Torture rears its ugly head in the Maldives … again

by Anonymous

The use of torture as a tool of citizen oppression is a hallmark of dictatorships. The past and recent histories of the Maldives have been defined by authoritarian rule with a flimsy façade of overt calmness and order. This belied the covert systemic use of torture in the country’s prisons, which has been documented over the years by torture survivor and late historian Ahmed Shafeeg and more recently, by citizen advocates and journalists.

Nevertheless, Maldives has made great strides to address the issue of torture in some ways. Maldives ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment (CAT) on 20 April 2004. On 23 December 2013, law number 13/2013, the Anti-Torture Law made history as the first such legislation passed in the country. A recognition of this magnitude can only be considered a great leap forward to eliminate the practice of torture, a heinous crime which robs society of its most basic moral values of humanity and respect for human dignity. In its statement issued on the occasion of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June 2017, the United Nations said,

Torture seeks to annihilate the victim’s personality and denies the inherent dignity of the human being.[1]

One of the most important milestones a society can achieve in its fight to eliminate torture is to acknowledge its presence and move towards redress through a process of truth and reconciliation. With the shift in the political environment since the historic change of government in November 2008, a group of torture survivors formed the Torture Victims Association of Maldives (TVA) in January 2010[2]. The TVA, in collaboration with the UK based NGO Redress with a mandate to end torture and seek justice for survivors, painstakingly documented torture survivor testimonials across the country. The testimonies revealed incidents of torture between 1978 to 2008, which is the duration of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom’s 30-year long authoritarian regime. Two years since its inauguration, on 6 February 2012, the TVA submitted a dossier of testimonials provided by survivors of torture in prison, to the then President Mohamed Nasheed. The President “assured that he would do everything possible to find justice for the torture victims through the powers vested on him by the Constitution.”[3] The following day, on 7 February 2012, President Nasheed was removed from office in a coup d’état.

As the political situation in the Maldives took a turn towards transitional chaos, the efforts of the TVA risked invisibility. However, the commitment of some members of the TVA and Redress ensured that the torture report entitled, This Is What I Wanted to Tell You, was successfully submitted to the 105th Session of the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) held in Geneva in July 2012[4]. At this session, the Committee reviewed the Maldives State Report on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The HRC also reviewed a record number of reports of human rights violations from the Maldives, submitted by various non-governmental human rights organisations and institutions.[5]

In its Concluding Observations of the country review, the HRC raised concerns about “reported cases of torture and ill-treatment by Police and National Defence Forces that occurred in the State party prior to 2008 which have not all been investigated.”[6] The HRC recommended the Maldives to “take steps to combat torture and ill-treatment in its all [sic] forms and prohibit it in its legislation. The State party should consider setting up an independent commission of inquiry to investigate all human rights violations, including torture that took place in the State party prior to 2008 and provide compensation to the victims.”[7] The HRC’s recommendation to enact legislation to prohibit torture was met by the Maldives by the passage of the Anti-Torture Act in 2013, which is a welcome development.

However, five years on, other recommendations including the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry to investigate human rights violations remain pending. There has been no move to address the important requirement to provide redress to survivors of torture. As the words of one torture survivor conveys clearly, a critical component of pursuing redress is to help survivors achieve some semblance of reparation and justice.

This is what I wanted to tell you. That is what I have to say.

I have no problems if you use these stories of mine anywhere.

If they and if I get some justice, that would be good. [8]

Following the Maldives ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) in 2006, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) was assigned the mandate to prevent and investigate allegations of torture, as the appointed National Preventive Mechanism (NPM). Further, it has a mandate to investigate and report on allegations of torture, under the Anti-Torture Act of 2013. In 2015, the HRCM produced its second annual anti-torture report, which investigated 37 cases of torture allegations.[9] However, the HRCM reportedly faces a multitude of challenges to its work, including the gathering of evidence, limitations in law and procedural standards as well as availability of resources.[10] In 2016, news headlines about allegations of torture investigated by the HRCM provide no evident change to the status quo from the previous year, except that the number of cases had increased significantly from 54 to 65.[11] Worryingly, the latter report explained that the HRCM said “it found no evidence to back up allegations of torture because of a lack of medical evidence, eye witness testimony, and CCTV cameras at jails and detention centres.”[12] Notably, the TVA/Redress torture report was also submitted to the HRCM in 2012, although to date it is not known what action the Commission has taken about the contents of the report.

