Consciousness and the Development Paradigm

Leftover Illustration

Illustration by Ahmed Fauzan

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created It. ” - Albert Einstein 

by Salma Fikry

Here I am traveling in Denmark, in a rickety van, cramped together with people from all around the world trying to learn about sustainable development. From the Freetown of Christiania in Copenhagen to the remote island of Samsoe to the appropriately entitled Friland (Freeland) near Arhus, I found people trying to return to the very roots that they came from.

I try to understand why Pia and Johan have chosen to live in a caravan with their two children for the past three years while their ‘home’ is being built on “The Self-Sufficient Village”, using second-hand material. I try to understand the purposefulness in Mai, the gentle but strong woman with whom I cooked a meal for 70 people for the dinner they have as a community four days a week. She chose to build her own house with her bare hands when she could have got hired help or a construction company to do it. I try to understand why Christiania (Freetown) functions with its community rules and community spirit, even while not having any elected body to oversee those rules or foster that community spirit. I try to comprehend why Soren and Anna, the sophisticated and obviously wealthy couple, chose to built their own home, with recycled material and live in the remoteness of Halingelille. I am amazed at the leadership of Soren Hermanson, an Environment Teacher who mobilized the Samsingers to turn the island of Samso into a model of Renewable Energy, no longer dependant on fuel from the mainland.

Sadly, they are just a few. They are just a handful of people in the Global North, seeking to reverse the harm done. The majority is still driven by ideologies of capitalism and democracy, propagated by institutions and powerful nations that brought ruin to many of our life-systems in the Global South.

In the search for superiority and certainty, the Global North taught us to split subject from object – res cogitans – thinking substance, consciousness was separated from res extensa – matter, the physical universe. Monotheistic religions taught us that Man was superior to all else in the world and everything in the universe was there to satisfy Man. Devoid of soul, the material world was investigated like a machine, vivisected and exploited through colonialism, Newtonian physics, the industrial revolution and more recently through vehicles of globalization. Thus developed our contemporary development paradigm.

We were given engineering and mechanization plans and money for capital-intensive infrastructure development as the key to alleviating poverty. In doing so, we pushed ourselves into the concrete jungles of cities, where clean air and water became a commodity to be bought and sold. We were forced to give up traditional livelihoods and millions were made jobless. In doing so our self-sufficiency was converted to the laws of demand and supply, driven by market forces. We were told that norms should be prescribed into Constitutions and Laws in order to ensure participation of people. In doing so, millions of years of traditions, social norms and social contracts that were sacred and unwritten in the Global South, were eroded.

And here we are now. We now regard the environment and our communities as a problem to be solved. We look for technological and institutional innovations. Few of us stop to ponder that it is neither the environment nor the lack of institutions that is the problem. The problem was and is Us. It is our individual mindsets and habits that have contributed to Collective Ruin. Our level of consciousness is such that we have moved from exploiting resources for human comfort, to trying to develop systems where technology and democracy can revert the degradation that we ourselves have brought to our environment and our once thriving participatory communities. We fail to realize that the environment has its secrets and it will outlast us; it is the fittest in the great scheme of things where we are the weakest link, especially when we are not united by the bonds that make us a community.

As I sit in the community dinners with old and young alike, who come from varied backgrounds, talking about their vision and plans for the community, talking about the chores for the next day, I become nostalgic. I remember how I used to belong to and live under one roof with an extended family. I remember how the neighborhood got together to mark festivals, clean the road, celebrate a birth or mourn a death. It was not so long ago. Life has changed now, although there are a few remnants of what it was like before. I remember how inspired I was working in small communities when people came whole-heartedly to participate in community projects to renovate their school, to build their sea-wall, to clean their roads, to build their water tanks, to do a lot of things that were deemed as ‘collective’– for the service and enjoyment of everyone and not a few. There were no laws subscribed, they did it voluntarily. Ironical that I, who found it so beautiful had wanted to and worked to ‘institutionalize’ this aspect of social capital not knowing that I would be contributing to consolidating ‘power and politics’ into the hands of a few.

