President Mohamed Nasheed was elected in 2008 “with the help of the British conservative party and imperial powers,” the Zaeem-faction of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) claimed in a video message Thursday night, featured during a rally held to launch the Z-faction’s autonomous activities to celebrate the party’s sixth anniversary.
“In the two years since this government came, 22 people were killed on the street, Islam was challenged and defied,” the video message intoned. “[The government] made drinking alcohol and using drugs commonplace, appointed drug users and convicts to senior posts, sold the country’s assets to foreigners, lost control of the economy, locked down the High Court, and members of the ruling party hijacked the Deputy Speaker of parliament along with opposition MPs.
“Sickness is commonplace and the health system has been demolished. In the meantime, leaders that Zaeem Maumoon [Abdul Gayoom] brought to the political arena have abandoned his ideology and are now trying to chart a new course for their ship away from him.”
Addressing supporters after the video presentation, former President Gayoom said that the DRP’s “greatest national duty” was “to ensure that the Maldives remains a 100 percent Muslim country,” with “full independence and sovereignty.”
“The independence of the country and our faith are very much related,” he said. “The Maldives will only remain a country with complete freedom, independence and sovereignty if it remains a 100 percent Muslim country.”
If that status should change, said Gayoom, “there is no doubt that our independence will be threatened as Maldivian history has taught us the lesson that every time we lost our independence it was because some group tried to turn the Maldivian people to the wrong religion.”
He stressed that allowing freedom of religion “in a tiny country like the Maldives with a small, homogenous population” would create “disagreement and division among the people and lead to bloodshed.”
The narrated video presentation – set to black and white reels of British monarchs and ships in the Male’ harbour – sketched a history of the Maldives’ “enslavement” under British colonialism and Indian Borah merchants to independence on July 26, 1965.
“In 1834, [Robert] Morseby came to the country on behalf the British governor in Bombay to draw [maritime] charts of the Maldives,” the narration began. “But the territorial chart wasn’t the only chart the English were drawing.
“They were drawing charts of our internal affairs and the economy, too. [They] connected Maldivians with the Borah traders who upheld the interests of British imperialism, and arranged for them to be permanently settled in Male’.”
The British then proceeded to “divide and rule,” sparking a feud between two royal families led by Athireege Ibrahim Didi and Kakaage Mohamed Rannabadeyri Kilegefaanu, both of whom had “significant political interest in the trade of the Borah.”
In late 1886, Ibrahim Didi or Dhoshimeyna Kilegefaanu deposed the reigning Sultan, who was replaced with Mohamed Mueenudeen III, known as Kuda Bandarain.
“It cannot be believed that the English played no part in the great atrocity that was the coup attempt through arson [Bodu Hulhu] in 1887,” the narrator states. “The leader of the coup, Ibrahim Dhoshimeyna Kilegefaanu, was a British citizen.”
Before heading out to set fires in Male’, the arsonists “performed black magic inside Velaanage” and ate the heart of a 15-year-old boy who had died that day.
“Eventually those who committed [the acts of arson] were found and caught,” the narration continued. “Ibrahim Dhoshimeyna Kilegefaanu and his accomplices were punished and banished. [But] before too long, the English meddled with the investigation and forced the Sultan to free Ibrahim Dhoshimeyna Kilegefaanu.”
The Maldives “became enslaved by the British” on December 16, 1887 when “the Sultan was intimidated and coerced into signing the protection agreement.”
The Z-DRP video message observed that the Maldives as a British protectorate was characterised by “poverty and the struggle for the throne by powerful families” as well as political instability and the secession of three southern atolls.
“As a consequence of the country becoming a British protectorate, after 87 years the Maldives was among the poorest five countries in the world,” the narrator explained. “The British could not bring democracy to the Maldives. There was no education system, no health system and no domestic economy. And justice was not served either.”
Former President Ibrahim Nasir secured independence in 1965 but “began his own business using state resources.”
“When Nasir left office in 1978, he owned seven resorts, numerous plots of land in Male’, a shipping line and counted a number of shops among his businesses,” the narrator claimed.
The condition of the Maldivian people “was changed by our national hero and proud Zaeem [beloved leader] of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party.”
The video message argued that the ex-President “empowered Maldivians spiritually, intellectually, socially and physiologically.”
“After empowering Maldivians upon these pillars through the service of a golden 30 years, he took the country out of the list of the world’s poorest states,” the narrator stated. “[Gayoom] introduced principles of modern democracy, separated powers of the state, and introduced a multi-party system [in 2005].”
“Now the situation has darkened again,” the Z-DRP warned. “But what the people still want, north and south, and all across the country, is the ideology [of Gayoom’s reign] that empowered them.”
Meanwhile in his speech Gayoom explained that true independence included “freedom of thought, economic freedom and cultural freedom as well.”
“Passing our economic affairs into the hands of foreigners, just saying that we have political freedom, is not ensuring independence at all,” he contended.
Democratic governance “is the best form of governance,” said Gayoom, and the reform agenda launched in 2004 “to bring modern democracy to the Maldives has, by the grace of God, been successful.”
“As a result of [the road map for reform] the Maldives has become a complete democracy,” he said. “A complete and perfect constitution was devised, independent institutions were established, political parties were formed, the fundamental rights of the Maldivian people were protected, justice was established. All this was done and complete before 2008.”
The new constitution was ratified on August 7, 2008, two months before Gayoom was ousted in the country’s first democratic multi-party election.
Gayoom however went on to say that “renewed efforts” were needed “to bring back democracy to the country.”
“I won’t go into too much detail on this,” he said. “However even as the video we just saw explained, the situation is deteriorating on a daily basis. The people are becoming impoverished and their rights are being violated.”