Nine hour power cut in Malé caused by damaged switch gear

The State Electricity Company (STELCO) has said that a power outage in the Galolhu ward of Malé around 1:00am last night was caused by a damaged switch gear at a distribution centre in Lily Magu.

The power cut lasted more than nine hours and followed STELCO warning of intermittent cuts in the capital after one of two main 8MW generators at the power plant suffered damage.

STELCO spokesperson Ibrahim Rauf told Minivan News that electricity services resumed around 11:00am this morning after the switch gear was replaced.

Contrary to rumours, Rauf said last night’s outage was not the result of an overload caused by LED lights placed at government buildings to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of independence.

Rauf suggested that the damage could have been caused by heavy rainfall last night, but said that the exact cause has not been determined.

The damage to one of the main engines earlier this month was caused by “technical problems” and will take time to repair, Rauf said. The generator’s parts will have to be brought from overseas and replaced, he added.

STELCO is yet to determine the cause of the generator failure.

The government-owned electricity provider in the atolls, Fenaka Corporation, is meanwhile transporting two 2MW engines to Malé from Addu City for temporary use during the independence day celebrations.

Rauf said one of the generators was shipped out last night and STELCO “will see when it arrives” whether it could be installed ahead of Independence Day. But he expressed confidence that STELCO will be able to handle the high demand for electricity on July 26 without power cuts.

Meanwhile, in a Facebook post on Sunday, Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodiq said electricity services provided by the central power station was disrupted last week while power outages have been common in recent weeks.

The transfer of the generator to Malé is regrettable, he said, calling on the government not to “deprive citizens of such basis services.”

The government’s policy of ensuring reliable, round-the-clock electricity across the country has “failed,” Sodiq contended.

“The question is if Addu faces an electricity problem tomorrow, will an engine be brought from Greater Malé?” he asked.

Rauf meanwhile told Minivan News last week that the LED lights strung for independence day celebrations will use around 2.5 MW of electricity from the STELCO grid.

“We are very concerned and saddened because the lights may also suffer due to the power cuts,” he said.

Malé uses 46MW of electricity on average, but the amount could go up to 52MW at peak hours or on dry and humid days.

“The demand for electricity depends a lot on the weather. If we have wet cold weather then people would not use air-conditioners and electricity demand will be reduced,” he said.

It has been raining heavily in Malé this week, but July 26 is expected to be dry, according to weather forecasts.

Power cuts will last only one hour at high demand periods, and will be spread out in different areas of Malé, Rauf said.

Maldives is celebrating 50 years of independence from the British on July 26.

The government is planning grand celebrations to mark Independence Day, including a parade by the army and school brass bands, reopening of public parks with water fountains, an official function at the Usfasgandu area with more than 100 foreign dignitaries, official games at the national stadium, and a football tournament in the atolls.


US ready to ‘deepen partnership’ with Maldives, seeks progress on democracy

The US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal has said that the US is ready to strengthen relations with the Maldives but seeks more progress on democracy and human rights in the Maldives.

Following a call with Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon to offer Ramazan greetings, Biswal tweeted that she had reiterated concerns regarding the “erosion of democratic institutions” and of “fundamental freedoms.”

Diplomatic pressure has been increasing on the Maldives over the jailing of opposition politicians, including ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and crackdown on opposition protests.

During a visit to the Maldives last year, Biswal said judicial independence and politically motivated threats remain an issue in the Maldives, despite the young democracy’s accomplishments.

The assistant secretary of state’s most recent comments come two weeks after the Supreme Court passed a ruling against the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), barring it from communicating independently with foreign organizations.

The court’s ruling on June 16 found a human rights assessment submitted by the watchdog to the UN unlawful, and imposed an 11-point guideline prescribing how the HRCM should operate within the law.

The US has taken an unprecedented interest in recent events in the Maldives.

Earlier this month, US Senators John McCain and Jack Reed urged their government to press for the release of all political prisoners in the Maldives, including Nasheed.

The two Senators, who head the Senate Armed Forces Committee, warned that the Maldives’ decisions are “having serious adverse consequences on its relationships abroad.”

The US Secretary of State John Kerry in May said that democracy is under threat in the Maldives.

“We’ve seen even now how regrettably there are troubling signs that democracy is under threat in the Maldives where the former president Nasheed has been imprisoned without due process,” Kerry told the Sri Lankan press.

“This is an injustice that needs to be addressed soon.”


Maldives’ sovereignty threatened by “economic slavery”: President Waheed

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has said talk of the Maldives’ independence or sovereignty will be pointless if the country falls into “economic slavery”, following the passing out parade of the second Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Officer Candidate Course.

The comments were said to have been made in relation to the importance of “safeguarding” national security, according to the President’s Office.

Speaking after commissioning new officers from the course yesterday (May 25), President Waheed – in his capacity of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces – said it was not just the MNDF and police who were required to protect national security.

He therefore called on every individual in the country to prioritise “national interests”.

The President’s Office website quoted Dr Waheed as stating that the government was committed to having a diplomatic policy said to protect the Maldives’ interests, as well as those of “other friendly nations”.

Yesterday’s parade was held at the Girifushi training facility.


Economic dependency threatens Maldives’ independence, warns President Waheed

The Maldives has become financially and economically dependent on foreign parties to an extent that threatens the nation’s independence and sovereignty, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik warned in his address (Dhivehi) to the nation on Republic Day.

