Yameen inaugurated as President

Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed

Abdulla Yameen has been inaugurated the sixth President of the Maldives at a People’s Majlis Sitting today, bringing to a close months of political uncertainty over delayed, annulled and obstructed presidential polls.

Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz administered the presidential oath in the presence of People’s Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid during a red carpet ceremony held at 1:00 pm at Dharubaaruge.

After Yameen took the oath of office, the army fired a 21-gun salute. The ceremony was attended by Former Presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed who sat side by side, Members of Parliament, judges, high ranking police and military officers, foreign ambassadors and state dignitaries.

Addressing the nation, Yameen said the Maldives was in an economically vulnerable position due to sky high debt, extremely high budget spending and pledged to reduce state expenditure.

“Today the Maldives is in a deep economic pit, in an economically vulnerable position. State debt is sky high. The state budget’s expenses are extremely high. Hence, we have to prioritize reducing state expenditure. I will start work very soon to reduce state budget expenditure,” he said.

He vowed to increase revenue for fishermen and farmers, expand job opportunities for youth, improve social protection mechanisms, eradicate drug abuse, provide the opportunity for women to work from home, increase the role of youth and women in the public sector, and strengthen the education system with a particular emphasis on good behavior and respect for Islam.

Claiming his government will be “one of results,” Yameen said he would protect the country’s assets including the airport – the “the main economic door of the country.”

Yameen’s administration will “uphold Maldives’ honor with international organizations,” strengthen relationships with neighboring countries and Arab Muslim countries, he said.

He appealed to the People’s Majlis, state institutions, NGOs and industrial workers to help him realize his vision for the Maldives.

“I take over the presidency of the Maldives today with a vision of tomorrow and new dreams, heralding new thoughts, giving new hopes to the people,” he added.

Yameen, the half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who ruled the Maldives for 30 years, narrowly won yesterday’s run-off vote against President Mohamed Nasheed with 51.39 percent of the vote.

Yameen received 29.72 percent (61,278 votes) in the first round on November 9, compared to Nasheed’s 46.93 percent of votes (96,764).

However by refusing to sign the voter lists for the run-off scheduled for November 10 – a position backed by a Supreme Court ruling hours before polls opened – he gained time necessary to convince third-placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim to support him.

The resort tycoon initially remained neutral, briefly flirted with Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), but finally on Wednesday urged his 48,131 first round supporters to back the PPM, awarding Yameen a narrow coalition victory over the MDP.

Total voter turnout was 91.41 percent (218,621), the highest since 2008, up five percent from 208,504 (86 percent) in the first round – suggesting the coalition was also successful in persuading many recalcitrant voters to head to the polls.

Following his win, Yameen said he would draw half the Presidential salary and would prefer to live in his own home in Male, security permitting.

“God willing, just the way I have promised, I will not say no to the pledges I made. So my salary will start, just as I’ve said, from half the salary,” Yameen declared.

He speculated that it would take two years to return the country to a surplus.

Regarding his pledge to reduce the number of political appointees, he noted that “we still plan to reduce political posts. But along with that, when we have so many parties with us, we will try to do whatever we can to make sure they participate. But even with that, our main plan has not changed,” he said.

The Indian government extended “hearty congratulations” to President Yameen “and the people of Maldives for the successful conclusion of the Presidential elections process in a peaceful manner.”

“The high voter turn-out in every round of Presidential elections is indicative of the strong desire and determination of the people of Maldives to participate wholeheartedly in the process of choosing their President,” read a statement.

“We welcome the acceptance of the verdict of the people of Maldives by all sides and commitment expressed to take the country forward on the path of stability, progress and development.”


Virgin tycoon calls for elections in the Maldives “as soon as possible”

British business tycoon Sir Richard Branson has called for free elections “as soon as possible” in the Maldives, after police blocked the election from taking place on October 19.

The head of the Virgin Empire, who has previously blogged on the Maldives’ political turmoil, said he had drafted an article several weeks ago “to praise President Waheed for taking his country back into free and fair elections and bringing true democracy back to the country.”

“But before I had chance to publish it, the Maldives police intervened and stopped the ballot boxes reaching the polling stations,” Branson said.

His comments follow findings from the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) that the police stopped the election illegally, in violation of the constitution.

