Yameen’s(?) Maldives

MaldivesYameen

by Azra Naseem

The Yameen administration is putting in place a governance reform agenda with the help of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. There is no arguing that Singapore is a successful economy, and a well-ordered society; but a democracy it is not. Yet, although Maldives adopted a Constitution based on democratic values and principles less than a decade ago, it is Lee’s authoritarian capitalism that Yameen wants to practice in the Maldives. How likely is it that he will succeed?

Do I look good in your policies?

‘Singapore owes much of its prosperity to a record of honest and pragmatic government’, wrote The Economist in March 2015 on Lee’s death. Lee’s success in tackling corruption is legendary, and Singapore continues to score among the world’s top ten least corrupt countries. His government ministers were well paid, and he introduced harsh punishments for those who did steal from the public coffers. In sharp contrast, honesty is not in the Yameen government lexicon. While ministerial pay remains comparatively high, there is endemic corruption in the Maldivian government and society. And Yameen, not just his government, is implicated. “When you are handed a huge sum of money, no one would ask where it came from”, Yameen said this year in the aftermath of the worst corruption scandal in the history of the country involving at least US$79 million.

Although it is his own Vice President, under his direct watch, that is said to have masterminded siphoning off of the millions, Yameen has conveniently distanced himself from the whole affair. “The buck stops here”, he said, jailing Vice President Ahmed Adeeb. Apart from keeping Adeeb and associates under lock and key, no action has been taken to recover the lost moneys, or investigate how it was taken. This is a far cry from Lee’s unwavering stand against corruption.

The failure to stem embezzlement and bribery has had negative effects on foreign investment in Maldives. Multiple attempts to attract private foreign investment have resulted in few projects that are transparent, and of obvious benefit to society as a whole. This is the exact opposite of Singapore where foreign investment ‘poured in’ under Lee’s stewardship. Lee hired economic managers that, ‘kept the government small, the economy open and regulation simple, transparent and effective’. And, to attract foreign investment, Lee’s Singapore relied upon massive investments in specialised physical infrastructure, efficient bureaucratic and administrative systems, generous tax incentives to attract capital, and politically docile labour. In Yameen’s Maldives all of these variables are lacking in most areas and non-existent in others.

There is another crucial difference. In Singapore, Lee did not access the funds for its infrastructure through international borrowing or printing money, but through government imposed savings. In the Maldives, Yameen is borrowing like there is no tomorrow.

“I only have two and a half years left,” he said in a recent speech. “Short cuts have to be taken”, he asserts, if he is to undertake massive infrastructure projects—like the development of a new airport. By shortcuts he means loans. A US$800 million loan to develop the airport, he says, is justified. Debt levels are thus skyrocketing, standing at over 80% GDP this year, and forecast to rise up to over 100% of the GDP by 2018.

Added to the corruption and the bad debt scenario, which the World Bank Group sees as unsustainable, is how far the Maldives lags behind Singapore in the world ‘ease of doing business rankings’.  Singapore is No.1 out of 189 countries while Maldives at No. 128. In terms of reliability in enforcing contracts, Singapore leads the world once again while the Maldives, with the costly GMR debacle fresh in investor minds, and with its endemic corruption, is at No.95.

With such big shoes to fill, following in Lee’s economic footsteps will be a difficult, if not impossible, task for Yameen.

Bookworms and burger technicians

Yameen also lacks Lee’s vision of education as central to the growth of the nation he wanted to create. Singapore’s National University is among the top 25 in the world, and the country taken pride in having an ‘unabashedly meritocratic’ education system where ‘high quality education is available for all levels of academic aptitude’. Things cannot be more different in the Maldives—high quality education is only available in Male’, the capital. The quest to provide good education to their children is the driving force behind mass migration to Male’ from other islands. Even in Male’, a parallel system of expensive tuition is necessary for children to attain levels of education necessary to gain admittance in universities abroad.

On top of systematic failures in the education sector, Yameen’s personal approach to education is lukewarm. Yameen has moved to reduce importance of academic achievement, decreasing awards for and celebration of high achievers; encouraged vocational training for the ‘not as clever’ majority; and has spoken disdainfully of ‘bookworms’. Lee, on the other hand, is said to have read Lewis Carroll, Jane Austen, and Shakespeare’s sonnets—among others—to his wife when she lay ‘bedridden and mute for two years’ before her death.