Speaking at a function at Dharubaaruge last night, President Waheed said the country has still not recovered from the devastation wrought by the tsunami in December 2004.

“The national debt has soared to levels it has never reached before. In the past four or five years, the country has become financially and economically dependent on foreign parties to an extent that undermines our domestic and economic independence,” he said.

The Maldives “faced challenges to domestic stability” with the post-2004 constitutional changes and democratic reforms, he added.

“During this time, the country’s constitutional framework was destroyed and the state started to function outside of legal bounds,” Dr Waheed said. “And in addition to this, after the events of February 7 this year, some people have created further challenges to the country’s economic development and diplomatic relations.”

Then-Vice President Waheed assumed office on February 7 following the resignation of former President Mohamed Nasheed in the wake of civil unrest and a police mutiny at Republic Square.

The Republic Day marks the abolishment of an 853-year-old monarchy and its replacement by a second republic under President Ibrahim Nasir on November 11, 1968.

President Waheed meanwhile said in his speech that the country was facing a trial “during hard economic times” to increase government revenue, improve services to the public, maintain diplomatic ties and “establish financial and economic freedom.”

These objectives had to be achieved in a “world without domestic walls, within a social fabric where protecting Islamic values and the nation’s independence has weakened,” Dr Waheed said.

In his speech at a ceremony to mark ‘Victory Day’ on November 3, President Waheed claimed that foreign parties were attempting to exert undue influence over the Maldives “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 over waves of secularism [or secular ideologies]  to the country,” Dr Waheed had said.

Meanwhile, in his address on Sunday night, President Waheed said sacrifices “such as those of our ancestors” were needed for peace and security and to ensure that “the economy is not destroyed through differences of opinion” and that “the social fabric is not unwoven through political antagonism.”

Important decisions needed to be made for next year’s budget to reduce expenditure and increase government revenue, he added.

President Waheed also announced his intention to convene a “National Conference” as a forum to discuss development strategies.

Ideas and opinions would be sought at the forum to chart a roadmap for development, he said.

Politicians, entrepreneurs, tradesmen, scholars, students, women, youth, judges, lawyers and private parties would be invited to participate in the conference, Waheed said.

In late October, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad told local media that the Maldives would be unable to pay salaries and meet recurrent expenditure for the rest of the year without a further US$25 million loan from the Indian government.

The US$25 million was agreed upon in September as part of the $US100 million standby credit facility signed with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November 2011.

Jihad told local media that he believed the loan was being delayed due to the ongoing controversy over Indian infrastructure company GMR’s development of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), which is opposed by all parties in the ruling coalition.

Since coming to power, Waheed’s government has committed to reimbursing civil servants for wage reductions made during the austerity measures of the previous government, amounting to MVR443.7 million (US$28.8 million), to be disbursed in monthly instalments over 12 months from July 2012.

As of November 4, the overall fiscal deficit has already reached over MVR 2 billion (US$129 million). Jihad told the Majlis’ Finance Committee that he expected this figure to rise to MVR 6 billion (US$387million) by year’s end – 28 percent of GDP – alleging that the previous government left unpaid bills equal to over one third of this anticipated deficit.

Former Minister of Economic Development Mahmood Razee told Minivan News that increased expenditure in the face of a pre-existing deficit represented the government “ignoring reality.”

A delegation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) meanwhile urged parliament’s Finance Committee and Economic Committee last week to expedite legislation on fiscal responsibility.


Comment: Challenges to an infant democracy

The following speech was delivered to India-based think tank, the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) on August 3, 2012.  The original transcript can be read here.

It’s an honour and a great pleasure for me to speak to you at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), this morning.

As many of you would know the Maldives has recently experienced significant political change. In 2008, we ratified a new constitution, based on the principles of a modern democracy and had the first multi-party election.

This election resulted in a historic change of a 30-year regime. However, despite the change, the aspirations of the people for a more democratic future did not materialize. On top of that just after 3 years into his presidency the new President Mr Nasheed resigned. And now he is challenging the circumstances that led to his resignation and this has created further political disharmony and tensions.

Today, I would like to briefly share with you some of the challenges that the Maldives faces as an infant democracy. None of the challenges will be of great surprise to you. Indeed you have faced very grave challenges yourself.

Today, you have emerged as a mature democracy, making rapid strides in your developmental efforts. This is a source of great inspiration not only to the Maldives, but to all emerging democracies around the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, in a few days the Maldives will celebrate the 4th Anniversary of our new constitution. The process of constitutional enactment in the Maldives included a referendum on the system of government. The people favored a presidential system to a parliamentary system. We all had high hopes for our new constitution, and for a smooth transition from a largely autocratic system to a multi-party democracy.

The new constitution stipulates the separation of powers and for the first time it guaranteed fundamental rights and freedoms. It mandates the formation of independent commissions and other institutions that are vital for a democracy to function well.

The new constitution also introduced the concept of decentralised governance of atolls and islands by elected local councils instead of the traditional presidential appointees. The initial major test for the new constitution was the first multi-party presidential election.

After a strong contest with 6 candidates representing a wide range of Maldivian opinion, that election ended President Gayoom’s 30 years of rule and Mr Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate, supported by a coalition of other parties was sworn in, on November 11 2008, as the 4th President of the Maldives. However, after just over 3 years into his 5-year term, President Nasheed resigned on 7th February.

