Prospect of “radicalised, authoritarian” Maldives threatens all nations: former president Nasheed

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has spoken of the close relationship between climate change, human rights, and democracy during separate addresses to the Danish parliament and the University of Copenhagen this week.

Discussing concerns over political instability in the Maldives that have been raised by NGOs such as Amnesty Intentional since President Dr Mohamed Waheed came to power last year, Nasheed accused the current government of reversing “hard won freedoms” and awarding “Islamic extremists” with cabinet positions.

He also claimed that the prospect of the Maldives becoming a “radicalised, authoritarian stronghold” would have negative connotations well beyond the country’s borders.

“In many ways, [extremists] set the tone of Government communications and they are busy trying to indoctrinate the people with a misguided version of Islam,” Nasheed said.

The office of President Waheed – who entered into office through a controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012 – today dismissed Nasheed allegations that Islamic extremists were serving in the government.

“I urge Mr Nasheed to stop spreading lies to promote his political agenda.  I call on him to engage professionally,” President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad said via SMS today.

Senior government figures have earlier this year criticised some of the recent findings published about the Maldives by Amnesty International, accusing the group of publishing reports without conducting research.

During his visit to the Danish capital, Nasheed also met with current and former Danish Ministers, high-level officials, supporters, as well as gave an interview to local tv news show DR2 Dagen.

Nasheed, who is a globally recognised high-profile advocate for climate justice, expounded on how he believed environmental issues, human rights, and political stability are increasingly intertwined.

“The fight against climate change is a human rights issue and the way we respond to it will shape not just our environment, but also geopolitical reality – for generations to come,” he stated while speaking at the University of Copenhagen yesterday (April 16).

“Bad energy policy is not just polluting our planet, it is polluting our politics, warping international relations.”

“New balance of power”

Nasheed gave a lecture to the University of Copenhagen highlighting the “corrupting influence of fossil fuels” on energy politics and how this has clashed with the newly-founded Maldivian democracy.

“The politics of energy is polluting international relations, just as it pollutes the air, casting a shadow over much of the world and holding back clean energy,” he stated.

“It is the invisible force holding nations in thrall to dictators, causing conflicts and repressing human rights, a suffocating inertia that holds back democracy and development.”

Nasheed addressed how “the fight for fossil fuel resources has shaped the world” for over a century, but now “the time has come for a reformation in energy politics; one that values human rights above mineral rights.”

While fossil fuels have “driven companies to corruption, governments to repression, and nations to war, the new resources – solar, wind, waves – are much more widely distributed…there are no ‘resource fields’ to fight over.”

Clean energy is about a significant shift in the established geopolitical order, a shuffling of the deck in the great game, not just about rewiring the world economy, Nasheed explained.

“Carbon emissions”

“If we turn our backs on corrupting influence of fossil fuels, if we reject the polluting in pursuit of the beautiful, we can protect the world around us. We can deliver sustainable economic growth. And we can do so whilst putting development and democracy first,” he stated.

“For the first time since the Industrial Revolution, it is now technologically, economically and politically feasible for people to get their energy sustainably.

Nasheed said it was important that climate change not be underplayed as “some abstract risk,” claiming that the lives and freedoms of people all over the world were threatened if no action was taken to address environmental concerns meaningfully.

“I know it is possible, because we had a plan to do it in the Maldives. A fully costed plan, approved by the World Bank, to go carbon neutral. The only reason we didn’t was because we were rudely interrupted by a coup!” Nasheed exclaimed.

“Radicalised, authoritarian stronghold”

Nasheed also gave a speech to the Danish Parliament that reiterated similar environmental themes, but with an emphasis on the Maldives’ 2008 democratic transition.

A year prior to the Copenhagen Accords – the first time that big emitters from the developed and the developing world all agreed to cut carbon emissions – the Maldives had transitioned from former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-year authoritarian rule to democracy, Nasheed explained.

“Positive changes such as ‘Basic freedoms’ – freedoms which been repressed for generations – began to take hold,” said Nasheed.

“The Maldives was being hailed by NGOs as a model of liberal, Islamic democracy,” he added.

Nasheed provided the Danish parliament with a brief narrative account of the police and military mutiny on February 7, 2012, which he alleged was controlled by “Gayoom, and his allies, alongside Islamic extremists keen to re-establish the old order.”

