After an average high season of tourists in November to February, occupancy rates in resorts are dropping across the board with an alarming urgency. Our friends in many resorts say the situation is desperate in many resorts as the continuing political struggle in Male’ is taking a heavy toll on the tourism industry.
And there is no end in sight for the problem 😦
The parties to the struggle are firmly locked in immutable positions and there is very little room for either party to maneuver.
For the vanquished MDP, it has to maintain the story of being wronged and unlawfully ousted narrative to gain lost ground to some of politically unpopular policies it pursued while in power.
For the victors (DRP, PPM, Adhaalath and the coalition), they have not yet finished distributing the political chairs amongst themselves and have only a few months to face the election. So they will also try their best to retain the temporary advantage they have and make a good impression on the voters.
Both sides of the conflict are using media to spin their version of story and are being increasingly graphic in their story telling. Sometimes it seems as if the only real reason for the continuing protests is in Male’ to take good pictures to put in the media. Above pic is a good example of that.
Taking all these into context one wonders, why are we fighting? What is the real price of this in-fighting? Is this an affordable fight? Already we have been able to inflict 200 million ruffiyaas worth of damage in a few hours to police buildings and equipments. What more do we need? Loss to tourism income might not be as visible as burnt and torched buildings, but once the resorts revenues gets below to a certain threshold, they will start laying off workers and closing for ‘renovations’. But who cares?
It has become a standard talk starter and its even a question Maldivians have been asked in foreign countries. There are instances where Judge Abdulla is asked by police officers in India who have read the news about the ongoing saga of the abduction of Judge Abdulla by MNDF and the ensuing protests. But who is Judge Abdulla and what made him so special that the democratic president had to have him arrested despite seemingly universal opposition?
Velezinee was right even though she looked wrong!
To some, Judge Abdulla might be a victim of injustice but to others Judge Abdulla symbolizes everything that’s wrong in the judicial system and they might be just right! This was the same judge who remarked on a murder case verdict that he was letting off the suspect in the case to hold the health minister responsible. Perhaps this was the finest hour of the Judge and the suspect did not waste much time after that and only a few days later was involved in another murder. The same Abdulla had a disciplinary case against him when he was sworn in for lifetime in an almost clandestine ceremony amid heroic opposition by Ms Velezinee who made quite a scene for herself in protest at the judicial circus that was unfolding at the time. Ms. Velezinee at that historic moment would not have looked right but she did stood up to an important principle.
The major players of the current situation are the ruling MDP and a coalition of parties in a forced marriage of convenience.
Adhaalath played the erudite Islamic scholar part in first few years and people mocked and scoffed at them for being scholarly and religious. Next they joined the pioneers of democracy the MDP. MDP repaid them by forcing them out of parliamentary elections by pitting strong MDP members against Adhaalath member who again lost. So Adhaalath party has rightly aligned with the left like just another real political party hoping to make their mark on the political landscape.
PPM is the Maldivian equivalent of congress party of India and whatever happens is the party is going to stay. The party has lots of potential and talent and only seems to lack a replacement leader of the exact caliber for the former president Maumoon. Former president Maumoon however he was depicted was an accomplished politician.
DRP if it was human shall feel like going through a divorce after the formation of PPM following the leadership split and the future does not seem at all bright. The split of the party left DRP with a broken financier in Thasmeen Ali and few reform minded mps here and there who could not show enough obeisance to the house of Maumoon. The voter base of the party was of course all works of the former president and could be likened to a cut and paste version of the id card database at the time!
PA is a for its founder (The right honorable Yameen) what is normal business attire for a businessman. Its simply a platform, a prestigious title for its patron and a useful self made, political position to give press conferences etc. The voter base of the party is not even worth mentioning and the ideology is blank.
National of (Gaumee) party is headed by Dr. Hassan Saeed and Dr. Jameel who were credited to have played important roles in the early years of power transfer from the last president to the current one both against and with MDP on various issues. However their influence is marginal at the moment after Dr. Hassan’s failed bid to presidency in the last presidential elections.
