The third edition of Maldives Investment Forum was all praise of President Abdulla Yameen by his cabinet ministers – Vice President Abdulla Jihad and Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed – as they tried to garner the interest of investors in the Indian capital New Delhi on Tuesday.
The annual forum to tap the potential of the Maldives’ tourism and infrastructure sector in the international market was started under the presidency of Abdulla Yameen in 2014 in Singapore followed by Beijing in 2015.
Here are top 5 mentions of President Abdulla Yameen at the high-profile investment forum:
GDP has grown with double digit under the leadership of President Yameen in last three years
We have seen the trust for President Yameen’s economic policies. We are seeing the results of our efforts
Far-sighted policies of President Yameen has narrowed down fiscal deficit in the country
President Yameen has eased monetary policies leading to increased credit availability for the private sector and have lowered inflation
President Yameen’s government promotes a transparent, hassle-free and liberal trading and investment environment and believes in strong, predictable and transparent commercial regime is critical for private sector led growth
“President Yameen is a respected economist…,” this is how Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed introduced his president at Maldives Investment Forum in the Indian capital New Delhi on Tuesday.
“President Abdulla Yameen is a respected economist under whose governance GDP and per capita income have improved, ” he went on to add while facing uncomfortable questions from reporters on the sidelines of the event.
However, the qualifications of Yameen – infamous as an increasingly autocratic President – are bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a master’s degree in Public Policy, not exactly good enough to hail him as an economist!
And off late, Yameen has been accused of large-scale money-laundering and muzzling political voices with his strong arm tactics and misuse of the local courts.
But Saeed insisted that “he (Yameen) is a well-informed leader who is focused on bringing social harmony through development and job creation” while avoiding pointed questions on eroded international image of his country.
The interaction with the reporters in New Delhi during the Maldives Investment forum came across as another embarrassment as ministers in the Yameen’s cabinet jump from one faux pax to another.
While asked about the corruption charges facing President Yameen, Saeed’s response came from a scripted note, which had no relation to the questions being asked to the minister.
Speaking on similar lines as his boss Yameen, Saeed also expressed the government’s collective desire to make the Maldives the next Singapore (interestingly something that Yameen’s half-brother and mentor Maumoon Gayoom does not approve!)
“We are not comparing the Maldives to Singapore… but it does translate into the desire to look up to Singapore,” Saeed said while he pitched for greater investment in the Maldivian tourism and infrastructure.
Contrary to the reports of World Bank that the Maldivian economy had slowed down in 2015 and figures on fiscal deficits and public debt were sobering, Saeed claimed that in Yameen’s three-year tenure there was a steady growth in GDP and public debt has been fixed.
CHRI: The nations is sliding into a dictatorial system once again and the situation will soon push the island nation into the brink of violence and anarchy. Suspend, exclude and halt the current government.
CMAG: Deeply disappointed in lack of progress in the Maldives and now on a formal agenda and threat of suspension in March.
Ruling ‘Defamation Fame’ MP Jaufar Dawood: Commonwealth is ‘camel fart’. If we haven’t any advantage as a member of the Commonwealth, why shouldn’t we leave them?
Ruling MP Riyaz Rasheed: Now is the time for Maldives to leave Commonwealth. People’s Majlis would deliberate over the matter and make its decision when it re-opens.
Willy Mutunga: The country is facing severe democracy deficit.
Foreign Ministry: Maldives has decided to leave the Commonwealth.
October the 13- the day when President Abdulla Yameen-led government, taking forward its isolation policy and dictatorial behaviour, slayed 34-year-old tie with the Commonwealth. The government alleged that the group was deliberating “punitive actions” following the situation that led to ouster of former President Mohamed Nasheed in 2012. Foreign Ministry said it was “difficult, but inevitable” step as the 53-nation group has been treating the current government “unjustly and unfairly”.
The development came weeks after the rhetoric from all the President’s men -who asked the government to flex its muscles – to leave the group after Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) put the Maldives on its formal agenda and gave another six months time to work on the six-point agenda threatening suspension from the group. That time, too, the ruling party MP Riyaz Rasheed indicated to “a group of individuals living in self-exile in UK” who were influencing the group’s decision.