I realize painfully, that our mindsets, mine included, and our development paradigm remains at the same level of consciousness as those that crafted this vicious cycle of rootless growth, a few thousand years ago.

It is the level of consciousness that we have made many mistakes, that we need to rectify the harm done and rise above our individual mindsets to develop a new paradigm, a new life system for our world that strikes me in the eco-villages. Perhaps, Pia , Johan, Mai, Soren, Anna and Hermanson reached a new level of consciousness in order to do what they are doing now. Sadly, I have not reached that level of consciousness yet. My mindset is changing but it is not totally there yet…


Salma Fikry advocates decentralised governance and sustainable development through community empowerment. She wrote the above in November 2010, while on a study trip to Denmark. She has a Master’s in Development Management. She is a recipient of the National Award of Recognition for her services towards improving good governance in the Maldives.

If you are worried about the government’s plans to concentrate all development in the ‘Greater Male’ Area’ while ignoring all other parts of the country, sign the Avaaz petition and lobby the government for more sustainable ways that would decrease rather than increase the inequalities that currently exist among the Maldivian population.

    Getting away with murder

    Murder

    by Azra Naseem

    In the early hours of this morning a 24-year-old Bangladeshi waiter, Shaheen Mia, was brutally murdered at a Male’ café he was working in. A group of masked men stabbed him to death. The day before, on the island of Mundoo in Laamu Atoll, another young man, 29-year-old Ali Ziyadham, was knifed to death allegedly in an argument among a group of men who were drinking home brewed alcohol. Last month, on 22 February, a 24-year-old was murdered outside his home in Male’, he was almost decapitated. In January, in the island of Vaavu Rakeedhoo, a three-year-old boy was beaten to death by his mentally ill mother, herself a victim of sexual abuse over a long period of time. All in all, since November 2013, there have been 12 murders and three abductions in the Maldives. Few have received justice.

    Ex-Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim was fired on 20 January. Police raided his home in the middle of the night and ‘found’ weapons. Charged first with conspiracy to overthrow the government and later with importation of weapons into the country, he was remanded in custody. Before being imprisoned Nazim gave a press conference in which he said, ‘no Maldivian citizen will have safety and security.’ He could not have made a truer statement. Law and order are now non-existent in the once peaceful islands.

    Just a short decade or so ago, a murder in the Maldives was a rare occasion that got the whole country talking. Back in the early 1970s, a German tourist killed his girlfriend in a Male’ guesthouse. Throughout the eighties and well into the 1990s, Maldivian people still spoke of the murder in hushed tones—killing was such a rare occurrence that people could not forget even the smallest details about the event. Today, killing is so common it is hard to remember who, when or why.

    The blame must be taken squarely by the failed criminal justice system of the Maldives. Investigations are set to fail—often deliberately—at all stages: the police never seem to find evidence; when they do, they charge the wrong person; or when the right person is charged, the courts release them for ‘lack of evidence’ or wrongfully obtained evidence, or to teach the government a lesson. In 2011 Judge Abdulla Ghazee, whose continued releasing of violent offenders had made him a national security threat, released a suspected murderer, Shahum Adam, to teach the Health Ministry a lesson. He went on to kill again.

    In the year that followed Ablow Ghazee’s release from custody on 7th February 2012, after Mohamed Nasheed was deposed on the pretext of having acted unconstitutionally by having the lawless judge taken into military custody, there were nine murders.

    The first was of 21-year-old Abdulla Muheeth (Bobby), killed by gangs in what turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. On the night he was killed, there were three other violent attacks in Male’. Muheeth’s killers are awaiting the death penalty. Less than a month after Muheeth’s death, 33-year-old Ali Shifan was attacked and killed by two men on a motorbike in Male’. The next victim was a 75-year-old woman, Fathimath Zakariyya, attacked and killed in her own home on the island of Neykurendhoo; the next a 65-year-old man, Hassanbe, on the island of Maafaru, also attacked and killed in his own home; he was followed by a 16-year-old schoolboy, Mohamed Aruham, attacked and killed while sleeping on a park bench in Male’; 65-year-old lawyer Ahmed Najeeb came next, killed and thrown into a garbage bin; he was followed by a 26-year-old policeman, attacked and killed while on duty on the island of Kaashidhoo; then came the murder of 46-year-old MP Afrasheem, brutally attacked just outside his own apartment; followed by Moneerul Islam, a Bangladeshi worker, also killed in his own home in November 2012.

