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Maldives: Turbulence Ahead: India to watch out

Paper No. 5875                              Dated 21-Feb-2015

By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan

Political turbulence has again started in Maldives - a situation reminiscent of 2012 when former president Nasheed was coerced to resign from his post. 

The opposition parties mainly the MDP and the Jumhooree have joined together to start a movement called “save the constitution” and Male is witnessing night marches and protests for the last few days again reminiscent of the 2012 days.

The Government instead of dealing with the situation politically is using strong arm tactics to muzzle the opposition.  It is also reaching out to one power that supports “rogue regimes”- as a hedge in case other countries around do not go along with it. Everyone knows how China fully dominated the military regime in Myanmar when other countries tried to isolate a “non democratic country.”

It is time for the Prime Minister of India to visit Maldives sooner than later to ensure stability in the neighbourhood and as part of India’s objective to reach out to its neighbours. 

“ We worked, begged and slaved away to get him elected”- Gasim Ibrahim.

Too late in the day Gasim Ibrahim now regrets of having supported Yameen in 2013 to get elected as President in the last presidential elections.  When he wanted to stand for election to the post of Speaker in the Majlis, he was unceremoniously removed from the ruling coalition.

On 29th last month, Gasim Ibrahim in a public rally made a serious allegation that the government was trying to rob the citizen’s rights by amending the constitution.  Specifically he made the following charges;

* Centralising power.
* Influencing independent institutions
*Prejudice against State Employees who have views opposing the government
* Twisting of Bills in favour of the government- like the SEZ bill, the bill on offensive weapons,  the Judicature Act and the Public Finance Acts.

In Defence of the Constitution”

The two major parties, the MDP and the Jumhooree have formed an “Inter Party Commission” under a new agreement for the defence of the constitution.

The MDP team is led by none other than former President Nasheed and the Jumhoore is led by Gasim Ibrahim.  The initiative for the agreement was perhaps taken by Gasim on 26th last month when he invited all opposition parties to begin talks on defending the constitution. The Maldives Trade Union has also joined the movement in view of “persistent violations that have eroded crucial checks, balance and accountability mechanisms.”

One could accuse Gasim that he awoke to the danger only when his business interests were being targeted by Yameen’s regime.  The latest in this move is the demand of the government to the Villa Group of Gasim to return the uninhabited islands that were given to them for development of tourist trade.

Gasim has a point when he said that the government is twisting/changing constitution to consolidate Yameen’s hold on the government.   One of the bills that is being proposed is to ensure that the President’s elect should not be over 65.  This will effectively prevent Gasim from contesting as he will be 66 by 2018 when the next Presidential elections are due.

Media reports indicate that President Yameen is also planning to amend the constitution to extend the Presidential term from 5 to 7 years!

The Curious case of former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim:

In our last paper on Maldives, we had mentioned about a midnight raid on the flats of the then Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim.  The Police gave a spin to the raid in that they were not aware that it was the residence of the Defence Minister.  Male is a very small place where everyone knows about everyone else.  To say that the Police were not aware of the Defence Minister’s residence is unbelievable. 

Initial reports were that nothing incriminating was found except some documents.  Subsequently it was leaked that a pistol was found.  After a few days it is said that the Police recovered not only a handmade gun but also an improvised explosive device, 3 bullets and a magazine.

Can anyone imagine that any military coup can be made with these few devises as is made out in the case against Nazim on charges of plotting a coup against a well-armed security force? 

The former Defence Minister is under detention now.

Save me”: Nasheed

In an interview to an Indian media, former President Nasheed has expressed fears of being arrested and asked the Indian government to protect him.

Nasheed claimed that President Yameen is on a ‘witch hunt’ to purge his political contenders and gave the example of former Defence Minister Col. Mohamed Nazim. 
They are back to a form of governance that they are familiar with, he said.

To me it is Gayoomism with a vengeance now.  Nasheed’s case for illegal detention of a judge during his presidentship can at anytime be brought to a conviction and thus prevent him from contesting the next presidential elections.

Over to China:

No one is more enthusiastic than President Yameen in promoting the Chinese initiative for a maritime silk route along the Indian Ocean.  Maldives being strategically located in the Indian Ocean, its support is vital to the Chinese.  India on the other hand appears to have some reservations on the proposed MSR. (Maritime Silt Route).  In one of his speeches earlier, President Yameen  had fulsome praise for the Chinese proposal.

On the 11th of this month, in connection with the Chinese new year, the Ambassador to China made the following promises.

* will facilitate Maldivian fish products to be exported to China.
* will encourage more Chinese tourists to visit Maldives?
* will provide more training and scholarship opportunities to Maldivians.
* will improve cooperation in areas like technology, culture and weather.
* will enhance cooperation particularly on issues like climate change.

What Yameen wants from China is to fully support him in every respect when other countries turn against him in his quest for consolidation of power by fair or foul means!