Waheed digging in heels by sacrificing powers to appease the coalition partners: Eurasia Review

For an observer from outside it looks that a “battle royal” is going on between the Government, its security forces and the civil service including the judiciary on one side and the opposition led by the ousted former President Mohamed Nasheed on the other, writes Dr S Chandrasekharan.

Added to this is the excessive enthusiasm of the security forces shown on behalf of the government and this has only made the law and order situation worse. One girl from opposition who was affected in an offensive of the Police termed the behaviour of the security forces as “animalistic.”

The opposition is still able to muster a crowd of 5000 anytime to oppose the government policies. The forces faced stiff opposition when the structures made by the MDP in the meeting ground at Usfasgandu were being dismantled and the High court order stopping the demolition came too late!

On the economic front, Maldives is the only country in this region that has not seen an increase in tourist arrivals this year. Inflation on an average is about 15.99 percent and the budget deficit is projected to go up by 27 percent of the GDP. In order to please certain sections the government is forced to subsidise and there is also an increase in capital expenditure on government institutions. There is also a drop in government income by 23 percent. The most recent case is the attempt to placate the media by giving government notifications and announcements which the President says is necessary for the media to survive!

President Waheed is digging his heels. He made the most shocking statement that he does not have to resign even if it is proved that there was a “coup” unless his involvement in the coup was established. If Nasheed’s ouster was found to be illegal even then he can continue as the “Maldivian laws ” do not permit any change! So he says. What a stand for Stanfordian who has seen many UN jobs? Apparently he is enjoying the power which he would not be doing but for a quirk of circumstances!

Clearly, President Waheed has consolidated his position. But this has been possible only because as one observer said, by sacrificing his powers to appease the coalition partners, who have but for a few hiccups appear to stay in contact so far. But this may not last long. Gayoom is still seen to be guiding the country from behind. The current approach of the government to use religious paranoia and the security forces to break the rallies has the foot prints of Gayoom!

Setting a date for early elections is the last priority though India wanted this to be given top priority. President Waheed and more than he, Gayoom’s daughter Dunya has repeatedly said that elections cannot be held without constitutional amendments. The earliest date will be July 2013 and whatever India may want or say privately, President Waheed as advised by Gayoom is not going to hold the elections anytime sooner.

Gayoom claimed a month ago that “international calls for early elections have grown faint” and was not an issue anymore!

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Gayoom is back and India is in no hurry to change its stand: Eurasia Review

Having recognised the new regime in a hurry, India is in no position to change its stand, writes Dr. S. Chandrasekharan for the Eurasia Review.

Despite two visits by the Indian Foreign Secretary to Male to convince the new regime for early elections and an undertaking by President Waheed that he would, it looks that there will be no early elections.

With Gayoom having returned to the island, is should be known to everyone that President Waheed is not the master and the decisions are being taken by Gayoom and his followers who are all over in the new government.

Gayoom’s daughter Dunya who is the Minister of state for foreign affairs admitted to the Sunday times that her father would be working “behind the scenes” and playing an advisory role to the President.

This point that Gayoom would be calling the shots was mentioned by Nasheed also. He said “whether we like it or not- the government is now in the hands of the elements that belonged to the three decade long authoritarian rule of Gayoom. President Waheed may be the face of the government- but if you look into it, you will see that he has neither the say nor the control of a President as outlined under the Maldivian constitution.”

This is very much true. Soon after landing in Male, Gayoom ruled out early elections. In his latest speech on 16th April, he has brought in the issue of religion and the sovereignty of Maldives on those ( India included) who are insisting on early elections. He said that international calls for elections are driven by a “special motive” that poses a direct threat for the Maldives’ sovereignty and religious heritage.

His daughter Dunya Maumoon had also said earlier that until the country’s state institutions – the judiciary, the election commission and human rights commission are strengthened it would be impossible for a vote to be held. In other words, what she means is that the present regime is in no hurry to hold the next elections.

Others who are not in support of early elections have cited that the law and order situation is not conducive for early elections. Four elections were held in the last one week- two to Majlis and two the local councils and there were no incidents at all.