In this context, recent allegations of torture in detention in the Maldives is an extremely disturbing development. Available documentation from the HRCM shows that during 2011, the Commission produced and publicly shared a number of reports about its monitoring and abuse prevention efforts in several places of detention across the country. The effect this monitoring and information sharing had, was a sense of accountability and reassurance that torture and inhuman and degrading treatment were no longer happening in prisons. However, after 2011 the HRCM appears to have become notably opaque on matters relating to the mandate of the NPM, with a significant decline in monitoring visits and reports. Although the consistent production of the annual torture report is a welcome activity, the acute limitations of the Commission noted in those reports are cause for concern.

Allegations of torture of high profile political detainees have surfaced through their lawyers and families in recent years. In 2016, media sources reported torture allegations of detained social media political activist Ahmed Ashraf (a.k.a Shumba Gong). His lawyer alleged that his client was “forced to sit on the floor in handcuffs” while officers “alternately poured hot and ice-cold water on him.”[13] In a media environment where news sources are being penalised for covering dissenting views using draconian laws, media self-censorship is the reality. Despite this, news sources have been consistently reporting alleged denial of medical access and healthcare to high profile political detainee Ahmed Adeeb, which has been described by opposition MP and lawyer Ali Hussain, as unlawful.[14] In deeply politically divided Maldives, Ahmed Adeeb’s alleged ill-treatment by the authorities is met with mixed views by members of the public, which alarmingly include reactions of indifference and vengeful acceptance. Although the premise that all humans have rights is commonly understood in the Maldives, ideas of justice and equality before the law remain elusive, perhaps due to its systemic absence. The occurrence of any form of cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment in detention (when a person is already punished with loss of liberty) regardless of their crime, is an unacceptable social and civic standard in any society.

On 19 June 2017, further allegations of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of a detainee emerged where the family of a suspected offender in custody released a public statement describing acts of torture perpetrated against him [15]. These include allegations of being detained in a place not deemed lawful for detention; being forced to sit and look at a wall for two days; being put in a cell where a strong smell of sewage made breathing difficult and requests for help were ignored, and later ridiculed; sleep deprivation by being constantly woken and interrogated; and providing drinking water with an unknown substance added to it, all of which affected the conscious state and well-being of the detainee.[16]

On 26 June, the HRCM issued a press statement on the occasion of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.[17] In their statement, the Commission reiterated its mandate to address torture prevention and called on State authorities to strengthen their efforts to prevent torture. The Commission made no reference to the status of the long pending TVA/Redress torture report submitted to the UN HRC and the Commission itself, in 2012. There was no mention of any action by the Commission to achieve the recommendations to address torture, provided by the UN HRC in their Concluding Observations to the Maldives. Nor did the statement acknowledge the immediate, current allegations and related concerns in the public domain, shared by families and lawyers of detainees.

One of the recommendations of the TVA/Redress torture report is to “ensure that credible allegations of more recent violations of human rights are promptly, effectively and impartially investigated, that those responsible for wrongdoing are brought to account, and that victims are provided with reparation.” [18] Additional recommendations include ensuring that the HRCM, the Police and the courts “have sufficient independence and resources to effectively respond to allegations of torture … in line with their mandates.” [19] It is clear that nothing will change until the Maldivian State authorities collectively arrive at a point to embrace the civic duty to eliminate torture and uphold the inalienable right of every citizen to their inherent human dignity.

As the UN’s recent statement explains, torture results in “pervasive consequences” that “go beyond the isolated act on an individual; and can be transmitted through generations and lead to cycles of violence”.[20] Torture achieves nothing but the decay of humanity and the degradation of social cohesion. The practice of torture irrevocably erodes the humanity of the torturer and the victim. Its virulent effects spread across society as generations of Maldivians suffer in the cycle of violence it generates, directly and indirectly. The occurrence of torture in Maldivian prisons has always been known to the public. However, the most authoritative documentation of systemic torture was provided by the TVA/Redress torture report.