Additionally, a leaked Human Rights Commission (HRCM) report obtained by Minivan News questions the credibility of the evidence used by the Supreme Court to annul the first round of presidential polls, and the court’s authority to issue guidelines effectively permitting candidates to effectively veto future elections.

“Knowing President Waheed as I do, my instinct is that he is not behind the blocking of the election process, and that other people who didn’t do well in the first round of the elections are trying to stop a fair election taking place,” the tycoon suggested.

Waheed, who received 5.13 percent of the vote in the annulled first round, has withdrawn from the revote and publicly stated that he has no intention of remaining in power after the end of the presidential term on November 11.

“I am not comfortable to stay on. It would be my preference that there be an elected President. And it would also be my preference that if this is not possible, then there would be some other arrangement made,” Waheed told The Hindu.

Branson however observed that while the election had been rescheduled for November 9, “the Maldives Supreme Court has brought a ruling that the candidates will have the power of veto – so unless all candidates agree to the electoral roll there will be no elections.”

“Plus, if a run off is needed it will be on November 16th, which is after the expiry of the current presidential term, creating a constitutional void. This whole process is a huge threat to democracy, which perhaps sadly is what some of the candidates want, having seen how the public voted in the first election round,” Branson wrote.

“The people of the Maldives need fair representation and they need free elections as soon as possible. Should that not happen, governments must lobby for change and the world community must demand action until free, fair elections take place,” he concluded.

Virgin politics

Branson first waded into Maldivian politics on his blog on February 24 2012, soon after Waheed’s controversial ascension to power amid a police mutiny earlier that month.

Branson publicly called for President Waheed to “do the right thing” and hold free and fair elections before the end of the year.

It was, Branson wrote to Dr Waheed, “completely astounding that you have been part of an overthrow of a democratically elected government that has effectively let the old regime back into power.”

“Knowing you, I would assume that you were given no choice and that it was through threats that you have ended up in this position,” Branson said. “I do very much hope that was the case rather than you doing it of your own free will.”

Days later, Branson wrote another entry, saying that he had spoken on the phone to Dr Waheed, who told him he had appointed “a respected person” to examine the truth of what caused President Nasheed to “resign”.

“He says that he didn’t know who issued an arrest warrant for President Nasheed after he left office but that it had been rescinded within 48 hours. He is determined to be an honest broker, to be seen to be one, and to get everyone’s confidence. He said that he offered to bring in people from President Nasheed’s party but they refused to join.”

A few days later, Branson wrote a third post, resuming his first call for early elections “as soon as feasibly possible”.


JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim acquires Miadhu News

Resort tycoon, Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader and MP, Judicial Services Commission (JSC) member and owner of VTV Gasim Ibrahim has acquired the assets of Miadhu News, the Maldives’ second oldest newspaper.

Sun Online reported that Gasim bought the paper for MVR 500,000 (US$32,500), and that staff were transferred to the payroll of Gasim’s Villa media group.

Minivan News understands that newspaper Haveeru – the country’s most widely circulated newspaper – is also up for sale.


DRP’s Thasmeen to launch new TV station

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali is set to launch a new television channel in the Maldives designed to produce political and religious programming as well as news and entertainment shows.
Haveeru has reported that Thasmeen, along with fellow share holder, DRP member and Deputy Home Mnister Mohamed Saleem, were given a license by the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) yesterday to launch the station, currently known as “TV-5”.
Deputy Economic Minister Shiham Waheed, DRP member Hussain Mohamed and  Mohamed Nasru will serve as directors of the new channel, according to local media.

Police arrest five in connection with murder of Ali Shifan

Police have yesterday arrested five people in connection with the murder of Ali Shifan ‘Tholhi Palay’, 33 of Fairy Corner house in Maafannu ward. Shifan was was stabbed to death last Sunday.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed to Minivan News that the arrests were made and that they the suspects were now in police custody. Haneef said one of the suspects arrested was a minor.

He identified the arrested persons as Mohamed Asif, Ali Asif, Mohamed Shaifan and Ali Malash.

All five were summoned to court, which extended the detention period of Mohamed Asif to 15 days, while others were given five days.

It was too early to confirm whether Shifan’s death occurred as a result of a gang related fight, Haneef said, adding that the investigation into the case was ongoing.

