In a deeply flawed trial, the former president Anni was found of guilty of terrorism and sentenced 13 years behind bars. This is a deeply shocking news to many as the twists and turns of this saga were closely followed by friends and foes alike, although nobody believed he would anyhow get a free or fair trial. President Nasheed (popularly known as Anni) had many friends and foes, but even most of his foes agree that this time he has received more than he deserves.
Some facts about the trial:
Anni’s defense witnesses were prevented from giving witness; the court essentially said the prosecution witnesses were too strong to be negated by defense witness.
One of the three sitting judges was a prosecution witness in the first lesser charge. The state prosecutor was also a witness to the case.
The prosecution changed the charge sheet almost overnight without giving Anni’s lawyers time to make defense. The original charge was a lesser charge of wrongfully imprisoning a person, the later was terrorism.
Anni’s lawyers had to quit because the court essentially made it impossible for them to work by giving them strange and unworkable deadlines to defend the former president.
Despite these setbacks this will be a blow to the sitting government for allowing this farce of a court case to have gone to completion. In the middle of the court case there were frequent allegations and sightings of govt. officials such as the all powerful tourism minister meeting with sitting Judges and even supreme court judges. The allegations were that current government wanted the courts to windup the case as quickly as possible so as not to allow more media scrutiny into the case. It is also interesting to note that this court case was quickly revived up after being left gathering dust for 3 years just a few weeks after government owned apartments were given to court judges.
Politically this is a big mistake by PPM who have majority of parliament, government and judiciary all in their hands to be seen as crushing any form of dissent. The government cannot hide under the slogan that they are unable to interfere with judicial proceedings. This is a well-known tactic everywhere used by all sorts of dictators to crush dissent. They used just one mantra and it won’t buy them any legitimacy. It is unlikely that the govt. can stand the negative pressure from media and global community.
Basically it happens like this. The country is highly polarized with people pro and against controversial former president Anni. Approximately a little bit less than half of the population supports him while the rest are split between what could be termed as royalists (PPM) and progressives (JP coalition). So we have 3 major political thinking at the moment. The current hullabaloo about the case before Supreme Court is just a technical legal process which has to be completed whoever runs the show. There are many issues in the whole story including the personal lifestyle of a Supreme Court judge and the quality of evidence JP submitted against the first round of presidential elections. To summarize the whole story, it may be safely said that politicians are encouraging disruptive behavior by calling for tourism boycotts which are usually followed by unsuspecting politically naïve followers.
In resorts the political wheeling and dealing are enthusiastically followed by resort workers who discuss the finer points of the days happening after duty hours normally in the staff gym or cafeteria. There is great camaraderie and honest heart to heart discussions sometimes quite heated. To make for a party atmosphere soft drink cases are usually bought from staff shop and enemies and friends enjoy political toast to their political masters in Male’. Usually somewhere in the discussion the idea to capture the moment and share in social media occurs to somebody and is carried out.
From there on the evil political masters take over and twist the story to their advantage and start frantic anti campaigns against the country.
To make the story go viral they even include Iran and Syria as well in the hash tags to get attention to the story.
The damage has already been done. What started as a light hearted talk was quite successfully turned to something more sinister. Travel advisory against the country has already been issued from 5 countries and more are to follow. Those who are calling for tourism boycott against the country are the true enemies of the country. Tourism can make or break this country and no sane person with a cool mind will call for self destruction. If this was about a single hotelier abusing the staff or something similar, a strike can be justified. But we have at the moment is no strikes and irresponsible hot-headed politicos inviting maximum damage to the country. It’s sad that TEAM the biggest organization representing tourism workers also appears to support boycott of tourism forgetting that more than half of those who work in resorts are not going to support their political view. TEAM shall be more neutral and be support of all political views to succeed in the long term. Whichever party comes to power, a self damaged economy would be the most difficult wound to heal.
For the first time in a very long long time, the words ‘job creation’ has been mentioned in an election pledge. We have in a previous post mentioned about jobs being a non-issue in our politics. But this seems to be changing now. Of course election pledges are just empty words and most rational people do not believe in the flowery language. But the fact that job creation is at least mentioned now is an improvement. The promised figure is 26k and way they would go about doing that according to PPM would be by inviting more investors and building more resorts. This is of course easier said than done. Our tourism industry has grown up from humble beginnings to ludicrously expensive industry in a recession prone world. In today’s standard, there simply is very little space except for the rich guests. The resorts are designed just for the rich, not for the budget traveler. What cost 5m to build today costs anything over 50m in the space of roughly 20 years. Attracting that kind of investors would be a challenge especially when a healthy opposition is hell bent on thwarting the administration on everything. The saddest part of this political drama is when opposition started calling to boycott our tourism industry and the effects of their negative campaign were felt. There simply has to be a way to do politicking without damaging the economy.
Another useful nugget of information from the Yageen Team was their belief that oil exploration will be renewed, if they basically had their way. There was an attempt to test for oil exploration roughly 20 years ago and it was stopped some years for some reason. The reason we now understand is that it was not feasible at 20$ per barrel at that time. Now that a barrel costs 125% it would be feasible.
Coming from politicians there is little reason to be overjoyed with these prospects. They have a reason to make pledges and promises and we have a reason to be judicial on whether to take their pledges at face value or not.
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.