 1990 to gain human rights and democracy for us citizens of Maldives. He continued with the struggle for freedom despite being jailed, tortured, placed under house arrest and being placed in solitary confinement. And even when his democratic government was toppled in the February 7 coup, he took a step back and then with more might is walking forward with us again to regain democracy,” Lutfi continued.

The only other speaker at the rally was the presidential candidate himself.

“MDP is a party that takes steps forward. We are here to establish a people’s government. We believe the people of this country deserve far better than they have today. We are here to develop the Maldives,” Nasheed said addressed the large gathering of supporters.

“In the past 18 months, I have slept in 343 different beds. We have visited all the islands of Maldives. We have met with many Maldivian citizens. We know the sentiments of the Maldivian people. We have stepped forward to make the dreams of the Maldivian people a reality. We will win this election in the first round, in a single round,” he said, prompting loud applause from the crowd.

“We are calling on the people to roll up your sleeves and come with us to develop the country. Development of this country is our only aim, our only objective,” Nasheed continued.

“A nation is developed through doing particular things at a particular time in a certain manner. These things can be known through putting forward criticism and conducting peaceful political activities by competitive parties in a multi-party system. The biggest obstacle to this country’s development was the habit of torture and brutality exercised in this country’s past against anyone who expressed differences in opinion. We are here to overcome this obstacle. We will win the elections in one round,” he stated.

“You can push us down onto the ground and force us to eat sand, but we will stand up again. We will not step back. We will bring good governance to the people. Our courage cannot be deterred. We will develop this country, we will build the whole nation,” Nasheed concluded his speech.

Former State Minister of Islamic Affairs during Nasheed’s administration, Sheikh Hussain Rasheed, concluded the rally with a prayer, joined in by the thousands of supporters gathered at the rally.

After the speeches were delivered and the prayer recited, the party then held a laser show, with some of the images depicting themes related to the party and its policies, along with campaign songs by various artists from around the country.


Q&A: MDP vice-presidential candidate Dr Mustafa Lutfi

Dr Mustafa Lutfi was appointed as the running mate of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed for the upcoming presidential election on September 7.

He previously served as Minister of Education in Nasheed’s administration, having resigned from his post as the first Chancellor of the Maldives National University following the controversial transfer of power in February 2012. The MDP has continued to allege that the change in government last year, was a “coup d’etat”.

Dr. Lutfi also previously served in the cabinet of Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Mariyath Mohamed: What made you decide to accept the position as Mohamed Nasheed’s running mate?

Mustafa Lutfi: I accepted it very happily, not because of the importance or weight of the position offered, but because it is President Nasheed whose deputy I was asked to be.

President Nasheed is someone I deeply respect, as he played the most major role in the democratic revolution which has come to the Maldives. In my opinion, President Nasheed is among the few who has sacrificed much in order to guarantee independence for the Maldivian people – personal freedoms, to save the citizens from the repression they were in, to bring a more fulfilling state of living to the people – and also because President Nasheed is the most loved and respected person in this country. A chance to work with such a well-respected, loved man is a cause for happiness to me. I extend thanks to MDP and President Nasheed for appointing me, as they have done so by placing utmost trust in me.

MM: Many people have commented that by using the slogan “I will not be a baaghee” (nethey veveykah baaghee akah) you are campaigning with a highly negative message. Why was this theme chosen?

ML: I think then there is some misinterpretation. By the slogan, we are not meaning to say that I will not bring about a coup d’etat. What we mean is that we Maldivians are saying as a whole that none of us will be traitors, that we will all say no to coup d’etats.

Previously, we have often talked about the brutality, violence and bloodshed. Besides all of that, I have now come to know, through interviews I am conducting for a book I intend to write, that a far more painful effect has been made on the people – the psychological trauma. This is something we must talk openly about now.

MM: What aspects of governance will you focus on if you are elected?

ML: We are mostly looking at how the country’s development has been set back as a result of the coup d’etat and are focusing on setting that right.

Some people interpret ‘development’ to mean the construction of jetties, or seawalls, or large buildings. But what we mean by ‘development’ is not this alone. The root of development, as meant by MDP, is the individual person. The improvements that come to the person’s health, how his thoughts and ideas are broadened and developed, improvements to the individual’s social status and economic contentment. Our development goes full circle, and covers all aspects of an individual citizen’s life.

Sustainable development can only be achieved through the changes that come to an individual and his way of thinking.

Policies, Implementation and Impacts

MM: We have seen that, even in the previous MDP administration, development projects are completed at comparatively very fast speeds. This has at times given rise to concerns about the environmental impacts of such work. How much attention has been given to environmental impacts during the planning of your new policies?

ML: Sustainable development cannot be achieved if, in the process of development, the environment is harmed. The environment and its protection are very high in our priorities.

MM: The Decentralization Act was passed during Nasheed’s administration. In recent times, we have often heard reports of the councils facing hardships due to both budget constraints and a lack of cooperation from state authorities. Is the MDP aware of this, and are there any plans to empower and strengthen decentralized governance?

ML: I strongly believe that the people must be given the freedom to make decisions on matters that will impact them or concern them. It won’t do to just decentralize governance – they must also be given necessary training, a support structure must be set up, as well as a functional oversight mechanism.

MM: MDP’s education policy details increased opportunities for higher education both locally and abroad. However, there are certain instances where students drop out of school and are thus unqualified to apply for higher education. In such instances, what plans do you have? For example, do you intend to broaden vocational training?

ML: Even in our previous government, under a programme named ‘Hunaru’ (skill) we gave them special training to prepare them for the workplace and even assisted them to find occupation. We also formed a polytechnic to train skilled workers under our technical vocational education programme, both in the atolls and in Male’.

