'Fool me twice shame on me': Maldives pres needs better 'friends'

"I've always been betrayed by the people closest to me. The people I helped the most have stabbed me in the back," incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom lamented on Wednesday after the latest in a long series of 'betrayals' rocked his government and yet again nearly forced a premature end to his tenure.

As his term in office draws to a close, president Yameen is definitely no stranger to 'treachery.' When he took the oath of office in 2013, president Yameen's power and authority was absolute. He had the backing of every political leader. Little to no resistance from a deflated opposition. Majority in parliament. Support of the judiciary and the security forces. And of course the wise counsel of his half brother, former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Similar to what transpired in 2008, it did not take long for Yameen to alienate his coalition partners. The 'kingmaker' Gasim who had tilted the presidency in Yameen's favour was the first to go, closely followed by Sheikh Imran and his Adhaalath Party (AP). Both would later go on to join the opposition, an ultimate betrayal for president Yameen.

But few would argue that president Yameen's undisputed power over the country was the root of his mighty fall. Yameen's closest and perhaps the most trusted aide was Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor. The president removed his vice president to clear the path for his then tourism minister Adheeb's rapid ascent to become his deputy. But the decision would nearly cost him his life as Adheeb orchestrated a blast aboard the presidential speedboat. Yameen survived and Adheeb has since been jailed.

Then the elder Gayoom, tired by his half brother's more than contentious moves to have government lawmakers rubber stamp his every whim finally decided that enough was enough. According to sources close to the Gayooms, Yameen ignored the counsel of his brother and had even refused to meet him despite repeated requests. The former president began publicly deriding Yameen's moves. A public and ugly fall out between the two ensued and Yameen used his influence to get the civil court to dismiss the elder Gayoom from the very party he founded. Gayoom later withdrew his support for his half brother and even apologized to the public for backing him in the first place. President Yameen might very well label it as another betrayal. But it did not end there as Gayoom refused to go down quietly.

The elder Gayoom through his lawmaker son Faris Maumoon lobbied several government MPs to rise up against his half brother. The once deflated opposition sensed an opportunity and teamed up with Gayoom to engineer a parliament revolt which ultimately robbed Yameen of his control over the parliament. The buoyed opposition launched a move to unseat the parliament speaker which was to be a stepping stone for Yameen's impeachment. Much to the dismay of Yameen, the very lawmakers he had so carefully handpicked had bitten his hand. The president acted swiftly to get the Supreme Court to issue a controversial ruling to have the rebel lawmakers disqualified for 'floor crossing.'

His coalition partners, his closest aide, his half brother and his once loyal lawmakers had been added to the string of betrayals that have dogged his tenure.

Last Thursday, to quote president Yameen "out of the blue" the Supreme Court turned 'rouge' to issue an order to release all his rivals and enemies he had so ruthlessly put-away. Facing certain oblivion as the top court rejected his every move to have the order revoked, president Yameen was forced to play his final hand. He declared state of emergency, arrested two judges including the chief justice and his half brother to quell the crisis. The trio has now been accused of a "multi-million" plot to overthrow the government.

The ever growing list of 'betrayers' certainly begs the question of president Yameen's 'choices' when it comes to choosing his 'friends'. But as most of his once 'close friends' either languish in jail or in exile, there's a more serious question to be asked. Who needs better friends? Is it president Yameen or his now former 'friends'? A question to certainly ponder over for whoever becomes president Yameen's newest 'friend.'