As stipulated in the new constitution, the Vice President, Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, was then sworn in as the 5th President of the Maldives.

President Nasheed resigned in front of the media accompanied by his cabinet, saying he resigned for the national good. However, the next day he argued that he resigned under duress.

This has created substantial controversy and has led to the establishment of a Commission of National Inquiry to look in to the circumstances of the transfer of power. This has been the subject of a lot of speculation and featured in the media and discussions in India and elsewhere.

As I said earlier the people had high hopes for our new political system. The people expected vast improvements over the previous system of governance; they did not want law and order to be influenced by politics; they wanted the judiciary to be free from political and other influences; they wanted job security in the public sector to be independent from politics; they wanted to see greater transparency in awarding public sector contracts; they wanted a system of local governance where things that are directly related to their welfare to be, by and large, determined by their representatives at the local level; the people wanted a free and fair media; and most of all they wanted their life to be better under the new democratic system.

These aspirations were not met. This was because, the new government on the one hand, did not have the sincerity to see through the democratic process that we adopted. On the other hand there was a tendency to carry out reforms regardless of the means by which those reforms were implemented.

This increased the room for corrupt practices and other inefficiencies resulting from moral hazard. I believe, in lending support to the democratic process, the means of achieving national development objectives is as important as the ends of development themselves.

From the outset, the new government was not sufficiently sensitive to the values of sincerity and patience. It is important to underline the fundamental importance of these values in making the system work. The people need to be reassured that democracy can meet their needs in their day to day lives and serve to fulfill their aspirations for a better future.

If we are to be a successful modern multi-party democracy we need to give the people confidence that the vision and ideals that inspired the 2008 constitution are still relevant.

Let me explain in some detail some of the instances where these important fundamentals were breached by the Nasheed government.

Historians, legal and constitutional experts, and indeed citizens more generally, I’m sure would agree that the establishment and maintenance of the rule of law is a fundamental pillar of democracy.

One of the major challenges that the Maldives faces, even today is maintaining the rule of law. The people were fed up with the earlier system where the executive had a direct influence on the police service and the criminal justice system. The new constitution introduced a very different criminal justice system with a number of safeguards. For instance the establishment of an independent judiciary, and an independent prosecutor general among other measures, were impartial mechanisms to dispense justice.

The parliament had also established an independent Police Integrity Commission, which was important in setting the parameters for these institutions to function within a democratic framework. Where there is no rule of law there cannot be a meaningful or successful democracy. However, Mr Nasheed – when it suited him, totally disregarded this key principle.

A landmark transition towards democracy was the formation of a police service in 2008, accountable to the Home Ministry, ending the decades old system of military having to attend to the policing function as well. Before this positive change, the outgoing government of President Gayoom was blamed for alleged police brutality. This was a key theme of the MDP presidential campaign in 2008.

With Nasheed’s government in place, Maldivians anticipated that the military and police would be freed from any attempt by the government to use them to promote any political agenda or ends. Sadly that assumption proved to be wrong. The police and in some cases even the military were mobilized on many unlawful political tasks, some of which even defied Maldivian Supreme Court rulings.

In any consideration of the events of earlier this year, it should always be remembered that the nationwide protests and demonstrations that lasted 22 days in Male’, leading up to President Nasheed’s resignation was sparked by the unlawful detention and arrest of a Senior Judge of the Criminal Court by the military while President Nasheed was the head of the armed forces.

Therefore, despite important institutional changes, the Nasheed government influenced the police to act in ways that were favourable to MDP. As such, when MDP conducted demonstrations they received preferential treatment, while opposition rallies were summarily dispersed.

Ladies and gentlemen, Let me now turn to a brief consideration of the influence of politics on the civil service. In the Maldives, where the civil service is the single largest employer, any policy that impacts the civil service has an immediate and lasting effect on the welfare of a significant proportion of the workforce.

Prior to the Civil Service Act of 2007, the appointment, dismissal and the setting of remunerations and all other benefits related to them were directly controlled by the President’s Office.

However, with the enactment of the Civil Service Act, an independent Civil Service Commission answerable to the parliament was established with total responsibility to oversee the functioning of the civil service.

Yet, President Nasheed’s government undermined the role of the civil service. Firstly, this was by drastically increasing the number of political appointees, both by making new appointments at executive levels and by registering existing civil service employees as political appointees. This increased the number of public service employees that were directly under the purview of the executive.

Secondly, the president formed public corporations which did not come under the purview of the civil service. This enabled the executive to control large numbers of public sector employees. One example of this was the National Health Service, which was brought under a system of health services corporations and made responsible for providing health services to the community.

This meant that large numbers of civil service employees in the health sector were shifted to the health corporations. This, in turn, meant that a large number of public sector employees were suddenly dependent on the executive for their livelihood. These tactics enabled the executive to exercise undue political influence on a large number of public employees and, in effect, compromised the effectiveness of the Civil Service Act.

Ladies and gentlemen.  One of the positive changes people anticipated as a result of the new constitution was the system of decentralised local governance. However, when the first local council election delivered an overwhelming victory for the opposition the decentralisation process was slowed down by the Nasheed government.

Elected local councils are, by law, empowered to carry out many aspects of governance at the local level, yet with many of the councils having at the time a non MDP majority, the government refused to decentralise power.