The victim was taken to Indira Gandi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) minutes after the attack, however the hospital said he was dead on arrival.

Spokesperson of IGMH Zeenath Ali Habeeb told Minivan News that Shifan’s family had requested the hospital not share any information regarding the death with the media.

Haneef also declined to give details of the injuries to Shifan’s body because the family has requested the hospital not to share the information.

A friend of Shifan told Minivan News that Shifan was attacked while he was waiting in front of West Park Restaurant for a friend.

‘’He was having a coffee inside West Park Restaurant and went out because a friend of him was coming to see him,’’ he said. ‘’He was waiting with another friend and this group shows up with sharp weapons.’’

He said the first attack came from behind while he was standing outside the cafe.

‘’It was a long bladed knife and he is a very slim man. He was stabbed from behind and it went straight through his back and came out the other side,” the source said, claiming that Shifan had been stabbed twice.

The source alleged the attack was politically motivated and that gangs were being set against each other.

‘’Shifan was a very peace loving man and he always said he did not want war,’’ he said, claiming the assailants attacked Shifan because of his friends.

The attack had widowed Shifan’s wife of 15 years, the source said.

‘’The police have started investigating the case and they have met with some of the witnesses,’’ he added.

Shifan was attacked at about 4:15pm on April 1 on Boduthakurufaanu Magu, the outer ring road of Male’.

Police said according to witnesses, a group of men on a GN model motorbike came and attacked the victim.


Former Home Minister summoned for questioning by police and HRCM over detention of Chief Judge

The former Home Minister Hassan Afeef was yesterday summoned to the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) to the police for questioning over the arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

Speaking to the press outside the police headquarters, Afeef said he had no role in the arrest of Abdulla and that he had only requested the military to arrest him after police had asked him to make the request.

Afeef said it was the police that informed the Home Ministry that there were issues concerning the national security of the Maldives if Abdulla was to remain at large.

He said that in a letter he sent to the Defence Ministry on behalf of the Home Ministry, issues concerning the national security of the country were outlined very clearly.

He declined to provide details on the arrest of Abdulla because they concerned the national security of the country, he said.

When Minivan News contacted Afeef for a comment he said what he told last night outside the police headquarters was all he could say regarding the issue.

A police spokesperson today told Minivan News that police asked Hassan Afeef to come to the police headquarters at 9:30pm last night.

‘’He came on time and we questioned him about the arrest of Judge Abdulla Mohamed,’’ he said. ‘’He answered all the questions very well.’’

Yesterday afternoon Afeef was summoned to HRCM for questioning over the arrest of Judge Abdulla.

Afeef met the press outside the HRCM and said the commission faced him a lot of questions and that he answered all the questions fully and declined to provide details of the questions.

Recently Former government’s Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim and former President Mohamed Nasheed were summoned to the HRCM.

Tholhath was also summoned to the police headquarters, however, he used the right to remain silent.

Judge Abdulla Mohamed was arrested by the Defence Force in compliance with a police request.

However, the protests sparked in Male’ following the arrest and lasted until the resignation of the former president.

The opposition-led protests in the run up to Nasheed’s resignation initial called for the release of the Criminal Court Judge.

The first complaints against Abdulla Mohamed were filed in July 2005 by then Attorney General Dr Hassan Saeed, and included allegations of misogyny, sexual deviancy, and throwing out an assault case despite the confession of the accused.

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the judicial watchdog, eventually formed a complaints committee to investigate the cases against Judge Abdulla in December 2009, which met 44 times but had failed to present a single report as of March 2011.

The JSC eventually concluded an investigation into politically-contentious comments made by Judge Abdulla Mohamed on DhiTV, but the report was never released after the judge sought a Civil Court injunction against his further investigation in September 2011.

Then-Home Minister Hassan Afeef subsequently accused the judge of “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist”, listing 14 cases of obstruction of police duty including withholding warrants for up to four days, ordering police to conduct unlawful investigations and disregarding decisions by higher courts.

Afeef accused the judge of “deliberately” holding up cases involving opposition figures, barring media from corruption trials, ordering the release of suspects detained for serious crimes “without a single hearing”, and maintaining “suspicious ties” with family members of convicts sentenced for dangerous crimes.