    There was a drop in the number of killings after that, with three in total in the year 2013 – one in March, in July and in December of that year. In 2014, however, the number of killings went up again—five lives were taken violently that year. In 2015, only in its third month, this morning’s murder of Shaheen Mia is the year’s fourth.

    The police are not doing their job of law enforcement, and of protecting and serving the community. As observers have pointed out, their main focus seems to be on the political rather than the criminal.

    Hundreds of policemen and women are deployed to man every peaceful protest; a flurry of press releases and media briefings precede and follow any demonstration; and dozens are taken into custody from each of them. The gangs that operate on the fringes of these protests, meanwhile, get away with throwing crude oil, chilli water and even petrol at the demonstrators; and with attacking them physically. The only purpose of the police seems to be to stifle opposition to the government, to enforce the government’s power, and to keep people from rising up against it.

    The current Home Minister, Umar Naseer, competed in the PPM primaries as a presidential candidate in the 2013 election. He lost to the incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. According to Umar, Yameen rigged the primaries to win. In the subsequent fallout, he alleged that Yameen has deep connections with the gangs of Male’; and also that the President was connected to the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali.

    Once made the Home Minister in Yameen’s government, however, he has gone silent on whatever it is that he knows about the president and his gangs. Not only is he silent on Yameen’s alleged criminal activities, but also on any criminal activity. He is Home Minister in name only, his wings cut and vocal chords either bought or being held to ransom. He has no power over the police either. This week, he resorted to issuing orders to the police through Twitter, so powerless is he.

    More recently, former PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof who has now been kicked out of the party, has come up with similar allegations of Yameen’s criminality. He implicates Yameen’s right-hand man in government, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, of being as closely connected with the gangs of Male’ as Umar accused Yameen of being. According to Mahloof, Adeeb knows what happened to journalist and blogger Ahamed Rilwan, abducted at knifepoint from outside his home in August 2014. Pictures of Yameen and Adeeb with members of Male’s various gangs are everywhere. Pictorial evidence shows Adeeb’s connections with gangs exist not only at the local level but also the international – he posed shamelessly with the notorious Artur brothers from Armenia, implicated in arms and drugs smuggling worldwide.

    The fact is none of these people with information—Nazim, Umar or Mahloof—are willing to share what they know with the public. It may be because the information is their only bargaining tool, it could be what keeps them alive. According to what Nazim has been revealing in his sham trial, police acts as thugs when commanded by Adeeb, Yameen’s proxy. In October 2014, a group of masked men wielding machetes cut down the areca nut palms lining Male’s main streets. The perpetrators were never identified by the police. According to recent revelations by Nazim during his on-going trial, it was the Special Operations police, pretending to be gang members who committed the crime. Rumour has it that Yameen suspects the trees have been used to put a curse on him using black magic.

    The police are also implicated in enabling, and the cover-up of Afrasheem’s murder—they were on duty, closing the roads to his home when the murder occurred. Did they let the killer in, then closed off the road so there would be no witnesses? The public widely suspects they had a role in the abduction of Rilwan. An eyewitness to his abduction called the police immediately after seeing a man being bundled into a car at knifepoint from outside Rilwan’s apartment on the island of HulhuMale’. They did not respond, and never publicised the event allowing Rilwan’s disappearance to go unknown for days. They are still deliberately neglecting the investigation, hiding, obfuscating, impeding any progress. In the killing of Ziyadham on the island of Mundoo on Friday night, according to local media, people reported unrest to the police repeatedly, suspecting something was about to go very wrong. The police did not respond, arriving on the island hours after the killing despite having hours to have prevented it from happening. Less than an hour ago, in response to the latest killing, the police have told local news outlet cnm.mv that it ‘believes’ all citizens are safe.

