Written by Ali Assad
Selling Maldives for personal gain, whether for wealth and power or for any other reason, is sadly something our generation has witnessed.
In 1988, there was an attempt by a group of Maldivians masterminded by Sikka Ahmed Ismail Maniku (former President Nasheed’s in-law) to seize Maldives with 80 armed mercenaries of a Tamil secessionist organisation from Sri Lanka. It is believed that Sikka Ahmed agreed to provide the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) a support base in Maldives to help their cause in Sri Lanka. Maldives sold to gain power.
President Nasheed became the first person in Maldivian history to call for a boycott of Maldives tourism industry, stop the aid received by Maldives and even place sanctions on Maldives. During the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, Nasheed and Friends Of Maldives (FOM) tried to stop the Tsunami Aid to Maldives, claiming all the aid was going to Maumoon’s personal benefits. To further pressure Maumoon and hence, expedite democratic reform to Maldives, strong boycotting campaigns of Maldivian tourism industry were done. As a favourite tool of Nasheed, to pressure government by crippling the economy, these boycotting campaigns were carried out during Dr. Waheed’s presidency and even during incumbent President Yameen’s term. In addition, to further destroy the booming economy and pressure President Yameen, Nasheed campaigned hard in the international community to impose sanctions on Maldives. These strategies were believed to be formulated by FOM members, a few elements in the UK Conservative Party like Sir Hugo Swire and in association with Christian Solidarity Worldwide. Maldives’ economy sold to gain power and personal benefits.
The climax of the calls for democratic reform and the boycotting campaign of tourism industry was the first terrorist bomb blast in Maldives on 29 September 2007. The virgin peaceful tranquility of Maldives was shattered. Other few incidents also include the religious extremist issues encountered in Alif Alif Atoll Himandhoo and the violent police confrontations that followed. However, during Maumoon’s era, there was strict controls on the spread of religious extremism. With democracy things changed, and Nasheed boasts publicly that he had given religious freedom to the sheikhs (Islamic scholars). The Side effects of the shortcomings of a Western imported democracy was evident during President Nasheed short term in office, that showcased an increase in extremist activity. When he visited Himandhoo, he addressed the crowd in Dhivehi saying there is no extremism in Himandhoo but in English when he faces foreign media, Maldives is full of fundamentalists and terrorists backing the old regime. Maldivian name, religious unity, peace and stability sold in the name of democracy.
As reported by Aditi Phadnis in Business Standard on 27 December 2008, “The Maldives has many anxieties, Nasheed told reporters over a glass of Sula Shiraz, and physical security is just one of them. One of his aides suggested reporters investigate more thoroughly the route taken by the Mumbai bombers — it is not inconceivable that one of them might have used Maldives as a staging post at some point. Two islands in the Maldives are virtually in control of the “mullahs”, although Nasheed said many of the mullahs were also in the coalition government, and are obliged to be restrained. Nasheed is one of the few democratically elected leaders in South Asia, who wishes the Opposition was more active — the fact is, he confessed, there is very little opposition in the Maldives which is a political danger for it leaves the field free for Islamic militants to occupy that space. Nasheed has a lot of ideas to develop his country. Tackling Islamic fundamentalism is going to be his biggest challenge”. (From the quoted article, some sentences discussing other topics removed. To view full article please visit Business Standard site). Even if President Nasheed has an alcohol addiction, as a Muslim president why he should be drinking while representing Maldives is highly questionable. Of course, Maldives have faced problems of religious extremism and terrorism but to overrate it and make false baseless allegations that Maldivians are involved in terrorist bombings in India or elsewhere, just to please Western “friends”, for political fame and grab headlines is irresponsible. Maldives’ name and pride sold for personal satisfaction and political fame.
On 10 November 2008, President Nasheed announced an intent to create a sovereign wealth fund with money earned from tourism that could be used to purchase land elsewhere for the Maldives people to relocate, when according to Nasheed it submerges underwater within 20 years and Australia was considered as a resettlement location. It is hard to believe that heartfelt good intentions were behind this, as Nasheed was, at the same period, calling on investors to consider Maldives as a good investment opportunity. Anyone not under the influence of drugs will understand the feasibility of a 30, 50 or a 99-year investment going underwater in 20 years. Nasheed was renowned to do almost anything for a media headline. Destroying Maldivian’s investment opportunities to portray himself as an environmental hero. Maldives’ economy sold for a photo opportunity.
President Nasheed relentlessly tried to sell alcohol in inhabited island of Maldives. The pictures and drawings released as a theme for the 17th SAARC summit prominently and openly depicted Christianity. The drawings were prepared by Nasheed’s government with the blessing and approval of the cabinet. The true purpose of putting up these drawings in Male’ and elsewhere across the country is questionable considering that the proportion of Christianity is not among either the first, second or third religion of SAARC nations. Nasheed’s government erected numerous idols in Addu atoll for the SAARC summit. Why were idols and monuments that contradict the principles of Islam brought from all SAARC countries? Suspiciously unlike the other monuments, the idols were put up at the last minute; in the early hours of the morning and were concealed with cloth. Nasheed said he “only heard of the idols after one was destroyed”, but photographs from media clearly show Nasheed watching and applauding while the idols were inaugurated. Maldives’ religion and culture sold to please members of Friends of Maldives and Christian Solidarity Worldwide financiers.