The inhumanity of torture does not remain forever confined within prison cells. The explosion of violence Maldivian society has been experiencing in recent years can be attributed to inhuman practices, impunity and the absence of accountability rooted within the country’s authoritarian governance system and structures. According to www.mvmurders.com the “Maldives has seen a steady increase in murders in recent times, to the point where the phenomenon is now a normalized part of Maldivian society.” The website is a response by concerned persons to document the issue of murder in an erstwhile calmer society where cases of murder rarely occurred. Starting from 2001, the website documents 58 murders to date. These include 2 toddlers, 8 minors, 30 young people between 18 to 30 years, 6 people between 30 to 50 years, 8 elders between 50 to 80 years and 4 of unknown age. Among these, 12% are female and 88% are male.[21] These figures do not reflect the criminal violence that take place due to gang fights or violence against women and children, which also result in grievous physical and psychological long-term harm to victims.

mvmurders-data

The legacy of systemic violence, impunity and the persistent practice of torture in the Maldives undoubtedly converge to bring society to its current reality of insensitivity, inhumanity and insecurity. The ineffectiveness of responsible authorities to address the issue remains a fundamental obstruction to begin to rid Maldivian society of the plague of torture.


[1] International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, 26 June, UN, http://www.un.org/en/events/torturevictimsday/

[2] Pain and Politics : Torture Victims Association inaugurated, Minivan News, 21 March 2017, https://minivannewsarchive.com/tag/torture-victims-association

[3] Torture Victims Association calls on the President to help find justice, 06 February 2012, President’s Office, http://www.presidencymaldives.gov.mv/?lid=11&dcid=6722

[4] This Is What I Wanted To Tell You : addressing the legacy of torture and ill-treatment in the Maldives, TVA/Redress, July 2012, http://www.redress.org/downloads/country-reports/1206_maldivesreport.pdf

[5] Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR Centre), Maldives NGO review reports 2012, http://ccprcentre.org/country/maldives

[6] Maldives – Concluding Observations adopted by the Human Rights Committee at its 105th session, 9-27 July 2012, CCPR/C/MDV/CO/1, 31 August 2012, http://ccprcentre.org/doc/2012/07/G1245583.pdf

[7] ibid

[8] This Is What I Wanted To Tell You : addressing the legacy of torture and ill-treatment in the Maldives, TVA/Redress, July 2012, http://www.redress.org/downloads/country-reports/1206_maldivesreport.pdf

[9] 54 cases of torture filed against police, Maldives Independent, 01 August 2015, http://maldivesindependent.com/crime-2/54-cases-of-torture-filed-against-police-115980

[10] ibid

[11] Watchdog lets police off the hook over torture claims, Maldives Independent, 03 August 2016, http://maldivesindependent.com/politics/watchdog-lets-prison-guards-and-police-off-the-hook-over-torture-claims-125885

[12] Ibid (emphasis added)

[13] Shumba Gong tortured in jail, says lawyer, Maldives Independent, 10 April 2016, http://maldivesindependent.com/politics/ashraf-tortured-in-jail-says-lawyer-123422

[14] Obstructing Adeeb’s access to medical care is unlawful : Ali Hussain [translation from Dhivehi], VFP, 21 June 2017, https://vfp.mv/f/?id=61956

[15] Statement published via Twitter by family member Maumoon Hameed, @maanhameed, 19 June 2017, https://twitter.com/maanhameed/status/876718581257347072

[16] Ibid [translated from Dhivehi]

[17] HRCM Press Statement on the occasion of the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, 26 June 2017, HRCM, http://hrcm.org.mv/dhivehi/news/page.aspx?id=650

[18] This Is What I Wanted To Tell You : addressing the legacy of torture and ill-treatment in the Maldives, TVA/Redress, July 2012, page.2, http://www.redress.org/downloads/country-reports/1206_maldivesreport.pdf