The Foreign Ministry scuffling at the group further said that the Maldives was being used as an object for organisation’s own relevance.
(Maldives)… would be an easy object that can be used, especially in the name of democracy promotion, to increase the organisation’s own relevance and leverage in international politics
The decision to quit the Commonwealth created international furore within minutes with many expressing not just disappointment over it but also suggesting that consequential international isolation will adversely affect its citizens who are already fighting a long battle with human rights abuses, high-level corruption and crackdown on dissent.
One of the first reactions came from President Yameen’s half brother and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who has been at loggerheads with the former over a number of issues. said he was disappointed on leaving the group as he was the one who “led the country into Commonwealth”.
The 78-year-old President of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) said he was disappointed on leaving the group as he was the one who “led the country into Commonwealth” and that “isolation will not solve problems”.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said members of the Commonwealth will share his sadness worldwide.
I have received news that the Maldives Government has today decided to leave the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth family at large – its member governments and its peoples worldwide – will share my sadness and disappointment at this decision.
British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and Maldives James Dauris said that he was saddened by the decision.
Former President Nasheed took social networking site Facebook to express his anger and said:
Removing the Maldives from the Commonwealth is an act of desperation by a President who doesn’t like the truth and is unwilling to be held accountable for his authoritarianism.
Internationally acclaimed human rights watchdog Amnesty International suggested that instead of lashing out at international criticism, the country should address the situation.
Instead of complaining about unfair treatment, the Maldives government should look at engaging more constructively with the international community.
Former foreign minister Ahmed Shaheed told New York Times that isolation will bring more criticism to the country.
He is getting deeper and deeper into isolation. He would think he’s insulating himself from Commonwealth criticism, but he will receive more and more.
David White, the chief of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative called October the 13th as sad day.
Other stakeholders- MPs, journalists, politicians and activists – took Twitter to express shock and disappointment.
The government also received flak worldwide for severing ties with Iran to become a part of the league of Sunni nations to join Saudi Arabia in setting diplomatic agenda against the country.
President Yameen is also facing in-party isolation as most of his former cabinet ministers are either jailed, a part of rainbow coalition Maldivian United Opposition (MUO), have resigned citing differences. And, most importantly from his half-brother, mentor and party chief- Maumoon Gayoom.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson – the Brexit rival of Nasheed’s good friend David Cameron- who is currently the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom said:
(The UK will) continue to work with the Maldives Government to help strengthen democracy, particularly freedom of speech and the media and independence of the judiciary.
As a series of corruption allegations loom over President Abdulla Yameen, he apologised for failing to check the country’s biggest corruption scam in which over USD 80 million was transferred from state coffers to private accounts by the state-owned tourism firm – Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation.
President Yameen, who was also implicated in the scam as one the beneficiaries, did not take responsibility for it and shifted the blame on former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb.
During the inauguration of USD 15million water and sanitation project in southern city of Fuvahmulah, Yameen said:
Even tonight, I want to apologise that the MMPRC corruption occurred during my presidency. For that I ask forgiveness from the people… But no matter how vigilant we are, criminals will continue to commit crimes. The only means to deter crime is harsher penalties.
He said he was not aware of the fact that adeeb was stealing money from the state contrary to the claims of the former auditor general who had alleged that President Yameen refused to take action when he was informer about the corruption in MMPRC in 2014.
Even though President Yameen apologised for the scam, opposition did not seem convinced and said that it was not enough on his part.
Maldives United Opposition Leader (MUO) Mohamed Jameel Ahmed said that an apology cannot compensate for “robbery” of a billion Rufiyaa and demanded an independent probe seeking his resignation.
Rayyithunge baithul maalun kuri biliyan rufiyaage vakkamah thin akuruge ma aaf akun badhal nudhevwyne.
