Saturday, 14 March 2015

The Maldivian Political Crisis

Background –

Maldives, an island nation located in the heart of Indian Ocean consists of about 1200 coral islands (and divided into inhabited and uninhabited islands). Due to its geographical location, it forms a vital cog in the Indian Ocean’s geopolitics.

Demography & Economy –

It is an Islamic republic (mostly Sunni Muslims) and its economic mainstay is Tourism. But post the Asian Tsunami in December 2004 and global recession in 2008, the tourism activity suffered a severe setback. Also, for protecting the Islamic traditions from getting ‘polluted’, tourism activity is mainly conducted on uninhabited islands. Tourists are not allowed to mingle with the ‘local’ population in inhabited regions. Therefore, majority of the Maldivians are impoverished. Their strongest developed sector is fisheries apart from tourism.

Political Scenario during Pre-Independence Era –

Just like any Indian princely state during British era, Maldives was run by local Muslim Kings who were given military protection and ‘non-interference’ in local administration rights by the British government. These amenities were given in lieu of tributes (cash).

In 1965: Maldives became a republic.
In 1968: After plebiscite, Ibrahim Nasir became country’s first President and from here the roots of an ‘authoritarian’ reign started.
In 1978: Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was ‘elected’ and with him three decades of autocratic rule followed. He used military and police to crush down opposition parties and gave Government jobs to his loyal supporters.
In 1988: A group of Maldivian businessmen along with Tamil separatists tried to seize power but Indian government intervened and sent about 1600 Indian parachutists to restore order. This operation was coined as ‘Operation Cactus’ and Maumoon Gayoom continued to remain in power until 2008.
In 2008: Maldives held its first multiparty elections and Mohamed Nasheed became the first democratically-elected President.

Brief Bio of Mohamed Nasheed - 

To add titles to his profile, he was Amnesty International’s Prisoner of Conscience, UN’s Champion of the Earth and Newsweek’s World’s 10 Best Leaders. He was apparently seen as a moderate Islamist and a leader with modern outlook in this small coral atoll nation.

2012 Coup Against Nasheed - 

After becoming President, he ordered judicial inquiries against the wrongdoings, scandals, corruption done by Ex-President Gayoom. In January 2012, he ordered the arrest of Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in pretext of blocking cases against the ex-President. This resulted in an upsurge amongst lawyers and all court officers. They joined in a movement against Nasheed as he announced the arrest of this Judge. Since Police are fewer in number in the nation, Army intervened and took control of the gruesome situation.

The uproar caused by the opposition forced Nasheed to step down in February 2012 and this was termed as Coup by Maldivian Democratic Party – Nasheed’s Party. However, the coup was denied by the then instituted government.

Coming Back to Present – 2015 - 

Maldives Presidential Elections are just three years away (2018), and the present government under Maumoon Gayoom’s half-brother Abdullah Yameen faces alienation from key former colleagues and coalition partners. In pursuance of his political ambitions, he virtually eliminated all political opposition.

Yameen first ordered the arrest of his Defence Minister accusing him of plotting a coup. This was followed by sacking of chief justice and another judge. The political situation in Maldives was threatened when one of his coalition partners – the Jumhoory Party decided to quit the government and announced aligning with Mr. Nasheed’s MDP. He also called President Yameen’s resignation which culminated into a series of street protests beginning February 27.

In a short span of time, Maldives has seen much upheaval. Following this announcement, Nasheed was charged under Anti-Terrorism Act that classifies, “an act of terrorism to include kidnapping, holding as hostage or apprehending someone against their will or attempts to kidnap, hold hostage or apprehend someone without their will, for the extrajudicial enforced disappearance of the sitting Chief Judge of Criminal Court”. 

The arrest of Judge Abdulla Mohamed way back in January 2012 has now termed as basis of his terrorist act and he is sentenced to go to jail for 13 (long) years. Therefore, this ‘politically motivated’ jail term will prevent him running for President in the 2018 elections. 

When Nasheed Tried to Speak to the Media
Image Source: The Hindu
Is this how a political prisoner of a literate society should be treated? Well, in politics everything is fair..... I condemn arrest of Nasheed!

        I will share my thoughts on Impact on India of Nasheed’s arrest in my next blog.

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