“[Gayoom’s] former dictatorship organised the coup because they could see the edifice of their economic and political power crumbling,” he explained. “It was crumbling because Maldivians had rejected authoritarianism, rejected feudalism and largely rejected Islamic extremism.”

Nasheed also added that the prospect of the Maldives becoming a “radicalised, authoritarian stronghold” was a threat for many people.

“It is a threat to the hundreds of thousands of Europeans who holiday there every year. It is a threat to neighbouring democracies, such as India.  And it is a threat to the stability of the wider Indian Ocean, through which 40% of world trade passes,” he said.

“A democratic Maldives is not only your friend; it is also the best guarantor of your interests,” he emphasised.

Free and fair elections

Domestically, Nasheed is presently being tried in the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court over the controversial detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

However, Nasheed has maintained that the trial, presently on hold pending a High Court decision on the legitimacy of judges appointed to hear the former president’s case, is politically motivated to try and prevent free and fair elections from occurring this September.

He highlighted recent conclusions of both local and international experts into the present status of the country’s judiciary to support his claims.

“The United Nations Special Rapporteur says the court is bias and politicised. This view is shared by Amnesty International and the UN Human Rights Committee,” he said.


Media needs to introduce “peace journalism”: MP Nasheed

Former Legal Reform Minister MP Mohamed Nasheed has recommended Maldives-based journalists introduce “peace reporting” in order to stop violence against local media.

Nasheed claimed that the Maldives media is exploited by politicians to a great extent and that reporters needed to start looking at the similarities between politicians as opposed to their differences, the Sun Online news agency reported.

The Kulhudhuffushi-south MP told local media that a new kind of “peace journalism” should be introduced into the system as the level of rivalry, anger and hatred that exists in the Maldives is too much for people to endure.

“One thing journalists can do is introduce peace journalism, promote peace journalism.

“Instead of making a big deal out of the differences between two people, and spreading information about those differences in the society – they could present the similarities. We should go for peaceful journalism,” Nasheed was quoted as saying in local media.

Nasheed claimed that political leaders prepare quotations in certain ways in order to make the headlines and therefore exploit journalists.

“There is a limit even to political influence. There is a limit to how much journalists can be exploited to obtain political advantages.

“If all journalists unite and establish certain policies, politicians will have no choice but to follow those policies,” Nasheed told Sun Online.


Palestine President visits Maldives: “Strong Palestine would enable Israel security,” Dr.Waheed

Palestine President Dr Mahmoud Abbas arrived in the Maldives Tuesday, marking the highest-level visit to the Maldives by an official from the Middle Eastern state for 28 years.

Former Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat had previously visited the Maldives in 1984.

The Maldives Foreign Ministry described the visit today as a “historic moment for Maldives-Palestine relations” and a “time for us to reaffirm the close brotherly bonds which bind our peoples together and to reassert our support for Palestinian statehood.”

As part of the visit, Abbas met with President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik this afternoon at the President’s Office.  Following official talks between the two leaders, a joint statement was given to the media in which Abbas expressed hope that the visit would “enhance the historic relations that already exist between our two countries and peoples”.

Whilst speaking on the current political situation in Palestine and in the Middle-East, Abbas noted that the “peace process in the Middle-East is facing many obstacles because of the Israeli rejection of its obligations according to the international law and quartet statements”.

“In spite of that we are confirming our dedication for negotiations as the best way to implement the two state solution – Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and prosperity according to Arab peace initiatives and quartet statements,” Abbas observed.

Meanwhile, briefing the media on discussions with the Palestinian delegation, President Waheed stated that he had “reassured President Abbas of our strong support for the peace process” and that the “Maldives endorses Palestine’s stand that direct peace talks with Israel can only be fruitful when Israel suspends the building of settlements in the West Bank.”

The president also added that Maldives would support Palestine’s application for membership of the United Nations and any other international organisations, while noting that Maldives has been a strong supporter of Palestine at the UN Human Rights Council and had utilised every opportunity at the Council to advocate the rights of the Palestinian people.

Even though there is broad support for these calls in Human Rights Council, Waheed stated that the “world has to realise that without a Palestinian State, there can never be Palestinian rights”.

“International recognition of the State of Palestine is no barrier to the continuation of the peace talks. Rather, it helps to bring a sense of equality to both sides in the negotiations,” Waheed continued.