JP is very much like PA except that Honourable Gasim is also very much like what is Sylivio Berlasconi is for Italians except for the allegations of mafia connections! Despite all his eccentricities (everybody has them!) Gasim is much more a favored figure than other contenders in the current climate for his generous philanthropic works.
the possibility of a formidable coalition
in the next upcoming presidential elections there is a real possibility of a serious threat to current president and the ruling party if the opposition comes under a strong coalition. There are already signs that such a coalition might take place and various parties will be assigned various functions to work in tandem to change power. One such plausible configuration would be like:
PPM: for political activism- providing the muscle
Adhaalath: for spiritual leadership
JP: the financier – for campaign financing
DRP: sleeping partners in business -for increasing numbers
Np: Gaumee party – for managing public relations
If somebody is at the center of attention his or her even smallest acts will be noticed and MDP was no exception. Upon becoming the ruling party they tried everything to appear ‘nice’ to everybody and nothing seemed to work. MDP tried the positions of :
the adamant protester (the iconic picture of Anni being dragged away by MNDF)
the darling of media (TVM or MNBC until very recently tried to balance reporting— now sadly given up)
the liberator of religion (at first Adhaalath scholars were quite free to do whatever they wanted with Islamic ministry, which is not the case anymore..)
introducer of new concepts (started tax regime, transport regime, health insurance regime, pension regime etc)
The SAARC idols
The latest SAARC summit hosted in Addu just turned out to be like a a show or a performance (worth around 800 million Rf) as Addu city does not seems to have benefited from aught except a mention in history that this so and so city hosted this so and so summit and no more. To add salt to injury, the government stubbornly kept their stand with stone commemorative idols (souvenirs of SAARC summit) which were universally despised by the people of Addu.
Spa closure or brothel closure?
The government unwisely ordered spa closures throughout the country in response to growing demands by opposition protesters to close brothels in Male’ which operates under names of spas. This knee-jerk reaction by the government was interpreted very negatively by media, some mentioning even that the MDP led government is considering closing tourism altogether under popular protests. The administration hoped to achieve the victim status image for themselves but this status was obtained by financially sacrificing the country.
GMR fiasco…, yes its a fiasco!
One of the first major undertaking the MDP led government after coming to power was to outsource the management to Hulhule airport to GMR which has since been a bone of contention between the opposition and the ruling party. Part of the problem could be the inexperience of the persons who dealt such a huge contract with GMR hence the government is always seen liable to protect GMR’s interests rather than government ‘s interests.
The expensive immigration database
another bad apple in the political basket of MDP is the formidably expensive database software someone negotiated on behalf of the government with Nextbis which was subsequently found out to be able to be home grown and even the Americans promised to give such a database for free! The loss on the government on this shameful project is well over 200 million ruffiyas for next 20 years
To MDP’s credit
universal basic health insurance which was started a couple of months ago is a welcome break for the country amid rising prices and growing political instability. There are still many things imperfect with the system and yet its perhaps one of the best things to happen in the last eventful few years.
transport system trials
transportation system via ferry dhonis, buses has started in many parts of the country despite several major transportation contracts being awarded to opaque seemingly paper companies.
Taxes shall ideally not be taken from anyone (especially from workers :)), but is a modern day feature of economies in most economies of the world. One reason for the implementation of tax was to take more Ruffiyas from circulation which in theory would reduce demand on dollar which was one MDP manifesto pledge. The next reason was of course to increase more ways for government to make money. It took a change of government for the government to be sufficiently brave to introduce tax and its a start.
renaming Hulhule’ airport
After GMR got to run the Hulhule airport, it was rumored that GMR was researching Indian influential figures to use one such figure’s name in place of the airport’s name, which prompted the government to quickly rename the airport to Ibrahim Nasir who is the second president of the country, preventing GMR from giving an Indian name to the airport.
Secular camp taking advantage of MDP.
