Finance Minister sends 2015 estimated budget to parliament for approval

Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad has sent the 2015 projected  annual state budget to the People’s Majlis for approval.

While speaking to local media outlet Sun Online, Jihad said that the budget was sent to the parliament last Thursday and that it would be higher than the budget for the year 2013.

The estimated budget for the current year was set at a record MVR 19.95 billion (US$ 1.16 billion). At the time the budget deficit stood at MVR 1.3 billion (US$ 84.3 million).

Jihad revealed in August that the government’s spiralling deficit could leave it unable to pay the salaries of civil servants.

The World Bank warned the government in late 2013 that it was spending well beyond its means noting that some of the biggest expenses were high civil service wages bill, healthcare, and electricity subsidies and transfers to state owned enterprises.

A report released by the World Bank stated that the budget deficit at the time at 81 percent of the GDP was unsustainable and predicted that the deficit could rise to about 96 percent by the year 2015.


Public Accounts Committee considers conducting “special audit” of state companies

Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee is to deliberate on conducting “special audits” of all state share-owned public companies. The committee has scheduled debates on the matter for Sunday.

According to the Committee’s Chair Abdulla Jabir, the objectives are to have all state companies operating under the same umbrella group and to find means of liquidating companies that fail to make profit.

“We proposed the audit to bring down costs and strengthen the management of public companies. Members of the committee believe that the audit should study company performances in the past five years,” Jabir is quoted as saying in local media.

“We will be looking into whether there is a feasible way of conducting a “special audit” of such companies. Today, state companies need to be restructured and rebranded. We want to liquidate all companies that do not make any profit, and to place all other companies under a holding company that will then be established,” he continued.

Public Accounts Committee has further decided to summon Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim and Attorney General Mohamed Anil to Sunday’s meeting.


Maldives foreign travel advisories updated after recent protests

The UK, Australia, Canada and China have updated their travel advisories on the Maldives, warning of intensifying political instability and encouraging their nationals to take care, especially in the capital city of Male’.

“Demonstrations have already started in the capital, Malé and on some non-resort islands. Further demonstrations are likely. Previous political demonstrations have led to violence and arrests. Friday afternoons are traditionally potential flashpoints,” stated the September 27 notice on the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Service’s travel advisory service.

The guidance urged visitors to keep away from demonstrations: “There is no indication at present that any political unrest will affect tourist resorts or airports, but if you have any concerns you should check with your hotel or tour operator,” the statement read.

The Australian alert on the government’s Smart Traveller website flagged Male’ yellow and urged travellers to “exercise a high degree of caution” in the capital due to “unresolved political tensions and risk of further unrest and violence.”

“Since February 2012, there have been regular political protests in Male, some of which have turned violent. The political environment remains uncertain and further violent clashes could occur. You should avoid public gatherings and protests, particularly in Male, as they may turn violent. Extra care should be taken when moving around Male’ after dark,” stated the advisory.

The Canadian alert urged travellers to “exercise a high degree of caution” due to civil unrest, stating that “the political situation is volatile following the indefinite postponement of the second round of presidential elections by the Supreme Court. Demonstrations by political parties are likely to occur.”

The Chinese advisory, updated on September 27, noted that while the Maldivian social order “is generally stable”, “partisan conflicts around the presidential elections are intensifying.”

The Chinese Embassy in the Maldives urged Chinese visitors – who make up 25 percent of all tourism arrivals – to monitor the local security situation, contact and confirm the hotel booking before departure, and avoid non-essential travel to Male’.

Friday’s protests were also extensively reported by Chinese state-run press agency, Xinhua.

The US Embassy in Colombo previously issued a travel notice to US citizens planning to travel to the Maldives, stating that the run-off presidential election previously scheduled for September 28 “has been postponed.”

“The U.S. Embassy recommends that US citizens exercise caution, avoid large crowds, and monitor media coverage of local events,” the advice read.

Tourism dependency

The vast majority of tourism to the country is through package tours and holidays, with guests arriving on the airport island of Hulhule and being taken by boat, seaplane or domestic air transfer directly to their resort islands without stepping foot on Male’.

The tourism industry’s traditional market has been the UK, Italy, Germany and Russia, however following the 2008 recession this market has been displaced with a surge in Chinese arrivals. Smaller but growing markets include the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

The Maldives is indirectly dependent on this luxury tourism industry for over 70 percent of its GDP and up to 90 percent of its foreign currency exchange. As small island nation with scarce natural resources and very little agriculture, the Maldives also has near-total reliance on imports, particularly for tourism commodities.

