MPs ban Israel flights, but withdraw resolutions against Pillay, GMR, SAARC monuments

MPs passed a resolution on Wednesday preventing Israeli national airline El Al from operating scheduled flights to the Maldives until Majlis’ National Security Committee completes further investigation into the matter.

El Al had applied to the Ministry of Civil Aviation in May 2011 requesting permission to fly to the Maldives starting in December 2011.

The demand to ban Israeli flights was a key issue that united opposition parties and was used to spark protests against Nasheed’s administration in the last weeks of his presidency. Nasheed resigned from office on February 7, but later claimed he had been deposed through a coup d’état.

The opposition also called for the eviction of Indian infrastructure giant GMR, granted a contract by Nasheed’s administration to manage and develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA). Further demands included a call to condemn UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay for her suggestion that flogging be abolished in the Maldives as a punishment for extra-marital sex, and the removal of “idolatrous” SAARC monuments from Addu City

However Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Abdul Azeez Jamal Abu Bakr on Wednesday withdrew the Majlis petition against Pillay.

On April 2, Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed also withdrew a resolution calling on the Majlis to prevent GMR from taking over the management of duty free shops and bonded warehouse from local businesses.

Riyaz also withdrew a resolution calling on the government to remove SAARC monuments from Addu City on the same day. Addu City Council had removed the monuments in January after a public furor.

Ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Gafoor said he was “at a total loss” since then-opposition “had picked such a fight with us over these matters.”

“They made these issues out to be a threat to national security, and now these issues have disappeared without a trace. This is just cheap and dirty politics,” Ghafoor said.

December 23 demands

Speaking to MDP supporters at a rally on Wednesday evening, Nasheed observed that the then-opposition’s rallying cries had died once they took power.

“I will always remember, at the last moment of the coup, a police man was shouting out, ‘My father built that airport at Hulhule,’ [complaining] that I had sold that airport to outsiders, that the police were there [protesting] to retake that airport,” he said.

Nasheed said his policies had been for the benefit of the ordinary citizen and “no one can take the airport away, whether it’s GMR or India or another country.”

“I want to tell that policeman and other police officers who brought about the coup, when the current administration eventually decides to allow Israel flights to land at the airport, it is for the benefit of the economy. Even though they polluted your hearts for political gain, you are now seeing all of their poems turning to mere lullabies,” he said.

The PPM, DQP, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Jumhooree Party (JP) and Madhanee Ithihad (Civil Society Coalition) organised a well attended ‘Defend Islam’ rally on December 23 demanding that Nasheed prevent Israeli airlines from operating flights into the Maldives, remove “idolatrous” SAARC monuments and apologise for Pillay’s comments.

The ‘December 23 coalition’ accused Nasjeed of being “non- Islamic”, and said the decision to handover airport to GMR undermined Maldives’ sovereignty.

When Nasheed arrested Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012, the coalition called on the police and military not to obey Nasheed’s orders and pledged allegiance to Nasheed’s VP Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

On February 7, Nasheed publicly resigned from office after elements of the police and military staged a mutiny, and Waheed was sworn in as president on the same day.


Comment: Let’s talk about ideology

There is an unbearable emptiness to Maldivian political rhetoric. Everywhere we look are people who say what they do not mean, and mean what they do not say.

Take former President Gayoom’s pre-Ramadan Epiphany: Z-DRP and Adhaalath are ideological twins.

Since when? Does Adhaalath not espouse beliefs that Gayoom once allegedly had people tortured for? Legend has it that the kind of beards that men sport with such pride these days were once shaved with chilli powder by Gayoom’s henchmen. This is a madness in method missing even from the notorious ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ at Guantanamo Bay.

Now, though, we are to believe that this vast ideological chasm between Gayoom and Them has been magically crossed. That somehow, in the turmoil of transition, the ideological kaleidoscope was shaken so much that Gayoom and Adhaalath are now soulmates.

Do you find it hard to believe that an individual could flip-flop across such vast ideological terrain in one lifetime, let alone in one political career (no matter how long)? Is it difficult to grasp how one man can go from actively banning the buruga to aligning himself with those who take the measure of a woman’s morality by the very same piece of cloth?

