Democracy has become a facade. The media is a production of our politicians. The members of the security forces are bullied and attacked. Freedom of expression is no longer a given. Peace has become a pipedream. Our paradise has been cursed.
Over the past week I have had mixed emotions over the political unrest in my beloved country and I am certain I am not the only one who is frustrated and tired of the political chaos in the Maldives. It is as if we have learned nothing from 30 years of authoritarian rule.
Let me begin with the lead actor in this political drama – Mohamed Nasheed. He announced his resignation to the national media but the next day he claimed that he resigned at gun-point.
“There were guns all around me and they told me they wouldn’t hesitate to use them if I didn’t resign.” – Mohamed Nasheed
Nasheed’s statement that he was forced to resign at gunpoint stoked the political fires and greatly increased the emotional response to his overthrow, plunging the country into further violence and chaos. It also helped to publicise his ‘undemocratic, unjust overthrow’ around the world through the international media. A few days later he admitted that he was not literally at gunpoint, claiming he had used the term metaphorically. Last week Nasheed stated that the security forces were unable to shoot at the public protesters prior to his overthrow only because he refused to give them the key to the ‘gun’ storage – an attempt to create further animosity towards the security forces. I honestly don’t believe a single word that comes out of his mouth anymore. Yes, clearly he was forced to resign but my view is that his departure was inevitable.
None of us know the truth of what exactly happened on the day Nasheed resigned, and I suspect we will not know until a full and independent investigation is carried out. Yet we all choose to pick a side of the story. We only hear what Nasheed, President Waheed or other politicians say, and none of them are telling the truth in its entirety, with the exception of Umar Naseer and Reeko Moosa – two political personalities who are incapable of controlling their militant tongues and who are both obsessed with Gayyoom in their own ways.
Over the past three years Nasheed’s popularity has been dwindling and I doubt he would have had a chance in the 2013 elections until a few weeks ago. Fortunately for Nasheed, his forced resignation has actually increased his popularity and he is milking this opportunity to mobilise support for himself. What saddens me is that Nasheed and his party, MDP, are doing this at the expense of public order, public institutions and everything good about our country. They are undermining the very democratic principles that they think they are fighting for by bullying and threatening anyone that opposes them.
I understand MDP supporters and their MP’s are frustrated, but their anger has turned to militancy and a blatant disregard for anyone with a view different to their own. This country belongs to us all and the Parliament is a forum for debate and discussion by members elected by all of us. The blocking of the Parliament by MDP MP’s and the disrespect shown has, in my opinion, damaged our democracy because they have set a precedent here. The picture below shows the scuffles that took place inside the Parliament building on the on 1st March 2012. MDP MP’s hijacked the Parliament and blocked the President and the Speaker of the Parliament from entering.
Pure class shown by MDP MP’s – one has a bin on his head and another is sitting on top of the Speaker’s bench.
You can call President Waheed ‘Baghee’ or ‘Puppet’, but having read his international profile, namely his humanitarian work around the global and the crucial role he played in our own democratic process, I do believe he is a more capable candidate for the Presidency. Nasheed is a great activist and he can run a rally and organise fantastic protests, but he does not know how to run a country. I don’t know whether President Waheed was responsible for the orchestration of the overthrow of Nasheed but his international profile speaks volumes. However, I do question his inability to answer many questions raised about the events of the overthrow. As the second in command of the country I expect him to be politically aware, so no doubt he would have known how Nasheed’s overthrow unfolded.
Currently Nasheed is doing a fantastic job in ensuring the Western media follows his one-sided story. I fail to understand why the Western media continues to glorify Nasheed’s profile and confuses his role and responsibilities as a nation’s leader with that of being an advocate for good causes. Mark Lynas, Paul Roberts and many of Nasheed’s aides are reporting on the Maldives but their views are biased and fail to give any contextual analysis of the political reality of the Maldives. In one sense their bias is understandable as they work for Nasheed, but what I cannot accept and find disgraceful is that they fail to see or report their own biases; calling themselves reporters or advisors to the Maldives and telling half-truths to the international media.
I wonder how Western countries would react if their elected leader ordered the army to take hold of the Supreme Court, ordered the arrest of several opponents, and then arrested a senior judge and kept him detained for over 2 weeks despite continuous protests. Anywhere else in this world this would be considered outrageous, authoritarian and unconstitutional, and there would be international calls for their immediate resignation. There were calls for Bill Clinton’s resignation over a lie about an extramarital affair!
Let me make two things clear to anyone reading this:
1- The Maldives is a Muslim country and religion has been used as a tool by both political sides on various occasions. When Nasheed says President Waheed and allies are empowering radical religious groups, do not be fooled. That is just one of the cards played to create polarisation and gain Western media attention, when in reality MDP themselves formed an alliance with the religious groups when they came to power. Yes, we do have a problem with religious extremism, but that is not the issue at the heart of this political unrest.
2- Not every critic of Nasheed’s leadership and his party is a remnant of the past regime; not every remnant of the past regime is an opponent; and not every opponent is a bad advisor.
Few good things have come out of this whole political mess, but I was pleased to see the further empowerment of Maldivian women through this process, namely the MDP women’s peaceful protests. Any event or activity that empowers Maldivian women is a step forward and it was nice to see women take part in the democratic process, regardless of what side they were on. Women from all parties are clearly making their voices heard and when and if this political madness calms down I hope this spirit continues among Maldivian women. I was also pleased to see youth groups calling for peace through social media and organised events. Most importantly, I hope Nasheed’s overthrow sends a strong message to everyone that this country belongs to us all and that it will never be ruled by taking the law into one’s own hands. It is time we base our democracy on progressive policies instead of personalities.
Nascent, our democracy maybe, but I take comfort in the fact that we are all still fighting for democratic ideals. I just hope we don’t destroy our beautiful country in the process.