Less than 24 hours after the infamous gang leader (Chica) was released there were 2 incidents of violent crime directed against news paper workers just for covering the story. Now one wonders what is happening to this country? Are we in Mexico fighting the drug war? Despite our military spending which tops even the oil rich Kuwait and Nato member Turkey as a %age of GDP, why are our armed forces not capable of controlling this thuggery in the less than 2 square kilo meter island?
To answer these questions lets analyze the context.
The problem in Mexico is about money. Mexico is bordering USA which has a big affluent market for drugs which means money in billions. But here in Maldives that context is not there. Our ‘little drug barons’ are not dealing in billions. Compared to Mexican drug dealers the likes of Chika are pimps. But the problem is why they are so powerful. Why were some of them alleged to have been protected in the past? In the case of Chicka it was alleged he was the henchman of the then “brigadier general” (a comical title..) Adam Zahir. After the transfer of power from Maumoon to Anni that protection may not be there but still they are able to intimidate witnesses, take advantage of amendments to law which were made possible only after the transition to democracy, claim the right to remain silent and have the courts re-examine the whole investigation process to manipulate the charges etc..
In our Majlis debates frequent references are made to USA as a standard bearer of many things like process, protocols etc. But those who remark on those issues fails to acknowledge that USA has a very effective history of asserting their national interests over any other principle be it the judicial process, international relations or whatever. If the USA finds a person a threat to their ‘national interest’ anywhere in the world, they will not hesitate to snatch or kidnap, detain or even assassinate that person. That is all justified under their national interest. Coming back to Maldives such realization of threat to national interest does not seem to be evident. We have had our courts throw out cases against money launderers simply because a clause in the constitution did not explicitly spell out the word ‘counterfeit money”. We have also witnessed recently how a well known ‘drug dealer’ was let free after the court failed to find fault for lack of adequate evidences despite there being lots of questions on the case. The court in effect dismissed a high profile drug dealer on a technicality. If we are to do things the American way these drug dealers might not ever be sent to court if they knew courts will release them. They might even create a special court to convict such people. However the most effective way to deal with the drug dealers is the Chinese way.
The potential for violence lies in gangsterism as well as religious extremism. In the current situation in our country, we seems to have overlooked the first one which is proliferation of gangs and gang warfare. Many deaths were claimed (closer to 50) to the gang violence in the last 3 years and each time the public simply has to absorb the shock and grief of the event. Those in authority who are charged with keeping law and order simply are not doing their job and giving themselves medals and honors and fancy titles. The situation is so bad that many areas in Male’ are simply no-go areas during the night and when the gangsters are visible on the street corner. Many homes are simply virtual prisons for their inhabitants and the occupants of the house only venturing out after calling a taxi or maybe a group of friends.
The religious extremism issue is simply a trumped up issue by the authorities to divert the attention of their own culpability. The only real violence which can ever be attributed to religious intolerance in Maldives was the home made explosive device some dejected youths detonated in our “Sultan Park” injuring a few tourists. The incident happened because of the then government’s intransigence on a local issue which is the Himandhoo mosque issue. The locals only wanted not to worship in a government designated mosque, which the locals knew was constructed on a graveyard but the government sent the “military forces” for successive 3 years (Each time in the holy fasting month) to force the worshipers out from a modest small mosque they have constructed. In the last ensuing battle with the locals and the forces our country was injured big time when foreign media took up the issue and tarnished our country’s beautiful image as a peaceful country.