Do you find it difficult to get your head around how a man who once courted international diplomatic accolade with such rigour would now align himself with a party that thinks Iranian approval is a foreign policy victory? Even bearing in mind that this is Gayoom we are talking about, it is hard to make sense of such a complete volte face, is it not?

Do not be too hard on yourself, though, for no such vast ideological changes have occurred. The truth of the matter is there was no ideology to begin with. We are an ideologically empty vessel, and the proof is not just in the clamour that such vessels tend to make and we hear constantly on our airwaves. It is there to see in the many crossings made over seemingly irreconcilable ideological lines in recent times.

Remember DRP’s most vitriolic and vociferously anti-MDP figure in the Majlis, MP Ali Waheed, moving to MDP in May this year? The air was filled with such a triumphant yellow that everyone looked jaundiced. What was there to celebrate? That MDP was one man closer to an outright parliamentary majority.

Granted, a majority is clearly necessary if MDP is to surmount the blockades to progress set up by the Maldivian Tea Party-ers. But on how firm an ideological ground is a party willing to welcome – if not buy – a man who until the moment of transfer had been against everything the party stood for?

Fast-forward a few months, and there is Mr Ali Waheed, the proud owner of a MRF 4.6 million home, on the beachfront of Hulhumale’. How did he afford it? It is a question that one must not ask for fear of ‘politicising’ the issue, says the man himself. Indeed. These journalists must be insane to find anything political about an MP, even on the outrageous monthly income of Rf 60,000, buying a plot of land for almost Rf 5 million.

Then we have Adhaalath, the party of purists and the gatekeepers of heaven for Maldivians. One day they describe the West as the Great Satan, the Puppet Masters of the religiously weak Dhivehin, the corrupters of our children and the seducers of our youth. The next day they fly in individuals who represent the worst the West has to offer to lecture us on how we should conduct and govern ourselves.

British MP George Galloway

First there was Philip Green, according to whom England is a country full of drunken louts who do nothing but puke and urinate alcohol on the streets of London twenty four hours a day seven days a week.

Then Adhaalath proudly links us via video to George Galloway, former UK MP and Celebrity Big Brother star who once danced on national television in a pink lycra cat-suit. While even sinful liberals found Galloway’s behaviour hard to comprehend, self-righteous Adhaalath seems to have had no such qualms.

If Adhaalath believes what it says, how can it hold Galloway up as a figure of authority to the same people that it wants to cleanse of all alleged Western debauchery? Galloway’s decisions in the Middle East have not been exactly wise, to put it kindly. But that’s all right, because Adhaalath found some perverse use to make of him. And Galloway lapped it all up, like the cat that he was on Big Brother, happily dictating our foreign policy as ‘an entirely Muslim country’.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, in the same week we were celebrating our independence from British protection. It was also the same week in which Gayoom was speaking of the imminent threat we face from a supposed revitalisation of British imperial ambitions.

Ideological complexities? No. Lack of ideology, lack of a purpose except one’s own political or pecuniary power. What matters is knowing which side of your bread your Halal butter is on. What matters is that there is a pot of political gold at the end of the rainbow of beliefs one can feel free to pick and choose from.

This emptiness of rhetoric, of being, is dangerous.

As we saw from the riots in London earlier this month, when the people at the top believe that it is okay to rob from the poor with impunity like the bankers did in the West; and that it is alright to violate the rights of others as Murdoch’s news empire did in Britain – the chances are that the little people below may feel free to do the same.

If we want a society with purpose and belief, we need leaders who say what they mean; not individuals who take a Hypocrite’s Oath when assuming office.

To see the future of things to come if we continue on this path of duplicity, we need only look at the rampant hypocrisy among us from the designation of ‘Top Fashion Accessory’ status to the buruga to the ‘Back to the Prophet’s Day’ men on Harley Davidsons with their orange beards grotesquely flowing in the wind.

If all this is doing your head in, sign up for an Incantation Class at the Islamic Foundation’s Halal Magic Courses. Book early, though. They are proving even more popular than the fishnet stockings and the Botox shots that are to accompany next season’s lamé burugas.

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]