[19] ibid

[20] International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, 26 June, UN, http://www.un.org/en/events/torturevictimsday/

[21] Data source : www.mvmurders.com (June 2017)

    Death by popular demand

    deathpenalty

    by Mushfique Mohamed

    The death penalty breeds injustice. It is most often imposed on  the persecuted or the underprivileged. As the civilised majority increases its commitments to abolish it, some countries have spiked up executions. This includes states that have resumed the death penalty after discontinuing long-standing moratoriums.  Apart from far-reaching authoritarianism, there doesn’t seem to be a common thread linking these countries together.

    What are the factors propelling a minority of the world’s countries to resume capital punishment and proliferate executions? Is the motivation behind implementation of the death penalty really a matter of public safety? Or is it motivated by the religious duty of leaders, as it is zealously claimed by politicians in Islamic countries?

    In 2015 half of all death sentences were carried out in Asia. Excluding China, almost all executions were carried out in Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. On the other side of the death penalty discourse, 145 countries—74% of the world—joined the list of countries that are either abolitionist in practice or law. Despite the repeated fact: ‘there is no cogent evidence to show that the death penalty is a more effective detriment to crime than long-term imprisonment’, people from various backgrounds casually support it. The only difference is that most people in the developed world would not say it out loud at the risk of not being taken seriously.

    Arguments that favour the death penalty wouldn’t stand in any informed discussion on the subject. The possibilities of wrongful convictions, botched executions, severe mental illnesses of defendants, or mitigating factors that could disprove guilt after sentencing are plausible enough to fully reject the idea of State sanctioned death as a punishment.

    Religious vigilantism has killed yet another open-minded and humorous pioneer of blogging and political satire in the Maldives, Yameen Rasheed was brutally stabbed 34 times in the stairwell of his home. The Government’s narrative has not been one of condemning all forms of violence and hate. The official party line is: ‘be careful of your words, it could get you killed’,  while the list of unsolved political violence continues to guarantee impunity for the usual suspects.

    Populism on the rise

    The Islamist death penalty rhetoric that was at the tip of Maldives’ president Abdullah Yameen’s tongue at the beginning of his presidency fizzled out late last year. It didn’t even take 24 hours for the Government to capitalise on the slain blogger’s shocking death. At a time when Rasheed’s family and friends were forced to feel a horrific sense of déjà vu over his friend Ahmed Rilwan’s forced disappearance in August 2014, President Yameen callously justified the death penalty through the murder of one of its most vocal critics. Stating in no uncertain terms that the President would issue death warrants within “two-to-three months”.

    At home he’s the Trump-esque, triumphantly chauvinistic president who ‘has guts’. According to President Yameen, he is ready to start executions, not because he ‘wants to’, but for the ‘betterment of Maldivian society’. We, as Maldivians, are to feel grateful that we have a president who is incongruous with the times. It’s his assertion that executions are to resume in the Maldives because he is in touch with what the people want. In terms of public support for capital punishment, he may not be far off the mark.

    But, to what extent is this thirst for blood manufactured? Is the call for the death penalty really following judicial precedents, or is it a sign of a justice system that revolves around the whims of political leaders?

    In 2013 Pakistan reversed its moratorium on the death penalty for convicted terrorists. The following year the Maldivian government did the same for murder convicts. In many Muslim-majority countries, violent groups are already taking the law into their own hands. Whether it’s vigilante groups in Bangladesh hacking secularists to death, or radicalised gangs in the Maldives policing religiosity.  In these South Asian countries there is a huge conflation of ‘secularism’ with not just atheism, but antitheism too. Why are these countries increasingly re-interpreting Islam in a way that promotes medieval practices over positivist Islamic jurisprudence?

    In Urdu, Dhivehi, Bengali and other South Asian languages, Islamists explain—online or through religious literature, radio and television—how harsh punishments are endorsed under religious discourse. Most of its members are not your average Muslims but usually tend to be ‘born-again Muslims’ or the newly converted. There are websites solely dedicated to naming and shaming those that actively counter Salafi-Jihadism. The dirty work is then left to radicalised violent criminals who seek repentance for their delinquent past through violence against those that enervate their ‘holy’ death-cult ideology.

