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Maldives: The Curse Of Independence

in Opinion by

Sumon K Chakrabarti - Author

In 2008, the Maldives had emerged as a beacon of democratic hope across the globe. A fledgling democracy had started taking baby steps in Asia’s longest-running dictatorship – a 100 percent Sunni Muslim nation. The road to democracy in Maldives, a string of 1,192 mostly uninhabited coral atolls, was painful. Some 500 miles off the tip of India, the Maldives have gone through a sea-change since 2008 – from an alleged coup de’tat to ‘dystopia’.

maldives flag


Today, the world’s leading honeymoon destination, once the world’s most secular Sunni Muslim nation, is being driven towards hardline Islam, especially ‘Sharia’ by none other than its controversial and increasingly autocratic president Abdullah Yameen Gayoom – half-brother of former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The irony though, has just begun, unflinching in it’s almost ‘funny (sic) side’ of brazenness.

The road to democracy in Maldives, a string of 1,192 mostly uninhabited coral atolls, was painful. Some 500 miles off the tip of India, the Maldives have gone through a sea-change since 2008 – from an alleged coup de’tat to ‘dystopia’.

It was on this day in 1965, July 26th, that the Maldives gained independence from the United Kingdom after 77 years as a British protectorate. Ironic yet true that the archipelago in the Indian Ocean marks its 51st anniversary of independence where most of its opposition political figures had to seek refuge in the land of their once colonial masters or they have been shoved behind bars. Most notable among them, the first democratic president of the island nation and the poster boy of international climate change – Mohamed Nasheed; along with Yameen’s former vice-president Mohamed Jameel who was impeached by his own boss!

If you thought that that was the ultimate ‘welcome to the dark side of life’ sign ever, Yameen trumped himself with an Independence Day speech on Monday night. The President insisted that death penalty has to be implemented because Qur’an says so, & therefore, that it cannot be stopped. He is hell-bent that the first execution of a convict in sixty years since 1953 will take place under his watch as a reiteration of Maldives’ Islamic credentials.

As he painted a Maldives as in a post-Tsunami dystopia, besieged by criminals, ‘disruptors of peace and harmony’, where ‘friendly scuffles between minors had escalated to the point’ in which ‘warfare is publicly declared,’ Yameen offered himself as the savior.

“The number of parties envious of our 100 percent Islamic nation are many. Every day is a day when the Government is pressured into allowing Maldives to become a multi-religious society. Every day is of warnings and caution over implementation of Islamic Shariah, teaching of Islam. There is a faction of traitors, bent on damaging the nation’s peace, stability, progress,” he proclaimed.

Addressing the nation, the President laid out a Nixon-esque chaotic vision of a country enveloped in smoke and flame where you hear ‘sirens in the night’.

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President Abdulla Yameen addressing nation on the occasion of 51st Independence Day

And the real issues got drowned.

Nearly 40 radicalised Maldivians have been documented to have left the country of 400,000 to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). But more alarming, ISIS-affiliations are being shown in openly on the streets and the government has stayed mum, fanning a base of violence and muddling the serene turquoise waters in this picturesque setting of cobbled roads and luxury resorts.

And then there is his elder brother Maumoon Gayoom, a former Egyptian-trained Islamic cleric, who ruled the nation of 370,000 like his personal sultanate for three decades and laid the foundation for many vices that the nation still grapples to resolve. Gayoom and his government have faced allegations of human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests, torture and custodial deaths. But most overwhelmingly, for corrupting a judiciary, which has been usurped more swiftly by his half-brother now in power. As a defeat in the first-ever democratic elections stared in his face, the elder Gayoom ensured the judges he appointed stayed as is.

maldive-flag-textbook 1
Maldives flag & flag of jihad in textbook dedicated to “fruits” of Jihad, claiming that the ultimate fruit of Jihad is martyrdom, for which the reward in Islam is an eternity in heaven

But who did he appoint? 60 percent of the current judges have less than a seventh grade education, 30 percent have actual criminal records and a couple of sex-tapes!