    A deadly mixture of deliberate collusion with violent gangs, the country’s incompetent law enforcement authorities, and the unqualified corrupt judiciary, has made life in the Maldives hell for its inhabitants.

    This government is an utter failure on every level. Yet, half the people are fighting to keep it, and the judiciary, in place.


    Visit mvmurders.com for details of murders in Maldives since 2001.

    Pic: thepublicslate.com

      Get up, stand up

      by Azra Naseem

      It is an extremely tense day in the Maldives as tens of thousands of people wait on tenterhooks for what seems to be the inevitable: the imprisonment of opposition leader, former president and icon of democracy, Mohamed Nasheed.

      The outcome of the ‘trial’ which Nasheed has been subjected to is certain, the verdict written long before he was charged with ‘terrorism’ and remanded in custody on the island of Dhoonidhoo on 22 February. Everything that followed since that Sunday, over two weeks ago now, has been a sham and a travesty against justice. The barbarity was put on full display to the world, when Nasheed was brought to ‘court’ for the first hearing. Policemen, belonging to the notorious Special Operations, pushed and shoved Nasheed to the ground. Pictures and videos of the event shocked the country, and the world.

      The current rulers, led by Yameen Abdul Gayoom, shrugged off the outcry with nonchalance. Locally, the police claimed Nasheed had pulled a stunt, fallen to the ground voluntarily like a footballer faking an injury looking for to be rewarded with a penalty. It did not matter that video and pictorial evidence told a different story. Internationally, Foreign Minister Dunay Maumoon was recalcitrant, insisting that Nasheed’s trial is a ‘domestic issue’ that no foreigners have a say in. The government remained impervious to all outside criticism. Even the cancellation of a planned trip by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a diplomatic slap of substantial magnitude, did not make any impact on its determination to pursue with their chosen path of leading Nasheed to jail. In fact, as time passed, the government grew more belligerent. Yameen Abdul Gayoom said on 9 March that people in distant foreign lands should butt out of Maldivian affairs. Brushed aside were the many international treaties which the Maldives is signatory to, which gives the international community the right to particular actions during certain circumstances — such as in times of the destruction of rule of law.

      And what a destruction it has been. Every hearing in the court, itself unconstitutional, has dealt a deathblow to the concept of rule of law. The Prosecutor General’s appointment now appears to have been engineered for the very purpose of this prosecution, as are the panel of three ‘judges’. None of them have adequate legal qualifications, and all of them are in each other’s pockets. All of them have close ties to the man at the centre of these ‘terrorism’ charges—Ablow Ghaazee, himself accused of misconduct and corruption—who Nasheed allegedly ‘kidnapped’.

      The three man bench has obstructed justice at every opportunity, refusing to give Nasheed’s lawyers enough time to study evidence; giving them evidence on CDs that do not open or have been damaged; refusing Nasheed the opportunity to appoint new lawyers when the current ones objected to their unlawful treatment; and incredibly, refusing to allow Nasheed to present witnesses with the judgement that no witness can disprove the prosecution case.

      Every hearing has been held after sundown, and Nasheed brought to court in darkened vehicles under heavy police escort. The lengths to which prosecutors have gone to separate Nasheed and his supporters, and to prevent media from taking pictures of him, have been ludicrous at times. On 8 March, about an hour before Nasheed was brought to court, the powers that be spread a blue banner across the entrance to the building, placed strategically to cover the camera angle from which Raajje TV usually shoots Nasheed’s court arrival. The banner read ‘Welcome, International Women’s Day.’ A blatant mockery not of justice alone, but also of women.

      There has been much anguish among Nasheed’s supporters. On 27 February tens of thousand came out to protest against the court’s decision to remand Nasheed in custody throughout the trial. It was the biggest political gathering the capital island of Male’ had ever seen. People flooded the main street of Majeedhee Magu almost covering it from end to end. Since then there have been protests every night and everyday on various different locations across the country. But the government is refusing to listen to them no matter how many there are; it seeks to shut them down instead.