Instead former President Nasheed created national administrative centers, accountable just to him. This added an overbearing administrative layer to the existing structure of decentralisation. Such actions were undemocratic, partisan and led to a waste of resources at a financially difficult time.

Another key aspect of a modern democracy was the establishment of an independent media. A free and an independent media, which is often referred to as the fourth pillar of the state, received considerable attention during the process of democratic change in the Maldives.

A free and an independent media provide the necessary checks and balances within the democratic system of governance. This led to the creation of the institutional framework that governed the operation of free media, and created the space for the development of private media, particularly the development of private radio and television for the first time in the Maldives. This also led to the establishment of the concept of an impartial public broadcaster that was essentially free from political influence.

During the 30 year rule of President Gayoom, state media was used largely as a propaganda tool for the regime. This was seen as a very visible example of the absence of democracy in the Maldives at the time. One of the strongest demands when people were calling for democratic reform from 2003 onwards was for a free and independent media.

It should be noted that one of the key points in the MDP’s 2008 manifesto was a pledge to establish a public broadcaster by the parliament. However, when the MDP government came in to power they refused to transfer the assets of the state broadcasting corporation to the new statutory body, the MBC (or, the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation), that was formed as the public broadcaster. The MDP government essentially refused to comply with the legislation simply because the members of the MBC board of directors appointed by parliament was not to their liking.

These, ladies and gentlemen, are some of the key challenges confronting the Maldives as the country faces a new dawn of democracy.

Let me conclude by making a few remarks about the way forward.

The year 2008 saw the beginning of a democratic transition in the Maldives. The enactment of the new constitution was the crucial first step of this transition from an autocratic system to a modern democracy. Enacting the constitution itself however, is not sufficient to establish a functioning modern democracy.

Democratic transition is a process that needs a number of further steps in order for it to be successful. Some of these steps are outlined in the constitution. They include holding the first multi-party presidential election, the establishment of the Supreme Court, holding of the first multi-party parliamentary elections, setting up various independent bodies, holding of the first local council elections and the enactment of various pieces of legislations. Further, it is also important to strengthen the democratic institutions through capacity building.

Some of this work has already been completed. The remaining tasks need to be undertaken and completed over the coming months and years.

As the Maldives heads towards its second presidential elections under our new constitution, much needs to be done to rebuild people’s confidence at this stage of our infant democracy.

To develop such confidence amongst the people the leadership must show commitment and conviction in adhering to the principles of democracy. The leadership must have the courage to see through the process of democratic change.

Unfortunately, the first government under the new democratic constitution did not display the courage and patience to follow the path of democratic governance. As a result it has held up the transition process.

The way forward has been further complicated because of the current political tensions resulting from President Nasheed’s contention that he was forced to resign. This has resulted in further widening the political polarization within Maldives society.

Further, there is a very real fear that the people are getting increasingly frustrated that their aspirations are not being met. And when there is political instability it can undermine economic prosperity which can have a direct impact on the quality of life.

Therefore, it is important to have dialogue among the main stakeholders in order to create stability and reduce political tension. If the parties are unable to reach an amicable solution, meaningful progress in the democratic transition can only happen after the presidential elections due next year.

On a positive note, despite the frustrations, I believe, the peoples aspirations for democratisation has not changed.

We appreciate the continuous engagement by the government of India to facilitate an early resolution to the political stalemate in Maldives, particularly the timely engagement through repeated visits by the Foreign Secretary, His Excellency Mr Ranjan Mathai.

I also commend the important role of the Indian High Commissioner in the Maldives, His Excellency, Mr Mullay, for his dedication and hard work during these trying times. Also I greatly appreciate his efforts to enhance relations between our two countries, sometimes under very difficult circumstances.

The road to democracy is no doubt, long and hard, with many challenges along the way. But through persistence and good will, I’m sure the fruits of democracy will be as sweet as the future is bright.

Ahmed Thasmeen Ali is an MP and leader of the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP).

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


“Consensus” now to appoint foreign expert to inquiry panel: government

As the European Union reiterates calls for “urgent agreement” on a process for political reconciliation and elections in the Maldives, the government has said it would welcome international independent assistance on ratifying its legitimacy – but only by an organisation accepted by all parties.

The inclusion of international experts in the Committee of National Inquiry (CNI) has been urged by numerous international actors as well as the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and former President Nasheed.  The CNI has been charged with looking into legality of the transfer of presidential power last month to ascertain the legitimacy of the current government.

It currently consists of three members: Ismail Shafeeu, former minister of defence and national security during President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom’s administration; Dr Ali Fawaz Shareef, Deputy Vice Chancellor at Maldives National University; and Dr Ibrahim Yasir, former Director General of Health Services.

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News today that there was now “consensus” among politicians for a foreign expert to sit on the panel of the CNI to ascertain the truth over the controversial transfer of power. However, Abbas claimed that the government was presently seeking UN assistance for the inquiry panel following allegations of bias by former opposition MPs and government ministers against  “British interference” within the Commonwealth.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) claimed in response that efforts by certain MPs and government members to discredit the Commonwealth in favour of the UN were nothing but a stalling tactic to delay appointing international assistance.

The Commonwealth, whose ministerial action group (CMAG) last week backed early elections in the country has been criticised by some former opposition MPs and government figures in the Maldives for the comments. The organisation has nonetheless been backed by the EU in its decision to send Special Envoy Sir Don McKinnon to the country over the last few days to hold dialogue with all parties and several former presidents.