The Tourism Employment Association of the Maldives (TEAM) last week indicated that it would encourage its 5000 members to strike should the election be delayed, while the Maldives Port Workers Union (MPWU) went on strike today “to send a message to the government”.

While the political situation in Male on Sunday remained tense ahead of an expected but unscheduled Supreme Court verdict on the fate of the run-off election, protests over the past several days were confined to just several intersections in the capital.

Yesterday’s protest near Male’s main tourist street attracted small crowds of passing Chinese and German tourists who took photos of the rally. A group of four Germans, asked what they thought was happening, said “I don’t know, something to do with the flags?”

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb told Minivan News yesterday that international media coverage of proposed strike action predicting “travel misery” for UK tourists travelling to resort was “irresponsible”, and challenged the veracity of reports such as that in the Independent’s travel section.

“The scuba dive tanks will stay empty, the pool towels unchanged, and there will be nobody on hand to mix a cocktail [should the protests go ahead],” wrote the paper’s Whitehall editor, Oliver Wright.


“Everybody running the state as they please”: President Waheed

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan told a rally on the island Kinolhas in Raa Atoll over the weekend that the Maldives “does not have a leader now.”

“As some people [say], the Maldives does not have a leader now. Lots of leaders are here, and all are of the same level. And so then everybody runs the state as they please,” Waheed told the rally.

“And the senior leader should not say anything. If he does, then it’s time to take away his post quickly,” Waheed said.

Waheed’s remarks came amid rising tension between parliament and the executive following the arrest of two opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs and an MP from the ruling coalition, Abdulla Jabir, on charges of a consumption of alcohol.

The Civil Court on Sunday also ordered the arrest of two MPs in the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – another ruling coalition member – in connection with unpaid loans of several million dollars with the Bank of Maldives, through companies with ties to DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.

DRP MP Azim alleged that President Waheed and other senior members of the executive had approached him, offering to cancel the court summons if he agreed during Monday’s vote on secret balloting to vote in the way they preferred.

The court hearing was scheduled at 1:00pm – the same time as the vote. The court order was subsequently cancelled.

“It is difficult to believe that the court order for the arrest of the two MPs, Azim and Nashiz, at the time the vote is scheduled is a coincidence. It proves the allegations made by a huge section of society that the courts are politicised,” said the MDP in a statement.

The wife of Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Jabir, Gender and Human Rights Minister Dhiyana Saeed, said following her husband’s arrest that President Waheed had sent her a text message denying any knowledge of the arrests.

“The leader of the country is saying that he himself is questioning the motivation behind this and who it was that did this. Police made the arrests, right? So this is an allegation against police by the President. And he said in the SMS that there is a possibility that some people might have done this to antagonise people against [the President] with regard to the vote on Monday,” Saeed told an emergency meeting of parliament’s privileges committee.

According to Saeed, President Waheed had alleged that the arrests were “directly connected to Monday’s vote.”

That vote concerned whether to allow a ‘secret vote’ in an as-yet unscheduled no-confidence motion against President Waheed. The MDP-initiated proposition was ultimately defeated during Monday’s parliamentary vote by a narrow margin of 34 to 39 votes.

Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz meanwhile declared that President Waheed had no prior knowledge of the arrests of the MPs.

“Such operations are not carried out by police after informing the President or the Home Minister. This institution does not have any political influence. We have the room to function with professionalism,” Riyaz told local media.


“Country’s education system has failed”: State Education Minister

State Minister of Education Imad Solih has said that the Maldives’ education system “has failed”, and that this failure had led to a majority of the country’s current social issues.

In an interview with local newspaper Haveeru, Solih reiterated the growing need to overhaul the education system to build a better society “where young people should have better things to do than being ‘addled on the streets’”.

Solih said that everyone would accept the fact that the young people “addled on the streets” were once school students, and that the reason they had fallen into such a state was because of lapses in the education system.

“They are a part of the population which we failed to attend to. But those that we currently attend to should be provided with proper education and training. I believe the failure of the education system has to take the blame for the current depletion of ethics and moral values within our society,” Solih said.

He further stated that compared to the government’s annual investment of MVR 2.4 billion (US$ 156 million) on education, the outcome was poor and unacceptable.