    Although Maldives’ moratorium on the death penalty was only lifted for murder, the penal code prescribes death for blasphemy. Fundamentalist ‘Islamic scholars’ are already calling for the beheading of Maldivian secularists. By resuming public torture as a punishment, South Asian governments like Yameen’s are either attempting to get a handle on these religiously extreme violent groups, or doing their very best to boost their Islamist credentials. Given the moderate, culturally synchretic, and state-controlled Maldivian Islam in the past, majority of Maldivians today are convinced that Salafist Islam is the “true” version of Islam. Therefore the religious nationalism in these countries are becoming equally intolerant and insular. What are the global forces that promote regressive punishments over rehabilitation or life imprisonment?

    The resumption of the death penalty in the Maldives coincides with increasing cultural, religious, economic and military ties with Saudi Arabia. While Pakistan has Iran to offset over-reliance on Saudi Arabia, it is a different story in the Maldives where the change from democratic transition to authoritarian reversal is in full swing. It might be convenient to point out that money from the oil-rich Arabian Peninsular is circulating all over the world. However, the hegemonic effects it can have on a small developing country differ greatly.

    Manufacturing support

    Soaring crime rates have created a public that’s willing to accept anything as the ‘right’ solution. Feeding off a panicked public, the currently embattled Maldivian president is ready to implement the death penalty for the first time since 1953. Ineffective governments use the death penalty to give the public the appearance of justice being served, although our judiciary ‘regularly dispenses injustice’.

    Increase in violent crime is a result of sudden frenetic development that has interrupted the slow-paced and unpretentious island life but failed to meaningfully mobilise the youth with opportunities. In Maldives, it’s also a sign of increasing links between criminal gangs, politicians, and police that protect them. This new reality of life in urbanized islands was effectively used to convince the public that killing to stop killing is the only solution.

    The idea that the ‘authentic’ version of Islam is strict and vengeful has been implanted in young minds through the education system. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs and its tacit support to those religious scholars that either call to or incite violence against liberals formalize these ideas. The old non-violent Maldivian way of life has been buried – violence is our culture now, and it’s suggested that we need more violence to revive our peaceful way of life.

    Old habits

    The death penalty exposes historic flaws in our justice systems. Politicised police forces in South Asia rely heavily on forced confessions to prevent public disillusionment of policing. Reports of a confession can also give the impression there’s very little debate over guilt of suspects.

    There was virtually no violent crime in the Maldives until the 1990s, before urbanisation stunned Malé and facilitated the emergence of criminal gangs. Things couldn’t be more different today. We know that even for a small country our judicial system is plagued with a backlog of cases and in completely unfamiliar territory. It is easy to bend rules and eliminate rivals through rushed trials. For instance, Pakistan regularly abuses anti-terror laws and uses kangaroo courts to suspend fundamental rights and convict defendants. Our laws are designed to be open-ended and vague – the bigger the fishing net, the bigger the catch. These flimsy legal definitions and forever-morphing parameters of the law can be further widened through abuse of judicial discretion. Our justice systems refuse to abide by human rights and values of democracy.

    Such populist South Asian leaders can count on contrived investigations to secure themselves and their allies. Any lines of inquiry that incriminates politicians or business tycoons go cold.  An accomplice, usually a young offender belonging to a gang, is sacrificed to appease the public’s call for justice. The big kahunas that fund or plan such atrocities are never implicated during investigations or criminal proceedings. As long as a delinquent takes the fall, politicians or leaders of criminal syndicates evade due course of the law.