Although, not directly echoing the Commonwealth’s calls that “the earliest possible expression of the will of the people was required to establish universal faith in the legitimacy of those who govern the [Maldives],” the EU stressed concern over the continued political unrest in the Maldives.

“I believe it is of utmost importance that political parties and authorities abstain from taking any action that could further complicate matters. Moreover, the security of the leaders of political parties has to be guaranteed,” stated Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

“Agreement on the holding of early elections, on the independent investigation of the transfer of power of February 7 and on the re-establishment of the correct functioning of government and parliament is now more important than ever.”

International assistance

Responding to the comments, Abbas Adil Riza said that President Waheed and his government appreciated the consideration of international bodies like the Commonwealth and EU regarding the current political situation in the country.  He added that the government had therefore pledged to do everything they could to follow their advice.

The president’s spokesperson said the government was presently trying to work in line with international calls to host fresh presidential elections and a independent enquiry into the events leading to Dr Waheed coming to power on February 7.

“We are working hard to put together the most independent commission for the enquiry so we can have all parties to agree on its outcome,” Abbas stated. “Sadly MDP MPs have made accusations questioning the pointed panels independence so we have called on the UN to assist with this matter.”

When asked about the nature of this UN “assistance”, the government spokesperson said that discussions has so far related to securing an international expert to be appointed to the CNI panel.

However, Abbas stressed that the government favoured UN assistance – a body which has been noticeably silent amid the country’s growing political crisis. Abbas said some of the former opposition political parties, now in government, had accused the Commonwealth of being bribed by the MDP in local media.

“Since the MDP accusation questioning the independence of the current panel, the PPM and indeed some in the government have raised issues of British involvement in the Commonwealth. The international party has to play a role that is unbiased,” he said.

“The PPM, which is a major political party in this country, has outright accused the Commonwealth of bias.”

Abbas told Minivan News that amidst these allegations, acquiring the direct assistance of the UN, which represented a much wider scope of countries was a more preferable “solution to ensuring legality” of the government.

To this end, the spokesperson added that the foreign Ministry has been in touch with the UN over obtaining international assistance with the independent investigation and that responses had so far been “positive”.

However, he stressed that ensuring true independence in the Maldives was extremely difficult.

“The government is trying to find a balanced solution that all sides can agree upon. However, in a third world country like the Maldives the solutions are often very complex,” Abbas claimed. It is very complicated to maintain neutrality.”

However, MDP spokesperson, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said the party remained cautious over the government’s commitments to secure an international expert to oversee the independent investigation.

“What we have noticed is evasiveness by the government to finalise international involvement in the enquiry,” he said. “I believe the UN talks are a deviation.”

Ghafoor claimed that this alleged “reluctance” by the Waheed government to involve international experts in its affairs was reflected in what he called the disproportionate response from some MPs towards dismissing and insulting the Comonwealth.

To support this claim, he pointed to comments made by Foreign Minister Dhunya Maumoon, who dismissed calls by the Commonwealth for early elections as showing bias towards one particular party – presumably the MDP and former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Despite these concerns, Ghafoor said he was very encouraged by the latest EU statement issued by Catherine Ashton.  The MDP spokesperson claimed the statement raised additional concerns regarding the current political situation from its previous statement last month, such as in the manner that government and parliament was presently functioning.

“We believe that this shows the situation has deteriorated further,” he claimed.


Comment: One captain, one course

These past weeks’ demonstrations, protests, and proclamations continually evoke the principle that constitutional powers must be separated, but conveniently ignore the checks and balances which are meant to be inherent to any functional democracy.

We have had one constitutional crisis after another precisely because our system is broken. The checks don’t work and our system is anything but balanced. The opposition claims the executive is all powerful, while the ruling party claims that both the legislature and the judiciary are trying to hijack the government. The only way forward is through leveling the playing field. I propose we do this in two ways; implementing a real power of veto and meeting our constitutional obligations regarding the judiciary.

At Democracy’s Doorstep

It is self-evident that the democracy we fought for against 30 years of tyranny has not come to pass. In November of 2008, we merely started the next leg of a voyage that pioneers like the President and Vice President started two decades earlier.

In that moment, it was fitting that they embarked on this next leg together. And though much hailed as the fruition of hopes and dreams for democracy, what we failed to grasp is that the journey was not yet complete. The legislature, when controlled by a hostile opposition can bring the state to a standstill, while the judiciary remains with strong political bias and an ethos that should have ended when the middle ages did.

Democracy is meant to function with representation from the people. The people choose a president and a plan for five years, and while the implementation of that plan should be vetted through the legislature and the rule of law safeguarded by the judicature, neither of the two subsidiary bodies are supposed to take the helm of the country. A ship is supposed to have one captain, who is advised and guided, but whose direction and vision guides the course that the ship takes.

The reason why we have a presidential system is because we have the right to choose the vision to guide our nation. We choose our President and Vice President as they are directly elected by us. We choose our path for five years.

But say they both, God forbid, die tomorrow. Our Speaker becomes interim President till elections are held. In parliamentary systems, those who control parliament head government as well, and they do fine – right?

Wrong. If the Speaker led government, we would have a man who represents only 0.2 percent of the voting population (having won his seat with a total of 305 votes). A delightfully clearheaded and capable man though he is, he would not represent the people. We would not have a say in how our country should progress.