Whereas Lee worked hard to make the Singaporean workforce one of the key strengths of the country’s economy, Yameen sees the Maldivian labour force as hopeless, unskilled, and unqualified for the tasks he has in mind for them.  He lamented recently that the biggest challenge to running a world-class airport in the Maldives would be having to do so with Maldivian staff.

Significant variables that contributed to Lee’s economic success is thus missing in Yameen’s equation, making it unlikely that the latter can emulate the former in a positive way. Latest World Bank Group report predicts a debt-ridden bleak economic future far removed from Singapore.

Me Yameen, You Lee

This is not to say that Yameen will fail altogether in his mission to mimic Lee. More than a few similarities are already evident in both men’s curtailment of people’s democratic freedoms. Lee locked up members of the opposition to stamp it out, stifled press freedom, and legally hounded critics and opposition politicians, including the foreign press. Lee also arranged the electoral process in such a way as to make it almost inconceivable for his People’s Action Party (PAP) to lose power. In the space of just two and a half years, Yameen has managed to take almost all those steps, and then some, against democratic freedoms. His main project at the moment appears to be emulating Lee’s role as a disciplinarian, the man in charge of creating a politically docile workforce.

Yameen has taken to performing this task like a duck to water. Armed with an award for excellence in governance, and security guards with machine guns, Yameen travels the country to tell people that if they want prosperity ‘like Singapore’, they must accept ‘government knows best’. Not just in terms of economy, but socio-politically as well. People must put aside their fight for civil and political rights, they must demonstrate obedience, be reverent, docile.

Everyone must accept Economies of Scale is king. Bowing to its power, over two thirds of the population must move to what Yameen is calling the Greater Male’ Area—Male’, Villingili, and the artificial island of HulhuMale’—being expanded at breakneck speed with borrowed capital. For a successful economy, Maldivians living on small islands scattered across 90,000 square kilometres of the Indian Ocean must all relocate—willingly, submissively—to living in purpose-built high-rises. It is impossible, Yameen has said, to provide basic services to Maldivians who do not fall in line with the plan.

Yameen’s speeches are often a scolding; full of rebukes and dressing-downs for some wrong committed by an individual or imagined societal groups. ‘Good Maldivians’ are not concerned about assembling freely, press freedom, or any other ‘minor’ civil liberty. Those who speak up for rights are mocked as street performers. When journalists objected to the fast receding press freedoms in April this year, for example, Yameen described them as political activists who had lost all semblance of order. He decries the last decade as one of futile resistance; not for democratic rights but against progress. The agitation for democracy and the short transition period were costly detours on the road to progress. The lesson must be learned from it that fighting for civil and political freedoms will only bring more of the same chaos. Therefore, work with Yameen and his PPM loyalists to make money at any cost, notwithstanding that they may come at the expense of human rights, the environment, and the Maldivian ways of life.

While Yameen may be on the same page as Lee on placing democracy behind economic progress, there are vast differences in how the two leaders persuade their peoples of the suitability of their plans for their countries.  Whereas Lee led by example, Yameen leads by fiat. In Singapore, Lee was ‘incorruptible, capable, and completely committed to Singapore’s interests’.

There is a long way to go before Yameen achieves that kind of credibility with the people of Maldives. Almost half the population is vehemently opposed to his rule; he has not proven his capabilities as an economist, nor has he proven himself incorruptible. Given these factors, it is going to be difficult, if not impossible, to cultivate belief among the majority that he is completely committed to Maldives’ interests.

Lee admitted to being Machiavellian in his approach to being loved or feared. “If nobody is afraid of me, I’m meaningless” he said. President Yameen, wants people to fear him—Gatu Raees, President with Guts, PPM supporters call him. A crucial difference remains, though. Whereas Lee was both feared and respected, there is little respect for Yameen among most people. There is fear, and there is intense dislike. Respect, despite legal and administrative demands for it, has not been forthcoming. The question of love is not even entertained—either by people, or by Yameen.

Go boldly forth, to realise someone else’s dreams

Yameen’s vision for the Maldives is problematic in a variety of ways.

Most fundamentally, it is plagiarised; somebody else’s idea for another country. It is not an organic vision shared by, or arrived at through consultation with the Maldivian people about their wants, aspirations and ways of life.

Yameen was not elected to change the system of governance in the Maldives but to govern according to the 2008 Constitution in place for  five years when he came to power. As president he has no right to curtail the rights provided by the Constitution, or to deviate from the democratic path.