But as the elder Gayoom has taken on his half-brother openly and viciously, the walls around President Yameen have started crumbling. One brick by another. He has jailed his allies, maimed his opponents, and crushed his critics too many times in the last 2 years. The result : a disjointed opposition came together in a united coalition where his own are deserting him and those even half-connected via blood is baying for his.

And in his last-ditch effort to hang on to power (which he referred to as “prevent such uncivilized behavior” in his Independence Day speech), Yameen is doing what many a tyrant have done in Islamic history – cling to their own interpretation of hardline Islam.

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Ministers and bureaucrats praying on the occasion of Independence Day

Therefore, he sees implementing death penalty is a clear commandment in Islam. He said as the leader of the nation, the responsibility on him to implement the verdict was bigger on him. “Islamic Shariah and the legal structure under the Constitution, excludes the President from this narrative. In Islam, capital punishment is mandated for all murderers; this is clearly said in the Quran. Therefore, implementing death penalty is a must in order to maintain rule of law,” he said.

And if the Maldives today had a version of the reality series The Apprentice, President Yameen would have already been singing what Donald Trump said in a baritone once : “This is a dictatorship and I’m the dictator. There’s no voting and there’s no jury.”

Welcome to the Maldives. The sun is setting. The martini has been spilled. Happy Independence Day. We always knew they will come back, but at what cost!


[Sumon K Chakrabarti Is The Founder-Editor Of FocusMaldives.com]

MUO’s Date With Ruling BJP In India, To Brief On Increasing Islamic Radicalisation Under Prez Yameen

in News/Politics by

The Maldives United Opposition, the rainbow coalition or the coalition-in-exile- which has come together to against the “dictatorial” regime of President Abdulla Yameen spent their first day in the Indian capital to make their point to the media.

MUO2


The second day, though, is where the real political dialogue begins, and where else to make a start but for the ruling party in power in India. So, they have a date with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday where they meet General Secretary and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) point person Ram Madhav with a hope to enlighten the current government on the increasing Islamic radicalisation in the Maldives and the overt Chinese engagement with the present regime in the Indian Ocean archipelago.

The eight-member delegation of the shadow cabinet of Maldives United Opposition (MUO), which is on a three-day visit, will also brief the BJP leader the abuse of human rights in the country. “We are meeting Ram Madhav and other leaders of the BJP to seek greater Indian engagement on the current political scenario,” Hamid Abdul Gafoor, Maldivian Democratic Party spokesperson said.

2.Ram-Madhav-21The MUO said that they are hopeful that they will be able to cash the friendship with Madhav and get India “intervene” to overthrow the “authoritarian” rule of President Abdulla Yameen’s government.

“We met Ram Madhav in Columbo in February this year, when BJP formally joined the International Democratic Union (IDU) and we connected well during that meeting. Now that we are in Delhi, we are meeting him and hopefully few other leaders to seek more support,” Gafoor said expressing the wish to meet the Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj later in the day.

The delegation is most likely to highlight the issue of radicalisation and alleged involvement of President Yameen in funding the extremism in the meeting- which remains one of the major concerns for India.

The MUO has alleged that besides the obvious collapse of democracy and judicial system in the country, President Yameen is also involved in funding the radical groups in the country.

“Extremists are being funded by Sun Siyam who is a leader of Maldives Development Alliance, He is also a big time resort businessman. He owns the Sun Group. Yameen’s closest coalition partner and extreme radical activities are taking place in some of the atolls of the Maldives,” said Ahmed Naseem, former Foreign Affairs Minister of the Indian Ocean nation.

Shadow minister of Defence and National Security Abdullah Ameen said, “If India and the members of international community neglects us on this critical time, the results could be dangerous beyond imagination. The Indian Ocean might fall under unforeseen perils.”

“Today the friends of the Maldivian government are not its neighbours. Neither are they the close friends of India. For the safety and security of the region, we look for the support of India to rectify the course of Maldives,” Ameen said.

Without mincing words, he said, “We ask India to support the hard work of the Maldivians to bring back democracy to the Maldives.”