Former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb had a contact saved in his now infamous gold iPhone as ‘Lord P’. The same gold iPhone that exposed how Adeeb and his mentor-tuned-boss turned-antagonist President Abdulla Yameen were not only involved in high-level corruption but also in wiping off anyone and everyone who did not fall in line — media, politicians, activists and even its own ministers; now has another story to tell: How the two cracked a deal with ‘Lord P’ to shroud the autocratic nature of the government with a well-crafted image of the Maldives’ economic development.
But it was not the first time when Yameen agreed to spend a fortune to negate the banana republic impression. Last summer, Yameen signed a lucrative deal with Cherie Blair- wife of former Prime Minister and Labour Party chief Tony Blair- after she was rejected by the first democratically elected President Mohamed Nasheed who had Amal Clooney by his side.
Cherie who was earlier ready to represent Nasheed calling his trial ‘an extraordinary farce’, then agreed to revive Yameen’s image for £ 210,000 (MVR 4,128,292).
Back In 2012 too, right after the coup that toppled Nasheed’s government, another Labour Party member, former Labour Cabinet Minister and former attorney general Baroness Scotland took £ 75,000 (MVR 1,457,366) to advise the then government on avoiding action by Commonwealth in a two-week work contract.
On August 12, 2015, a few days before Yameen got Cherie on board, Adeeb broke a deal ‘Lord P’, who is a professional lobbyist and political adviser, to revamp the image of Yameen’s regime.
‘Lord P’ is no one else but the man who has not only been a Member of Parliament (MP) for Hartlepool for Labour Party but also held a number of Cabinet positions under Prime Ministers Tony Blair.
The man who rebuilt the Labour Party as New Labour before its subsequent victory in the 1997 election.
‘Lord P’ is Peter Mandelson – The Prince of Darkness.
A report by Daily Mail says that 62-year-old Mandelson held meetings with Adeeb and Yameen to counsel the government on how to “rebuild its public image”.
The British Daily quoting a four-page memo says that Mandelson’s strategic advisory firm Global Counsel suggested the government to deal with the PR crisis by projecting “your vision for the country’s future”.
The memo was dated August 18, four days after the meeting took place between Adeeb and Mandelson at the resort of Gili Lankanfushi.
Headlined as ‘Next Steps’, the memo asking to set up a strategic communication to fix the international image of the Maldives as quoted by Daily Mail read:
The taskforce will benefit from start-up training and development from an external source. This is something we could guide you on as part of our current work with international investors in the Maldives
It also offered to lobby United Nations General Assembly and Commonwealth by “telling an effective story about the Maldives to international audiences”. The advisory firm also said that it would get confidence of the international investors “everywhere from New York and London to Berlin, Paris and Beijing”.
The Memo By Global Counsel
The discussion in Gili Lankanfushi was very useful in scoping out the next steps. What follows in this note assumes that the situation regarding Nasheed can be resolved amicably from the perspective of all relevant stakeholders. The Maldives is a young democracy and recognises it has further to go in order to create the institutions and space to enable democracy to flourish… Reforms to the penal code and judicial system, as well as strengthening the rule of law, are prerequisites to a healthy democracy, and the government is in the process of designing and implementing reforms in these areas that will deliver immediate benefits as well as building the foundations for a stronger democracy in the longer term.
The firm suggested that government can rebuild its image by giving an ‘accurate account’ of the government’s ‘accomplishments’ in the fields of economic stewardship, social reform and environmental protection.
It is unclear if the two went ahead with the big revival plan as Adeeb – in less than two months – was jailed for plotting to assassinate his boss Yameen.
On October 13, when Ying Staton, Global Counsel’s ‘Asia Director’ wrote to Adeeb to figure out when Mandelson and Yameen could speak on phone, he was already in middle of speed boat blast allegations and days ahead only led to his impeachment, arrest and sentencing.
Flamboyant Adeeb, one of the richest politicians, also seen as Yameen’s loyal, also got implicated in one of the country’s biggest corruption scandal with Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).
An audit report of MMPRC revealed that money as huge as USD 80 million received from leasing islands and resorts meant for the state was siphoned off to private accounts which benefited Adeeb, Yameen, his wife and other politicians.
And it also benefitted Cherie Blair. Omnia had billed Abdulla Ziyath, former managing director of the MMPRC for £ 210,000 (MVR 4,081,265) – the half amount of total fee charged by the firm for a six-month contract.
