Cultural tradition and religious values at heart of “fresh, expanded nationhood”: President Mohamed Nasheed

In honor of the Maldives’ 69th National Day President Mohamed Nasheed has advised that Maldivian nationhood be rooted in universal values as taught by Islam and centuries-old tradition.

National Day remembers the heroic efforts of 16th century Maldivian leader Mohammed Thakurufaanu.

Speaking today, the President identified “conviction, beauty, humility, kindness, equality, justice, and caring” as the main bases of Maldivian nationhood. He advocated for “a fresh, expanded nationhood” in alignment with Islam and national tradition.

The question of the Maldive’s status as a 100 percent Muslim country was recently debated during protests in late December, when opposition parties and religious NGOs called for stronger Islamic policies.

The government’s all-or-nothing response included a shut-down of all spas and a proposed nation-wide ban on pork and alcohol–moves which drew anxious attention from international media and tourism officials.

Although asked to rule on the Islamic value of allowing the sale of pork and alcohol in resorts, the Supreme Court dismissed the case but said it found no reason why those items should be prohibited according to constitutional regulations on tourism goods and services.

Advocating democracy and human rights as elements critical to the Maldives, President Nasheed said a refreshed sense of nationhood should provide for “a just judiciary, freedom of expression, and other human rights; and an economic system that provides for a prosperous, clean livelihood for all citizens.”

Recently, the government instituted universal health insurance program Aasandhaa, providing free medical coverage for all Maldivian citizens for the first time in the nation’s history.

“For the sake of development and the prosperity of all citizens… the Maldives has already seen tremendous changes to the system of governance,” said the President.

However, the government has wrestled with freedom of expression. In late 2011, controversial blogger Ismail ‘Khilath’ Rasheed’s blog was swiftly shut down on the exclusive order of the Islamic Minister. He was also arrested and held for extended periods of detention after participating in a peaceful protest for religious tolerance on International Human Rights Day, during which he was beaten.

Rasheed’s arrest and detention were scrunitised and condemned by Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders (RSF).

Recognising the ongoing political unrest in Male’ since Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed was arrested on January 16 by military forces, President Nasheed said separation of powers and “a judiciary free from all undue influence,” are essential for future progress and growth.

In recent days the government has requested international legal assistance in bringing judicial reform to the Maldives, while lawyers contending that the judge was unlawfully arrested and detained have forwarded the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC), of which the Maldives became a member late last year.


Adhaalath welcomes talks: Shaheem

Adhaalath Party chief spokesperson Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saaed today said the party would accept government requests for talks over “Defend Islam” protest planned for next Friday, December 23.

Shaheem claimed that the government’s lack interest in a dialogue has created negative tension around the protest, Haveeru reports.

“Adhaalath Party will always accept any requests made by the head of state to discuss a state affair. But the government has so far failed to hold such discussions and the failure of this forced the coalition partners of the ruling MDP [Maldivian Democratic Party] to abandon it,” Shaheem was quoted as saying.

Shaheem further said the protest aims to peacefully prevent the arrival of religions other than Islam in the Maldives, and not to invite the Shari’ah-based penalties of stoning, hand cutting and execution.

Ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) this week announced plans to hold a counter-demonstration on December 23 against what appeared to be aggressive requests from Adhaalath at the time.

Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) is currently attempting a peaceful resolution of the dispute, reports Haveeru.

“We are concerned about losing the peace and harmony in the country. We are negotiating with the organisers of the religious protest and those who are planning to demonstrate against them,” commissioner Mariyam Azra told the local media.

The outcome of HRCM’s negotiations are expected to be released on Monday.