MUO india


Shadow minister of Health, Social Protection and Gender, Shidhatha Shareef, said the Maldivian economy has become the “second worst in the South Asia region, next to Afghanistan, with only 1.9 per cent growth”. She said while 40 per cent of the population of the Maldives is youth, 12 per cent of them are unemployed, according to a World Bank report.

The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on several occasions, has urged the countries around the world to stop advocating the concept of “good terrorism” or “bad terrorism” and come forward to unite against any kind of radicalisation.

Interestingly, Indian had also negotiated a counter-terrorism agreement with President Yameen to deal with the issue of Maldivians leaving for Syria and other countries to join the biggest terror group ISIS.

However, the MUO insists that the policies will remain just policies as President Yameen is not sincere in eliminating radical elements in the country and highly undermining the numbers.

“We believe in Narendra Modi’s ‘region first’ policy without reservation and we want to uphold the traditional friendship with India,” Naseem said.

The government officially announced that 49 Maldivians have left the country to fight foreign wars while the opposition claims the numbers to be more than 300. The MUO also urged the need to have a detailed profiling of the radicalised youth to ensure that it is stopped at first step.

The MUO is also likely to meet other stakeholders in the country before heading to the United States early next month.

Growing Radicalisation In Maldives Rings Alarm Bells For India

in News by

Maldives Defense Minister said on Thursday that as many as 49 Maldivians have left the island nation and joined militant groups in other countries.

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  • Adam Shareef Umar made the remarks during a press conference adding that none of the 49 people was educated in Islam.
  • Meanwhile, growing radicalisation of Maldivian youth has become a cause of concern for India, a neighboring country which has so far more or less remained insulated from the threat of the ISIS indoctrination.

ALSO READ: Six More Maldivians Join Syria’s Civil War: Reports

  • MDP leader and Maldives former foreign minister Ahmed Naseem said earlier this month the number of Maldivians who have joined IS now exceeded 300.

“This is the highest number (of fighters contributed by any nation) per capita in the world, considering our small population,”‘ he told the Times of India.

  • Maldives and India are negotiating a counter-terrorism agreement in a bid to use it to deal with returnees from Syria and Iraq. The Maldives opposition, however, has excoriated President Abdulla Yameen for not taking the issue of growing extremism seriously.
  • Growing footprints of the ISIS could have serious security implications for New Delhi and this issue was on top of talks’ agenda when Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Yameen in April this year.
  • However, Naseem is not impressed by the steps taken by the government in this regard.

“He (President Yameen) makes statements which are seen as significant by the international community but behind that he encourages radicalised youth to remain militant,” he said.

Maldivians Fighting In Syria Warn Leaders In New Video

in News by
(Screen grab from video)
(Screen grab from video)

A media group run by Maldivian militants fighting in Syria have released a Youtube video labelling President Yameen, former dictator Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed as ‘taaghoot’, meaning people who ascribe divinity of Allah on themselves.

According to the group’s website, the video is a ‘small warning’ to all the Maldivian leaders.

The video also shows a group of students bowing to former President Maumoon in a dance, former President Nasheed saying that the people of Maldives do not wish for amputations and stoning to take place in the Maldives, former President Waheed walking to the Parliament, and President Yaameen taking the oath of office.

A clip of former President Qayyoom welcoming former U.S. President Bill Clinton to the Maldives is also shown.

In addition, the video shows a violent confrontation between local police and a separatist religious group in AA.Himandhoo in 2007.

The video goes on to show a militant shooting at the images of Yameen, Nasheed and Gayoom and later trampling on it.

Former president Nasheed reiterated that over 250 Maldivians have joined the fight with ISIS in Syria during the ceremony marking the forging of political alliance in the UK of the united Opposition. The current Yameen-government has downplayed the threat accusing the opposition of “exaggerating the seriousness of the issue”.

“Former President Nasheed and the opposition have been fabricating stories and exaggerating the seriousness of the issue. Only a few Maldivians have been leaving to Syria. Like all other countries, we face the threat of terrorism. But it is not as serious as the opposition claims it is”, the President recently said.

In an interview with the CNN, Foreign Minister Dhunya Maumoon had also said “terrorism is a small issue for Maldives”.

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