The judge also released a murder suspect “in the name of holding ministers accountable”, who went on to kill another victim.

Then Vice President of the Maldives Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan opposed the judge’s detention, stating on his blog that “I am ashamed and totally devastated by the fact that this is happening in a government in which I am the elected Vice President.”

Nasheed’s government requested assistance from the international community to reform the judiciary. Observing that judicial reform “really should come from the Judicial Services Commission (JSC)”, then Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem said the commission’s shortcoming are “now an issue of national security.”


Former SAARC Secretary General calls for new law to dissolve political parties

Former SAARC Secretary General Dhiyana Saeed – also a former Attorney General – has called on parliament to enact a law to dissolve political parties.

Her comments have been widely reported in local media and were reiterated in a statement from the Jumhoree Party (JP), of which she is a member.

According to International Convent on Civil and Political Rights, there was opportunity to narrow the role of political parties, Saeed reportedly stated, during a recent address on Gaafaru island accompanying President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

Saeed claimed the Council of Europe had guidelines on the prohibition and dissolution of political parties, and that there were situations in which a political party could be dissolved.

Parliament currently does not have the authority to dissolve a political party, the JP noted. However Saeed suggested that the  law should be drafted in such a way that a court of law, preferably the Supreme Court, could declare that the party was in situation where it has to be dissolved.

Speaking to Minivan News, Saeed said that the new law needed to specify in which situations a political party could be dissolved, suggesting that using violence and unrest as a method to achieve the goal of the party was one such reason.

”I can allege that MDP is using violence and unrest as a method to achieve their goals, the events of arson and vandalism and the attack on police officers are more like organised crimes,” she claimed. ”If anyone looks at the video footage they can see who did it and which color bands they were wearing on their head.”

She said if such a law was enacted, MDP could take the current government to court and that if they could prove that the government changed following a police and military coup, then the MDP could ask the court to dissolve the party in government.

Her comments come following criticism aimed by the government at the behavior of the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which it has accused of violent protests and in several instances, terrorism.

The MDP last week condemned acts of violence against police, “recognising that there is a high level of public animosity towards police officers with regards to their involvement in the February 7 coup, overthrowing the first democratically elected Government in the Maldives, and their subsequent brutal crackdown on unarmed civilians. However, MDP strongly urges all members of the public to express themselves through peaceful protest.”

Saeed did not refer to the MDP specifically, but did claim to Haveeru that MDP members had broken into her house one evening and tried to attack her, before fleeing when they saw the police.

Saeed was formerly an MDP member but she resigned following comments in protest over former President Mohamed Nasheed’s detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed, the culmination of a long-running judicial crisis.

The government’s rejection of court orders to release the judge could “only be solved by the people”, said Saeed at the time on VTV, a channel owned by JP MP and leader Gasim Ibrahim, but added this should be through the parliament “and not by coming out on the roads”.

Nasheed’s government expressed outrage over Saeed’s television appearance, arguing that her position as SAARC Secretary General demanded her political impartiality in the internal affairs of all SAARC nations – including her own.

Saeed subsequently resigned from the prestigious SAARC post – becoming not only the first female and youngest person to head SAARC, but also holding the shortest term.

“I am first and foremost a Maldivian citizen. It is my right [to comment] on whatever happens in my country, and I will not give away that right. As a lawyer I am also a member of the Maldivian bar,” she told Minivan News at the time.

“[The Chief Judge’s detention] is a violation of individual human rights, a violation of the independence of the judiciary, and the violation of the constitution,” she stated.


Paradise lost – has democracy gone to hell in the Maldives: Economy Watch

Democracy, as Samuel P. Huntington once famously put it, often comes in waves, writes Raymond Tham for Economy Watch.

According to Huntington’s analysis, countries can be over-swept by democratic ideals during one such wave; and a political transition might occur – transforming the government from an authoritarian to a democratic one.

Yet, as Huntington would later note, the waves of democracy are often followed by “reverse waves” as well. In a reverse wave, a newly democratic country could potentially revert back to its authoritarian ways, especially if the remnants of the old regime attempt to rear up their ugly heads once again.

Former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed learnt this lesson the hard way. Less than four years after becoming the first democratically elected president of the Maldives, Nasheed was swept out of power on February 7th 2012 by a coup – led by his predecessor Maumon Abdul Gayoom.