Under the plan for reform, Yameen is making criticism a crime, is removing all opposition through legal and other means, wants to establish a one party system, and will engineer the electoral system or the voting system in such a way that he will remain in power for a long time to come.

Economic success that line pockets can, as Lee showed in Singapore, be a ‘winning’ strategy if it provides people with opportunities for better lives. Without such success, the politically docile society will remain a pipe dream.

These reasons, and other differences with Singapore that have not been discussed here–such as cultural background, religious controls, intolerance, xenophobia and a foreign policy rapidly moving away from democracies to align with autocracies–make Yameen’s attempts to morph Maldives into Singapore unlikely to succeed.

It is also important to recall here that the ongoing attempt by Yameen to super-impose Lee’s ideas for Singapore in the Maldives is not the first time its been tried. Someone else had this same plan before, and 30 years in which to make it a success:

The government now wants to attract international investment, as it is keen on the concept of profit and is not committed to sociologist ideology. Male’ is a free port, and, inspired by the example of Singapore, the government wants to bring in banking, insurance, ship bunkering and other clean but profitable enterprises. Whether Male’ can fulfil its hopes in this regard is doubtful, for it lacks the economic infrastructure.

That is a description of Maumoon’s government, by Clarence Maloney, at the start of the 1980s. Did we get anywhere near being a Singapore?


Further reading: Fareed Ahmed, 2015, Can Maldives Replicate Singapore Story: A Comparison

 

    A tale of many fools

    Narrenschiff

    by Azra Naseem

    I am a bit hesitant to say anything.

    President Yameen has warned that women who defame others may well find themselves forced to pay out their monthly MVR50,000 salon allowance into government coffers as a fine for tarnishing his stellar reputation. Neither I, nor any woman I have ever met—and I am pretty sure any I will ever meet would—have that kind of money to spend on a monthly visit to the salon. So I will dismiss this threat.

    The President has also said, though, that if you can’t dish out the cash, you will have to pay your dues by sitting in a cell for however long it takes to remove the stain from his otherwise unblemished good name. And, as Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon has explained to the world, just because you are politically active, doesn’t mean you are a political prisoner when you end up in jail for criticising politicians. Which means I can’t just pack my ‘pillow and mat and run off to a foreign ambassador’ for help, or hide out in 10 Downing Street until Ian Paisley Jnr MP rats me out.

    All this would ordinarily put me in a dangerous position if I am to say what I am going to say.

    But, since I am ‘a Western puppet’, and have found safe harbour in a country that I reckon would be quite happy to never again have to listen to anything the Paisleys have to say, I will risk it:

    have you in recent days heard of anything more ridiculous than President Yameen being bestowed with this ‘Kalam Award’ for ‘good governance’?

    Let’s unpack that.

    The award is being given in the name of the late Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, President of India from 2002 to 2007. A scientist the country is rightfully proud of. A national hero. The government of the state of Tamil Nadu bestows an award in his name in recognition of individuals who make significant contributions towards scientific development, humanities and student welfare. The first such award was given last year to Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientist N. Valarmathi who led the team that successfully launched India’s Radar Imaging Satellite RISAT-1 in 2012.

    The ‘Kalam Award’ President Yameen received today has no relation to the Tamil Nadu government award, nor does it have any relation to any official Indian authority. It is being handed out by a drugs rehabilitation centre in Kerala called Dale View. The only publicly knowable connection between Dr Kalam and the rehab is a visit by the late Professor to the rehabilitation centre in February 2015, most likely as part of his many social and humanitarian works.

    Many questions come begging: how/why is an obscure rehabilitation centre in rural India judging the quality of governance in a foreign country? What is Yameen’s connection to a rehabilitation centre in Kerala? Why is this award a matter of national importance and celebration?

    Question number one: Dale View is not qualified to judge President Yameen’s, or any other President’s governance record for obvious reasons. It is a rehab, not an institute of foreign relations or governance or diplomacy or public policy or any related field. At least not by any universally recognised standards of measure.

    On question number two, many speculative answers are floating about on social media. They have to do with the supply of pharmaceuticals, the State Trading Organisation, and Yameen. I am not going to repeat them here, lest I have to forgo a blusher or eyeliner this month.

    Some of the possible answers to question number three are what’s really bugging me. Why is this award a matter of national importance and celebration?