The report released by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on last December ranked the Maldives as number one in the Asia Pacific region on education spending as a percentage of GDP.

According to the report, Maldives spends the highest proportion of GDP on public education (8.1 percent) across the Asia/Pacific region, which is four times higher than countries such as Cambodia and Myanmar.

The Ministry of Education’s expenditure in 2011 amounted to Rf1.7 billion (US$110 million).

Despite the expenditure, Solih argued that the countrywide results of O’level and A’level examinations did not reflect the financial input to the education system, and that therefore changes had to be brought to the system, including new plans and targets.

Solih also stated that the failure of the education system should not only remain a concern of the education sector alone, but political leaders, parliamentarians and the general public should also share the concerns.

“I urge everyone to set aside our political differences and to take a minute to think about the current education system,” he called.

“You simply can’t blame the system” – former Education Minister

Former Education Minister and former Chancellor of the Maldives National University, Dr Musthafa Luthfee had a dissenting view of the remarks made by Solih. He stated that it was very difficult for him to agree to Solih’s remark that the system had failed.

“We built the [education] system over a very long time and it is exactly the same model that is being employed in other countries as well. But I can say that the results we ought to have achieved from this system have not yet been achieved,” he said.

He stated that it was not just the education system that was at fault for the current social issues, and the responsibility of building a better society falls on the shoulders of everyone, including politicians, the government, parents and teachers.

Luthfee stated that before declaring that the system had failed, it was important to understand the challenges it faced.

“For example, our teachers are not as experienced or competent as they should be. In other countries, you can only become a full time teacher with at least a minimum requirement of a bachelor’s degree and a certain amount of experience,” he said.

Luthfee also highlighted that most of the teachers currently working in the Maldives were foreigners instead of locals, and they keep constantly changing which has an impact on the student’s academic performance.

Referring to Solih’s remark on the large investment in education, Luthfee said that in reality the amount spent on “real education” was relatively low.

“It is easy for one to claim that the country invests a lot of money in the education system. But a large number of teachers in the country are from abroad. A hefty amount of money is spent on their salaries, accommodation and transportation. What we really get to spend on ‘real education’ is therefore relatively low,” he explained.

Luthfee was hopeful on the future of the education sector stating that more local trained teachers are replacing foreign teachers and that the local teaching force was gradually on the rise.

“It is a good sign that almost all the primary schools have local teachers now. A lot of local teachers are coming to teach in secondary schools as well. So the number of local teachers is gradually increasing. But there are still local teachers who need to improve their qualifications as well and they are working very hard on it too,” said the former minister.

Luthfee stated that he sees “progress” within the education system expressing confidence in the system, and through hard work, he said, better results could be achieved.

He also highlighted the success of the government of former President Nasheed.

“When we came to the government, the pass rate of O’ level five subjects was 27 percent. Within three years time we made it 37 percent, which is a 10 percent increase,” he said.

He further added that if the trend could be maintained, the figure would further increase. The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) during the 2008 elections pledged to put the figure at 60 percent by the end of its first presidential term.

When Minivan News contacted State Minister Imad Solih he stated that he would get back after a meeting. Minivan News was still expecting his call at time of press.

Correction. An earlier version of this article incorrectly titled Solih as Deputy Minister of Education. This has been corrected to State Minister.


PG appeals Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court decision not to proceed with case against Nasheed

The High Court yesterday concluded hearings of an appeal by the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) against a decision by the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court not to proceed with a case against former President Mohamed Nasheed over the military’s detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

On July 18, the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court rejected a case filed by the PGO against former President Nasheed and former Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim as well as senior military officers over the arrest of the judge.

Hulhumale’ Court Magistrate Moosa Naseem told Minivan News at the time that the case was sent back to the PGO after the court decided that it did not have the jurisdiction to deal with such cases.

“We studied the case and we found that we do not have the jurisdiction to deal with the case according to article 66 of the Judicature Act,” Naseem explained.

According to the Judicature Act, Naseem said, the Hulhumale’-based court can only accept the case after the Chief Justice issues a decree in agreement with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and the Judicial Council as stated in the article 66(b) of the Act.

Article 66(b) of the Judicature Act states that: “in accordance with section (a) of this article, if additions or omission to the jurisdictions stipulated in schedule 5 of this Act has to be carried out, the modification has to be done in agreement with the Judicial Service Commission and the Judicial Council and by a decree issued by the Chief Justice.”

