Originally Published 2015-09-05 10:17:20 Published on Sep 05, 2015
Maldives slides further into lawlessness 

"President Abdullah Yameen of Maldives has once again shown utter disregard for all norms of governance and rule of law by breaking a solemn promise he made to the largest Opposition party in the country, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) by putting its leader and former President Nasheed back into Maafushi prison from his house arrest on 23rd August 2015. The way the Special Forces broke open his house gate, pepper strayed all the residents, handcuffed and took away the former President was reminiscent of the way the Police had dragged him brutally to Court, last year.

The shocking aspect of this drama was that the Special Forces were breaking a pledge given by the President to commute the remaining portion of Nasheed's sentence to house arrest in order to bring the Opposition back into talks with the government. It was on this promise of good faith the MDP and all other Opposition parties agreed to have talks with the Government and had terminated their 3 month long nightly protests in Male' that had greatly disrupted life in the capital.

President Yameen faced two main rivals, Nasheed of MDP and Gasim Ibrahim of Jumhoree Party (JP) during the Presidential elections of November 2013. It may be recalled that those elections went into several rounds of polling as the country's Judiciary kept nullifying the popular verdict till Yameen cobbled up a majority and defeated the most popular and charismatic leader - Nasheed who had won 46% popular votes in the first round. The fact that Yameen had to persuade and then arm twist Gasim Ibrahim to surrender in his favour was a crucial factor in getting a narrow win over Nasheed. The ever obliging Judges, most of who are appointed by Yameen's elder brother and the longest ruling autocrat, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom were the key factor in repeatedly rejecting the popular mandate till it suited Yameen.

Soon after Yameen took over Presidency, he went about systematically clipping the wings of both the opposition leaders. First he focused on his main opponent, Nasheed and revived an old charge against him of 'kidnapping a judge' and brought it under a new Act, the Terrorism Prevention Act and got the same bunch of obliging judges to sentence him to 13 years in prison on 'Terrorism charges'. This provoked massive protests in the capital from all the Opposition parties, including one of the coalition partners of Yameen's government who broke away from the ruling alliance. The fact that Gasim Ibrahim, one of the richest businessmen and the largest private employer in the country, came out strongly against Nasheed's detention seemed to threaten the fledgling government.

Soon Gasim's business interests were targeted and he was hit with a $100 million fine for delay in developing the islands that were leased out to him. His bank accounts were frozen, his business temporarily crippled; so much so that he could not pay salaries of thousands of his employees. Gasim was forced to make a deal with then Tourism Minister, now elevated to the post of Vice President, Mohd. Adheeb, widely known as the money bag of the President. Never before had the Tourism Industry, the mainstay of the country's economy had been caught in the crosshairs of country's politics. Yameen soon realized that instead of inviting the wrath of thousands of employees, it is better to strike down Gasim's political ambitions. He then devised a plan to deny Gasim any opportunity to contest for the Presidency in future. He introduced a draft legislation to limit the age of the Presidential candidates to 65 years, but there was one major hitch. The legislation could not be passed without the support of MDP, the largest contingent in the Parliament.

So Yameen made a deal with the MDP. They support him in passing some critical pieces of legislation such as limiting the age of Presidential candidate (blocking Gasim's future ambitions); leasing out islands to foreigners (read Chinese) and he in turn would commute Nasheed's prison sentence into house arrest. And he promised talks with the Opposition parties to end their 3 month long protests. The MDP agreed in good faith and Nasheed's 13 years sentence was commuted to house arrest on 19th July and barely a month later Yameen reneged on his promise. Nasheed is back in prison with no hope of appeal nor of remission.

New Delhi watches all this without a reaction as India's best friend - former President Nasheed is treated as a 'Terrorist' by a President and his party that was responsible for throwing out Indian business - the GMR Group out of its legally entitled contractual obligation for building the Male' airport, and awarding all its strategic assets to the Chinese businessmen and government. As our government and the media in New Delhi obsess with Pakistan, events down south seem to go unnoticed by our policy makers. The much acclaimed 'muscular' foreign policy is yet to manifest itself either in protecting our friends or in deterring our foes.

Courtesy: The EconomicTimes "

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Anjali Birla

Anjali Birla

Anjali Birla is an Indian Civil Services Officer(Batch 2020) working in the Ministry of Railways and has done her graduation in Political Science from Delhi ...

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