By Dr. Abdhulla Khaleel
When you are from the Indian Ocean Region and you want to grab international headlines, all you have to say are a few magic words.
“Human rights violations”
Some oft repeat these words in hopes that a lie repeated a thousand times over will become fact. One luminary who seems to have mastered the art of such rabble rousing, by repeatedly coming back to these phrases is the former president of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed who saunters about with the self-proclaimed, somewhat self-serving and dubious, title of the country’s “first democratically elected president” or even more ridiculous “the Maldives’ Nelson Mandela”.
While many intellectuals tend to ignore such rantings, there are some who sadly, succumb to such visions and then abuse the vast power and reach of social media to curate a gloomy doomsday scenario of the region. Recently one such article came to my notice wherein the former president in a phone conversation with an Indian journalist, on the basis of these phrases, convinced the said journalist that civil society was being wiped out in the Maldives and that the Indian government should intervene. The journalist seemed more than convinced that the current Administration in Male’ is the cause of what the world thinks ails the country. Deflection of facts is a master stroke of deception.
The world has different tints to view every situation through. Though the West largely supported Nasheed when he was imprisoned what were missed were the real actions on ground zero. He was charged with promotion of widespread corruption, disruption of peace in Malé, the devolution of respect and moral values at all levels of the society, vote rigging, and arson. Finally, in March 2015, the arrest of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed led to Nasheed’s conviction under the Anti-Terrorism Act of the Maldives and he was sentenced to 13 years at Maafushi Prison. The attack on the independence of the judiciary during the tenure of the former president was actually weakening the democratic fabric of the Maldives. This move was in direct contravention of the oath that President Nasheed took to uphold the constitution and rule of law.
Some have made statements the world over on how the arrest was “politically motivated”, whereas the sovereign island nation like any other in the world was following its own legal and democratic judicial process. The case was brought forward by the prosecutor general, an autonomous body whose independence is guaranteed by the Maldivian constitution. The Maldivian Human Rights Commission, another independent organization was the one that first probed the allegations against the former president that eventually led to the filing of charges.
The very same politically fueled article tried to highlight how Maldives is becoming a nation promoting radicalism. This is an international threat and Maldives is as much prone to it as any other country. The former president’s attempt to portray the Maldives as a hub for extremist activities is a way for him to invite outside intervention into the Maldives’ domestic affairs. The truth is that the Maldives continues to be a moderate Muslim society with some very liberal views and quite stringent anti-terrorist laws. Again, attacks in all parts of the world show that this is an immediate global problem; but the prevailing international consensus has been for the law and order machinery to engage bilaterally and multilaterally and work together to counter radicalism and extremism. The Maldives is very fortunate that up to now, any such attacks of the nature experienced in other parts of the globe have not occurred in the country.
For the record; the Maldives condemns extremism, radicalism, violence and terrorism in all forms. The country vows to fight against whatever form such actions may present themselves. Maldives is a sovereign nation, a nation which values its people and their right to democracy. President Yameen believes that opposition plays a major role in parliament and no democracy is complete without opposing political thought. There have been many pro-active initiatives, by the current Administration, to hold all-party meetings and even allow political figures serving prison sentences to participate in these talks. Freedom is for everyone, even the media; under the constitution Freedom of Press is safeguarded at all times, even during emergencies. No nation under an iron fist would allow citizens the ‘Freedom of Speech and Freedom to Demonstrate’ to voice their opinions; a right that many in the world are still devoid of.
Twelve hundred islands together make up the Maldives; out of which a little less than two hundred are inhabited by Maldivians, another hundred have been developed into resorts and the rest remain uninhabited. The nation with twenty-six natural atolls has heavily depended on tourism and fishing as its main source of income. In recent times socio-economic development has seen super-charged growth under the guidance of current President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. The economy, healthcare, sanitation and hygiene, employability and job creation, education, and infrastructure have grown exponentially with Foreign Direct Investment’s pouring in and the current Administration following a Growth & Development model has drastically changed the face of Maldives.
Under President Yameen the current Administration its agencies have embraced the president’s vision of making the Maldives a self-sufficient and self-reliant nation. The current progress is proof of the dedication and hard-work being put into turning the fate of Maldives and its people around. An estimated 64,000 jobs have been created within the past three years across the country – through the Administration’s socio-economic, urban development projects and productivity increasing drives; 600 youth have undergone short-term training in different disciplines with more short-term and long-term training yet to come.
There has been a 3.9% increase in economic growth with less than 1% inflation – at an average of 0.4%. The current Administration has increased credit guarantees from US$ 3.24 million to 6.48 million, in a drive to further develop Small and Medium Enterprises.
The cause of climate change and its adverse effects which can already be felt by small island nations around the globe retains its importance in current administrative workings, the Administration has committed to produce 30% of electricity needed for daily consumption via renewable energy resources by the year 2018; currently 112 islands are in active different stages of initial development towards meeting this goal. In a drive to establish sports arenas in islands with population higher than 1,000 work has already commenced on 96% of islands.
To make the island nation self-sufficient and drive economic growth at a higher rate, President Yameen’s Administration has closed 56 investments, excluding those in the tourism – thus driving economic diversification – bringing about a proposed total US$ 1.5 billion, initial investments within five years. Major investments undertaken towards improving airport and seaport facilities with US$ 900 million, spent within the past three years, for development of Velana International Airport alone – VIA being the Maldives’ international gateway and the first tourist experience once they reach the Maldives.
With the 2018 elections around the corner, politically motivated slandering of the current Administration will reach even greater decibels. One can only hope that the Maldives can be reclaimed from the sea of deceit and lies being spread by a callous opposition.
Editor's Note: Dr. Abdhulla Khaleel is a Member of Parliament for Nilandhoo Constituency and the Secretary General of the Progressive Party of Maldives. He holds a PhD in Public Policy.