In 2008, when we voted, we had our say. Fine, a bunch of people voted against the former President, rather than for this one – but that is one of the growing pains of overcoming dictatorship. We chose this path, so it is time we stopped institutional mechanisms from hindering it.

We stand here at democracy’s doorstep, afraid to cross the threshold because of our authoritarian past. But the point of government is not to constantly bicker and make governing impossible, but rather to provide for those who elected you to power – not through handouts but rather through policy that changes things rather than causes stagnation.

The Point of Majlis

All the Majlis has done for the last three years is to find ways to cause stagnation rather than governance. The opposition believes that every government policy is wrong and that instead of dialogue, the only avenue available is to block policy. It is not about helping the people – it is about making sure the government fails.

That is not the way a government is supposed to function. Apart from the fact that our newly elected Majlis members have no resources, guidance, or staff to assist them – we are also encumbered by a significant institutional failing: the President has no veto.

When the President sends a bill back to Parliament because it is either inconsistent with his vision, or because it may be damaging to the people, it is but a symbolic gesture in our country. In other nations, such an action can only be overturned by a stronger majority (such as two-thirds).

Yet in the Maldives, a simple majority can force a bill through. A simple majority can hijack government and change the course of our ship. This is not the way it was meant to be. Because of the electoral system by which our parliamentarians are chosen, and because of the other factors that influence parliamentary functions, that simple majority can never equal the weight of the office of the President. To change our course and to change the direction which our country follows, we must empower our president with the authority to stand against the tyranny of a minority, and only ever let the will of the majority override the vision we chose.

An Independent Judiciary

Yet a nation cannot function, unless the rule of law is safeguarded. We worked long and hard to ensure that the judiciary would be one that was independent and free from political and social bias. There is but one mechanism to keep the judiciary accountable; the Judicial Services Commission. Alas, this mechanism has failed. It was tasked with thinning the herd, with vetting our judges, and with maintaining some level of dignity on the Maldivian bench. As described by Dr Azra Naseem, we had our moment to hold the judiciary to some standard, and we collectively dropped the ball.

The constitution clearly empowers this commission to take disciplinary action, including dismissal proceedings, against judges for incompetence or gross misconduct. And yet, when they finally get around to finding that Abdulla Mohamed failed to comply with the required standard of conduct, on the 26th of November 2011, the same judge managed to have a court order issued preventing further proceedings. The one body charged with keeping our courts in check has proven itself powerless to fulfill its constitutional mandate.

Here, we have a judge whom most agree is corrupt – or at the very least unfit to sit in so high an office; we have a judge who is blatantly politically biased and admits as much on national television; we have a judge who has released criminals including rapists and drug dealers and who has been seen cavorting with defendants after his rulings; and yet we as a nation and a people are powerless to remove him from the office which he so flagrantly disgraces. Can there be a constitutional failing that is more evident than the one embodied in this man?

A Constitutional Amendment

Our path and our national progression are being hindered by mechanisms that do not function. We have a President determined to follow through on the promises he made when elected; to provide housing, healthcare, transportation, less drug abuse and a better standard of living. Yet even basic policies are refuted, not by the merit of the program, but rather by the party which proposed it. And now there are few avenues that are open to move forward. We need to move beyond stagnation as a policy for politics. We need to change the game. There is but one captain of this ship. For five years, we choose one captain, one direction and one path. In 2013 the path might change, but before that happens – let fix these mechanisms. Let’s become the democracy we were always meant to be.

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


Comment: India and Pakistan, a tale of two destinies

On the stroke of midnight, 64 years ago, a bold, unprecedented and brash idea made a momentous tryst with destiny.

It was at this late hour that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru announced to a world that “India will awake to life and freedom”.

Just the previous day, on August 14, 1947 – an Urdu poet’s utopian vision also came to fruition with the creation of Pakistan, a Muslim state carved out of British India.

It marked the beginning of an epic, intense rivalry, one that lasts to this day.

This week, on the 64th anniversary of their births, the two rival nations of the subcontinent present a marvelous study in contrast.

Shaky Foundations

By 1949, both countries had lost their founding fathers– Jinnah succumbed to a long illness, while Gandhi fell to the bullets of a Hindu fanatic.

It is an understatement to say, looking back, that the idea of India had seemed impossible back then. Following a bloody, violent partition, the largest mass migrations in modern history had left eight million refugees to be resettled and provided for.

Hundreds of Independent Princely states that formed British India had to be coaxed or coerced into joining the new dominion, and become part of this impossible nation that defied all reason.

Once this was achieved, there remained the gargantuan task of taking a long colonised nation of hundreds of millions of illiterate, poor, hungry and dogmatic people, and lead them into a new, prosperous future.

The new state of Pakistan seemed to have it a bit easier – with a state that was established and identified by such homogeneity as one dominant religion and one official language, whereas India was a boiling pot of cultures, races, religions, terrain and geography, all tied together with an untested, unknown thread of nationhood.

Even before it could adopt a constitution, the Indian state was already under attack from extremists on both the left and the right – the former rejecting the perceived Western Imperialism backing the new nation, and the latter, Hindu fanatics railing against the secular state announced by Nehru.

Both these forces continue to be active in India today – the Maoists continue to wage war against the Indian state, and the Hindu fanatics continue to demand a Hindu state.