    Before the Salafi-Jihadist propaganda that followed the Indian Ocean tsunami, religious radicalism and fundamentalism were at the fringes of Maldivian society. Now, it’s mainstream to the point where those who don’t adopt Salafist views are seen as lesser Muslims co-opted by Western influence. These new threats create new forms of desperation. While stepping up sharia rhetoric, the government is ignoring how this will affect Maldivians in the long-term. And why not, when it’s an efficient cover for the executive’s incompetence? It diverts the public’s attention to narratives of ‘lack of faith’ equal to ‘deteriorating social fabric’ while more pressing issues like grand corruption, climate change, and political violence become incoherent background noise.

    Not in our name

    In reality, Islamic countries implementing the death penalty don’t seek justice. Instead they use quick fixes that pull the wool over the public’s collective eyes. State sanctioned killing is a dramatic diversion from an ineffective criminal justice system; it provides a spectacle—medieval, yes—but satisfying to Islamist publics of today. It is also  a useful tool for regressive regimes seeking to hide deeply embedded incompetency in policing and administering justice. In most South Asian countries, it is a misguided coping mechanism for asphyxiated criminal justice systems.

    What about open democracies that execute convicts? The US is the only G7 country that still carries out executions. In 1982, Texas became the first jurisdiction to use lethal injection for its executions.  This is supposedly the humane way for a state to kill convicts. Everyone knows that violent crime still takes place in Texas, and the prospect of a lethal injection doesn’t deter most violent criminals. Such perpetrators are often mentally ill and seek publicity for their crimes. In recent years many American anti-death penalty campaigners have observed ‘an all-time low’ in death sentences and executions. Despite this, many in the developing world point to the  US in response to accusations of death penalty being anti-democratic by nature. We still glorify capital punishment for our superficial and selfish satisfaction even though judiciaries are ridden with disrepute. We believe that seeing the government essentially kill killers, makes us safer in our homes, in our communities.

    The death penalty satisfies some sort of voyeuristic revenge complex we might have as humans, but it has very little to do with the murder victims’ family and friends, or the need to establish justice for their lost loved ones. Murder cases can drag on for years, exacerbating the victims’ families’ trauma. At times, calls for death cloud their calls for reprieve. It is unusual that we as the public seek retaliation for crimes from which we haven’t suffered as a consequence.

    It doesn’t make us empathetic to appropriate the feelings of the victim’s family and endorse our corrupt governments to kill criminals, when our views are mostly based on incipient media reports; or conjecture arising from it. It makes us a society that is starved for justice to the point where we ignore systematic judicial corruption, and are willing to be satisfied with even the false veneer of justice. A killing spree is a killing spree, whether it’s state-sanctioned or the actions of a fanatic.


    About the author: Mushfique Mohamed is a human rights lawyer. He has an LLB (Hons) Law and MSc(Econs) in Postcolonial Politics from Aberystwyth University.

    Image: Zee News

     

      First they came for Faafu IV:

      Himithi

      by Azra Naseem

      4.Saved by the bullshit?

      Saudi King Salman has postponed his trip to the Maldives indefinitely.

      Three resorts cancelled their bookings to accommodate the King and his entourage; the Republic Square in Male’ was whitewashed and made ready for the King’s landing in a helicopter; the jetty was spruced up; his special yacht sailed into Maldivian waters in advance, along with a navy ship to look after his security; and Maldivian parents risked their children’s lives by sending them to practice a welcome dance for the King during a deadly flu outbreak; and President Yameen combed his feathers and puffed out his chest an extra foot.

      In the end none of it mattered, the King decided he is not coming. Not yet; maybe never.

      What changed the royal mind? The International Spokesperson for the President explained it was the H1N1 flu that kept the King away. As explanations go, it’s pretty lame, given the wide availability of flu vaccines and the fact that King Salman is travelling with not just medical staff but an entire hospital. No, what seems more plausible is that it’s the Maldivian motor mouths that have put this King off his planned paradise getaway.

      First to open his mouth was the President himself who told the starry eyed people of Faafu Atoll Magoodhoo that ‘the Saudi government, or members of the Saudi elite’ had fallen absolutely madly deeply loved their atoll. They were going to show their love by opening their wallets and giving Faafu the kind of makeover that would make it unrecognisable as an atoll in an island archipelago.

      But, he cautioned, shush, shush, shush.

