President Yameen accuses opposition parties of inciting unrest, sabotaging economy

President Abdulla Yameen has accused opposition parties of attempting to foment unrest and sabotage the economy in his address to the nation on the occasion of the 49th Independence Day.

Speaking after a flag-hoisting ceremony at Republic Square last night, Yameen said the government would not allow the country to be plunged back into turmoil while it was enjoying a period of calm and stability.

“Opposition political parties are deliberately trying to disrupt stability by creating a spirit of unrest in society,” he said, adding that incitement of such fervour in the past had repeatedly threatened the country’s independence.

“I do not believe that failing to achieve the love and consent of the public should be a reason to plunge the nation into a deep pit of hatred and strife.”

Opposition parties were pushing for a tourism boycott and attempting to convince fish importers to cease purchasing Maldivian fish in a “deliberate attempt to create distress and anxiety,” Yameen alleged.

He added that “attempts to weaken the country economically” was tantamount to threatening independence.

Yameen also condemned alleged “efforts to create doubts” in the minds of foreign buyers of Maldivian fish and an alleged campaign to boycott tourism.

The current administration would “defeat all efforts to impoverish Maldivian citizens, build a peaceful generation of youth, and go forward in securing prosperity for Maldivians,” he said.

Speaking at a press conference on July 16, Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee had accused the Maldivian Democratic Party of attempting to “destroy” the fisheries industry after the main opposition party issued a statement condemning President Yameen’s fisheries policy.

Shainee dismissed the party’s contention that the industry was stagnating and appealed against spreading “false information” to international media, suggesting that the fisheries industry was “too fragile” to be made the subject of adversarial politics.

Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb told Minivan News last month that the government’s “total focus” was on the economy.

“We are not running behind our political opponents and we have stopped political rhetoric now – we have stopped responding to that but we are responding to economic issues,” he said.

Development projects

President Yameen went on to outline his administration’s development plans, referring to the special economic zone (SEZ) legislation currently before parliament as integral to the government’s economic policy.

An SEZ law would ensure investor confidence, increase foreign direct investment, create job opportunities, and mitigate the dependence on the tourism industry, Yameen explained.

Once the SEZ bill is enacted into law, he continued, one of the first projects to be undertaken would be the Ihavandhippolhu Integrated Development Project.

The ‘iHavan’ project would become “the main gateway” for development and prosperity in the northernmost atolls.

Plans for Addu City includes development of both the Gan international airport and the Hithadhoo regional harbour to spur economic activity, Yameen said.

A ‘mega project’ for development of the southernmost airport was in the pipeline while the government has decided to transfer the regional harbour under the Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) for modernisation, he revealed.

MPL would also take over the regional port in the island of Kulhudhufushi in Haa Dhaal atoll, he added.

The formulation of a master plan for the development of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) was meanwhile ongoing in collaboration with Singapore’s Changi airport, Yameen noted.

The changes envisioned in the master plan include a new terminal and a new runway, he said.

Moreover, a contract has been awarded for dredging and reclamation of Hulhumalé for development of a ‘youth city in the artificial island as pledged during last year’s presidential election, Yameen said.

He stressed that the government would ensure that development projects would not threaten the country’s independence and sovereignty following criticism of the SEZ bill.

Yameen also revealed that criminal records have been cleared for 3,588 youth since he took office in November, adding that he has asked the newly appointed Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin to introduce a new procedure to not prosecute first time offenders under an agreement signed with offenders.

Last night’s ceremony was meanwhile attended by former presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Dr Mohamed Waheed as well as senior statesmen – Abdul Sattar Moosa Didi and Ibrahim Rasheed – who worked with former President Ibrahim Nasir to secure independence from the British in 1965.


South Asia’s democratic advances shifting into reverse: Daily Star

From the armed coup that recently ousted the Maldives’ first democratically elected president Mohamed Nasheed, to the Pakistani Supreme Court’s current effort to undermine a toothless but elected government by indicting Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on contempt charges, South Asia’s democratic advances appear to be shifting into reverse, writes Brahma Chellaney in Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper.

Nasheed’s forced resignation at gunpoint has made the Maldives the third country in the region, after Nepal and Sri Lanka, where a democratic transition has been derailed. The Maldives, a group of strategically located islands in the Indian Ocean, now seems set for prolonged instability.

Political developments in the region underscore the insufficiency of free, fair and competitive elections for ensuring a democratic transition. Elections, by themselves, do not guarantee genuine democratic empowerment at the grassroots level or adherence to constitutional rules by those in power.

As a result of sputtering transitions elsewhere in South Asia, India is now the sole country in the region with a deeply rooted pluralistic democracy. That is not in India’s interest, for it confronts the country with what might be called the “tyranny of geography” – that is, serious external threats from virtually all directions.

Today, political chaos and uncertainty in the region heighten the danger of spillover effects for India, threatening the country’s internal security. An increasingly unstable neighborhood also makes it more difficult to promote regional cooperation and integration, including free trade.

The rise of Islamist groups that has accompanied anti-democratic developments in South Asia represents a further threat to the region. In vandalism reminiscent of the Taliban’s demolition of the monumental Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan in 2001, Islamists ransacked the Maldives’ main museum in Male, the capital, on the day Nasheed was ousted, smashing priceless Buddhist and Hindu statues made of coral and limestone, virtually erasing all evidence of the Maldives’ Buddhist past before its people converted to Islam in the 12th century. “The whole pre-Islamic history is gone,” the museum’s director lamented.

Encouraged by opposition politicians, Islamist groups in the Maldives are “becoming more powerful,” according to Nasheed. Likewise, in Pakistan and Bangladesh, the military intelligence agencies have nurtured jihadist groups, employing them for political purposes at home and across national frontiers.

This follows a well-established pattern in the region: autocratic rule has tended to promote extremist elements, especially when those in power form opportunistic alliances with such forces. For example, Pakistan’s thriving jihadist factions arose under two military dictators: Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who used them to confront the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and Pervez Musharraf, who fled to London in 2008 under threat of impeachment and was subsequently charged with involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007 – a milestone in Pakistan’s slide into chaos.

When a democratic experiment gains traction, as in Bangladesh under Sheikh Hasina, it crimps the extremists’ room for maneuver. But a broader lesson in much of the region is that democratic progress remains reversible unless the old, entrenched forces are ousted and the rule of law is firmly established.

For example, the Maldives’ 2008 democratic election, which swept away decades-old authoritarian rule, became a beacon of hope, which then dissipated in less than four years. As the freshly deposed Nasheed put it, “Dictatorships don’t always die when the dictator leaves office … [L]ong after the revolutions, powerful networks of regime loyalists can remain behind and can attempt to strangle their nascent democracies.”

As its tyranny of geography puts greater pressure on its external and internal security, India will need to develop more innovative approaches to diplomacy and national defense. Only through more vigorous defense and foreign policies can India hope to ameliorate its regional-security situation, freeing it to play a larger global role. Otherwise, it will continue to be weighed down by its region.

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