The tribal invasion of Kashmir in 1947 further threatened the stability of the situation, sparking the first war between the two infant republics, and creating the knotty Kashmir tangle that remains unresolved to this day.

Yet, despite the ever present tactics of violence – none of these forces have been successful at destroying the fabric of India’s unity, which has endured marvelously throughout the decades.

The two wings of Pakistan, however, could not survive the pressures of civil war – and culminated in the formation of independent Bangladesh in 1971, with Indian assistance.

Dance of Destiny

It was perhaps destiny that India achieved its freedom in an age that saw towering personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru.

The modernist Nehru left no doubts about his vision for India – an overwhelmingly religious country that would not be bound by any single defined religion or culture or language.

To quote from his landmark midnight speech, “All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.”

The equally modernist Mohamed Ali Jinah, also outlined his vision for Pakistan in his famous August 11 speech to the Pakistan Constituent Assembly, a day now marked in Pakistan as ‘Minority day’: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

The first constitution of Pakistan declaring it an Islamic republic in 1956 proved to be the first blow to this magnanimous vision of the much-revered Jinnah.

Within two years of its adoption, Pakistan saw its first coup d’etat, and this set the tone for Pakistan’s perpetual lost decades, which would be littered with failed democracies and military coups.

The fate of Pakistan was sealed with rise of the religious fundamentalist General Zia-ul-Haq, whose regime oversaw the tampering of the Pakistan Penal code, and introduction of Hudood ordinances to ‘Islamise’ Pakistan, the outlawing of Ahmadi minorities in direct contravention of the founder’s dreams, and the strengthening of the military’s ability to forever intervene in politics.

The destiny of Pakistan would remain forever mired in the three A’s – Allah, America and the Army.

Pakistan, it would turn out, would not see a single decade of political stability or a single successful democratic government in the years to come.

In stark contrast, India has seen 14 successful general elections, despite a burgeoning billion-plus population – a large portion of which started out largely illiterate, poor and malnourished.

Despite the large, creaky bureaucracy and widespread allegations of corruption, the Indian state continues to function and pull millions out of poverty, achieving self-sufficiency in food production, and making education a fundamental, legally enforceable right.

Where a disproportionately large proportion of Pakistan’s budget is drained annually on its all-powerful armed forces, the Indian military remains firmly under civilian control, and the various state powers remain separate and balanced.

Only recently, the Indian Supreme Court announced that the sky is the limit to its powers, when it comes to upholding the rule of law.

Apart from the brief period of emergency rule imposed by Indira Gandhi in the mid-70s, the Indian media has remained largely unshackled, free and active critics of government policy. The intellectual scene in India remains vibrant, with Indian artists and writers increasingly commanding global attention.

In the meantime, the Pakistani government’s dangerous experiments with cultivating religious fundamentalists has come back to haunt it. Hardly a week goes by without the news of sectarian violence or an explosion in a mosque; a bomb attack during this week’s Independence Day celebrations killed dozens.

Pakistani links have been established to abhorrent acts like the Mumbai terror attacks, while ‘banned’ militant organizations like Lashkar-e-taiba continue to function openly, under adopted names. Today, the Taliban created by the Pakistani intelligence is killing hundreds of Pakistani soldiers every year.

Pakistani society has radicalised to the point where lawyers and citizens do not hesitate to congregate in public and shower flowers on a murderer, who assassinated a top politician earlier this year for daring to fight for minority rights. The power-crazed Mullah has been empowered to dictate public morality, leading to often violent clashes between traditional social norms, and rising fundamentalist views.

Most damagingly, the Pakistani civilian government and military both suffer from a massive trust deficit in the international arena, compounded further by the recent discovery of Bin Laden hiding in a house, barely a mile from the country’s top military academy.


As it stands today, Pakistan, despite its promising headstart – is being increasingly dismissed by the international community as a failed state. The only continued interest in Pakistan stems from a serious global concern about the country’s nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands – a concern that does not seem to arise for its stable, democratic nuclear-armed neighbor, India.

Over time, India’s tremendous diversity – that had once threatened its very existence – has ended up becoming its greatest strength. Despite its various criticisms, and defying terrible odds, India has become a model of a functioning, pluralistic and inclusive democracy – a nation where 150 million Muslims enjoy greater social freedoms and opportunity towards prosperity than the utopia of Pakistan, that appears to have failed Pakistani Muslims.

In a little over five decades, India has grown from a wild-eyed-dream to become the third largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power – with a booming middle class, and entrepreneurs and researchers and scientists making giant strides in crucial fields like IT and biotechnology.

The poverty and famine stricken India has been replaced by a confident, surefooted nation – one that seeks to assert itself as a global power, seeking a permanent position in the Security Council, while also being lauded globally on the success of its multicultural democracy.

Pakistan’s experiments with military regimes and religious fundamentalism have left it a broken, crushed dream that the staunchest of optimists have written off, while India’s commitment to a liberal democracy has made it a resilient, vibrant power with a success story that will be hailed for generations to come.

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


Z-DRP raises spectre of British imperialism and loss of Islamic identity

President Mohamed Nasheed was elected in 2008 “with the help of the British conservative party and imperial powers,” the Zaeem-faction of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) claimed in a video message Thursday night, featured during a rally held to launch the Z-faction’s autonomous activities to celebrate the party’s sixth anniversary.