According to local media reports, Assistant Public Prosecutor Abdulla Rabiu argued at the High Court yesterday that the magistrate court had jurisdiction to hear any cases involving criminal offences in the court’s judicial district.

The PGO lawyer requested that the High Court overturn the magistrate court’s decision and rule that the court has the jurisdiction to hear the case.

He noted that the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court had accepted a separate case involving threats made against Judge Abdulla Mohamed based on advice from the Supreme Court.

Adjourning yesterday’s hearing, High Court Judge Yousuf Hussain said that a verdict would be issued at the next trial date if there were no further issues to clear up after reviewing the appeal.

On January 16, Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed was detained by the military, after he had opened the court to order the immediate release of former Justice Minister, current Home Minister and deputy leader of the Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP), Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

In late 2011, Judge Abdulla was himself under investigation by the JSC, the country’s judicial watchdog, for allegedly politically biased comments made to private broadcaster DhiTV. The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) was due to release a report into Judge Abdulla’s ethical misconduct, however the judge approached the Civil Court and successfully filed an injunction against his further investigation by the judicial watchdog.

The Nasheed administration accused the judge of political bias, obstructing police, stalling cases, links with organised crime and “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist” to protect key figures of the former dictatorship from human rights violations and corruption cases.

Judge Abdulla’s arrest sparked three weeks of anti-government protests in January, leading the Nasheed administration to appeal for international assistance from the Commonwealth and UN to reform the judiciary.

Back in February, a spokesperson for Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs,  said the bloc remained committed to discussing judicial reform with the Waheed administration on the back of concerns raised by former President Nasheed about the nation’s judges.

“Shortly before the events of February 6 to February 7, we were asked for assistance [with judicial reform], as were the UN and Commonwealth. We were ready to look into this matter and hope to discuss the matter further with the Maldivian authorities,” added the spokesperson for High Representative Ashton at the time.

“Judicial interference”

During his inaugural address back in March, President Waheed claimed he would look to avoid “judicial interference”.

President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza at the time said the government hoped to “strengthen” independent institutions like the parliament and the courts.

Riza claimed that the executive branch under former President Mohamed Nasheed was often involving itself in parliamentary and judicial affairs that were supposed to function independently as separate bodies under the constitution.

“We want to empower institutions, not interfere with the decisions they are taking,” the spokesperson said.


State sues Male’ City Council for repossession of MDP protest camp at Usfasgandu

The state has filed a lawsuit in the Civil Court against Male City Council (MCC) for the repossession of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s protest camp at ‘Usfasgandu’ today.

During the first hearing, the state argued that the city council had been giving the land to parties against the agreement made between the state and the city council and also against the government’s policies.

The state also claimed that they had previously requested the city council hand over the land to the state in March, but had refused to do so.

State lawyers also said in court that the cabinet had made a similar decision on last May, but despite the cabinet’s decision, the city council had failed to hand back the land to the state.

During the hearing, the state asked the court to order MCC to hand over ‘Usfasgandu’ back to the state.

In response to the case presented, MCC lawyers asked the court for an opportunity to respond to the case in writing.

The judge ended the court session giving MCC lawyers to respond in the next hearing.

Speaking to Minivan News, MCC Councilor Ahmed Falah said that the court has given them the opportunity to respond in writing and the next hearing was scheduled on July 8.

Asked about on what basis the state was suing the MCC, Falah said that they were trying to limit the powers of the city council.

“They say that we were in breach of the agreement that was made between the MCC and the state. But the agreement does not state any specific procedure or rules on how the city council can give the lands to those that request it,” he said.

Falah claimed that the whole case was politically motivated as the council had the opposition majority.

“This is not anything about the agreement, it is all about politics. They know that [government] does not have a majority in City Council so they are trying take all our powers, the land was given in accordance with the decentralization act,” he said.

The case flared up after MCC extended the ‘Usfasgandu’ lease period for another three months after its initial period expired this July.

On March 22, MCC gave ‘Usfasgandu’ to MDP to conduct political activities, after the police dismantled ‘Justice Square’ (the Tsunami Monument area) last march.

Councilor Falah at the time said that they “gave the land because last Monday terrorists attacked the Justice Square at the end of Lonuziyaarai street.’’

However, the cabinet of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan decided to take over the land from MCC and hand it over to Ministry of Housing and Environment.