According to Maldives Independent, government also spent USD 19,293 (MVR 297,510) on visits of Omnia’s barrister Toby Cadman, between June and September.
My work is not yet complete. My work will be completed once the airport and the country is the preferred destination. When my work is done, I want to compare the difference between the services given in the Maldives and Singapore, Dubai – Yameen
Omnia, on the allegation of receiving the money from a company implicated in corruption, said that it terminated six-month contract early due to unpredictable domestic events and is no longer instructed by either the government or the MMPRC.
The whistleblower, Bank of Maldives former manager Gasim Abdul Kareem, who leaked the account details of Score of Flairs (S.O.F) Private Limited which facilitated the transaction between MMPRC and Omnia is now in jail on the charges of unauthorised disclosure customer information.
Adeeb was sentenced to eight years in prison for stealing USD 5,000,000 (MVR 76,850,000) from state coffers besides 15 year jail term for plotting to assassinate Yameen.
Government also hired Washington based lobbyist firm, Podesta Group in September for a sum of USD 300,000 (MVR 4,611,000) and London-based PR firm BTP Advisers in November.
Even after massive PR exercise Yameen is now isolated by his party men. Though, he is often witnessed talking about economic development and policies as ambitious as making the Maldives the next Singapore and Dubai. At an event in May this year, Yameen said:
My work is not yet complete. My work will be completed once the airport and the country is the preferred destination. When my work is done, I want to compare the difference between the services given in the Maldives and Singapore, Dubai
Battered by its international image, Yameen-led government even launched a programme ‘Visit Maldives Year 2016’ to promote tourism and also enhanced their budget but soon abandoned the ambitious 1.5 million tourist target this year alleging opposition of tarnishing the image of the country.
The government functioning on PR machinery of the west in a bid to revive the image of the country often blames opposition and its leader Nasheed for destroying country’s economy, ironically, calling them the agents of the west. Meanwhile, Nasheed continue to enjoy the support of international rights’ group, journalists and rival of the Labour Party, Conservative Party’s former leader and former Prime Minister David Cameron.
History might be created in the Maldives soon. The Indian Ocean archipelago, which is witnessing political turmoil, international condemnation and an expected coup plot, may soon get both the ex-Presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed on board against President Abdulla Yameen to counter his “autocratic” government.
Nasheed, who was jailed more than 20 times in Gayoom’s regime for his criticism, said that he is in agreement with the ex-strongman alias Gayoom to fight his half-brother and President Yameen, Fox News reported.
The first democratically elected President, who is currently in London, refused to give any further details but expressed hope that they will work together to bring down Yameen in a “legitimate” way.
“And so the position of the Maldives United Opposition, of which I am a member, is that for democracy to be restored in the Maldives it is essential that President Yameen be removed from power,” he told Colombo-based reporters via Skype from London on Tuesday.
“…He has lost the support of the Maldivian people, security services, international community and his own party. He has even lost the support of his own brother, former president Gayoom,” he was quoted by international news agency Reuters as saying.
Nasheed also claimed that he also was in talks with his faction of the ruling PPM “for a new political alignment” insisting on a “non-military” coup in the archipelago.
Calling “military-coup” illegal, the 49-year-old leader although said that he want security forces to cooperate with him as when the transition through “legal” and “constitutional” means happens.
“The opposition was expecting Gayoom to get a section of his party to withdraw support for Yameen late last month, but for some reason that did not happen,” said one western diplomatic source in Colombo, speaking on condition of anonymity, as quoted by AFP.
“It is not easy for the opposition to organise any agitation inside the country because all their leaders are either in jail or in exile.”
Nasheed is, however, looking to capitalise on the rift between the half-brothers that came out in open over the controversial tourism bill which Gayoom strongly opposed. Not just Yameen’s supporters defied Progressive Party of the Maldives’ leader whip to pass the bill but also rallied against his son Faris Maumoon Gayoom for not supporting the bill in the People’s Majlis.