Gayoom, and his associates, had apparently forced Nasheed to resign at gunpoint, with Nasheed’s vice president Mohamed Waheed Hassan – who Nasheed has now accused of being complicit with Gayoom’s scheme – installed as president on that day itself.

These violent scenes were a stark contrast to a year ago, when a young and upbeat Nasheed arrived in Delhi for a conference on promoting liberal governance in South Asia. During the conference, Nasheed expressed optimism on his country’s democratic process.

“We are in the process of consolidating our democracy,” said a cheerful Nasheed, as quoted by the Economist. Commenting on the Arab Spring, Nasheed also expressed confidence that his country could soon become a model for other Islamic states in adopting democracy.

“We are a 100 percent Muslim country. We feel if democracy can survive in the Maldives, it can survive in other Islamic countries.”

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Comment: I am for democracy too

A coup is a coup. Much of what transpired at MNDF headquarters the morning of February 7 remains unclear, but several key facts have come to light, and placed in the context of Maldivian politics, leave no doubt in my mind that President Nasheed was ousted in a cleverly executed coup.

Following Nasheed’s forced resignation, the entire country burned. Key law enforcement institutions became Enemy Number One overnight. In contrast to the relative professional and non-violent reaction to protests against Judge Abdulla’s arbitrary detention, police used brutal force and violently targeted key MDP officials on February 8. Controversial appointments to key posts in Dr Waheed’s government, particularly the Minister of Defence and the Commissioner of Police, who served as the main interlocutors with President Nasheed at MNDF HQ, with no legitimacy whatsoever, further deteriorate MDP supporters’ faith in the police and the MNDF.

In an atmosphere so emotionally charged and tense, it is an elephantine task to remain rational, to stick to facts, and to make decisions that will save our democracy in the long run. It is even harder to do so when media channels, on either side of the political divide, are biased and resorting to propaganda. Nasheed and his supporters have unleashed a deluge of hyperbole to rile up crowds and chip away whatever is left of the public’s trust in the police and the armed forces.

Nasheed showed Waheed’s government and the international community his ammunition when he led his supporters into a direct, violent confrontation with the police and armed forces on Wednesday. He is using the threat of violence to force elections in two months, when it is very clear that an election in two months will not be free and fair. In the meantime, Waheed has come out to say he will not hold elections until 2013. What has been lacking in our democracy since 2008 stands in the way of restoring democracy today. Democracy is about compromise. Nasheed and Waheed need to meet each other half way so that our democracy is not flushed down the drains of history.

Even if Waheed’s government is illegitimate, what is done is done. And protracted civil unrest and violence in small communities, which may take generations to heal, is not the way forward. At a time when people are divided and emotional, we need strong leaders who place the good of the nation above personal gain. Waheed must have the balls to ensure that his government does not go after senior leaders in the MDP in the run up to elections in six months. In return to agreeing for elections in six months, Nasheed and his co must be given guarantees by Waheed’s government that the MDP leadership and supporters will not be made political prisoners. In my mind, there is really no other way forward and if people have suggestions, it is time we start a national debate on how to overcome this impasse in a conciliatory manner.

You say a liberal?

That said, the coup d’etat of February 7 is also a window of opportunity for the people to demand more and better from of our political leadership. One person had written on facebook that we might have been too tolerant of President Nasheed’s runaway administration. True, opposition political parties under Nasheed’s administration did not play by the same lofty rules we set for the government. But with more power comes more responsibility. Nasheed was in power, the opposition parties were not, hence the double standards in expectations. With our civil society so weak from 30 years of authoritarian rule, the political leadership had a massive responsibility. Nasheed had the power to write the story of our democracy differently. He may have lost elections in 2013 if he did, but he would have been a mighty hero in my mind had he focused on strengthening our democratic institutions over forcing and bypassing democratic institutions to ensure the fulfillment of the MDP’s five key pledges.

A 30-year dictatorship left a legacy: an uneven playing field; a weak civil society; a small and toothless middle class; a dearth of self-thinking peoples; and a biased media. The vestiges of dictatorship remain and they matter. History matters. But it only directs, it does not determine. The many constitutional crises, the political posturing, and the name-calling we see today are not inevitable results of a 30-year dictatorship. It is the combined result of a 30-year dictatorship, and a conscious choice by the Nasheed administration to play power politics instead of fostering the slow, painful and perhaps, in the short run, self-defeating, democratic reforms that would have strengthened our democracy.