    Why President Yameen is making this a big deal is easy to understand, seasoned diplomats say.

    We can expect more glorious awards of the same ilk for the Dear Leader.

    What about the people who are cheering him on, cultivating this narcissism and bowing in adulation before the foisting of an over-inflated ego on everyone? They are the piece of the puzzle that makes absolutely no sense. What kind of a trance are people in that they unquestioningly and ecstatically celebrate an award handed to Yameen for inexplicable reasons by a group totally unconnected to the field in which the award is being given, or to the person in whose name the award is being conferred?

    Given the dictatorial tendency for self-promotion and self-celebration, it’s not surprising that the official website of the presidency has already issued at least four press releases on the subject. Nor is it surprising that his personal media outlet, without even a trace of self-awareness named Public Service Media, has been more or less live-tweeting the event complete with pictures of the president wearing sunglasses indoors.

    His two spokesmen–one who attempts to present the President’s words in a way that makes sense in Dhivehi, and the other to present them in a way the English-speaking world finds acceptable—have been pretty busy too.   Like I said, that’s to be expected. But the rest? For example: Supposedly well-educated MPs

    The educated, well-travelled and sophisticated Ms Dunya Maumoon

    The buffoons in Parliament

    The bevy of social media minions employed to sprout filth as counter-argument

    General ordinary members of PPM

    And late onto the bandwagon, but by no means the last, President of PPM, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who knows better

    What has happened to us all?

    Unlike Dunya, who more or less said, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” about the 49% of the population who did not vote for my government in the last election, I can’t stop sparing a thought or too to the 51% who (according to the Supreme Court) did.

    We can’t get away from the fact ‘they’ are us. We are all in this together. Besides, things have changed since the ancient European practice of fools being put on ships, The Narrenschiff, and made to sail off into the vast horizon yonder. That’s not an option now, even in an ‘infant democracy’ where everything is different from grown up democracies.

    Fact is, the only way to avoid being made to look (and be) the fool—which is what we look (and many of us feel) today as the president prepares to return home with his trophy award—we must find a way somehow to introduce people to the radical idea of thinking. Democracy cannot take hold among sheep.


    Updates:

    As I published, preparations were getting underway to welcome the president and his trophy. The silly season is set to stay a while.

    13:52 Loyal MPs slaving away to welcome the trophy, and ‘HEPY’ (Pet name: His Excellency President Yameen)

    19:10 The trophy and the President are expected in less than half an hour. Will the unbridled joy be contained by the tight security measures? Hard to know. 

    20: 34 So called Public Service Media has stopped streaming Live coverage of the incident, unable to handle mockery on social media. Here’s the latest:

    20:45 Plane has landed. You can see the flag waving young school children ordered to come to the airport to welcome the president.

    20:57 Cabinet Ministers tripping over themselves to serenade

    20:05 The joy of it all seems to be overwhelming supporters of HEPY. 

      Violence in the Maldivian family: why does it continue to breed despite the Domestic Violence Prevention Act?

      HorseToWater

      by H Abdulghafoor

      Four years ago today, on 23 April 2012, the historic Domestic Violence Prevention Act (DVPA) entered the legal framework of the Maldives. The legislation gave some hope to those advocating preventing domestic violence and gender based violence, which according to available research affect 1 in 3 women in the country at some point in their lives.

      Article 34 of the 2008 Constitution of the Maldives provides the fundamental right to every individual to marry and establish a family. It further says that,

      The family, being the natural and fundamental unit of society, is entitled to special protection by society and the State.

      The DVPA 2012 is among several laws that are intended to provide protection to the most vulnerable in society. It is the only law that specifically works to protect families from the social affliction of violence occurring within families. However, as the old cliché goes, you can take a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.

      The family is indeed the fundamental unit of society. It is also where a significant number of the women who are primary carers of children and the elderly (not to mention the men), experience violence in all its forms – physically, psychologically and economically. The primary perpetrators of violence, as research tells us, are disproportionately men. Husbands, fathers, stepfathers and uncles are most common among perpetrators of domestic abuse.

      The primary purpose of the DVPA 2012 is to criminalise domestic violence. The law further seeks to do a wide range of things. These include –

      providing protection to victims of domestic violence;

      to find justice for victims;

      to prevent violence and rehabilitate perpetrators;

      to increase stakeholder awareness about domestic violence to increase their competency to address the issue;

      to identify civil and criminal liabilities of offenders and also,

      to “comply with international standards for the prevention of domestic violence and to apply and enforce relevant principles of justice in accordance with such standards”.

