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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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