“The security of Israel is equally important. It is also in the best interest of Israel to see the emergence of a viable and strong Palestine. Only a viable and strong Palestine would enable Israel to achieve its own security,” he contended.

“It is therefore profoundly important, and indeed, necessary that a strong and thriving Palestinian State is established on the lands occupied by Israel since 1967. An independent Palestinian state is necessary for achieving durable peace in the region. Most of all, it is necessary for healing the wounds of the past, and achieving reconciliation based on the principles of justice and equality. These are challenging yet attainable objectives. Given the President’s own extra-ordinary life story, I am confident that these objectives can be achieved under the President’s leadership,” Waheed noted.

The floor was closed for questions from reporters and President Abbas was immediately escorted to the jetty to leave for Kurumba Resort.  Upon arriving at the resort, the Palestinian leader met with Former President and Leader of the pro-government Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Abduallah Shahid, Speaker of the Parliament.


Following the talks with Abbas, Maumoon told local media that Abbas had aired grievances over the Maldives absence in a vote taken in October 2011 to grant Palestine full membership to the the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

He claimed that Palestinian delegation had noted that Maldives did not vote in the UNESCO meeting and it was a “big shock” to Palestine and it had “deeply upset” them.  The former president noted: “I was very embarrassed to hear that. Maldives should not have done something like that. I told the [delegation] the Maldives did it [not vote] because of the government at the time was under overwhelming foreign influence. But in future, it will not be repeated.”

Minivan News asked whether Abbas had shared any concerns over the former Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government’s ties with the Isreali government.

Whilst in power, the MDP were repeatedly criticised by the then-opposition claiming the government was conspiring with “Christian missionaries” and “Jews” to “wipe out Islam” from Maldives.  The former government has continued to deny the charges, adding that it held the same diplomatic and business relations with Israel that it has with countless other nations around the world.

The Maldives was amongst the nations that were openly critical of the Israeli military response in 2010 to a so-called “Freedom Flotilla” bound for Palestine that reportedly led to nine people being killed aboard the MV Mavi Marmara vessel during an assault in international waters. An estimated 60 activists and 10 Israeli soldiers were also injured in the scuffles that the Maldives’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned “in the strongest possible terms”.

However, Gayoom also said that he had been informed by the visiting Palestinian delegation that they do not want Maldives to establish ties with Isreal.

“They do not want Maldives to do something like that. Because Palestine is still a country which has not acheived its people’s rights and Isreal is the one blocking it. Therefore, the Palestinian government does not want at all for Maldivian government to foster relations with them [Isreal]. Neither do the Maldivians want that,” Gayoom further claimed.

The former president contended that Maldives had always shared good relations with Palestine apart from the last three years of Mohamed Nasheed’s rule, which he described as having “supported Isreal”.

However, Nasheed’s administration contended such claims were “slanderous allegations” and in a visit to Palestine last year, then Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem announced that the Maldives would work towards the establishment of a sovereign state of Palestine by garnering international support.

According to foreign ministry officials, discussions were held over the opening of a Palestinian Embassy in the Maldives, as well as the creation of a joint Ministerial Action Group to further develop multi-sectoral relationships betwen the two countries.

Abbas is scheduled to depart tomorrow afternoon following a State Luncheon hosted by Dr Waheed.


The Maldives and the Arab Spring: Institute of Development Studies

A number of recent editorials have referred to the recent coup in the Maldives as the undoing of the country’s own ‘Arab Spring,’ which began with the landmark 2008 elections that brought to an end 30 years of autocratic rule, write Gabriele Koehler and Aniruddha Bonnerjee for the Institute of Development Studies.

Indeed, while the status of democratic process in the Maldives more closely resembles other South Asian nations than nations involved in the Arab uprising, economic and social strains in the Maldives are akin to those that preceded the Arab Spring.

Economically and socially, there are three Maldives:

‘Maldives I’ is that of the sparkling tourist resorts isolated from the rest of the country on coral islands. Tourism is the Maldives’ largest industry and resort leasers represent a substantial and powerful economic interest group. The other Maldives are local economies.

‘Maldives II’ is made up of 1,192 islands dispersed across 90,000 square kilometres, where 205,000 Maldivians make a living from coastal fishing and related occupations.