      The DVPA 2012 provides a comprehensive definition of what a “domestic relationship” is, clarifying the circumstances in which the law is applicable. These include connection through marriage, sharing the same residence, being related through parenthood or guardianship, connection through domestic service as well as those in an intimate relationship. In the Maldives, research has shown that 1 in 5 women experience physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner. Intimate partner violence is a debilitating form of violence from which many women are unable to escape. A vivid case in point among recent incidents is the sickening and brutal fatal assault by an estranged husband against his wife in Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo in December 2015.

      The DVPA specifies 17 different acts of domestic violence ranging from physical and psychological violence to economic deprivation and property damage. Intimidation, harassment, stalking, coercion, confinement without consent, enforced impregnation to deter spousal separation as well as exposing a minor to acts of domestic violence are among notable acts criminalised by the law. However, the extent to which these definitions are helping to reach convictions or to apprehend perpetrators of abuse is questionable.

      The Family Protection Authority (FPA) is an independent entity created by the DVPA. While Article 68 of the law says that the law will come into force with immediate effect upon publication in the Government Gazette, it took the government nearly six months to physically establish the FPA – and even then, on a shoestring. The Authority has yet to become fully functionally effective, being under-staffed and significantly under-funded, which is a pervasive issue afflicting the social services sector in the Maldives. In its initial few years, the FPA’s programming work was almost entirely funded by external donors such as UN agencies. For a country as rich with tourism dollars as the Maldives, it is a telling indicator of poor prioritisation and weak governance that the Maldivian State is unable to provide “special protection” to the family as the Constitution demands.

      It is uncommon in the Maldives for laws to highlight the necessity for budgetary allocation. However, Article 55 of the DVPA specifically instructs the People’s Majlis to ensure that adequate funding is provided to implement the law by providing the necessary resources to relevant authorities such as the FPA and the police services. Nevertheless, the failure of the People’s Majlis and the government to uphold the law is amply evident in the resource-poor state of the FPA. In 2014, the FPA requested a budget of MVR 9.9 million of which MVR 2.3 million was facilitated. In 2015, the FPA applied for a budget of MVR 8.1 million of which MVR 4.6 million was facilitated. However, the authority was only able to expend 85% of its 2015 allocation due to government imposed restrictions on its expenditure.

      As the oversight authority to ensure the implementation of the law, the FPA is assigned a sweeping mandate under Articles 52 and 53 of the DVPA. Despite minimal resources, the FPA has managed to exist and remain a credible entity due to the commitment of the team of young staff at the Authority, who are assisted by a supportive Board. The challenges faced by the FPA are vastly disproportionate to the level of State support the Authority receives. In its 2015 Annual Report, the FPA observed the following challenges to its work:

      challenges to implement its mandate to raise public awareness due to inadequate resources including staff and funding

      challenges to provide the necessary services to victims of violence and support them to productively participate in society due to lack of technical expertise

      challenges to provide counselling services to support perpetrator rehabilitation due to lack of technical expertise.

      FPA reports that in 2015, a total of 438 cases of domestic violence were reported to the Authority. These include 352 cases against women, 122 cases against men and 2 cases against the unborn child. What is clearly evident is that each year, the number of cases reported to the FPA has increased dramatically, from 19 cases in 2013, to 149 cases in 2014 to 438 cases in 2015. The inability of the government to provide resources to the FPA is indicative of a policy level disconnect with the reality of the prevalence of domestic violence in the Maldives.

      Another sobering reality is that domestic violence cases rarely reach prosecution stage following investigation. One of the biggest challenges for prosecution is that victims of abuse often retract their statements after lodging complaints. They often do not want to pursue their claim for complex reasons, sometimes due to family situation and sensitivity to associated social stigma; economic dependency on the perpetrator; fear of reprisal as well as lack of confidence in the available protection services. In the Women’s Vision Report produced by UNDP in 2014, close to 75 percent of respondents rated domestic violence as their topmost personal concern from a list of twelve issues. Fourth on the list, with 56 percent was the challenge of accessing justice.