Our aim now is to ensure opportunities for all youth to be able to achieve higher education. If they have to leave school before they obtain the required qualifications, they will have the option of enrolling in either foundation courses or technical vocational training.

Religious affairs

MM: When you were in Nasheed’s cabinet as Education Minister, you faced a lot of criticism from certain opposition parties for allegedly suggesting that Islam and Dhivehi be made optional subjects. In retrospect, do you think that was a wise decision, and would you recommend the same if MDP is elected again?

ML: That has been a much talked about issue.

One topic of discussion when drafting the curriculum was whether we should leave all subjects optional at higher secondary education level. And this too was just one among many topics simply opened for discussion.  However, in the middle of the debate, a group of people brought it to a halt. We were not able to hold a wide and free discussion on the matter, and through the influence of a certain group of people it was so decided that the subjects cannot be left as optional. That is how it happened.

MM: Would you work to make the subjects optional again in future?

ML: This is not at all about what I want. Nor about what the government wants. It is in essence about what the citizens want. The danger here is that these things go in the manner that a particular small group from among the citizens insists upon.  In a democracy, those who speak up and express their opinions are those who get heard. This is why it is important to engage in discussions about matters that will impact you.

A lot of people want to leave the subjects optional, especially higher secondary level students and some parents. Yet they did not speak up about it. The curriculum drafting team will only be aware of the views that are openly expressed. The group who spoke most openly and loudly on this matter were some from among the religious scholars. So this ended as these scholars wanted it to.

MM: It is a common criticism levied at the MDP that the party consists of ‘ladhini’ (anti-Islamic/irreligious) leadership and members. What level of importance is given to matters of the religion by your party?

ML: Our government was one that gave a lot of attention to religion even before. We established a separate ministry to handle matters related to Islam, we built a large number of mosques across the country, we facilitated prayer rooms to be made in schools. Our government was the one that first gave complete freedom to religious scholars to spread their knowledge. For the first time they were able to preach in mosques, streets or other public places, and to bring in foreign scholars.

President Nasheed and the rest of the leadership of MDP perform prayers and other religious obligations just like other Maldivians. The other aspect is belief.  Just saying that one is a Muslim is not enough, it is between oneself and God.

And unlike certain others, we do not lie. We do not try to defame others, or make up tales about people. We do not spread discord. So, as I see it, we are living within Islamic principles. No one can rightfully say that people in MDP are ‘ladhini’.

The biggest difference between us and certain other members of the opposition is that we do not go around saying we are religious, nor we do accuse others of being irreligious.

Moving from GIP to MDP

MM: You were very actively involved in the formation of President Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihaad Party (GIP).  What was your perception of people’s expectations from a political party such as GIP at that point in time?

ML: We brought on board people with the qualifications to be able to sit on a cabinet were we to be elected to run a government. This included many PhD holders, and people that society would accept as being respectable.

To be honest, we found members by using individuals who we intended to include in our cabinet, and their merit, as our strongest selling point.

MM: Do you notice any difference between now and then in what appeals to people, and what convinces people to support political parties?

ML: There’s a huge difference. Through the work of MDP, the majority of citizens now believe that a people who wants to come to power must approach the electorate with pledges which are based on policies formed with people’s needs in mind.

The opposition and their verbose criticism has assisted us in proving to the people that we are capable of fulfilling our pledges. For example, our pledge about connecting the islands with a transport mechanism. They mocked us and made sarcastic comments asking what would we join the islands with, is it with a thread, and so on. Today, the people see that we have connected the islands with ferry services, making travel between one island and another more convenient than ever before. The people know that MDP will fulfill any pledges that we make, in good quality and at a very fast pace.

MM: You initially joined the MDP government through a coalition between the party and GIP. After the GIP/MDP coalition split up, you joined MDP. What made you decide to do so?

ML: I had an interest in MDP and the work they were doing even when I initially left President Maumoon’s government. If I do join a party, it is my character to become very actively involved in it. However, at that point in life I wanted to focus on one of my life’s ambitions, which is writing. So during those two years, I wrote and published a number of books, while working at a boat construction company of a relative in Thilafushi. I was still doing this work when [President] Waheed approached me to form GIP.

I joined MDP later because I had worked closely with President Nasheed as a cabinet minister and he had won my respect even then due to his energetic approach and his empathy towards the people of Maldives. The leadership of MDP are people who very passionately engage in the reform and democratic movement, and this inspired me.

February 7, and moving forward

MM: Having worked so closely with President Waheed, how did you perceive the role he allegedly played in the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012?

ML: It didn’t at all come across as a shock or surprise to me.

I did have suspicions that Waheed would come out against Nasheed in the latter two years of the MDP administration. I did not, however, expect Waheed to join a group of people and commit an act of treason by orchestrating a coup d’etat.

MM: How much importance will be given to police reform, military reform and judicial reform?

ML: MDP is coming with the intention of conducting things with the best interest of the people in mind – and this too, will be carried out as is best for the people.

MM: At the time of the power transfer, you were serving as the first Chancellor of the Maldives National University. What made you decide to leave the post?

ML: I am one who never backs away from anything that I believe I must do at any given time.

In this way, last year it occurred to me that it is pointless for me to remain as chancellor of the university when the state of my country was deteriorating due to the events we faced. I thought it is more important, and something I must do in national interest, to join the movement against the coup d’etat, to actively work to bring back our democratic rights and freedoms. There are many others who are capable of being chancellor, and yet more people were needed at the time to actively dedicate time to this movement and come out onto the streets.

I believed that it is ultimately more important to express my sentiments against what I believe to be an unacceptable act, an act of treason, being carried out in my country.