Diplomacy in the age of social media can perhaps be described with one word; Twitter. There is no doubt, to the fact that it has become the penultimate platform for diplomats and political leaders to communicate the interests of their states – or respective political parties. As the world moves faster towards globalization, politicians have incorporated Twitter in their daily practice to communicate with their counterparts. And with that, Twitter has become successful in challenging traditional notions of diplomacy and its effectiveness. Yet, the question that still remains unanswered today is whether the medium can be an effective platform for dialogue and trust development.
Let’s look at a smaller canvas for change; the Maldivian political crisis. We have seen the rise of several social media activists during the past few years – and we have seen state officials take to Twitter to defend their government at all costs. In a way, it has become the most effective means of communication between the public, the government and the opposition in time of a crisis like this. But the bigger picture is only seen by those who read between the lines. And such may be the case with Dunya Maumoon and her Twitter – former foreign minister and current state minister who has been caught between a family issue that has left Maldivian politics overturned.
It has split her family in two. United with the opposition stands her father, her brother and her twin sister. With the government, she remains alongside her younger brother – serving the regime of her half-uncle and President, Abdulla Yameen. In the midst of this crisis, that has seen the arrest of her father, brother and brother-in-law, Dunya has somehow managed to take a neutral stance and call for negotiations and work towards a peaceful solution.
At least, that is what the unsuspecting eye would see when they scroll through her social feeds. Get into her likes on Twitter, and a different picture might be taking form.
Openly her words defend the government and paints the fine picture of her standing with the current administration. Lurking inside her Twitter likes, remain anti-government tweets that raise the question of whether she is in line next, to hand in her letter of resignation. But when you really look into it, it’s nothing new to politicians. Especially one’s who are not at the liberty to voice out their honest opinions.
“Retweets are not endorsements” has been a line used by politicians across the globe, to get away with something that they wanted to say – but without directly spoon-feeding the words to the people. In a way, it is Social Media Diplomacy 101 – you get your message across, and you get to do it discreetly. When you apply this to Dunya, it still pretty much remains the same. Perhaps, she may not be directly able to say “yes I want to resign” but liking tweets that call for her resignation comes off as an implication that she wants to. Which brings us to the next piece of puzzle. Why is she still with the government, while hinting towards an imminent resignation?
The answer to that, could very much be Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom. Currently, from her point of view – if one was to assume – all communications with the government and President Yameen seems to have cut off. All except for her. While her father spends his nights in jail, Dunya very well might be trying to open a channel of communication between him and President Yameen – among her efforts to bring the former strongman back home. A daughter taking form of the link between a father and uncle. A table between peace and war. And it comes with good reason too, because no sane person who is in her situation would willingly cut off all direct communications with the only person who could bring a positive change.
When all is said and done, Dunya and her unspoken truth is something for all of us to think about. Of how the current crisis is bigger than supporting one political ideology. It is about putting the interests of our nation first, instead of using it as a hashtag, behind which we try to instill patriotism amongst the hearts of the hatred. While Dunya continues to hint at her future through Twitter, the nation awaits to find a peaceful solution to what could have easily been avoided to begin with.