Palestine was a good opportunity to show Nasheed’s Western supporters that he was their best choice. Nearly all Maldivians believe that Palestine is the victim of an occupying force – Israel. The concept of calling Israel “defending itself” with highly sophisticated state of the art military weapons against stone throwing Palestinians is not digestible locally. Majority of Maldivians preferred a two-state solution and an end to the siege and apartheid rule. However, President Nasheed established relations with Israel less than ten days after the UN representative decided they had committed war crimes against the Palestinian people. Nasheed’s administration did not criticize Israel in an official capacity but when addressing MDP members in Dhivehi, statements to that effect were made to entertain the crowd. According to WikiLeaks and Israeli newspapers, Nasheed tried to insert stories about Israel, the Jews and the version of Israeli history that Israel wanted, into the Maldivian education system. Israeli government supported Nasheed’s government by sending different teams of doctors and agriculturists to Maldives. Nasheed even tried to authorize Israeli flights to land in Maldives, a move which could create a magnet for extremist elements to enter the peaceful Maldives for terrorism activities, in a country highly dependent on tourism. During President Nasir’s time, Nasheed’s current foreign minister and uncle ‘Kerafa’ Naseem had voted on behalf of Maldives at the UN to recognise Israel as an independent nation, an action which was contrary to the view of the government at that time. The most deplorable action of Nasheed’s government was fleeing from the 36th UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) vote to give Palestinians full membership on 31st October 2011. Opposition alleged that Israel agreed to pay Nasheed USD900 million during his term in office for supporting Israeli cause and specially to sell the vote. Maldives’s vote sold for money and unconditional support from the super power United States.
During Nasheed’s presidency, most of the profitable government shareholding company shares were sold, most notably Dhiraagu and MWSC. The highly controversial sale of the most profitable government asset, the Maldives’ International Airport received harsh criticism and protests were organized from the opposition. Leasing the airport to GMR for management purposes with 51% government control would have been an acceptable deal. But leasing it on a one-sided deal that benefited GMR immensely was insane. Not only was Maldives airport the most profitable asset to the government, during GMR’s operation of Maldives airport it cashed in more profit than any other airport under GMR’s ownership. An example of the absurdity of the agreement is that only 1% of profit from the sale of oil was to be given to the government. GMR did not have to invest any money in the development of the airport but government tried to allow GMR to tax the passengers to create necessary funds. In addition, sovereign guarantee was given by the Maldivian government for the loans taken by GMR. Nasheed claimed that the Maldivian International Airport built by Maldivians was a “bucket airport” – justifying the title claiming that airport roofs were leaking and buckets need to be placed under the leaks. After the hurried deal, Parliament Members were seen signing to MDP. Most highly publicized cases include PPM MP Ali Waheed and PPM MP Abdulla Abdul Raheem. After MP Ali Waheed’s transfer to MDP, not only did Ali Waheed and his wife purchased plots of land worth millions, his mother also purchased a plot of land in Male worth millions. Maldives’ International Airport – the main gateway for development sold to generate cash to run a political party and purchase Parliament Members.
After Nasheed lost power, he travelled a lot to Western countries to bolster support and finance for his cause. During such visits, his speech in Denmark sparked controversy in Maldives. While Maldivian media was obsessed with “alternative narrative” and “helpline”, MDP claimed that Nasheed speech was twisted and misinterpreted for political gain. What the local media failed to notice but something which clearly cornered Nasheed was his statement “I believe that with proper democracy in the Maldives we can play a very important role as a counter to the reformation, or rather the Jesuits have to come up quickly.” In the age of the internet it takes anybody a couple of minutes to find what “Counter Reformation” means and all the meanings for “Jesuits”. Nasheed was a reformist and there was no way his supporters can proclaim that he was talking about “countering reform”. Opposition and media did not challenge Nasheed’s loyalist to use whatever meaning they prefer for “proper democracy”, “Counter Reformation” and “Jesuits” but to make sense out of the statement and translate so that it does not mean he was calling on the Jesuits against Maldivians. Maldives’ religion sold to crusaders to gain support and finance.
Is President Yameen selling Maldives to Saudi Arabia? Opposition is running extensive social media campaigns claiming that. The real facts are that under the amendments to the constitution; for specific projects approved by the government of an investment that exceeds USD 1 Billion, 70 percent of land has to be reclaimed to be awarded freehold ownership rights, to a quantity of land that does not exceed 10 percent of total Maldivian land at any given time. Maldivian law and constitution will always apply. Even the amendment to the constitution was passed with opposition support. Does Saudi Arabia have any vested interest in Maldives? Unlike other countries Saudi Arabia is the only 100% Muslim nation in the world other than Maldives. Similar to Maldives, Saudi Arabia is a Sunni Muslim nation. Maldives is of no strategic importance to Saudi Arabia other than protecting its twin small Muslim brother. Why is the opposition especially President Nasheed so overly worried? Is it because that stronger ties with a Muslim nation will extinguish any hopes that Nasheed has created with his Christian partners and limit influence from his friends in foreign countries. Is it because his “friends” are helping him on the precondition that Christianity can be practiced in Maldives. So, the Saudi investments and stronger ties with Saudi Arabia, will create huge problems for Nasheed. The irony is that without knowingly and under the cover of politics Nasheed is using good Muslim citizens of Maldives to promote his agenda. The investment that President Yameen is going to bring is NOT just 1 Billion but a staggering TEN BILLION DOLLARS. Definitely, without doubt it would mean development to Maldives that exceeds all the development of the past century. A sure sign that incumbent President Yameen will win the 2018 presidential race.
Selling or developing Maldives?
For a complete understanding of the issue, please read the next article “F funn “FIHKAN”