‘Maldives III’ is the capital island of Malé, home to 103 thousand and one of the most densely populated places in the world.

Under the autocratic Gayoom regime, the Maldives made substantial progress on education and health criteria, despite the high costs of delivering services to widely-scattered islands. By 2000, the country had achieved universal primary and lower-secondary education and had almost eliminated communicable diseases.

In 2008, the central challenge for the newly-democratic government under President Nasheed was to maintain good performance on social services despite a high fiscal budget debt. At the same time, the global financial crisis affected the tourism sector as well as domestic prices of food and energy.

In response, Nasheed’s government focused on expanding inter-island transport, universalising health insurance, protecting the social sectors (health, education, child and family welfare) while trimming the public sector bill. It sought investment through a programme of public-private partnerships.

The financial strategy revolved around monetising the deficit, seeking grants and loans from donors, and rescheduling medium and long term debt obligations. Combined with rising food and fuel prices, this strategy fuelled inflation. Political opposition and low capacity restricted other reforms.

Read more


Comment: Is peace merely the absence of violent conflict?

Hundreds of peals of islands, azure lagoons, and white sandy beaches scattered over 90,000 square kilometres in the middle of Indian Ocean, making up the Muslim nation the Maldives. This tropical archipelago is isolated from the rest of the world, attracting thousands of high-class honeymooners, holiday makers and celebrities.

The Maldives has been branded internationally as a luxury tourist destination by selling the three products gifted by nature: sun, sand and sea. The Maldives is reputed internationally for its peace, tranquillity and harmony, unlike the killings, attacks and explosions seen in some of the conflicted areas like Jammu, Kashmir and Afghanistan.

Maldives is formed of 1,190 islands, with a 100 percent Muslim population of 300,000. Around 200 islands are inhabited, and nearly 100 islands are developed as luxury tourist resorts.

Political instability

The concealed dark side of the Maldives was exposed to the world in 2003, when a prisoner in Maafushi Jail – the largest prison in the Maldives – was beaten to death.

For the first time in the recent history, public unrest rocked the country, and the headlines of the Maldive politics printed in the international media. The incident triggered a prison riot, killing three more inmates and injuring many more. Further, multiple protests erupted in the capital city Male’, and blazing fires in several state-owned buildings and properties.

The protests and demonstrations gave an impression to the world that although the tourists were invited to rest on the beaches in the Maldives, there was no real peace for the citizens during Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s regime, had ruled since November 11, 1978. During his dictatorial regime, political opponents’ movements were suppressed and there was no free media. The citizens were controlled by the state, the same way we see in communist regimes like Libya and North Korea. The executive, legislative and judiciary were under direct control of the president.

Journey for a democracy

On 12 August 2004, thousands of frustrated Maldivians gathered in the Republic Square of the capital Male’ demanding freedom, the same manner in which we have recently witnessed gatherings in Egypt’s Tahrir Square to oust the dictator Hosni Mubarak.

To disperse the crowd, a state of emergency was declared by the Gayoom’s government and mass arrests were made. This led to heavy criticism internationally, forcing Gayoom to launch a reform agenda.

During the reform process, the new changes introduced by Gayoom included appointing young intellectuals to the cabinet, establishing independent institutions (like the Human Rights Commission, Elections Commission, Judicial Services Commission, Civil Service Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission and Police Integrity Commission), drafting a new penal code and giving the authority to form political parties through the parliament (Peoples Majlis). The first registered political party is the current ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The new reforms improved human rights, governance and press freedom. The ratification of the new constitution on August 7, 2008, which was drafted by the constitutional assembly, guaranteed greater rights for citizens like freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and right to information.

Mainly, the new constitution had separated the state into three powers, executive, legislative and judiciary.

The voting results of the first multi-party elections in October 2008 proved that the people had really wanted a change. The ruler of 30 years was ousted by his political opponent, MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed, the current president.


Today, some people make the justification that the countries which are not experiencing violent conflict, like Saudi Arabia, are peaceful nations. But this is a false assumption. This is the peace which is portrayed by the media; giving the readers, listeners and viewers a feeling that violent conflict only obstructs peace.

But realistically, the situation cannot be understood by just a shallow exploration. But it should be analysed much deeper and more broadly to know the real situation. This is what Maldives history has taught us.

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]