Maldives: Romance with Democracy at Stake

Mohamed Nasheed, President of Maldives. Image courtesy Presidency of Maldives Photostream, CC BY

On June 29, 2010, the whole Cabinet of the government of the Maldives submitted their resignation to President Mohamed Nasheed, on the grounds that their work was severely restricted by an opposition-led Parliament, which the cabinet members accused of encroaching on the powers of the Executive. The ex-ministers claimed recent Bills passed by the parliament were anti-constitutional and restricted them from delivering essential public services. The opposition members of parliament defended their actions as holding the Executive accountable and preventing abuse of Executive powers. Thus began a highly politicized drama in the Maldives; one that threatens the country’s romance with democracy, and poses serious questions about the political stability of the island nation in the coming days.

Shortly after the Cabinet resigned, two high profile opposition MPs were arrested by the police, on suspicion of bribing MPs. Meanwhile, audio clips, believed to be mobile phone conversations between four opposition MPs, were anonymously leaked to the media. The audio clips suggest bribery of MPs and undue influence exerted on the Maldives’ Anti-Corruption Commission by politicians, while the leak has created a debate over the legality of the government spying on citizens through wiretapping.

As the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the largest party in the ruling coalition, tried to mobilize its supporters on to the streets in what it described as an anti-corruption campaign, the opposition parties accused the government of conducting a witch-hunt to eliminate political opposition. Shortly after the Supreme Court ruled that the detained MPs should be released, the judiciary became a target of the anti-corruption drive, with accusations leveled against judges of accepting bribes. While the judiciary had been previously criticized by the civil society for failure to deliver justice and of lacking independence, harassment of judges has been a hallmark of recent demonstrations organized by political parties. The demonstrations have led to violence and destruction of private property, causing fears that the peaceful democratic transition the country was experiencing may backtrack. The resigned Cabinet members have been sworn in again; however, they have to be approved by the parliament, which refuses to continue sessions because an opposition leader is being detained by the security forces without a court warrant.

As the three powers of the government – the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary – undergo confrontations, Bloggers react to the largest political crisis facing the Maldives since its first democratic election of November 2008.

Ibra, a former MP, argues in his blog that the Parliamentary Committee for Independent Commissions should investigate allegations that Anti-Corruption Commission is unduly being influenced by politicians:

It is most untoward that an Independent Commission may be intimidated in this fashion to subvert the course of governance and justice to further the political ambitions of any person.

Further, members of the Anti-Corruption Commission should also be summoned to the Majlis and required to reveal all that they know of these matters, and any possible such matters in the past. If they are being intimidated and threatened in any way, they should be accorded the full protection of the State so that they may discharge their duties in accordance with the Constitution and the Law.

The hearings of the Committee with regard to these matters should be open to the public and the media. These are important events in a defining period of our nation, and all citizens have a right to know the truth regarding these matters.

Mhilmyh muses about the current situation of the Maldives:

Mahatma Gandhi said that seven things will destroy a society. (Link)

1)Wealth without work
2)Pleasure without conscience
3)Knowledge without character
4)Commerce (business) without morality (ethics)
5)Science without humanity
6)Religion without sacrifice
7)Politics without principle

All of these conditions are evident in the social and political fabric of our society today.

Now we have freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. We have the separation of powers and we have independent institutions, still in the early stages of the democratic process. With the new found freedoms our society is on the brink of anarchy.

Maldivianism draws parallels between the anti-corruption campaign in the Maldives and George W Bush’s claim that Weapons of Mass Destruction existed in Iraq:

I remember the beginning of the gradual demise of George W.’s Presidency as the people of the United States realized their president based invasion of a middle east country on flawed intelligence.


Instead of WMDs we have WMCs – Weapons of Mass Corruption inside the Parliament.

I remember the government released audio tapes of key parliamentarians plotting cash for votes and buying party loyalty.

I remember parliamentarians being taken to court charged with attempt to topple a government.

I remember the court concurring there was insufficient proof to hold parliamentarians under house arrest.

I remember the government retaliating with protests, riots leading to aggression and disturbance of peace.

Hassan Ziyau writes about the implications of the leaked audio clips:

The leaked audio clips also has broken the trust that the Maldivian had for the ‘security forces’ and service providers as many Maldivians believe that the recording phone conversation could be done only by ‘security forces’ or the service providers. Telecommunication authority admitted that they have given permission to ‘security forces’ to record phone calls.

Ziyau also has some advice for the various institutions and pillars of the state:

Of course the democracy is yet still a new thing in the Maldives, and such drama might be expected. Even though we all know that the pillars of the democracy are all independent, that however does not mean one has the power to do whatever they want. They are not to act as small governments within the government. Each pillar has a purpose and a set of limits. Various political parties need to stop promoting their individual agendas and make the system easier for the people. Let each pillar do its work without much hindrance from the other.

As the political crisis in the Maldives deepens, it remains to be seen if politicians will listen to Bloggers such as Ziyau.


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