The fact of the matter is that early elections will not be held and Gayoom has said the last word.

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Maldives mishandled by India: Eurasia Review

The Government of India appears to have been caught napping in the Maldives on two counts, writes B. Raman for the Eurasia Review.

First, it failed to foresee the implications of some arbitrary actions of former President Mohammed Nasheed such as the arrest of the Chief Judge of the Criminal Court and disciplinary action against a Sandhurst-trained Colonel of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), who were perceived to be anti-Nasheed and advise him to desist from such actions.

These actions antagonised the judiciary and created fissures in the MNDF and the Police. These elements joined hands with anti-Nasheed protesters in forcing him to quit as the President.

Secondly, it failed to realise that despite his antagonising the judiciary and sections of the Police and the MNDF, Nasheed retained considerable popular support particularly among the younger generation and was in a position to take the battle against his opponents to the streets. Instead of keeping quiet till the street equations became clear and instead of desisting from any action that might be misinterpreted as granting legitimacy to the MNDF-engineered replacement of Nasheed by his Vice-President Mohamed Waheed Hassan, the Government of India prematurely made statements that were interpreted in Maldives as amounting to India’s abandoning its support to the democratically-elected President.

When Nasheed’s supporters, with a defiant Nasheed at their head, took the battle against their opponents to the streets, the Government of India found itself with its credibility badly weakened.

The result: the Government of India’s traditional position as the sole arbiter of political fortunes in the Maldives has been badly damaged and a number of international actors from the UK, the US, the European Union and the United Nations have rushed to the Maldives to try their hand in internal peace-making, thereby marginalising the traditional role of India. Only China and Pakistan have not yet entered the political fray in the Maldives. If they do, that will be ultimate humiliation for Indian diplomacy at its southern door-step.

We had earlier lost our clout in Sri Lanka as a result of soft and reactive reflexes and we stand in danger of similarly losing our clout -even if we have not already lost it – in the Maldives due to similar apologetic reflexes lacking in robustness of anticipation and action.

In the Net world, one could notice articulation of condemnation of the Government for failing to intervene militarily in the Maldives in support of the democratically-elected Government. Unfavourable comparisons have been made with the robust response of Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, to support the then President Abdul Gayoom against threats from foreign mercenaries suspected to be from the LTTE by sending Indian rapid action forces to the Maldives to neutralise the threat.

The hesitation of the Government of India to send rapid action forces in response to a reported SOS from Nasheed is understandable because the present situation is qualitatively different from what prevailed in 1988. The threat to Nasheed was not from external forces, but from sections of his own MNDF and the Police due to his perceived arbitrary style of governance. If the Government of India had sent the security forces to the Maldives this time, they would have been called upon to act not against foreign mercenaries and their local supporters, but against sections of the political opposition in the Maldives and their supporters in the MNDF and the Police.

Our security forces would have been able to overcome opposition from the MNDF and the Police, but then what about managing the messy sequel – with the Maldivian security forces many of whose senior officers were trained by us turning hostile against India?

The criticism of the Government of India for not intervening immediately through our armed forces is not quite justified. But there is a lot of actions short of direct military intervention which we could have taken – such as visibly and noisily strengthening our direct action capability in the vicinity of the Maldives, to convey a message to the contending forces in the Maldives and to external forces that might be tempted to take advantage of the situation to undermine Indian influence that India was prepared to use its armed forces if needed to protect its nationals and interests, and rushing a high level and stick-wielding emissary to Male to cajole, if possible, and to force, if necessary, the contending forces not to undermine democracy and not to allow any other external elements to come in and partake of the broth.

The Government of India failed to take any of these actions and now finds itself with diminishing options in the face of an unpredictably evolving situation domestically and internationally. In 1988, the international community recognised implicitly that the Maldives was India’s concern and that India had every right to act according to its wisdom.

Even though the situation seems to be slipping out of our hands, we can still retrieve it provided we show leadership befitting a big power and act resolutely on the lines indicated above. Evidence of such leadership and resolute action is missing in Delhi.

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