      Every protest is manned by hundreds of Special Operations police, sometimes with reinforcements from the army. Almost every other protest ends in brutality and/or arrests. Scores have been arrested, taken to prison, then released with the unconstitutional condition that they don’t protest for periods of time as set by the court-–sometimes days, sometimes months. Leaders of MDP are handpicked for the arrests, making sure that less and less of them will be able to join protests against Nasheed’s arrest. One person—MP Fayyaz Ismail—refused to sign the court’s unlawful protest ban. He was given an extra 15 days in custody. There is no legal basis for such an order.

      An increasing number of locations are being declared ‘no-protest zones’ for various reasons: for residents’ peace; for local business interests; for law and order, etc. etc. Freedom of assembly is being rolled back swiftly, and without hesitation. Other associated freedoms are under similar attack. Journalists are being barred from covering the trial without legal reason. Reporters are being banned from videoing places they are legally allowed to. Police are forcing them to delete footage already recorded without legal authority to do so. The state broadcaster is continuing to ignore the biggest ‘trial’ in the country’s recent history, completely ignoring its duty to keep citizens informed.

      Meanwhile, Yameen and members of his ruling cabal are relishing the distress and helplessness of supporters of democracy and Nasheed. Decorum and statesmanship are nowhere to be seen. When MDP MPs protested against Yameen’s inaugural speech in Parliament, he gave into his indignation, getting up and waving his thumbs up and down, then up again, like a crazed Caligula in Roman times.

      Yameen’s trusted sidekick, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, who has shrugged off corruption charges amounting to millions of US Dollars and engineered the unconstitutional removal of the Auditor General who dared bring up the charges, led a motorbike procession on the streets of Male’ this weekend, calling to expedite Nasheed’s conviction. Among the rats led by this Pied Piper on a bike with a Rolex watch on his wrist and a sapphire ring on his finger, was the current Defence Minister, ex-military General Moosa Jaleel. Jaleel in his eagerness to belong to Yameen’s cabal, and thus enjoy automatic immunity, forgot that he is himself on trial for the same charges he was calling Nasheed to be convicted for.

      To further increase the public disgust level [or degree of impressiveness, if the onlooker is a supporter of Bro Adeeb], Adeeb has led a ‘movement’ that mimics Yameen’s thumbs-down gestures as if it is something to be celebrated and not shamed by. He has posed with his thumbs down with cabinet ministers and parliament members—as well as with his usual string of young, disaffected men on the fringes, and in the heart of, Maldives’ violent gang culture. Everyone in the Motorcade of The Shamelessness wore t-shirts emblazoned with a thumbs-down signal.

      This hatred of Nasheed as a person cultivated with relish by Yameen and Adeeb has been embraced by thousands of their supporters. It has blinded them to the fact that what is being destroyed in this sham is not just Nasheed’s personal freedoms but also every single Maldivian’s many civil and political rights and their right to equal justice for all.

      The fundamental problem with the Maldives’ transition to democracy was that it was unable, and oftentimes unwilling, to reform the judiciary. Few had the foresight to see where the democratic transition would end without an independent judiciary based on the principles of rule of law. Now, even on hindsight – with the results on full display – many are still too blinded by personal vendettas, grudges and hate to see that this ‘trial’ of Nasheed is the last nail in the coffin for a democratic future for the Maldives. Years of anti-Nasheed propaganda have closed people’s eyes to the fact that whatever wrong he may have done, if they want themselves to be treated fairly and equally and live in a just society, they must protest against the injustice he is being subjected to.

      Today it is the moral obligation for every Maldivian to stand up against injustice. The subject of concern is not a particular individual, be it Nasheed, Nazim, the common man jailed for six years for stealing a jar of fish-paste; or the murderer who is allowed to walk free because he is in the inner cabal. It is justice itself.

      Last time the people should have stood up en masse for justice and did not, the Maldives was robbed of a free and fair election. The result is in office, orchestrating injustice, via the courts that engineered his election. This time if the people fail to stand up, it will shut all doors to another election in the foreseeable future; along with the doors to equal justice for all, quite likely for generations to come.