In a statement, the President’s Office at the time said that during discussions concerning “the breach of agreement by the MCC in utilizing the land plots and other properties handed over to the City Council by the Ministry of Housing and Environment,” the cabinet had decided “to entrust the Minister of Housing and Environment with the authority to reclaim the properties from the City Council when required.”

However, MCC refused to comply with the decision citing that the ministry had no authority over the land.

In a letter informing the ministry of its decision, the council insisted that the ‘Usfasgandu’ area was “temporarily leased” to the former ruling party in accordance with the Decentralisation Act, contending that the ministry did not have legal authority to reclaim council property.

Ministry of Home Affairs, asked police to take over ‘Usfasgandu’ following the non-compliance in handing the area over to the Ministry of Housing and Environment.

The Maldives Police Services (MPS) sought a court order from the Criminal Court but was initially refused after deciding that it was out of its jurisdiction.

The Criminal Court at the time said it had studied the documents presented by the police along with the court warrant request form, and decided that the warrant was not within its capacity to grant.

On May 29, police raided the MDP protest camp at Usfasgandu, after obtaining a search warrant from the Criminal Court and cordoning off the area from MDP demonstrators.

Reasons for the search as stated on the warrant included: “suspected criminal activity”, “damage to public property”, and “suspected black magic performed in the area”.

Under evidence, the warrant alleged that people in the Usfasgandu area verbally abused police officers and damaged a police vehicle on April 20, obstructed a Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) exercise of May 9, and on May 25, “MDP protesters threw a cursed rooster at MNDF officers.”

The security forces began the dismantling the camp at Usfasgandu, shortly before being ordered to halt by the Civil Court after the MDP challenged the legality of the operation.

The government appealed the Civil Court decision in the High Court, which issued an injunction suspending the Civil Court’s injunction.

Police issued a statement right after the High Court injunction stating that there were no more legal obstructions to raiding the camp, but said the police were “thinking on the matter”.


Comment: Let them eat cake

As the world watches the escalation of violence in the Maldives, the media, both nationally and internationally, has focused on the major characters in this unfolding drama. A corrupt government headed by an aging dictator was, for a short period, defeated by a popular movement led by a relentless activist, recognised for his fearless and uncompromising struggle to change the system.

However, the old regime was returned to power by the coup on February 7, barely four years after the previous government was established through a popular democratic movement. This is the stuff of Hollywood movies, but the script is still being written…

Democracy or Oligarchy? The dictionary definitions of these conflicting ideologies do not clearly reflect the real reasons behind the political struggle and the recent coup in the Maldives. It is not primarily a drama of personalities, as some of the media interviewers have portrayed it. It is a struggle between an oligarchy doggedly maintaining its privileges and a growing number of Maldivians who refuse to be beaten or intimidated into submission. Baton clashes with belief. Power clashes with powerlessness. And most importantly, privilege for the few clashes with justice for all.

For centuries, pre-eminence in government has been synonymous with privilege in the Maldives; and the privileged few used their power to do little other than to preserve their position and lifestyle. Gayoom, who was educated in the Middle East, came to power with such promise of change, but managed only to perpetuate an Arabian Nights style of governance.

Under him, the Maldivian government continued to be inward looking. The rule of the privileged few continued to be the norm. Thirty years of exploitation and repression under Gayoom left the country economically and emotionally bankrupt. The social results of this are seen in the plethora of problems that the Maldives faces today. One outstanding example is the neglect of the atolls- the economic backbone of the country.

While members of the privileged oligarchy lived the lifestyle of the rich and famous funded by the country’s earnings and the aid that was poured into the country to assist its development, there was a deliberate neglect of the islands outside the capital Male and their need for education, health care, and employment. This neglect led directly to the beleaguered state of Male today. Thousands upon thousands of Maldivians go to live in Male, to work and educate their children. Today, Male is one of the most crowded and polluted cities in the world. Privilege, married to self- interest, leaves long, dark shadows.

Privilege also goes hand in hand with exclusiveness and a strong sense of entitlement as evidenced by Gayoom’s regime. State money that was the right of all citizens was spent on personal aggrandizement. ‘Theemuge’- Gayoom’s presidential palace- and the millions of public money spent on it, is a symbol of corruption and excess that will stay with us for many years. However, the platoon of luxury yachts and the lifestyle enjoyed by his family and friends were not seen by them as a result of embezzlement, but a reflection of what they were justifiably entitled to.