The current government, which is facing overwhelming accusations of corruption, human rights violations and dictatorial approach, has lost many of its cabinet ministers in past one year. While ex-Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed was impeached, ex-Vice President Ahmed Adeeb and ex-Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim have been jailed on terrorism charges.
Jameel leads the MUO and the other two have their representations in the rainbow coalition formed with the aim to oust Yameen.
Recently, Gayoom’s daughter and ex-Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon and his one of the loyal party members and ex-Home Minister Umar Naseer resigned from their posts after heads on with Yameen on several issues.
Ex-President Mohamed Nasheed is secretly flying to Colombo for an important “sit-down” to discuss political crisis in the Maldives to which BBC report claimed was a meeting to plan ouster of President Abdulla Yameen created a political fervour in the Maldives.
And soon, the political developments in the Maldives took a steep turn. Arrest warrants were issued against Nasheed along with other leaders, his house was raided but Colombo seemed to back him for his presence in the capital.
All You Need To Know About The Current Political Developments
Arrest Warrants Against Nasheed, Jameen & Akram
Days after BBC report claimed that Nasheed along with MUO’s leader will be in neighbourhood- Sri Lanka’s capital to plan ouster of President Yameen, the criminal court issues arrest warrants for the “exiled” leaders.
Nasheed’s warrant sought investigation into alleged misuse of state funds during his presidency, ironically at a time when opposition is furiously attacking President Yameen of corruption.
The warrant also asked police to get Nasheed back in the country to complete remainder of 13-year jail term on terrorism conviction.
The police also issued warrants against MUO leader Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and former chairman of opposition aligned Raajje TV on “unspecified” charges and for refusing to obey police summons issued on August 4. Thought, in June police had issued summons against the pair for forging warrant to arrest Yameen.
Raid At Nasheed’s House
Police also raided Nasheed’s family residence on Wednesday evening to investigate the coup plot which has been doing rounds in media reports.
Not only the raid, but police detained former opposition lawmaker Ilyas Labeeb, and seized his phone on the same charge.
Nasheed’s family is currently residing in the United Kingdom. His cousin and opposition MP informed that 10 police officers raided his house in Male for half an hour at 9pm on Wednesday.
“This is absolutely unjustified. President Nasheed has been away for a very long time. Only his parents live there now,” Maldives Independent quoted Abdulla as saying.
Colombo Backs Nasheed
In a major blow to the government, Colombo refuted chances of bringing back Nasheed by saying that it does not have any “concerns over his activities in Sri Lanka”.
Sri Lanka Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne was quoted in the Colombo Gazette having said that Nasheed was raising democratic issues and so it cannot be seen as an attempt to topple the Maldives Government.
In January, while leaving for the UK on medical leave, Nasheed had a brief stay in Colombo where he met diplomants to seek their support. Moreover, Nasheed also stayed in Colombo during ex-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s regime when he was facing criminal charges.
Nasheed also studied in Colombo before moving to the UK for higher studies.
Many MDP members like Ahmed Naseem and Abdul Gafoor are currently living in Colombo in exile.
In November 2013, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom was elected the president of the Maldives following the alleged “televised coup” of the first democratically elected President Mohamed Nasheed. Two years and nine months into his rule, politically isolated Yameen now fears ouster by the opposition forces by led the Maldives United Opposition (MUO).
As the MUO leaders reached Colombo on August 25, speculations over the ‘removal plot’ mounted through a report by BBC- which attributing to its sources- claimed that the “tiny island nation are looking to move against him within weeks.”
MUO’s poster boy and ex-President Nasheed was reportedly present in Colombo to take part in “an important sit-down” to analyse the political situation and strategise on crisis.
Jumping the gun, a government spokesman, whom the news agency did not name, confirmed the attempts of ‘legally’ overthrowing the government with a disclaimer that it would be a “clear breach of international norms.”
“As in every democracy it is the people, via the ballot, who will decide who will next take office,” said the spokesman as quoted by BBC.
And soon, a few loyal leaders of Yameen, spoke candidly about shielding the government from the expected coup d’état.