Perhaps one of the most damaging factor to the success of MDP is that it allowed the die hard secularists (the intolerant ones) to take advantage of the democratic liberal values initially professed by the party. Under various guises and schemes, they advanced their agenda which are universally abhorred by large majority of the country such as gay rights and religious pluralism. This is not about the rights and wrongs of the cases in question but rather political cost of the positions and MDP seems rightly duped as to where the votes are.
the media alignment
Media is a very useful tool both opposition and government can use to advance their cause and reach to the hearts and minds of the people. However both parties seems to use media to their own detriment. The opposition fares worse in this aspect that it doesn’t even care about the semblance of balance in reporting and disseminating information. On the other hand the government up until very recently tried to be professional and bring balanced reporting. By abandoning a valuable position of trust, government is ill advisedly coming down to battle a fight which does not exist!
the political cost of the protests
the political cost / benefit calculations doesn’t seem to have been anticipated in the protests that are currently taking place in Male’ in protest at the arrest and unlawful (yes its unlawful!) detention of Judge Abdulla. The protests are more loaded with emotion than reason and cold calculated political manipulations which is a good thing. The last thing we need is political intrigue to go along with the sorry state of everything else in the country.
the learning process..
an interesting feature of the ongoing protests is that both parties are learning from each other, the pros and cons of the trade. for example GP (Gaumee party) is doing what MDP has done to Maumoon’s regime by manipulating public relations against it using media and they seems to be succeeding here and there. On the other hand MDP seems also to have cracked the code as to how to bring masses out for a show of strength by watching Adhaalath doing the same despite their dismal parliamentary representation.
Lets begin at the beginning. His Excellency Mohamed Amin Didi was our first president and he is said to be the founder of the present “Republic” that Maldives is. Many important initiatives like formal education, creation of main roads in the islands are credited to him. However His Excellency’s rule was short lived and was brutally murdered by a mob. Despite his revolutionary and progressive governance, he does not associate himself with the common men and was elitist in appearance and style. It maybe one of his undoings of which clearly there were many. Mahatma Gandi was also educated but in Oxford and yet, to associate with the common populace, he wore clothes like a beggar. At that time Amin Didi was in power, few men in the ‘republic’ had the wherewithal to wear a shirt or anything to cover their bodies. Yet Amin Didi always wore either military uniforms or western attire…
Ibrahim Nasir was the second president after a brief spell of kingdom of Hassan Fareed. Ibrahim Nasir was a president brought to power by the elitist power brokers in Male’ and was not well loved or respected during his whole reign. Nor did he need love or popularity of the common people as he based his rule on fear and intimidation. Its said that he did not use bodyguards and walked the streets of Male’ alone and unattended yet it was common knowledge that His Excellency was not a person to be messed with. At the time his dictatorship only knew force, violence and torture to solve most of the cases. At the time political dissenters disappearances were not uncommon and prison inmates were routinely tortured sometimes to death. The most poignant example of Nasir’s notoriousness was shown on the occasion when he depopulated the island of Thinadhoo because Thinadhoo islanders allied themselves with the short-lived Suvadive government.
The current government’s effort to portray Nasir as a proper president making best of a rough situation, not as a dictator seems to be an effort to chip away the popularity of his predecessor Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom. Its commonly used tactic in politics to discredit an entity by presenting competing further entities which seems to be the case.
In the short lived Suvadive government (in Addu), the president was Afif Didi and he reigned in tumultuous times. During the short reign of Suvadiva, they were able to do pretty much everything a new country aught to do save perhaps the efforts to consolidate on what was achieved and to move forward. There were many reasons for their failure and on a personal level Afif Didi was more popular, loved and respected by his countrymen than any other. Most of the factors that lead to their ultimate defeat of the Suvadive Republic were possibly beyond their power. The involvement of the British and the Male’ government’s unwilling to let go of the souther three islands were certainly factors. The leadership of Afeef Didi on a personal level was impeccable but there were elements of aristocracy and elitism which would not have gone down well with the freedom loving masses.
Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom comes from an aristocratic family in Male’ and was pushed into presidential hot seat (it was much colder then…) by the favor of his predecessor Nasir. Under his rule lots of good and bad things happened and the list of his presidential mistakes were indeed long. Although a lot of propaganda goes both ways, the fact that he nurtured a personality cult and was a nepotist is true. Further mistakes would involve curbing freedom of expression, imprisonment and harassment of the Ulema. One of the most damning things for which Maumoon will be remembered is for his extravagant life style which is summed up in the gold decorated toilet in the Presidential Palace at Theemuge.
The incumbent president Mohamed Nasheed entered to the list of the presidents on popular vote after defeating his predecessor Maumoon in the first “real ballots” this country has seen (possibly) for the first time. Prior to coming power, he was a constant (and consistent) thorn for Maumoon’s government, forming a broad based popular opposition and basically twisting the Maumoon’s arm while he was still in power. After coming to power with a coalition of partners, Anni was lauded for his prudent economic policies which in his own words were in a state of jaahiliyya. It might be too early to state the full list of Anni’s presidential mistakes but there are indications that the once grass-roots president is loosing touch with the roots and bowing to pressure from the elitists in his party. The issues are social and religious which Anni used not to dictate in principle but at the insistence of the aristocracy and his inner circle of party members, the president is getting into uncertain waters. Adhaalth party which is the political partner of ruling MDP, consists of the most respected religious leaders of the country is increasing coming under pressure from the elitist camp in MDP which is basically trying to set the agenda on how Anni operates. It maybe Anni’s undoing for letting this vocal minority influence his relationship with Adhaalath Party which is in a position to make or break who will ask for votes come the next election.
enumerating the mistakes:
1) Signing agreements and pacts with Israel which by world’s consensus is the most roguish state currently in existence. This is the same country which uses the passports UK citizens to murder people in other countries despite the fact UK is the country which actually gave birth to Israel and is closest to them save the US.
2) Trying to legalize sale of wine in inhabited islands which was revoked by mass protests. The front for the issue was city hotel business but was actually done to placate the wishes of the MDP party backers who were linked with the Holiday Inn hotel in Male’.
3) Seeking help for Islamic sharia from Germany which is ironic as this country is still respected by world’s Muslims as one of the few surviving 100% Muslim countries in the world. The idea is not actually to seek help for sharia but perhaps some financial gains which was given cold shoulder by Germany, as Islam and Europe do not mix. Its currently not acceptable political language in Europe to talk about Islam to the chancellor.
4) Aligning with and giving his moral backing and support to a vocal minority of secular elitists from his party activists and others. Democratic principles is firmly on the side of majority and the majority of this country still has not signed up to secularism.
Faced with growing public anger against the issue of new ‘wine rules’, the president’s office is taking cover behind people’s majlis now. According to the spokesperson of the president, there are a certain “2” points which they have come to understand with the issue of new wine rules. Both points are about draft of the bill being sent to Majlis to rule on and both times the Majlis effectively rejected the bill which means they want nothing to do with the rules as the issues surrounding the bill they know can effectively kill their careers. If the bill were ever to be debated in the Majlis, proponents of the bill (who would likely be MDP parliamentarians) will have a hard time escaping from a barrage of accusations from DRP which will range from all shades of kufr, sedition, cessation to high treason. Even if the tables were reversed with MDP charging and DRP defending, it would be the same charges, accusations and counter-accusations. Ultimately this is not about love of culture or respect of religion or listening to the grass-root voices. This is about politics and both sides are taking advantage of our feelings.
Peoples Majlis according to a recent interview by the prominent politician turned academic Ibra is perhaps the most failed organ of our country. With the recent economic downturn which had the government in a frenzy of cost-cutting measures saw everyone making sacrifices on their pay whilst the fat salaried parliamentarians did not saw fit to join saving a few rufiyaas for the sake of the country.