Such self-deceit went further. Just as the colonial powers and the Christian missionaries of the past justified their dealings with the indigenous people of the colonies as humanitarian and ethically sound, the regime justified its way of doing things as enlightened and for the public good. For years, the old regime has argued that the Maldives was not ready for Democracy; this became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This style of archaic thinking assumes that change for the better can only happen when it follows a time line that suits those who are opposed to any change which threatens their privileged lifestyle. The return to that regime suggests that Gayoom is of the belief that the country will not be ready for such a change in the life time of his children either! The truth is that any major progress in human history, such as the growth of Islam in its early years, the development of the parliamentary system or the emancipation of women in the West, is achieved with pain and commitment. When the oligarchy takes the moral high ground, it asserts that the ordinary public is at a lower level of evolution- incapable of rational or intelligent behaviour. Will the regime now destroy the schools, keep economic power in the hands of the few, and then tell the many that they are too ignorant for Democracy?

“Let them eat cake” is a well-known quotation possibly misattributed to Marie Antoinette, the wife of Louis XVI, whose regime was toppled in the French Revolution. The queen, who had indulged in a lifestyle of huge affluence was told that the peasants had no bread; bread being the staple food of the French peasantry and the only food they could afford. The queen’s reply illustrates her lack of understanding of the predicament of the poverty-stricken population.

Privilege is characterised by this sheer obliviousness to the concerns and opinions of the less fortunate. Thus the February 7 coup in the Maldives is not merely the effort of an old regime to reinvent itself, but it is a deliberate and belligerent signal that the privileged regime and its supporters can do what they please regardless of what the ordinary citizen feels. It is an overwhelming show of strength: they can depose a legitimately elected president, they can beat people, including elected representatives, on the street and they can wipe the slate clean for those who have stolen from the country or committed grave crimes against the Maldivian people. It is a show of huge indifference.

There is nothing that testifies to this attitude more than the employment of Abdulla Riyaz as Police Commissioner and Hussain Waheed as his deputy. Even the least informed of the Maldivians understand that these people were the driving force behind the horrifying escalation of police brutality under Gayoom.

An oligarchy, such as the one in power in the Maldives, is unable to sustain itself on its own. Maintaining antiquated rules of behaviour and supressing the beliefs of the populace is increasingly difficult in the age of the internet and social networking. Unholy alliances have to be made and the regime under Gayoom relied on the police to stay in power.

In the minds of many Maldivians, the name Gayoom is synonymous with police brutality and torture and ill treatment of political prisoners. It is not surprising that the most committed detractors of Gayoom’s regime and its scarcely disguised puppets in the present administration are those who have been at the receiving end of the inhumane treatment. In the short period of time when Maldives was ruled by a democratically elected president, this reliance on the police to enforce compliance disappeared. It is possible, given time, it may have changed not only the way the people perceive the police, but also the way the police saw their own place in the community – perhaps as the caretakers of a more humane and compassionate society.

However, the February coup has introduced a more sinister note into this unholy alliance between those in power and those who help uphold this power through the use of fear and force. This time, the allegiance of a number of police and military has been purchased. It is not difficult to conceive of a future Maldivian police force, with shifting allegiances and well-honed negotiating powers, cutting the best deal for themselves. Less obvious, but yet more insidious, is the effect of using the police to uphold the rule of the few. T

The Maldives is a small country, and much of its social functioning is based on connectedness; the type of face to face relationships which unite and hold small communities together. Senior police officers, bribed by a handful of rich supporters of the regime, have ordered the juniors officers to beat their sisters, brothers, uncles and aunts. These are ordinary people who have little to gain by the power-play of their superiors.

Recent events in the Maldives also highlight another of the problems that privileged oligarchies have to address. No modern oligarchy has managed to completely obliterate social mobility. The ambitions of small groups of people who fight their way up the through private enterprise have to be addressed. The nouveaux riches of the Maldives have reached a stage where some of them are starting to question years of hard work which has not afforded them the privileges and influence to which they have aspired. Although oligarchies, such as the present regime, do not welcome new blood with open arms, they do manipulate it.

The coup represents an outcome of synchronicity – where the needs of the oligarchy and the aspirations of a small group of rich resort owners struck a meeting point. When in power, the Maldivian Democratic Party introduced a system of taxation that did not please some of the wealthy resort owners as well as low end tourism that would open up the industry to ordinary Maldivians. These efforts by a people’s government to improve the lot of the ordinary Maldivians were a huge threat to a small group of the rich who have enjoyed a monopoly of wealth alongside their friends in the regime.