      In May 2015, the criminal court fined a man MVR 200.00 (USD 13.00) for assaulting his wife and inflicting grievous bodily harm. To put this in perspective, the fine for a first time parking offence in Malé currently stands at MVR 250.00 (USD 16.00). At that time, domestic violence cases were being prosecuted using the old Penal Code of 1966, an obsolete law which has now been superseded by the new Penal Code which came into force in July 2015. Domestic violence issues do not take a linear route and prosecution of cases depends on several factors. The DVPA is fundamentally a law designed to prevent the occurrence of domestic violence and some would consider it a shortcoming of the law that it does not dwell on punitive measures. However, Article 35 of the DVPA specifies fines for persons who breach the conditions of Protections Orders, with a first time offence carrying a six month jail sentence or a fine not exceeding MVR 15,000.00. This cumulatively increases to three or more offences, carrying a three year jail sentence or a fine not exceeding MVR 50,000.00. Whether this clause of the DVPA has ever been used is not known at the time of writing. With the arrival of the new Penal Code, it is anticipated that prosecution is better equipped to seek just remedies for victims of domestic violence through the courts. It is once again, a weakness in the system that data is not available in the public domain on case prosecution of domestic violence incidents specifically.

      The DVPA entrusts a duty of care to healthcare professionals to report suspected cases of domestic violence. However, it is notable that some doctors observe that this requirement is in conflict with their professional requirement to protect patient confidentiality. Such attitudes indicate a lack of understanding by health professionals of the law, its intent and the much broader problem domestic violence is in Maldivian society. FPA reports that in 2014, there were no reported cases of domestic violence to the Authority, from the largest tertiary hospital in Maldives, the Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in Malé. In 2015, the IGMH reported just 2 cases to the FPA. This is despite the fact that the vast majority of cases, a striking 66% of cases reported to the FPA in 2015, are from Malé.

      The picture is the same with other health service providers. In order to address this knowledge gap among health professionals and health service providers, efforts are being made by the Health Protection Authority to inform and educate the health sector about their legal responsibility to respond to the issue of domestic violence. A compounding factor is the belief in Maldivian society, which clearly affects the behaviour of health professionals too, that violence against women is acceptable and permissible as per certain religious beliefs held by individuals. The law however, does not tolerate violence in any circumstance and specifies that duty bearers within the police, healthcare providers and the courts among others, must act to prevent and stop domestic violence.

      One of the most important violence prevention tools provided in the DVPA is the instruction to the courts to provide Protection Orders to prevent acts of domestic violence. Article 18(c) of the DVPA states that “the fundamental objective of a protection order is to ensure the physical and psychological protection of the victims or potential victims of domestic violence, and to ensure their health and rights are protected and preserved.” Nevertheless, in the 2014 Annual Report of the FPA, the authority observed that most magistrates’ courts in the country do not have the form to issue a protection order. Such basic administrative short-comings malign the implementation of this important law to families, constitutionally entitled to “special protection by society and the State”.

      A further barrier to the implementation of the DVPA is the alleged reports by implementing stakeholders that in some cases, magistrates refuse to issue Protection Orders as they perceive it to be “un-Islamic”. It is a fundamental flaw in the judicial system when a judge is allowed to choose which article of which law to apply at whim, based on personal beliefs. According to FPA, a total of six Protection Orders were issued in 2013, 12 in 2014 and 15 in 2015 in the entire country. The vast majority of these orders were issued by the Family Court in Malé. In the magistrates’ courts, a total of four Protection Orders were issued over this three year period. While the Protection Order is a critical component of the DVPA, the challenges to its implementation put women and families at risk of life-long trauma and entrapment in the cycle that domestic violence breeds.

      The DVPA took time and effort to be brought into existence, to provide essential and worthy protections to safeguard the family. The law seeks to stop the dysfunction of violence happening within these fundamental building blocks of society. It seeks to break the cycle of violence afflicting families, often across generations. The will to fund and support the implementation of the law, however, is virtually non-existent. The reality of domestic violence in all its abhorrent forms runs insidiously in Maldivian society, frequently making disturbing news headlines. In many instances, mostly unreported, key stakeholders choose to dismiss the law, ignoring the professional and civic responsibility of its mandate, almost as though their individual beliefs can be held above the law. A system of accountability is yet to be established to ensure that law enforcement is adequately practiced by those mandated by the law. A system to ensure the effective implementation of the DVPA to protect the fundamental unit of society is taking far too long in becoming a reality, four years into its ratification.

      The situation leaves room to say that when it comes to preventing domestic violence in the Maldives, the proverbial horse has been taken to the water. It simply refuses to drink.