      The Saudis do not want agitation, they do not want chaos. The deal had been in the making for months and months, and would have been signed aeons ago if not for the uncouth behaviour of Maldivians who, unlike their Saudi brothers and sisters, would not shut up and follow whatever rules their leaders decide for them. Calm down for development, he said.

      The President’s bragging did not create the docile citizens he hoped for. It set tongues wagging instead. Pretty soon everyone was talking about the Saudis and Faafu – what does Yameen mean by investment? Is he selling Faafu? How much is it being sold for? Is it legal? What will I get?

      The ruling party was caught between its desire to boast and its promise to the Saudis to keep the whole thing secret. So they got paid hacks in on the job, and got them to write ‘colour pieces’ which in reality were long odes to the sanctity of the Saudi Royal Family, and their undying love for the Maldives.

      Strategic decisions, that no doubt looked cerebral from the perspective of the ‘top brass’ that were making them, were arrived at to ‘emphasis the Islamic angle’ – it’s okay to sell to the Saudis because they are 100% Muslim, ‘just like us’. The same hacks wrote more column inches glorifying unchecked capitalism—oh, imagine the beauty of a Burj Khalifa arising from the Maldivian sea; we will be Dubai! we will be Singapore! Ah, blessed development, Islamic capitalism. Glory be.

      And then there were the teams of foreign journalists flown in, all expenses paid, to write articles that would, hopefully, make the deal more palatable to the international community. Perhaps it was also meant to attract more foreign ‘investment’. Anyway, the motive doesn’t really matter, because what all the coverage ended up doing was seriously piss the desert royals off.

      Pretty soon the Saudi Embassy in Male’—run from an annex in the President’s Office—broke the silence by putting out a statement denying that the Saudi government had any interest or plans to buy Faafu or make an investment in the Maldives.

      The statement created even more confusion—it denied any involvement of the Saudi government, but not of the Saudi royal family, which is what Yameen had been ‘hinting’ at so very subtly. More tongues wagged in the Maldives, while over to the east in Indonesia,  Bali suddenly appeared so much more attractive to King Salman that he decided to extend his stay there. His scheduled arrival in the Maldives was suddenly delayed by a good week or so.

      Despite the palpable royal displeasure, preparations continued in Male’ for the King’s arrival: opposition HQs were raided several times, rolls of fabric [that could have ended as a protest banner] were confiscated; and activists were dragged to the police station and their phones taken away. Through it all the general brainwashing continued with substantial success [see following comment by member of public on Saudi deal].

      I don’t have any concerns about the Faafu Atoll project because whatever happens those who are coming here are from a 100 percent Muslim country. In my view he (Saudi King) is the leader of the world’s Muslims. So, given that we are a 100 percent Muslim nation, there is great trust in my heart that, because they are Muslims, they will not do anything to hurt us citizens in anyway.

      So what was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back, so to speak? What persuaded King Salman that it is far better to stay away from the Maldives than it is to spend a week swimming in its beautiful seas, snorkelling with the fish, and forgetting the pressures of being a royal?

      PPM MP Ahmed Nihan, I would wager.

      An audio emerged last night of the MP, and asslicker supreme, speaking to an unidentified group of men in what he referred to as a ‘brain feeding’ session. His talking points are enlightening to say the least. The recording goes on for half an hour. I will summarise here Nihan’s descriptions of, and references to the Saudi Royal Family.

      This is basically something starting in 2012.

      That Man was in One and Only and took a trip to get an aerial view of the Maldives. On this trip he saw an island that no Maldivian was likely to go to. […]

      There are 54 kilometres between that island and any other inhabited one. Beyond that is the wide Indian Ocean. No Maldivian would be ‘encircling that’ even as part of a journey. That island is Faafu Atoll Himithi.

      […]

      It was a geographic location That Man [the King] found. Actually his brain works well, he was thinking of ways that would cause the least inconvenience to Maldivians. So he wanted to develop that island.

