“Waves of secularism”: President warns of undue foreign influence

Foreign parties are attempting to exert undue influence over the Maldives, secularise the country and exercise power over its people, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has warned.

Dr Waheed made the remarks in his address to the nation (Dhivehi) at a ceremony on Friday night, following the unveiling of a memorial monument for ‘Victory Day’  – when an attempted coup on November 3, 1988 was thwarted by Indian military intervention.

The former vice president said that “foreign parties are attempting to exert influence over us in different ways, under different names and capacities, to exercise power over us.”

These foreign parties were “saying that we must turn to their ideologies and sending waves of secularism [or secular ideologies]  to the country,” the President claimed.

The country has undergone drastic changes in a changing world, Dr Waheed said, while Maldivians’ “traditions, lifestyle and behaviour” has seen major changes.

Dr Waheed contended that Islam was the principal reason “behind the Maldives surviving to the present day.”

“We would not be here marking this day if not for the light of that religion,” he said. “Therefore, we should not give any opportunity for [anyone] to take undue advantage of the turmoil in our environment. I call upon all political parties not to compromise the peace and security of our nation.”

In his first major speech since assuming the presidency on February 7, Dr Waheed told supporters of the ruling coalition that this was “no longer the age of colonialism” and that “no foreign country can influence the Maldives.”

“Today we will maintain our sovereignty with bravery. Be courageous. We will not back down an inch. Today, the change [in power] in the Maldives is what Allah has willed. This did not happen because of one or two people coming out into the streets. Nobody had been waiting for this. Nobody even saw this day. This change came because Allah willed to protect Islam and the decent Maldivian norms,” Dr Waheed had said on February 24.

“Be courageous. Today you are all mujaheddin [those who wage jihad or holy war] who love the nation. We will overcome all dangers faced by the nation with steadfastness.”

Indian investment

Meanwhile, speaking at a ceremony to mark 46 years of diplomatic relations between the Maldives and India on Thursday night, President Dr Waheed said business that have done well in the country were “built on mutual trust and respect.”

While the Maldives would “always welcome Indian investments” it was important to ensure that “national interests are fully protected” when inviting multi-national corporations (MNCs) to invest in the country, President Waheed said in a speech delivered in English.

“Small countries like Maldives are like small businesses, vulnerable to external shocks, always self-conscious about security and easily manipulated by bigger partners. In addition as a nation state small countries are very conscious of their national pride and sovereignty. It is important that, we small countries invite large Multi-national Corporation’s we need to assure that our national interests are fully protected,” Dr Waheed said.

“Similarly the MNC’s must understand as small countries we are vulnerable, we have little bargaining power and especially as a country in transition, we are on a steep learning curve, it is when we become sensitive to each other’s concerns that we build a trusting and lasting friendship. It is not a secret that we are currently facing some difficulty with some Indian companies, we must overcome these difficulties and adamantly resist such difficulties from effecting our very close and brotherly relationship between our two countries.”

He added that Maldivians should “never question the relationship with India” and “must always appreciate and remain grateful to India.”

Meanwhile, Minister of Finance Abdulla Jihad last week warned that the government was unprepared to meet its recurrent expenditure – including salaries – for the final months of 2012 without US$25 million promised by the Indian government.


Democratisation of Maldives is irreversible: President Nasheed

The democratisation of the Maldives through the burgeoning multi-party system cannot be reversed, President Mohamed Nasheed asserted in his Independence Day address.

“No government can last in this country anymore except through clearly stated policies, pledges made to the people and [based on] the extent that the pledges are fulfilled,” Nasheed said. “No greater independence nor a happier state than this could be seen from an independent country. We have definitely changed to that state.”

The type of political system found in a country, said Nasheed, was the “true foundation” for sustaining independence.

Although multi-party constitutional democracy in the Maldives was in its infancy, Nasheed continued, the hopes fostered through the new system promised “a much brighter future.”

Maldivians have proven that “anyone could aspire to become President,” he added.

After emerging as a nascent democracy post-2008, President Nasheed said that the Maldives was punching above its weight in the international arena.

“Especially in the area of human rights and environmental advocacy, the Maldives is by God’s will among the front rank,” he said. “It is unlikely that we will see a better, smoother transition to democracy than the example shown by Maldivians.”

President Nasheed praised and congratulated Maldivians for being forerunners to the Arab revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt as well as democratic change in other parts of the world.

Meanwhile former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom issued a statement on Independence Day warning of “foreign influences” that could compromise economic independence, sovereignty and “independence of thought.”

Gayoom argued that while “enslavement of Maldivians” by foreign armies was unlikely given the vast changes that have taken place in the world, the undue influence of powerful external forces was a challenge to small states like the Maldives.

“In light of this reality, we have to renew efforts to strengthen and fortify the Maldives’ political and economic independence,” he said.

In his message to the nation, the former President said that preparations to celebrate 50 years of independence in 2015 as colourfully and joyfully as possible should begin now.