When Nasheed came to power in 2008, he inherited not only a massive budget deficit, but also a political system that operated on political patronage. Nasheed did not try to change this informal system. He adopted masters of such politicking, including Ibrahim Hussein Zaki and Hassan Afeef into his administration, indicating that political realism would provide Nasheed government’s ideological grounding. To outwit Gayoom et al, Nasheed decided to play the power game instead of democracy. In doing so he acted like an astute politician, not a liberal democrat. Those who expected the latter, mostly liberals, are deeply disappointed with the Nasheed administration. The handful of young and educated who were convinced that an MDP defeat in 2013 would spell out the end of democracy, and those who foresaw an end to their innings with the end of Nasheed’s government, were glad that he played the part of a clever politician. But then the coup happened.

In a very real way, Nasheed himself is to blame for presenting coup planners with ample fodder and opportunity. Arbitrarily detaining Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed for nearly 20 days, in spite of the arrest’s unconstitutionality, in spite of continued street protests that often turned violent, and in spite of escalating police fatigue, Nasheed defended the arrest to the last minutes of his administration and continues to defend it today. But to this day, Nasheed has not explained the precise national security threat that justified the military detention of Abdulla Mohamed. By commanding the MNDF to arbitrarily arrest Abdulla Mohamed and detain him on their training camp, Nasheed unnecessarily plunged one of Maldives’ few professional institutions into disarray and opened it up to politicisation. Presidents who are concerned with consolidating democracy do not issue such orders. They do not think in “either or” terms. Creativity and compromise are fundamental characteristics of a strong democratic leadership.

You say a revolution in 2008?

History matters. Those who were rich and powerful under Gayoom, remain rich and powerful today. In short, our democratic “revolution” in 2008 failed to change the status quo. The aristocrats and merchants who own the tourism, fishing, construction, and shipping industries act like an oligarchy. They have the means to ensure that they maintain their monopolies and deflect any harm that come their way. Take for example what happened with the penalties for tax evasion. And where is the minimum wage bill? What happened to workers’ right to strike? When democratic institutions, such as the parliament, become monopolised by aristocrats and merchants, and when the main rule of law institution, that is the court system, remains dominated by unlearned persons who are easily manipulated by the aristocrats and merchants, the middle class that is the key to democratic consolidation, has no representation and no space to assert itself.

To his credit, Nasheed did attempt to foster a middle class. He implemented a long overdue taxation system that forced tourism tycoons to pay their fair share for state bills. His policies sought to improve access to basic services. And he faced huge challenges. But in playing power politics, he also ensured that the rich and powerful remained so, and nurtured a new group of rich and powerful people who would ostensibly protect his presidency and candidacy in 2013. To that end, a number of development projects continued to fall into the hands of those affiliated with the MDP, and sometimes those hands were not the most capable and able. And the lease of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport is anything but transparent. If justice is fairness, Nasheed government’s corrupt activities fell short of delivering justice, and served to exacerbate the already existing crisis in the judiciary.

Way Forward

The way forward is in compromise and learning from mistakes. It is not in taking sides and refusing to budge. Peace is not a platitude. To characterise peace, conciliation, and negotiation as platitudes and “bullshit” is to reject the essence of democracy. And being “colorless”, and withholding blind support for the MDP or any other political party is not a wholesale rejection of democracy. Restoring Nasheed, whichever way possible, will not restore democracy.

No to street violence, No to political witch hunts, No to destroying the social fabric of our small nation, and No to politicising our armed forces and the police. But Yes to elections in six months. The current government is illegitimate and the nation cannot afford to wait until 2013 for presidential elections. At the same time, MDP supporters will risk the nation by going out on to the streets. The political leadership of this country should go to the negotiation table fast if we are to restore democracy. And people of this country should step back from pledging blind support to leaders. Learn from mistakes. Pledge your support to democratic processes. Pledge your support to negotiations and elections, not in two months when an election would be impossible, but in six months, when it has a better chance of translating your vote freely and fairly.

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]