“We are keeping a close watch on the political landscape. The military and government offices are connected. The army will not allow a transfer of power,” he said in a televised meeting on the state broadcaster TVM two days after arresting four soldiers for allegedly conspiring to overthrow Yameen.
Earlier this month, eight soldiers were also detained on the similar charges, some also had their phone confiscated and are under investigation by MNDF.
The MNDF had earlier barred its soldiers from socialising or meeting with politicians, including ministers, and foreigners without permission to prevent feared attempts of toppling the government.
Ruling MP Ahmed Nihan also sending out a clear message to the opposition said, “Even if a gun is held to President Yameen’s head and he is ordered to sign a resignation letter, he will not sign it, even if he falls dead.”
Meanwhile, Reuters quoted Yameen’s spokesman Ibrahim Hussain Shihab confirming the political developments as well and alleging a conspiracy with the help of “external forces” which the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) refuted.
But, the party did verify that the opposition leaders were in Colombo to work out strategies to legally topple Yameen, according to AFP.
The hatch to oust Yameen that has been on MUO’s agenda since its formation in June, intensified parallely at a time when Yameen is under scanner once again for corruption in oil sales to Myanmar dating a decade ago.
The amount of corruption is $800 million.
Also accusing Yameen and his associates of receiving kickbacks from government owned islands, Nasheed told The New York Times, “President Yameen is very, very corrupt, and all the evidence is available. We are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Government rejected the allegations and called it ploy by “political rivals”. Yameen’s spokesman Sihab defend the government by saying that Yameen never sold oil to Myanmar during his tenure and dismissed receiving illegal payments via oil deals or land deals.
A documentary titled “Stealing Paradise” announced by Doha-based Al Jazeera that claims to reveal ‘mass corruption, theft and abuse of power in the Maldives’ also coincides with the opposition’s headway.
Downplaying the allegations and criticism, Yameen’s supporters accused MUO of jealousy and hailed him for his “successful development agenda” under #HealingParadise.
The supporters of Yameen even accused opposition of being close to the colonial powers as MUO’s top leadership- Nasheed along with former Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and MDP Chairman Ali Waheed- were granted asylum by the British government.
Yameen is already reeling under international pressure to step down for abuse of power, flouting human rights and stifling dissent during his regime.
He has also alienated himself from the top political leadership including the longest ruling dictator, half-brother and mentor Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Most of his cabinet ministers – who now have representation in MUO- have been jailed or sacked, while some chose to resign due to his “dictatorial” attitude.
While former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb and former Defence Minister Ahmed Nazim were jailed, former Vice President Ali Waheed was impeached; former Home Minister Umar Naseer and former Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon chose to resign.
Gayoom, probably the most power name. One is the longest running dictator and former President, another is the current President. Both are also half-brothers.
When senior “Gayoom” Maumoon Abdul Gayoom decided retire from active politics, he endorsed Abdulla Yameen Gayoom in the 2013 Presidential elections against first democratically elected President Mohamed Nasheed, but now everything does not seem right between them. Here’s how:
Uncontested Presidential Candidate, Well No!
Gayoom, who is the leader of Progressive Party of Maldives, has refused to endorse President Yameen as the “uncontested” Presidential candidate despite a few leaders of the party coming out in his support
According to the rules, President Yameen, if completes five years of his tenure, would be eligible to contest the election without the primaries. But, a big “NO” has come from the Godfather of the party
Say No To Tourism Bill
Gayoom has now urged ruling party lawmakers to vote against the President Yameen sponsored amendments to the tourism law
Gayoom asked the leaders in the Viber Group Chat to vote against the bill saying that it was against the party’s stand which is to ensure public prosperity through equitable distribution of natural resources
The amendment, if passed, would allow government to lease islands, lagoon and plots of tourism without any bidding
Disappointed With Yameen
Gayoom is disappointed over the letter written to President Yameen on Foreign Landownership Bill and the appointment of Ahmed Adheeb as Vice President that went unreplied
Earlier, he had taken Facebook to criticise President Yameen for his economic model calling for making Maldives, the new Singapore
Dunya- The Saving Grace
Dunya Maumoon, Maumoon Gayoom’s daughter is being the saving grace in the rift as she continues to serve Yameen’s government as Foreign Minister. She has, time and again supported, President Yameen’s decision, the most recent being the Cabinet reshuffle in the government
A hot, humid and tiring day in the holy month of Ramadan was getting over across Asia. The clouds of Brexit hung over London. It was 9 o’clock at night in New Delhi. 9 PM in Colombo. 4.30 PM in Salisbury, England. 10.30 PM In Thailand, and across the Gulf Of Thailand in Malaysia, it was 11.30 in the night. In the Maldives, it was 8.30 PM in capital Male´ and in Addu, the southernmost tip of the country. Last Thursday, they were all connected via Skype. Their bond – The Maldives. Their cause – Democracy.