The possibility of a law that would ensure that tourism profits in fact trickled down to the local economy by putting it through local banks, was another affront to some of the powerful resort owners. Like the members of the regime, they too have an interest in maintaining the status quo, so that both sides can continue building their own empires, be it based on power, money or influence. In aligning themselves with a cruel regime, they have tarnished their own names and become traitors to their nation.

However, oligarchic governments are also invariably threatened by a more fundamental force that is not so easily manipulated. This is the inevitable state of conflict which ensues between the power of the few and the needs of the many. Eventually, the down -trodden simply refuse to be part of the narrative and mythology perpetuated by the privileged few.

Some of the greatest upheavals of human history are testimony to this simmering sense of resentment. The French Revolution, The Russian Revolution, and the Chinese Revolution are all well documented examples of how the masses revolt against such inequalities. Inevitably the people find their voice in the figure of an individual who is prepared to be the punching bag of the powerful bureaucracies. A brown man with spindly legs wearing a dhoti makes an appearance. A black man insists that he wants his children to be judged by the strength of their character and not by the colour of their skin. An old woman refuses to sit at the back of bus and decides to break the law. An Anni appears…

Justice is a powerful threat to privileged oligarchies. Some two thousand years ago, Aristotle argued that the ordering of a society is centred on justice. No oligarchy has yet managed to convince the under-privileged majority of a nation that what is justice for the minority is also justice for the masses. And justice matters. The fundamental search of the human spirit is not, as advertisers would have us believe, to holiday on ‘the sunny side of life’. Nor is it money. It is a search for the confirmation that each individual life has meaning and each individual has a right to live in dignity. This is the point of civilised society. This is why, justice is central to the smooth functioning of any society. This is why one of the most enduring symbols of the anger against the coup of February 7 is a T-shirt that simply asks, “Where is my vote?”

This is why injustice penetrates deep into the human psyche. There is nothing that unites people more than a shared list of grievances. In more recent years, Martin Luther King Junior echoed these sentiments when he argued that, “Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.” Indeed, we need to worry when law and order have been unable to function effectively in the Maldives for over thirty years, due to the self-interest of a small minority of people.

Democracy or Oligarchy? This is no longer a political question. Nor is it an issue about two strong individuals. It has become a moral and ethical judgment that every Maldivian has to make. We must decide whether we are brave enough to choose ‘the road less travelled ’, make mistakes, take risks and grow towards maturity as a nation, or continue to be bullied by an oligarchy which, by its very definition, is focused on its own survival at the expense of the population.

The rest of the world also has to make a decision; the well- known words of Edmund Burke are hugely relevant to the situation in the Maldives: “All that is required for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.”

It is time for good men and women, both nationally and internationally, to stand by the Maldivian Democratic Party and help write the script for a new and more enlightened age of Maldivian history.
The time for action is now.

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]


Comment: She finally killed him

She finally killed him.

Which means she will face a life sentence in prison. Which also means her little son will be orphaned in a sense. Much worse, he will grow up in the arms of a woman who is very likely to hate the offspring of her own son’s murderer. What will become of the child in a few years time? What led her to stab the man to death?

Possible cause?

Family and friends confirm that Hassan Shahid (the deceased) used to be married to Mariyam Nazaha (the accused) and had continued harassment and violence against her even after the couple separated. Nazaha was reportedly harassed and threatened over the phone, in her house, and severely beaten in her home and place of work in the presence of several witnesses.

Steps taken by the victim to stop the violence?

Nazaha filed several reports of harassment and violence by Shahid with the Maldives Police Service.

Result: Nothing. Not a single witness was called for investigation.

Nazaha also filed a case of violence by Shahid, at the Gender Department at the Ministry of Health and Family.

Result: Nothing happened.

What could have been done?

The Maldives Police Service could have carried out a thorough investigation, and forwarded their findings to the Prosecutor General for prosecution, which would likely have resulted in the Criminal Court removing this violent man from society.

The Gender Department could have moved their backs rather than sit on the complaint, and at least worked towards a restraining order so that a violent man did not have the opportunity to bother his ex-wife and also did not have access to a young child.

The State and the System missed several opportunities to protect both the deceased and the accused and prevent this sad outcome.


The State has failed miserably in this instance. Domestic violence, child abuse and violence in general is rampant on every island, and it seems that the State simply has more important issues to handle.

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]