“In the two years since this government came, 22 people were killed on the street, Islam was challenged and defied,” the video message intoned. “[The government] made drinking alcohol and using drugs commonplace, appointed drug users and convicts to senior posts, sold the country’s assets to foreigners, lost control of the economy, locked down the High Court, and members of the ruling party hijacked the Deputy Speaker of parliament along with opposition MPs.

“Sickness is commonplace and the health system has been demolished. In the meantime, leaders that Zaeem Maumoon [Abdul Gayoom] brought to the political arena have abandoned his ideology and are now trying to chart a new course for their ship away from him.”

Addressing supporters after the video presentation, former President Gayoom said that the DRP’s “greatest national duty” was “to ensure that the Maldives remains a 100 percent Muslim country,” with “full independence and sovereignty.”

“The independence of the country and our faith are very much related,” he said. “The Maldives will only remain a country with complete freedom, independence and sovereignty if it remains a 100 percent Muslim country.”

If that status should change, said Gayoom, “there is no doubt that our independence will be threatened as Maldivian history has taught us the lesson that every time we lost our independence it was because some group tried to turn the Maldivian people to the wrong religion.”

He stressed that allowing freedom of religion “in a tiny country like the Maldives with a small, homogenous population” would create “disagreement and division among the people and lead to bloodshed.”


The narrated video presentation – set to black and white reels of British monarchs and ships in the Male’ harbour – sketched a history of the Maldives’ “enslavement” under British colonialism and Indian Borah merchants to independence on July 26, 1965.

“In 1834, [Robert] Morseby came to the country on behalf the British governor in Bombay to draw [maritime] charts of the Maldives,” the narration began. “But the territorial chart wasn’t the only chart the English were drawing.

“They were drawing charts of our internal affairs and the economy, too. [They] connected Maldivians with the Borah traders who upheld the interests of British imperialism, and arranged for them to be permanently settled in Male’.”

The British then proceeded to “divide and rule,” sparking a feud between two royal families led by Athireege Ibrahim Didi and Kakaage Mohamed Rannabadeyri Kilegefaanu, both of whom had “significant political interest in the trade of the Borah.”

In late 1886, Ibrahim Didi or Dhoshimeyna Kilegefaanu deposed the reigning Sultan, who was replaced with Mohamed Mueenudeen III, known as Kuda Bandarain.

“It cannot be believed that the English played no part in the great atrocity that was the coup attempt through arson [Bodu Hulhu] in 1887,” the narrator states. “The leader of the coup, Ibrahim Dhoshimeyna Kilegefaanu, was a British citizen.”

Before heading out to set fires in Male’, the arsonists “performed black magic inside Velaanage” and ate the heart of a 15-year-old boy who had died that day.

“Eventually those who committed [the acts of arson] were found and caught,” the narration continued. “Ibrahim Dhoshimeyna Kilegefaanu and his accomplices were punished and banished. [But] before too long, the English meddled with the investigation and forced the Sultan to free Ibrahim Dhoshimeyna Kilegefaanu.”

The Maldives “became enslaved by the British” on December 16, 1887 when “the Sultan was intimidated and coerced into signing the protection agreement.”


The Z-DRP video message observed that the Maldives as a British protectorate was characterised by “poverty and the struggle for the throne by powerful families” as well as political instability and the secession of three southern atolls.

“As a consequence of the country becoming a British protectorate, after 87 years the Maldives was among the poorest five countries in the world,” the narrator explained. “The British could not bring democracy to the Maldives. There was no education system, no health system and no domestic economy. And justice was not served either.”

Former President Ibrahim Nasir secured independence in 1965 but “began his own business using state resources.”

“When Nasir left office in 1978, he owned seven resorts, numerous plots of land in Male’, a shipping line and counted a number of shops among his businesses,” the narrator claimed.

The condition of the Maldivian people “was changed by our national hero and proud Zaeem [beloved leader] of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party.”

The video message argued that the ex-President “empowered Maldivians spiritually, intellectually, socially and physiologically.”

“After empowering Maldivians upon these pillars through the service of a golden 30 years, he took the country out of the list of the world’s poorest states,” the narrator stated. “[Gayoom] introduced principles of modern democracy, separated powers of the state, and introduced a multi-party system [in 2005].”

“Now the situation has darkened again,” the Z-DRP warned. “But what the people still want, north and south, and all across the country, is the ideology [of Gayoom’s reign] that empowered them.”

“True independence”

Meanwhile in his speech Gayoom explained that true independence included “freedom of thought, economic freedom and cultural freedom as well.”

“Passing our economic affairs into the hands of foreigners, just saying that we have political freedom, is not ensuring independence at all,” he contended.

Democratic governance “is the best form of governance,” said Gayoom, and the reform agenda launched in 2004 “to bring modern democracy to the Maldives has, by the grace of God, been successful.”

“As a result of [the road map for reform] the Maldives has become a complete democracy,” he said. “A complete and perfect constitution was devised, independent institutions were established, political parties were formed, the fundamental rights of the Maldivian people were protected, justice was established. All this was done and complete before 2008.”

The new constitution was ratified on August 7, 2008, two months before Gayoom was ousted in the country’s first democratic multi-party election.

Gayoom however went on to say that “renewed efforts” were needed “to bring back democracy to the country.”

“I won’t go into too much detail on this,” he said. “However even as the video we just saw explained, the situation is deteriorating on a daily basis. The people are becoming impoverished and their rights are being violated.”