So the eight-member delegation of the Maldives United Opposition (MUO) that landed in the Indian capital here on Wednesday night to garner support from its “closest neighbour” India was patching up their laptops with their leadership-in-exile in England – the first democratic president of the country Mohamed Nasheed, MUO Leader Ahmed Jameel Waheed (former vice-president of the country), Deputy Leader Ali Waheed, former Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed among others teamed up with former United Kingdom MP John Glenn.
Along with a few members from two Maldivian cities, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Malaysia, they were online for the third Shadow Cabinet Meeting of the ‘united’ opposition-in-exile.
“We are constantly moving from one country to another and our members are scattered in different countries, this is how we are going to hold this meeting,” Hamid Abdul Gafoor, Maldivian Democratic Party spokesperson told FocusMaldives.com.
Soon, six windows popped in on the laptop screen and all the member began talking in Dhivehi about the day spent in New Delhi with the media, rights group and ruling party leaders to lobby for the proposed transitional government and then proceeded to strategise when and how to organise a mass rally for the much needed grassroots level opposition movement.
On the agenda, hit the cobbled roads of Male’ with a mass protest rally against the incumbent, allegedly ‘autocratic’ government of President Abdullah Yameen, after Ramadan.
It had to be after Ramadan, it was supposed to be around Independence Day and they came up with a date- July 14. The mass rally that will witness Nasheed, Jameel and Waheed speaking to the people of Maldives. Of course, via video conference.
“Many people ask why the United Opposition is not being seen on the streets, because of Ramadan,” Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmed Naseem said earlier that day.
“We are on streets for last four years, now they (government) have imposed rules and regulations, which we are ready to challenge. We will contest for our rights and hold the rally,” he added.
The meeting was also a part of bigger agenda to ensure that the MUO- the rainbow coalition of all the political rivals or the “victims of President Abdulla Yameen’s dictatorial regime”- gets maximum international support.
The poster boy of climate change and the champion of democracy globally, Nasheed explained what MUO is and what they are striving for through a small video that was soon circulated on United Opposition’s Twitter handle later that evening from Salisbury (Read: later that night in Male’).
The similar message was sent out by the delegation in New Delhi earlier that day which met media, rights group, friend and ruling BJP leader Ram Madhav but skipped meeting with the government this time around. The MEA did arrange for cars to drop them at the airport 2 days later.
“We want the people of India aware about the situation in Maldives. We met interest groups, advisors from MEA, former ambassadors and journalists who will be at a better position to convince the government about our crisis,” Naseem told FocusMaldives.com.
On being asked why they did not request a meeting with the government, Naseem said this time it was not in their agenda adding that if they requested meeting, they would have certainly met.
“We want to make India comfortable, we are not the government, we are opposition. They are working strategically and we don’t want to jeopardise that,” he said.
Naseem expressed confidence that India- the largest democracy in the world- believes in democracy and will back MUO in reinforcing back the rule of people.
Nasheed also echoed the same confidence in Salisbury and said, “We have done this (bringing democracy back) once, and we are confident that we can do it again.”
The last word came from the captain of the ship, Dr Jameel, who urged “a free and fair election and rise of the people free”.
The delegation of the United Opposition will soon reach USA after a brief stay in London and will engage with “friends” in media there (again before engaging with the government) with a motive to lobby for the “much needed” reform in the paradise island.