      But then he did not want the island to be taken back in 99 years, as it is said in that constitution, after he makes that fine investment. He knows that he cannot last that long. A normal human being’s mortality rate, if for example, is 70, he himself cannot stay on that island till the end of those 99 years. So, he requested for the ownership that will allow him to leave it to his next of kin, heirs.

      When he made the request, we didn’t have the ability to create ‘99 plus one day’. We couldn’t even give him those [extra] 24 hours. That’s why we had to come to this point, why we had to change the Constitution. We wanted to give it to him to own. […]

      But the public won’t understand. They will know only on the day they know who he is.

      [‘After everything has happened?’, asks a member of the audience]

      Yes, on the day they know for sure that it is the Saudi Crown Prince…on that day they will realise [clicks finger]: Aah! That’s the trap they set!

      Mohamed had paid for acquisition of the island then. The island was under some sort of a group…some Dhivehi group…Anni had given it to them on some pipe laying pretext or other. He had given it to not just one party, but three!

      Adeeb was Tourism Minister, Dr Waheed was President. Dr Waheed wanted to do this really badly. In a rush these great men gave him the island.

      After they gave him the island he said the 99 years was not enough, so he was going to stop the deal. That meant the government had to give him back the payment he had made. So talks were held with people internally involved. He didn’t let go of his interest though.

      Again, in 2013 he came back to One and Only. While he was there, in just a few days after President Yameen assumed office, the lad came with the current King, his father. He hadn’t become King yet, he was the Crown Prince.

      As luck would have it then Crown Prince became King. King Abdullah passed away, he became King immediately, and as soon as that happened, all the power was now in the hands of his family, as it would be. Until This Man dies, that is. Then it will be Mohamed’s turn. He is the most likely man.

      Anyway, without that assurance, they hadn’t begun the investment. We looked to see if we could penetrate this into the SEZ, if we could make it happen through the SEZ. But even the SEZ could not cross the Constitution – unless and until we changed it. It could only come out of an open window from that. That is why we created that window.

      It was very designed, very proper, very planned so that we will not suffer any harm—even from a religious perspective—that is the kind of investor this is. That much can be said.

      It is the belief that this investor is for sure not China, for sure not India, for sure not the UK, for sure not America, for sure not Russia. They are jumping around because they think we are facilitating Chinese ownership of land.

      […]

      “This guy [King Salman] is gonna dump sixteen billion US dollars”. […]

      There are other places in the world with more fish, more beautiful fish, than there are in the Maldives, fishes that are much more vigorous, more colourful – why would they come to the Maldives first to see these things? Why not go there? Why are they dumping here? His interest is also aroused “because we are Islam.” He believes that because we are Muslims he will be tolerated here.

      So those Saudi princes can come here in their jets, waste away a weekend, and by the time they leave, all the waiters and everyone would have got a year’s wages—they will not have to work again that year. This is being said because of how these people behave. “We know what they are spending on”. T

      here are so many countries with their hands out in anticipation of a Saudi Prince coming to their country – what does the Maldives have to show? What is this reef [Faafu] here for anyway? No one would go there to even pick up a shell. That reef has been sitting there like that, [serving no purpose] for three thousand, four thousand years.

      […]

      There are a lot of parties [potential investors]. But we are not able to allow them. “A Russian billionaire might want it immediately”. They would have the money. They would have much worse, dirtier money [than the Saudis], but of course we won’t give it to those people. “Though even this is created”. The fear is what will happen if our government ends? What will those who come after do?

      […]

      These people, this family that we are in negotiations with, they do not want their name to be associated with this [sale of Faafu] suddenly. If not, we would have written it down [in the Constitution] that this is for a specific person. […]

      If that had been said, these issues [of what would happen when PPM government ends] would not arise. But even he [King Salman] would not have wanted to do such a ridiculous thing. This is the Constitution of a country we are talking about!

      So what do you think? Was it the H1N1–or Maldivians who could not keep their mouths shut–that has made the King stay away? Has the government bullshit rescued Faafu from merciless ‘development’?


      Photo: Himithi and Minimasmagili, Faafu Atoll, by 

      First they came for Faafu III

      First they came for Faafu II

      First they came for Faafu I